Destinations Travel Guides

Top 6 Must-Dos at Crater Lake National Park

Top 6 Must-Dos at Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is one of the most underrated national parks of America. This national park has so much history, raw beauty un-altered by humans, and amazing activities to partake in – from hiking to boat tours.

Some people think that the crater was formed because of a meteorite, and then a lake filled the crater up. That could not be further from the truth. Crater Lake fills what is actually called a caldera (crater) that was formed from an explosion of a volcano. This particular volcano (Mount Mazama) erupted around 7700 years ago in one of the largest explosions in modern history. The top of the volcano basically exploded off and the rest of the volcano caved in, forming the caldera that was subsequently filled in by water. The lake is 1943 feet deep at its deepest point, making it the deepest lake in the United States. It is also one of the clearest lakes in the world – on it’s clearest day, you can see to a record depth of 143 feet.

The sights at Crater Lake compare to no other. Seeing the huge blue lake surrounded by cliffs and hills along with a beautiful island in the middle of the lake is something from a dream. There is no way to perceive the grandeur of the place unless you just go there and experience it for yourself. Here, I highlight the things you cannot miss when you visit.

1. Drive the Rim
Top 6 Must-Dos at Crater Lake National Park

You MUST do the rim drive and stop at every viewpoint. The rim drive is the road that goes around the entire lake. It is about 30 miles long, and can be driven in about one hour IF you don’t stop at all. My advice would be to give it AT LEAST a half day.

But if you want to do things at the different viewpoints, it’s good to give yourself a whole day.  There are so many viewpoints to stop at and each one is different. Some have higher places and peaks you can hike to while others have great signs with tons of historical, ecological, scientific, and geological information for you to read. I also would suggest to read every bit of this freely-given information. It is wonderful to learn about the place at the same time you are exploring it.

2. Lunch with a View
Top 6 Must-Dos at Crater Lake National Park

This one is easy to do if you’re doing the rim drive and make it a part of your day. On your rim drive, you might feel like it’s all go-go-go since you’re constantly getting in and out of your car and moving to the next place. At lunchtime, pick a good place to just sit, eat, relax, and enjoy your view. There are picnic tables at some stops, but even a fallen log or the ground is a great place to sit and take in the sights while you eat.

3. Take a Boat Tour
Top 6 Must-Dos at Crater Lake National Park

There are two choices for a boat tour: a standard lake cruise which includes a 2-hour tour around the lake, or a Wizard Island tour with shuttle which includes a 45-minute tour while shuttling patrons to the island, 3 or 6 hours on Wizard Island for independent exploring, and lastly, a 75-minute boat ride to complete the counter-clockwise tour around the perimeter of the lake.

The prices are between $37 and $52 per adult, depending on if you want to go to Wizard Island or not. But please, don’t let the price scare you. It is SO worth it. The tour is guided by a National Park Ranger who knows everything there is to know about Crater Lake. There are so many interesting things you’d learn about with a ranger that you wouldn’t if you don’t take the tour. For example, the pictured phenomena, called The Old Man of the Lake, is a weird stump that floats vertically in the water. The bottom of the stump (the part that’s under water) isn’t touching anything, lodged in between rocks, or resting on the bottom of the lake bed (since the lake is almost 2,000 feet deep). It is simply floating VERTICALLY, with nothing holding it up.

As you can see, the boat tour is more than worth it. You’ll learn things you wouldn’t otherwise and you’ll see so many things you wouldn’t otherwise. Do it!

4. Visit Wizard Island
Top 6 Must-Dos at Crater Lake National Park

You can visit Wizard Island via boat tour and choose to spend either 3 or 6 hours on the island. Wizard Island is filled with complete natural beauty without much tampering, since not as many people visit compared to the amount of people that drive around the rim of the crater. There are two choices for trails to take when exploring Wizard Island – either hike to the summit of the island (which, by the way, is an active volcano) or hike the edge of the island to Fumarole Bay.

But the best thing about Wizard Island is simply being able to see the beautifully reflective water up close, eat lunch while looking at the beautiful vistas, and pretend you’re all alone on a deserted island. 🙂

5. Swim in the Water
Top 6 Must-Dos at Crater Lake National Park

There are two places to swim in Crater Lake. One is at the bottom of Cleetwood Cove Trail near where the boats take off for the tours, and the second is anywhere on Wizard Island. If you’re the more adventurous type, Cleetwood Cove has a 15-foot cliff you can dive off.

