Located in southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is home to the deepest lake in the US. This incredible spectacle was formed 7,700 years ago when the peak of Mount Manzama collapsed with a volcanic eruption.
Today the park receives over 700,000 visitors per year who enjoy the parks stunning hiking trails, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, and refreshing lake.
There are many things to do in Crater Lake National Park whether you’re traveling as a family, with friends, or embarking on a solo adventure.
In this article, we’re going to cover our top 10 favorite activities.
Crater Lake Top 10
- Scenic Rim Drive
- Cleetwood Cove Trail
- Mount Scott Trail
- Boat to Wizard Island
- Garfield Peak
- Plaikni Falls
- Pinnacles Overlook
- Watchman Peak Trail
- Backcountry Camping
- Discovery Point
Take A Drive Around Crater Lake’s Scenic Rim
Driving or biking around crater lake is the best way to get an overview of the park and enjoy the forests, meadows, and vistas in the area. Scenic Rim drive is 33 miles long, and built to complement the natural curves of the area.
There are over 30 overlooks to stop at along the way and 5 picnic areas to stop for a bite to eat.
The road is narrow and winding with no barriers which could make it difficult to traverse with a large RV or travel trailer.
For a more relaxing ride, trolley services are available at Rim Village where you can join a 2-hour tour that includes 5 stops along the way.
Hike The Cleetwood Cove Trail
Cleetwood Cove is a popular trail to hike because it’s the only legal access point to the shore of Crater Lake.
The trail is open during the summer and fall months so that tourists can enjoy swimming and fishing in the brilliant blue waters.
Although the hike is short – only 1.1 miles, it has a 700 foot elevation drop so hiking back out can be extremely strenuous, especially after a morning of playing in the water.
The trail surface is also designed using crushed pumice which can be slippery and difficult to walk on.
Nevertheless, Cleetwood Cove is one of the most popular hikes in the park and gives you the best up-close view of the lake.
Hike The Mount Scott Trail
Visitors looking for a moderate hike with spectacular views should look no further than the Mount Scott Trail in Crater Lake National Park.
Mount Scott leads to the highest point in the park at 8,929 feet tall. The out and back path stretches 4.2 miles round-trip and takes you past beautiful wildflowers and dozens of marmots along the way.
From the top of the trail you can look downward at Crater Lake and Wizard Island from a fire lookout at the top.
Boat to Wizard Island
During the summer months, boat tours to Wizard Island are a popular activity to do. Boat trips take off from the dock at the bottom of the Cleetwood Cove Trail so you should be prepared for a long day of hiking, sun exposure, and fun.
Boat tours take off 8-times per day and there are also two Wizard Island Shuttles that run twice per day.
Once you arrive on the island, you can hike to the top of the Wizard Island Summit trail which is 2.2 miles round-trip or swim among the fish at the beach.
Climb The Trail Up Garfield Peak
Garfield Peak is a popular hike in Crater Lake National Park because it’s easily accessible from Applegate Peak, the Crater Lake Lodge, and Rim Village.
The path is short and steep but quickly rises above the parking lot to give travelers fantastic views of the Klamath Basin and southern Cascades.
Out and back, the trail up Garfield Peak stretches 3.4 miles long and climbs over 1,000 feet in elevation gain.
Picnic Next To Plaikni Falls
Families, or travelers looking for a short easy hike will enjoy the shaded trail to Plaikni Falls. The 2-mile out and back trail weaves through an old-growth hemlock forest filled with wildflowers and lush vegetation.
At the end of the hike you’ll get a refreshing view of Plaikni Falls where you can relax on the rocks at the base and picnic next to some pikas and marmots.
The best time to hike to Plaikni Falls is from March to October when snowmelt is at its peak and the wildlife is out and about.
Stop At The Pinnacles Overlook
The Pinnacles Overlook is a unique feature within the park located about 6-miles off scenic rim drive. Once you park your car, it’s an easy 0.4 mile walk to the overlook.
The short detour is well-worth the effort because guests will get to experience remnants of the Mount Mazama explosion which resulted in volcanic spires rising 100 feet above the canyon floor.
The hike is shaded and the trail is well-maintained which makes it the perfect warm-up for some longer hikes later in the day.
Enjoy 360 Views On The Watchman Peak Trail
A hike that will give you unforgettable views in every direction is the Watchman Peak trail. The path stretches 1.7 miles to the top of the Watchman fire tower which overlooks Crater Lake and surrounding area.
Plenty of switchbacks on the way up make the trail appear difficult, but many families find that it’s a relatively moderate hike. There is only about 400 feet of elevation gain and the packed-dirt path is smooth enough for strollers.
The Watchman Fire Tower is in the perfect position to go stargazing at night, and on clear days you can see all the way to Mount Shasta.
Backcountry Camping In The Old Growth Forest
Camping among the trees of an old-growth forest, or on top of the unique volcanic landscape is an experience that cannot be matched.
Over 95% of Crater Lake National Park is managed wilderness which allows for backcountry camping in a wide-range of areas. Permits are required year-round but they are available free of charge.
One of the most popular destinations is camping along the Pacific Crest Trail which runs stretches all the way from Mexico to Canada.
33 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail passes through Crater Lake. In 1995 an alternative branch of the PCT was added within the park which allows hikers to enjoy 6-miles of scenic views which run alongside the rim of the lake.
Walk To The Discovery Point Overlook
The Discovery Point Overlook is notable because it’s the first place where a European-American traveler laid eyes on Crater Lake.
The trail to get there is 2.4 miles round-trip, low-key, and easy for hikers of any skill-level. Visitors walking along the path will enjoy hemlock and pine trees to one side of the trail, and brilliant views of the lake on the other.
Aspiring photographers will enjoy the picturesque views of Wizard Island framed by green trees and brilliant blue water.
That’s A Wrap!
Crater Lake is a stunning National Park with many activities to enjoy beyond your drive-by photoshoot.
Forested hikes, tumbling waterfalls, and the unique volcanic landscape all contribute to making it the perfect vacation spot for families, friends, and solo travelers alike.