Crater Lake National Park:
How to Visit this Natural Wonder

Located in southern Oregon, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US at 1,943 feet (592 meters) and the deepest volcanic lake in the world.

How Deep Is Crater Lake?

At a depth of 1,943 feet (592 m), Crater Lake in southern Oregon is the deepest volcanic lake in the world. To put that into perspective, the Empire State Building – which stands at a height of 1,454 feet (443 m), including its antenna – would fit inside the lake and still be almost 500 feet underwater!

How Was Crater Lake Formed?

Formed 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake came into existence when the 12,000-foot (3,600 m) Mount Mazama volcano erupted and collapsed in on itself. This historic event reduced the mountain to 8,157 ft (2,486 m) leaving a massive crater on top. Fed only by the annual rain and snowfall, the newly formed crater filled with water, becoming the deepest lake in the United States.

The Cascade Range

Established in 1902, Crater Lake National Park is located in the southern Cascades, a mountain range that runs from Northern California, through Oregon and Washington states and into British Columbia, Canada.

Prominent peaks along the Cascades range include Mount Lassen (10,462 ft) and Mount Shasta (14,179 ft) in Northern California; Mount McLoughlin (9,495 ft) and Mount Hood in southern and northern Oregon; Mount Adams (12,281 ft), Mount St Helens (8,365 ft), Mount Rainier (14,410 ft), and Mount Baker (10,871 ft) in Washington State; and Mount Garibaldi (8,786 ft) in British Columbia.

Weather & Elevation

Crater Lake has extreme weather in the summer and winter. The Rim Drive above the lake sits at an elevation between 7,000 to 8,000 feet (2,100 to 2,400 meters). Given its exposed location at the top of the Cascade Mountains, the area gets dumped with snow in the winter. The Park Headquarters 3 miles away receives about 43 feet (13 meters) of snow per year.

When the snow plow does push through from the Park Headquarters to the Rim Drive, it leaves huge walls of snow along the road and at the Visitors Center at Rim Village.

Most importantly, the Rim Drive circling the lake is closed for a good part of the year. It normally doesn’t open until late May or June and the East Rim Drive not opening until July.

Conversely, July, August, and September see hot and dry days so much so that the dirt turns to powder (a warning for what shoes to bring). Check the weather before you visit. Summer is also fire season. Be sure to check for wildfires in the area before you travel. Check the park conditions. Even if there isn’t a fire nearby, smoke from distant fires can also be a problem for your vacation. Check the air quality to see what’s happening in the area.

When to Go

After regularly receiving an intense amount of snow over the winter, much of the national park is not accessible until June. The rim drive is closed as are trails for hiking. Snowshoeing is accessible on some trails. In July, the entire park including the East Rim Drive and other trails are re-open.

Entrance Fee & Getting There

There is a $30 entrance fee for private vehicles in the summer that is good for 7 days. In the winter, the fee is $20. National Park Passes are valid at Crater Lake and cost $80. More details for dates and discounts here.

To get there in the south from California, take Interstate 5 north; exit to Highway 97 through Weed, California; continue through Klamath Falls, Oregon; take OR-62 W to the southern entrance of Crater Lake National Park.

From northern Oregon, Seattle & Western Washington State, British Columbia, Canada, take Interstate 5 south and head east at Eugene, Oregon on OR-58 to Highway 97 to OR-422 to OR-62 W.