The water is 55F degrees year round, so basically…super cold. The lake is, at the deepest, 1,943-feet deep. If you wade in, the water gets deep REALLY fast. I mean, it’s a crater, not a beach. The clarity of the water is some of the best in the world, which helps it to be so pretty and blue.

Okay, so if the water is 55 degrees, why is SWIMMING in it a must-do?? Because it’s a CRATER! You’d get to swim in a crater, in some of the clearest and bluest water in the world, and in one of the deepest lakes in the world. Who wouldn’t want to do that!? I almost didn’t swim in it because of how cold it is, but I’m so glad I did. It is now a favorite memorable experience of mine.

6. Go Camping Nearby
Top 6 Must-Dos at Crater Lake National Park

There are several places to camp in and near Crater Lake. Some are very primitive, being tent-only sites without restrooms, and some have full RV hookups and showers.

Benefits to camping instead of staying at a lodge are abounding. Firstly, camping is very cheap. There are some that are as little as $10 for a tent site. There are also many activities at most campsites, including some that have access to lakes and waterfalls. But the best part is being surrounded by nature and beauty at all times. You get to see the sunrise over the mountains in the morning, witness the area at it’s grandest during the day, eat dinner while watching the sunset, and sleep under some of the brightest, most beautiful stars.

Have you ever been to Crater Lake? What would you add to the list?

For more on Crater Lake and the rest of Oregon, I highly recommend Fodor’s Oregon Travel Guide.

Why I Don't Make Bucket Lists
Cape Perpetua - Oregon Coast

You Might Also Like

35 Comments

  • Reply
    Mitzi
    October 7, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Sit on the veranda of the lodge with a drink and soak up the beauty.

  • Reply
    Eden
    September 26, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    I grew up in Oregon and had never been to Crater Lake until I was in job corp in Roseburg, Oregon when I was 18. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I even knew about Crater Lake until I went to job corp, which is sad since it’s such a gorgeous place and it was always only a half a day away from me. Thankfully I got to work at Crater Lake 3 summers in a row while at job corp and it was one of the best experiences of my life! Everyday I dream of going back for a visit and reminiscing at all the lovely places I explored there. Crater Lake holds a place in my heart and I would love to share it with EVERYONE lol Thank you for sharing this adventure. I hope more people go see this natural wonder that I love so much =)

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      September 30, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      I’m glad you finally were able to enjoy it! It’s one of my favorite places ever. And sounds like you had a great time working there. I’d love to be able to work in the outdoors all the time!

  • Reply
    Normajean
    March 5, 2015 at 1:53 am

    Crayer Lake is in my back yard! I go up there several times throughout the year. They also have the Crater Lake Rim Run in August where runners come from all over the world to run various distances around the rim. There are many trails to hike as well. The difficulty ranges from easy to strenuous. All of the hikes have different views of the park as well as Diamond Peak, Mt. Theilson, Mt. McLaughlin, Mt. Shasta, Klamath Lake and Diamond Lake as well. The park is also host to various wildlife including elk, deer, mountain lions, bobcats, bald and golden eagles. Crater Lake is a truly magical place. There is an enormous amount of Tribal history and legends from the Klamath Tribes as well. I highly encourage anyone who can make the trip to take the time to visit. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      March 5, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Awesome, thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Andrew
    February 14, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Absolutely love crater lakers – I had never had the privilege to visit on until this past year – thankfully there are quite a few in Central America. It looks beautiful – that water looks just divine. Lovely post.

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 15, 2015 at 12:56 am

      Well, this isn’t actually a crater, it’s a caldera. They just call it this because it looks like a crater, and the word “crater” is more well-known. I’m not sure if the ones in Central America are actually made from craters or caved in volcanoes (or both). Do you know? Crater Lake in Oregon is just so much different than others. I hope you get to go sometime!

  • Reply
    Andreja Jernejčič
    February 14, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I have never heard of Crater Lake National Park at all which surprises me since photos are amazing and would love to spent some suumer nights overthere!

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 14, 2015 at 4:12 pm

      It’s one of the lesser-known national parks of the US. Even many Americans have never heard of it! I’m glad I got the opportunity to show you a place you never knew of before!! 🙂

  • Reply
    lorrie
    February 12, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Love the photos and the tours sound reasonably priced the best tour I took was of Charleston Harbor saw so much more than I would have on my own

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 12, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      It really is reasonably priced for the awesome experience you get! 🙂

  • Reply
    Rhonda - Copywriter
    February 12, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    One day, I will visit the US and enjoy its fantastic landscape! Australia is a beauty but each country is so different it blows your mind!

