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Are you thinking of heading to Crater Lake this summer? My family and I went to Crater Lake this week for the first time and wow, was it worth it! Honestly, we have been wanting to go for years, but it seems like every time we thought to go it was either still snowy up there, or it was wildfire season. We happened to be on vacation with family at a vacation home in Crescent Lake and decided to head over to Crater Lake for the day since it was just over an hour and a half away from our rental home.
Our trip to Crater Lake was certainly eye-opening (snow in June, hello?!), but I also discovered that there are so many options for what to do at Crater Lake in summer! Knowing what I know now, I would probably wait until a little later in Summer. We actually visited on June 20, so we were technically there in spring (the last day of spring), and it’s easy to see why summer is by far the best time to visit the country’s deepest lake. Read on for my thoughts on the best things to do at Crater Lake and some highlights of our trip there!
What to Do at Crater Lake in Summer
Before we get to the great activities you can do at Crater Lake in Summer, let’s talk specifics about the park.
What is Crater Lake?
Crater Lake is a lake that was created by a major eruption of a volcano (Mount Mazama) over 7000 years ago. It is the main feature of Crater Lake National Park. With a depth of 1949 feet, is the deepest lake in the entire United States and the 9th deepest lake in the world. It is well known for the deep blue color and the stunning clarity of the water. There are no rivers or streams that flow into or out of the lake. The lake is filled by rain and snowfall alone.
The lake is home to two small islands, the largest of the two islands, Wizard Island, is the one that you see on most photos of the lake. The second island, Phantom Ship, is a natural rock pillar located near the lake’s south shore.
Where is Crater Lake?
Crater Lake National Park is located in South Central Oregon in Klamath County. The lake sits atop the Cascade Mountains in Southern Oregon. It is a decent drive from any town or city, so you can expect to turn your visit to Crater Lake into a fun road trip.
Here is a list of Oregon cities and the approximate distance Crater Lake is from each of them:
- 60 miles NW of Klamath Falls
- 80 miles NE of Medford
- 200 miles SE of Salem
- 240 miles SE of Portland
- 103 miles SW of Bend
Summer Activities to Do at Crater Lake
Take a Scenic Drive
During our trip, there was still too much snow from the recent heavy snowfall, and all of Rim Drive wasn’t yet opened up. As a matter of fact, we had to drive an extra half hour because the park’s north entrance was still closed. However, if you visit late enough in the summer, you can hit up Rim Drive to adventure and explore the 33-mile road that circles the entire lake. There are numerous viewpoints along the way, providing breathtaking vistas of the lake and its surroundings. Here is a list of the viewpoints to look out for along the way:
- Watchman Overlook
- Cloudcap Overlook
- Phantom Ship Overlook
- Pinnacles Overlook
There are also other great things to see along this drive such as Vidae Falls, Pumice Castle, Plaikni Falls, and Pinnacles.
The scenic Rim Drive is by far the best way to see the many different awesome features of Crater Lake and its surrounding area.
Hop on a Boat Tour
Are you wanting to experience the deep blue waters up close? Take a Crater Lake Boat Tour! These boat ride tours allow you to see the water up close and offer stunning views of Wizard Island that you don’t normally get to see. Boat tours are typically only running in late summer (July through September), so plan accordingly.
Go for a Hike
if you are visiting in early summer, you may be disappointed in the hiking options. Hiking was slim pickings when we were there this week as many of the trails were still snow-covered, but I am excited to go back and check out some trails! I have seen some friend’s photos of Garfield Peak Trail and its views and oh my goodness I can’t wait to go there!
Here are a few of the popular trails (and best hikes) in the park:
- Garfield Peak Trail
- Cleetwood Cove Trail
- Watchman Peak Trail
- Sun Notch Trail
Go for a Swim
There are two small areas of Crater Lake that are swimmable. Cleetwood Cove and Wizard Island. If you really want to swim in Crater Lake, you either need to hike there or pay for a boat tour:
- Cleetwood Cove – Cleetwood Cove is a two-mile trail located on the north shore of the lake. Prepare yourself for an elevation change though because this trails drops from 7000 ft elevation to about 800 feet into the lake.
- Wizard Island – To swim at Wizard Island, you need to pay for a boat tour to take you to the swimming accessible spot on Wizard Island.
Neither of these spots has a beach to swim from. Both offer access only from a rocky shoreline.
Take Some Photos
I’ve ventured to a lot of beautiful places in this state and I can comfortably say that Crater Lake is a place that offers some of the best photography! I cannot believe how easy it is to get amazing photos! The water, the cliffs, the trees, and the entire surrounding area are all beautiful to photograph.
While I didn’t get the chance to see this in person, I have heard that sunsets and sunrises are amazing times to get photos of the lake.
Enjoy the Views
You don’t need to hike a trail or take a photo to really enjoy yourself. You really can just sit back and enjoy the beautiful views of the lake. Even with the crowds that were there when I visited, I felt a peace come over me when I just sat down and enjoyed the view.
In our family group alone, we had 17 people with us, most of which were children, some of them noisy ones! The peacefulness among all of that was so noticeable to me that I actually mentioned it to my family.
Catch a Fish
If you love to fish, you might want to give fishing at Crater Lake a shot! While there were no fish in the lake naturally, in the early 1900s, the government stocked it with various types of fish. Rainbow Trout and Kokanee Salmon have survived and thrived to this day and you will find them in steady supply. Late spring through late fall are the best times to fish at the lake.
Book a Room
The beautiful Crater Lake Lodge is a great place to stay so you can enjoy the views for as many days as you can! This historic lodge is located at the edge of the caldera, roughly 1000 feet above the lake, is surrounded by forests and meadows, and was first opened in 1915. There are 71 rooms, some with lake views, some with views of the Rim Village. These rooms often book months in advance though, so be sure and book your room early!
The lodge is usually open from May to late October.
Join the Rangers
Crater Lake often has great ranger-led programs and guided hikes. They also offer Junior Ranger programs through the National Park Service. These programs teach all about the park’s cultural history, ecology, geology, and more.
If you like to camp, you are in luck! The park is home to Mazama Village Campground! The Mazama campground allows you to camp right in the middle of the pristine, quiet nature of the park, surrounded by old-growth forest and more.
It’s a great campground, but it does book up months in advance, so be sure and book early!
Check Out The Visitor Center
We love checking out visitor centers when we visit state and national parks. Crater Lake is no exception. The Rim Village Visitor Center is a great way to introduce yourself to the park, the lake, and Mount Mazama.
Tips for Getting To Crater Lake
Be Prepared for Weather
Be sure and check out all weather conditions before you go. Check the Crater Lake NPS website to be sure you are aware of any closings, etc. You can also check out webcams to see the conditions! That’s what we did.
Don’t Be in a Rush
We left our vacation home at 11:30, expecting to be there right around 1 p.m. It ended up taking us an extra 30 minutes just because of the traffic backup at the park’s entrance.