If you’ve put off your visit to Crater Lake National Park this year, you’ve still got time. Heavy snowfall (56 feet! That’s 672 inches —12 feet more than average) delayed many regular activities early in the season. But tours and trails are now up and running for summer and fall.

There are many ways to ponder this Oregon icon — a 1,943-foot deep lake in the center of an extinct caldera. Seasonal Interpretive Park Ranger Lesley McClintoch said first timers should start with the Rim Drive, which offers views of the awe-inspiring lake itself — the deepest in the U.S. and one of the deepest in the world. “When many people first see the lake it just takes their breath away,” McClintoch said. She also recommends the short films at the Steel Visitor Center and the Rim Village Visitor Center (including footage from a submarine exploring this underwater marvel and an aminated film that demonstrates how 12,000-foot Mt. Mazama exploded more than 7,700 years ago to form the lake).

Here are some other ways to get to know Crater Lake National Park.

Hike: The park has more than 90 miles of trail and rangers have created a handy guide for hikers that divides hikes into short, medium, long and backcountry categories. You can also join various guided hikes in the company of a ranger to learn about the geology, ecology and cultural history of the area.

Bike: Ride the 33-mile Rim Road and enjoy the view from 30 pullouts. From these vistas you can view the lake, which is more than five miles in diameter, and surrounding 2,000-foot rock walls. High elevations and hills make this a challenging ride. Waypoints and distances are available at the Crater Lake website in the brochure section.

Listen: Daily Ranger’s Choice Talks and Discovering Crater Lake Talks offer an introduction to Crater Lake and the surrounding area. Hike up Watchman Peak at sunset with a ranger or join the evening program for an in-depth discussion on various topics. Kids under 12 can enjoy the Junior Ranger Program.

Boat: The Volcano Boat Cruise travels the perimeter of the lake with an interpretive ranger who discusses the natural and cultural history of the lake and park. Wizard Island Tours will drop off hikers for three- or six-hour hikes.

Dive: Due to the fact that its waters are made of snowmelt, Crater Lake is one of the clearest lakes in the country. Not surprisingly, it is on the bucket list of many scuba divers. Because of snow conditions, dives are only allowed later in the season.

Camp: Pitch your tent at Mazama Campground or Lost Creek Campground. Backcountry permits are also available for those who want to get off the beaten track.

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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  1. Gary says…

    Can you explain to me why in an article about Crater Lake, you have information about camping near Mt Hood? “Camp: Pitch your tent at Mazama Campground or Lost Creek Campground. Backcountry permits are also available for those who want to get off the beaten track.” The link for Lost Creek campground takes you here This makes no sense to me.

    Written on March 8th, 2012 / Flag this Comment
  2. Mo Sherifdeen says…

    Gary – Good catch; we meant to recommend the campgrounds at Mazama Village and Lost Creek near Crater Lake; it looks like our mapping was inadvertently showing similar named campgrounds in the Mt. Hood National Forest.

    We’ve updated the links and fixed the maps for the correct location.

    Written on March 8th, 2012 / Flag this Comment
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