Crater Lake National Park in the Winter
If you're like me and decide to visit Oregon’s only National Park during the winter here’s some things you can expect!
The first and most important is that when I say winter that could mean from early fall into the beginning of July which means the East and West Rim Drive will definitely be closed if there is snow on the ground. To keep the park open the National Park Service plows the south and west entrance of Highway 62 (Crater Lake Highway) leading to the Steel Visitor Center so that the park can remain open year round. Driving anytime during the winter season can require tire chains, but check with the official National Park website for updated information.
How to see Crater Lake in the winter?
If you can imagine all but one entrance being closed during the winter, then I’m sure you can get an idea of what the trails look like. When I visited in during the third week of March even the drive to Rim Village was closed which is normally open after March 15th. When the drive is accessible it’s normally the easiest access for visitors to get a view of the lake. If you are visiting before this time or for some reason the road isn’t open like it was in my case, then the most practical way to see the lake is the Raven Trail.
The Raven Trail is just under two miles, and would be the most practical way to see the lake at this time. If you came prepared, snowshoeing or cross country skiing would definitely be the best option, but if you're like me even walking in the snow is doable for an average hiker. The trailhead begins just to the right of the closed gate to the Rim Village. It should be fairly easy to follow the previous tracks if it hasn’t snowed recently, but if you’re having a hard time finding where to go look for the trail markers on the trees. Being that the distance isn’t too far, the Raven Trail makes a great sunrise hike, and when I visited on a weekday I was the only one watching the beautiful sunrise from the crater rim.
If you are feeling more adventurous and have the proper gear, there is a variety of much longer hikes or cross country skiing trails you could take, but for the average visitor during this time of year a drive to Rim Village, if it is open, or hiking the Raven Trail may be the best option to get great views of the lake.
Visiting Crater Lake in the winter is always an adventure. Much more than it would be visiting during the summer months. Always carry tire chains when required, and dress appropriately for the high elevation. The road to the visitor center should be plowed and maintained, but at an elevation between seven and eight thousand feet the road conditions can be variable and icy. Lastly check the local weather! When I visited mid March on a beautiful sunny day we drove through at least 15 foot high snow drifts so I’m sure you can imagine what getting stuck in a storm would be like. All being said, this blog is for information purposes only and I ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INJURY, LOST INDIVIDUALS, OR LEGAL TROUBLE ENCOUNTERED WHILE FOLLOWING THE INFORMATION POSTED HERE.
As always find the most up to date information and conditions on the official National Park website.