Visiting Crater Lake in the Winter

Visiting Crater Lake in the winter was not what I expected. First, I knew it got snow. That was not a secret, but how much shock it got shocked me. Perhaps I should have done more research before making a detour in there.

It’s tough to see the actual Crater Lake in the winter, and that’s due to the sheer amount of snow. When we arrived at the lodge, the snow went up to the second story of the house. Whoa! Rim drive is completely shut down to vehicles during the winter at Crater Lake, but you can backcountry ski or snowshoe.

Visiting Crater Lake in the Winter

What most people don’t realize about Crater Lake is winter is long. From about November to May, there is snow on the ground. That means you are visiting Crater Lake during the winter from November until May. There are plenty of winter activities to do at Crater Lake, including:

  • Winter Backcountry Camping
  • Cross-Country (Nordic) Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Ranger-Guided Snowshoe Walks
  • Snowboarding
  • Sledding
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowmobiling

Visiting Crater Lake in the Winter

About Crater Lake in the winter:

Crater Lake is open year-round, 24 hours a day. Just because you see an unfathomable amount of snow doesn’t mean they close! In fact, crater lake receives about 42 feet per year.  The South and West entrances are plowed every day, but during the Crater Lake in the winter, the north entrance usually remains closed. Even with 5-10 feet of snow on the sides of the road, they were plowed. That being said, it’s also important to have the appropriate traction on your car. You want to have either quality snow tires or tire chains.

Visiting Crater Lake in the Winter
Seriously the snow is higher than me.

Looking at the Crater Lake in the winter:

Most people believe you can just drive up to Crater Lake, look down and see it, and drive out. That isn’t the case. Beautiful days at Crater Lake are hard to come by! In fact, Crater Lake is usually obscured by clouds and snowstorms 50% of the time. So if you are visiting and want to see Crater Lake, it’s best to plan a few days to prepare for a clear day.

When we went to Crater Lake in the winter, we did not get to see Crater Lake. This was because you needed snowshoes or backcountry skis to get from the lodge to Crater Lake. I hope to visit during noncovid times and do a ranger-guided snowshoe.

Visiting Crater Lake in the Winter
This is a 2 story house.

My experience at Crater Lake in the winter:

We went to Crater Lake in February and one of the snowiest parts of the year. As you head towards Crater Lake, you notice the closer you get to the park, the more snow you get. Suddenly, you’re at the park entrance wondering how there are 6 feet of snow on the ground. As you head towards the Crater Lake Lodge, you’ll notice more and more snow. By the time you get to the Lodge, you’ll see snow as high as second-story building windows!

Visiting Crater Lake in the Winter me
Seriously the snow is higher than me.

There are backcountry ski trails to take during the winter months. We walked around a bit (not on the trails). While we weren’t able to see Crater Lake, it was a lot of fun just exploring the general area. I look forward to going back to Crater Lake and looking at the actual lake. Personally (a summer lover), I’ll probably go back in July or August when there isn’t much snow on the ground.

Visiting Crater Lake in the Winter

You can find more information about Crater Lake on their website. 

You can see more hikes and trail runs here

Questions for you:

Have you been to Crater Lake in the winter? 

What is your favorite national park?