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 12, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      Yes, I agree! I hope you get to come to the US. We can trade places! 😉

  • Reply
    Lacey
    February 12, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Love this! I grew up in Southern Oregon just a couple hours away from Crater Lake, and you’d be shocked how many people in our little town had never even been there. Crazy! And even fewer Portlanders make the drive down there, so tourists come from all over the world, but our own state totally neglects it. I’ve been there tons of times, but I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been on Wizard Island. That will be a goal next time! Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos!

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 12, 2015 at 10:22 am

      I’ve heard that about people in Oregon. It all just depends on what people like, too, I guess. If they’re not much into the outdoors, then why make the trek? I guess. Crater Lake has always been number one on my list for visiting Oregon. 🙂 I hope you get to go to Wizard Island soon! It’s amazing!

  • Reply
    Megan @ Semi-Charmed Kind of Life
    February 11, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    I haven’t been to Oregon (yet!), but I’ll be sure to look this post up again for some awesome ideas when I do. 🙂

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 12, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Awesome! I hope you get to go soon. 🙂

  • Reply
    Tori
    February 11, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Oh my goodness this place is absolutely gorgeous! I must add it to my list of places to visit during my lifetime. Beautiful pictures!

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 11, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      I hope you get to go some day!

  • Reply
    Angie Nelson
    February 11, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Those pictures are amazing. What a great place to get away and enjoy nature.

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 11, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Thank you! And I agree. Enjoying nature is my favorite thing to do!

  • Reply
    Kelly
    February 11, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    These photos are spectacular! Wizard Lake is stunning! Pinning for an eventual road trip. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 11, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Awesome, I hope you get to go soon! Oregon is fantastic for a road trip.

  • Reply
    Ashley
    February 11, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    This is absolutely gorgeous!

  • Reply
    Bobbi
    February 11, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    One of my favorite lakes! It catches you by surprise how lovely it is I thought. Thx for the great post!

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 11, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      I think it’s one of my favorite lakes, too. So much different than many others!

  • Reply
    Alex
    February 11, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    What a gorgeous place! I would love to do all of these things.

    Alex – Funky Jungle

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 11, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      I hope you get to some day!

  • Reply
    Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
    February 11, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Lunch with a view and camping! AH! Yes please!

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 11, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      I know! It’s the best. 🙂

  • Reply
    Melissa
    February 11, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Did you fly out to Oregon for your trip? Or did you drive? I’m asking because I want to do a trip out to some of the west coast national parks, but they’re just so dang far from where I am for a road trip (MN)–it makes more sense for us to fly.. I’d like to camp cuz it’s much cheaper than national park lodging but bringing camping supplies on an airplane just isn’t practical. I’m just wondering how you did this? I’m not a big camping person but I’ll do it as long as I have access to a shower. It’s just the whole logistics thing when flying that I can’t seem to figure out! Thanks!

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 11, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Yes, we flew (we’re in Texas, so REALLY far for a drive out there). And then we rented a car while there for a road-trip around Oregon. We do this in most places we travel to so we can camp. We don’t find it hard to bring camping supplies on a plane. We packed our camping stuff in 2 backpacks – a 45L and a 55L – that fits our tent, stove, utensils, camping food (all dehydrated), 2 sleeping bags, 2 sleeping pads, camping chairs, toiletries, water containers (to fill up later), camping towels, some clothes, and all the little things like bug spray, etc. We checked those 2 bags. And then we brought 1 carry on with more clothes and my camera gear, kindle, stuff for the plane, etc. The only thing we don’t pack is our fuel/propane for the camping stove (not allowed on a plane!). We buy that when we land before we go on our trip. It’s actually pretty easy to fit it all. I guess you just have to have the know-how about the different products to use for lighter packing (I used to backcountry camp all the time, so I know how to pack light). We’ve even done it without the carry-on. Just depends on where you go. If you’re packing for hotter weather, obviously there will be less clothes. Sorry about how long this was! I guess I should think about doing a blog post on it! I’ve just never thought about it being difficult, since we do it all the time, and it actually is very easy if you have the right stuff. Hope this helped!

  • Reply
    Laura
    February 11, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I’d love to visit Oregon. The thing I love about the US is the diversity of landscapes you can see in the different areas, so different from the UK!

    • Reply
      Bailey K.
      February 11, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      I agree about the diversity of landscapes. It’s my favorite thing about the US! But I still haven’t visited the UK, and I know there are SO many things to see. Can’t wait to go!

    Leave a Reply