Crater Lake National Park is shockingly the only national park in the state of Oregon. But with its postcard-worthy lake, blood-pumping hikes, and stunning views, there’s no question of why this piece of land was awarded its “national park” title.
There are loads of things to do at Crater Lake National Park – from hiking to cliff jumping to camping to stargazing. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll be able to stay entertained for days on end.
*Pro Tip: Like all national parks in the United States, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee to visit Crater Lake National Park. If you plan on visiting a few different national parks during your trip, you may want to consider buying the America the Beautiful Annual National Park Pass instead.
Hop on a Boat to Wizard Island
The highlight of Crater Lake National Park is the perfectly circular Crater Lake. And right in the middle of Crater Lake lies Wizard Island.
Wizard Island is an especially cool natural feature, because it’s a volcano within another volcano! Don’t worry, neither volcano has erupted for thousands of years, but it’s still quite a unique site to see.
To explore Wizard Island, you have to take a designated boat tour. You’re not allowed to boat, kayak, or swim there on your own. These designated boat tours leave from the Cleetwood Cove Trail and give guests three hours to explore Wizard Island.
As for what to do when you actually reach Wizard Island, you have a few different options. The most popular option is to hike the Wizard Island Summit Trail. This moderate 3.5-kilometre hike rewards visitors with 360-degree views of the bright blue Crater Lake!
If you don’t have enough energy to hike (after all, you have to hike the Cleetwood Cove Trail to get to the Wizard Island boat tour in the first place), that’s okay! You can also swim, fish, or simply relax on the shore. Regardless of which option you choose, you’re bound to enjoy your trip to Wizard Island.
*Note: Boat trips to Wizard Island are only available in the summer.
Take a Boat Tour Around Crater Lake
Many people know about the boat ride to Wizard Island, but most don’t know about the boat tours that sail around the perimeter of the lake. And that’s a shame, because these boat rides are just as cool!
Often called the standard lake tour, these boat rides give guests an up close view of the sheer cliffs surrounding Crater Lake. You’ll also get to see loads of striking rock formations, including the famous Phantom Ship. And we certainly can’t forget to mention the incredible views you’ll get to enjoy of Wizard Island and Crater Lake.
*Note: Like the boat trips to Wizard Island, the boat tours around Crater Lake only take place in the summer and only depart from the Cleetwood Cove Trail.
Hike One of the Many Trails
By far the most popular thing to do at Crater Lake National Park is hike. There are dozens of hikes scattered all throughout this national park, so you’ll have no shortage of options to choose from.
But we’re not going to leave you without a few of our own hike recommendations! One of the most popular hikes in Crater Lake National Park is the Garfield Peak Trail. This trail is a steep and difficult 5.8-kilometre hike. But the effort is all worth it at the end when you get to take in the jaw-dropping views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island.
Another popular option is the Watchman Peak Trail. This 2.7-kilometre hike takes about an hour to complete. And at the peak of the hike, you’ll get to see panoramic views of Crater Lake, the rim, and Wizard Island. Simply put, it’s definitely worth an hour of your time.
Last but not least, there’s the Cleetwood Cove Trail. This particular path is special, because it’s actually the only hike in the entire park that provides access to Crater Lake. Once you hike the 3.4 kilometres, you’ll have the opportunity to dip your towns in this sparkling body of water – but it’s absolutely freezing! If you decide to test it out anyways, don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Cliff Jump into Crater Lake
Like we just mentioned, the water at Crater Lake is very cold throughout the year. Even in the summer, it only reaches about 19 degrees Celsius. But sometimes the chilly water is a nice reprieve from the hot summer sun. That’s why quite a few people choose to hike the Cleetwood Cove Trail and then cliff jump into Crater Lake!
For safety purposes, be sure to only cliff jump where others are already jumping. You don’t want to hit anything below the surface.
Check Out Plaikni Falls
While Crater Lake is obviously the highlight of Crater Lake National Park, there are other noteworthy water features in the park as well, including Plaikni Falls.
Plaikni Falls is a 6.1-metre waterfall that can only be accessed after an easy 3.2-kilometre hike. With the rock cliffs and thriving greenery around it, Plaikni Falls looks like it was plucked out of a fairytale. You can stick around and enjoy the magic of nature for as long as you’d like.
Pop by Vidae Falls
But Plaikni Falls isn’t the only noteworthy waterfall in Crater Lake National Park. Vidae Falls deserves a spot on this list as well!
Unlike Plaikni Falls, you don’t have to hike to Vidae Falls. Rather, you can just drive up and see this massive, 35-metre cascade. That’s what makes Vidae Falls the most viewed waterfall in Crater Lake National Park. After all, the only thing you have to do is take as many pictures as your heart desires.
Drive (or Bike or Take a Trolley) Along Rim Drive
Along with hiking, one of the most popular things to do at Crater Lake National Park is drive along Rim Drive. This 53-kilometre road boasts so many amazing viewpoints of towering forests, blooming meadows, and of course the sparkling Crater Lake.
But driving isn’t the only way you can experience this awe-inspiring road. If you’d like to get your blood pumping, you can actually bike the entire distance. Or you can just do a section of it, because biking 53 kilometres will take a few hours.
And if you don’t want to have to focus on the twists and turns on the road, you can hop aboard a trolley tour! This adorable brown and green vehicle makes a handful of stops along Rim Drive. And as your trolley ambles along, your park ranger will also tell you loads of fun facts about this gorgeous national park.
Watch the Sunrise from the Discovery Point Trail
If you’re an early bird, catching the sunrise may be one of the best things to do at Crater Lake National Park for you. There are a few different places to watch the sunrise in this national park, but Discovery Point Trail is our personal favourite.
To reach the peak of the Discovery Point Trail, it’s about 1.9 kilometres. Since it’s a bit of a walk, you’ll have to make sure to wake up early enough to beat the sunrise. Then, once you reach the end and see the sun crest over the horizon, it’ll be incredible. The golden glow will shine over the crater rim, onto the lake, and through the scattered trees. It’s absolutely picture-perfect.
*Note: If you’re looking for alternative sunrise spots, Garfield Peak and Cloudcap Overlook are both wonderful options as well.
Camp at the Mazama Campground
It’s widely known that the Mazama Campground is the best campground in Crater Lake National Park. This campground is the most developed camping spot in the park, which means you’ll have access to everything you need and more. As a matter of fact, the Mazama Campground has showers, a gas station, a grocery store, and even a cafe!
*Pro Tip: Reserve your campground far in advance! Despite the fact that the Mazama Campground has over 200 campsites, it often gets booked up weeks ahead of time.
Do a Little Stargazing
One of the most underrated things to do at Crater Lake National Park is stargaze. This area is so isolated that there’s practically no light pollution. This means that you can get unobstructed views of the beautiful Milky Way! All you have to do is take a seat and enjoy it.
For the best views of the stars, you’ll just want to stay close to the rim of Crater Lake. The area near the North Junction (Diamond Lake) parking lot is particularly breathtaking.
*Pro Tip: The best stargazing at Crater Lake National Park is on nights with minimal clouds and without a full moon.
And there you have it! All of the best things to do at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!
Ready to check out some other epic parks along the west coast? Check these out!