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Thinking of visiting Crater Lake National Park on family vacation but wondering if it’s worth the drive? Check out what there is to do at Crater Lake.

If you’re thinking of visiting Crater Lake National Park with your family but aren’t sure if it’s worth the trip make sure you check out what we thought of our couple-hour-super-out-of-the-way road trip stop on the epic family vacation road trip of 2017. Then read on to see what we discovered there is to do at Crater Lake National Park…if we’d only had time.

What things are there to do at Crater Lake?

There are a variety of things to do at Crater Lake year-round. What you choose to do depends how long you are visiting and what time of year it is. If you’re planning a winter trip, it’s open but the north entrance road and Rim Drive are closed to automobiles.  This means you won’t be able to drive the scenic rim loop. However, you can still access the park from the west and south entrances.

Winter Activities

Since we’re talking about winter closures, there are a variety of winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, and sledding allowed except in the caldera. You can also snowshoe in the park and there is the option for ranger-led snowshoe walks for ages 8 years old and up. Note there are no lifts so you have to hike anywhere you want to go for these activities.

We visited in summer. Even if we were there in the winter the thought of potentially getting stuck in snow in the middle of nowhere doesn’t sound like fun to me.

Summer Activities

If you want to be able to do all the fun summer activities Crater Lake has to offer July and August are the best months to visit. Here are the most popular things to do at Crater Lake National Park in summer.

Scenic Rim Drive
Drive Yourself

Since we were already short on time, we drove the 33-mile long Scenic Rim Drive ourselves. We stopped at the many overlooks to read signs and see the lake from different vantage points. There are many lookout points that are easy to pull off at so even the driver will get to enjoy the views.

Trolley Tour

There is also a 2-hour ranger-guided trolley tour available if you’d like to simply enjoy the view while you travel around the lake. This tour is handicap accessible. They do stop along the way but there are no bathroom stops.

Cleetwood Cove Trail
Hiking and Swimming

If you plan a longer stay there are other options available besides driving around the lake such as hiking down to the lake via Cleetwood Cove Trail. Cleetwood Cove Trail is a 1.1 mile hike with a 700-foot elevation drop that gives you access to the lake where you can swim or fish.

While this is the trail that goes down to the lake, there are also many other trails for hiking in the park – from mountains to waterfalls. My favorite app to find hiking trails that are a fit for our family’s ability is All Trails.


You can also take a boat around the lake with a visit to Wizard Island (provided you can hike down to the lake). Note that children must be at least 3 years old in order to take the boat tour.

Rim Village Walking Tour

We only stopped here briefly because of time constraints but Rim Village is definitely worth the time to stop and explore, so plan a little time here. This area of the park was designated as a historic district in 1997 and you can explore some of the historic buildings and a museum where you will learn some geology of the lake. You can find more about Rim Village here.

Ranger Programs

We’ve only gotten to take part in a couple ranger programs over the years but our favorite thing to do at every national park we visit is to check out the Junior Ranger program. (Although our kids are getting too big now. Sadness!!) If you have younger kids you’ll definitely want to take advantage of this program. Crater Lake also has a variety of summer ranger programs so make sure you check out the schedule for what’s happening in the park.

Our verdict? Even if you don’t have time to do any extra activities we do highly recommend taking the time to drive out to Crater Lake National Park and taking the 33-mile drive around the lake.

Don’t forget to check out more of our experience in this Crater Lake family vacation travel guide (including some gorgeous pictures). If you plan on spending a couple days there, also be sure to check out where to stay near Crater Lake.

things to do crater lake national park picture of crater lake

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    1. Hi Tina,

      Great question! That really depends on the type of interests your family has and what all you want to do. If you are avid hikers, 3 days may be a great amount of time. If your family wants to drive around it and hop in and out here and there, one day is ok.

      Our family likes to do some short hikes so my ideal trip would be to try to get there as early in the morning as possible and spend the full day, 1 night, and then most of a second day there, leaving early enough to get to our next stop with some daylight left.

      My priorities for that kind of time would be:
      – take a shorter hike earlier in the day
      – take the trolley tour
      – Rim Village walking tour
      – down time
      Next day
      – Take the boat ride (if your kids are old enough)
      – another hike and/or drive part of the Rim on our own

      If you end up visiting have a wonderful trip! I want to go back so badly, but time and budget likely won’t allow it for another couple years.

  1. Thankyou so much for writing this article. I’m from London, England and I discovered crater lake on a programme I recently watched, since then I’ve been obsessed with taking my family there! So when I saw your page…is it worth dragging my family to I thought hhhmmmm!!
    You’ve boosted my confidence in actually dragging my family across the world to stay there!! I may actually never leave!! Thanks again xx

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