Visiting Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park in the Winter

Oregon’s Only National Park

Crater Lake National Park is a gorgeous national park that sits in the Umpqua National Forest is Oregon’s only national park. Oregon is a state that is full of so much natural beauty, that I was surprised to hear that it only had one national park. That being said, Crater Lake does not disappoint!

Crater Lake National Park. view of lake and Wizard Island,  shrouded in snow.
Crater Lake with view of Wizard Island.

Some info for before you go

Crater Lake sits at an elevation of 6,178 feet, making it a bit over a mile above sea level which means, when they snow comes, it can stay for quite some time. Because the snow can pile up at the lake, a lot of the activities that you could probably do in the hotter months, like drive around the lake or take a boat to Wizard Island, will likely be closed.

However, visiting Crater Lake in the cooler months, provides you with the amazing opportunity to see this gorgeous lake shrouded by snow capped mountains. The bright blue of the lake contrasted with the green trees and white snow make for a site you do not want to miss.

The park is open year round but the roads up to the lake can close due to the snow. Check the conditions of the roads on the National Park Service’s website before you go to see what is available.

Crater Lake National Park. Wizard Island coming up out of the lake

Where to stay

Crater Lake is surrounded by national park and national forest land, so there aren’t many hotels near by. However, the charming town of Ashland is only about an hour and 40 minutes away, making a trip up to the park and back an easy day trip. When we visited, we stayed in downtown Ashland at a super cozy Airbnb. If you want to camp closer to the lake, check out this list of spots.

If you are new to Airbnb, you can get up to $65 off your first trip when using my sign up link! (This isn’t a paid promotion, but rather, I do get some credit on my Airbnb account to use towards my next stay when you use my link.)

Visiting the Park

Driving there from Ashland, OR

If you are coming up from Ashland, I suggest going up through Medford then follow signs for Crater Lake. This route will take you through beautiful scenery of rivers and woods. The drive up the mountain can take a while, depending on the amount of people visiting the park, but it is totally worth it.

Entrance Fees

To get into the park you need to pay an entrance fee. For this national park, entrance fees during the winter (November 1st – May 21st) are $20 and during the summer or peak season (May 23rd – October 31st) , the entrance fees are $30. When we went, we paid the $20 to enter but I wish I had the America the Beautiful or the U.S. Parks Pass that I have now. It is a pass that covers entrance to any national park, national monuments or federal recreation lands for up to one year; check out all the parks it covers here.

We just recently (February 2021), bought an U.S. parks pass for $80 which provides us access to national parks/federal recreation lands for up to one year from purchase date. For more info on how many people the U.S. Park Pass covers, go to this webpage. We bought ours to cover two people or one car.

Back to Crater lake! Once you pay to enter the park, you will keep driving up a hill and will park near the Steel Visitor Center. Stop in for souvenirs and a hot chocolate! And, if you’re lucky, you can roll down a giant snow hill or play in the snow next to the visitors center before going to the lake.

steel visitor center at crater lake national park.
Steel Visitor Center almost covered by a mound of snow!

The area around the back of the visitor’s center is this wide open field and in the winter months, this can be great spot for playing in the snow! I wore jeans, boots and a sweatshirt when we went in late May, so it wasn’t super cold. But I would definitely check the weather conditions before you go up.

Amazing Views at Crater Lake

Once you are all done frockling in the snow, head on over to the left side of the lake, or almost directly behind the visitors center. From here, you will see great view of the lake. The sharp blue water contrasted with the white snow almost doesn’t look real. In fact, I’m sure I said, this doesn’t look real, like a dozen times.

If you move over to the left a bit, or a at a diagonal to the visitors center, you can get a better view of Wizard Island. There is a road that you can walk along to the left of the visitors center, which was closed when we went, where you can stop along it for more great views of the lake.

Have you visited Crater Lake? Are you planning on going? Let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for reading my post and make sure to check out my last blog post!

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