I asked myself that exact question when I saw how far out of the way we needed to drive to visit Crater Lake on family vacation. Cheater’s edition: It’s worth it, and I have tips to help you plan your trip in this family travel guide.
When we went on our epic road trip across the northern United States (in case you missed it, New Hampshire to Washington State and back), I added Crater Lake National Park to our itinerary (print this Crater Lake Family Travel Guide for your travel planning book) but then debated – taking it off and adding it back in a couple times because it added a good chunk of travel time to our itinerary since it’s at the crest of the Cascade Mountains in the middle of literally nowhere.
Truth be told, the whole drive from Newport, Oregon to Crater Lake I questioned whether adding Crater Lake to our vacation plan was the right call. It took so long to get there. And it didn’t help that we were driving toward a forest fire. Now, this girl is from the East. We don’t do forest fires. We just hear about them – and how fast they can move. So driving through mountains covered in trees and getting closer to the smell of smoke didn’t seem like the greatest move, although I kept reading updates that it was on the other side of the lake from where we were.
Umpqua National Forest is gorgeous to drive through. Seriously be prepared to want to take a million pictures. But also be prepared that you literally cannot stop every minute to take a million pictures or you will never get there.
One place I do recommend stopping at on the west side of the lake is Diamond Lake. The Diamond Lake Lookout has bathrooms and offers a gorgeous view of Diamond Lake and Diamond Mountain, one of the volcanic mountains in the area. If you go in the summer be prepared for friendly chipmunks. Please don’t pet them. They’re still wild animals, but they are curious little things and will come right up to you if you don’t startle them.
We reluctantly dragged our daughter, I mean ourselves, away from the chipmunks after everyone used the bathroom, and continued on toward Crater Lake.
What is Crater Lake?
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at just under 2,000 feet deep. It partially fills a caldera that was created when the Mount Mazama volcano collapsed over 7,000 years ago. The lake is well-known for its gorgeous deep blue color, which people normally associate with tropical destinations.
While Crater Lake is easily accessible in the summer it isn’t as easy to access in the winter. Due to its location in the Cascade Mountain Range it gets an average of 43 feet of snow per year. Never fear! See below for how to get to Crater Lake in winter and some ideas of winter activities.
Interesting fact: There are no outlets from Crater Lake so the rise and fall of the lake throughout the seasons is intriguing. Scientists have determined it’s due to water seepage through the caldera walls. There’s a fascinating science lesson here for the kids!
Is there a cost for Crater Lake National Park?
Yes, you pay a fee for Crater Lake. The cost is $25/per car for a 7-day pass. If you have an America the Beautiful Interagency pass you may also use that. If you have a fourth grader, we highly recommend you take advantage of the Every Kid in a Park pass. This is how we saw Theodore Roosevelt Park, Craters of the Moon National Park, the Badlands, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Glacier National Park for free.
Are there things to do at Crater Lake?
There are a variety of things to do at Crater Lake depending on how long you visit and the time of year. You can visit in winter but the north entrance road and Rim Drive are closed to automobiles. You can still access the park from the west and south entrances.
Make sure you check out the things we discovered to do at Crater Lake.
How do you get to Crater Lake National Park?
The only way to Crater Lake is by car. If you’re flying, Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport in Medford, Oregon is the closest major airport and is about 80 miles away from the park. Portland is just over 250 miles away by car.
Where can you stay near Crater Lake?
While Crater Lake is in the middle of nowhere and it limits your lodging options, you still have choices. From backcountry camping to staying in a hotel, I’ve done the research for you. This article is all about your options for where to stay near Crater Lake.
Now are you ready to pack your bags and head out to Crater Lake for your next family vacation? Pin this post to refer to as you make plans.