The only national park in the state of Oregon is Crater Lake National Park. This is an extremely famous winter backcountry camping spot in the Pacific Northwest due to its fantastic scenery with many hiking trails.
This place is a dream destination with fresh snow and many attractions, but the titular Crater Lake is the centerpiece of the tourist attraction.
This huge transparent and blue lake completely fills the caldera left after the eruption of the Mazama volcano, which occurred more than 7000 years ago. In fact, the lake is not only incredibly beautiful; this is the deepest lake in the US. Its depth is 1949 feet.
Can you camp at Crater Lake in the winter?
Crater Lake National Park is open during the winter months, but park facilities and roads may be closed during the cold season. The north entrance is closed during the winter months, so visitors must use the south entrance. The Steel Visitor Center is open during the winter months and serves as the park’s winter center. The center is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm during the winter months.
Crater Lake National Park can safely be called ideal for camping. It is worth noting that the best time to camp on Crater Lake in winter is during the summer months (July, August, and September). In other seasons (late autumn, winter and spring) it is very cold with heavy snowfalls.
Even in summer and early autumn, temperatures can fluctuate between 4°C and 25°C, so be sure to bring warm clothing to keep warm. However, if you are ready to spend the night in the Crater Lake National Park in winter, then you will have many opportunities to have a great time.
What can you do at Crater Lake National Park in winter?
Ski tracks near Crater Rim
The most popular winter wonderland activity in Crater Lake National Park is skiing around the Roman Road in coldest temperatures. In the warm season, this highway is open to motorists, and they can visit Crater Lake for a walk around big lake.
This road is closed in average snowfall and is reserved for skiing and snowshoeing. Opening times depend on the winter weather and vary each year depending on what weather are observed, however, in most cases, Crater Lake closes at the end of October.
The Crater Lake Partial Circle Swim (31 miles) is a trip for experienced winter adventurers and skiers who want to explore a winter avalanche. They must have a mountain backcountry permit with knowledge of winter tenting and mountain safety.
Depending on the weather forecast the trip usually takes a couple of days, so travelers are advised to pack everything you need for a safe winter stay, as well as obtain an exit permit. In addition, there are also many more accessible hiking trails and routes for those people who are looking for shorter adventures.
Explore one of the winter ski slopes
During the winter, Crater Lake offers less intense skiing for those who can’t find a couple of days to detour Rim Drive. This is just one of the best ski runs and is great for beginners and intermediate snow sports fans in Crater Lake during the winter.
Trekking the Mazama Loop
The easiest and shortest ski route in Crater Lake National Park is the Mazama Loop, a 2.7-mile long loop. On the trail leading to the Mazama campsite, you can see another picturesque canyon – Annie Creek. The trail can be followed just north of the summer camp, as well as Highway 62.
Admire the views from Wizard Island
The Crater Lake NP hike, which is suitable for beginners, is also longer and more comfortable. It leads to the largest island of the deepest lake called Wizard Island. This 5 mile long trail and mountainous terrain make it a great adventure for beginner skiers. On the way is the Rim village.
Take a longer trip to the Union Peak Overlook
This route is 6 miles roundtrip for skiers in the Rim Village area. The trail climbs 240 feet, but the views from Union Peak and the Cascade Mountains are worth it. In this place, preparatory courses for beginner skiers are well suited. Its length, climb and turns make it harder than the previous tracks.
Admire the Vidade waterfall
In summer, this hiking trail and viewpoint are very popular. Although there is not much water here in winter, so the waterfall is not too full, the summer trail will lead you to the waterfall regardless of the current and allow you to enjoy beautiful views.
The ski area is 6 miles round trip and drops 200 feet on the way to Vidade Falls. The main trail passes through dangerous avalanches that can be avoided by choosing avalanche avoidance route if conditions are dangerous. At the visitor center, you can check the current conditions regarding safety on the slope and get a map of the bypass road.
Admire the views from Garfield Applegate Ridge
This is a 6.5 mile trail leading to a scenic viewpoint on the lake. The path is not marked with identification marks, but the direction of the ascent is clear. Walk through trees and meadows to the edge of the caldera between Garfield and Applegate Peaks. The trail is steep and challenging for skiing, but moderate for snowshoeing. You can climb Garfield Applegate from East Rim Drive, located near the top of the first climb.
Challenge yourself on the Raven’s Path
For experienced skiers looking for challenging trails in Crater Lake National Park, the Crow Trail is the place to be. The one-mile trail from the village of Rome leads to the park headquarters, dropping 600 feet above sea level.
Along the way on the trail, you will come across an avalanche chute. It is recommended to learn in advance about the current avalanche dangers in the national park, do not try to go through this route without knowing in advance about the situation in the mountains. The top trail starts at the exit near Crater Lake Lodge and continues along the edge. It is easier to pass it, focusing on the blue diamonds.
Look for wild animals
You can tell by the snow which animals roam the national park. Whether or not you see a lot of animals living in the park, chances are you will be able to find a lot of footprints along the trails and next to the vegetation.
Deer footprints can be seen in the Crater Lake National Park, which can be recognized by their cloven hooves. Deer can be seen roaming the village, this is their favorite place to walk.
Snowshoe hares also leave many footprints in the snow. Hare tracks can be recognized by alternating large hind and small front paws. They walk and jump in the snow, so the pattern of the tracks may vary. In winter, each hare camouflages itself in the snow with a white coat, so its tracks are easier to spot than the hare itself.
Pine martens also live in the park. These are elongated weasels with fluffy tails. The footprints of these furry animals have five toes and pad marks, and are several inches long. They usually hunt at night and often hide among the trees, but if you’re lucky, you can spot them!
Where should I stay at Crater Lake in the winter?
Camping in the backcountry during winter (November to May) is different from summer. When Rim Drive is closed for cars, it can be used as a track for snowboarders and cross-country skiers. With a valid permit, backcountry camping along the edge is not prohibited.
The stock of skis must be at least 1 mile from the nearest cleared road in order to set up camp. Snowshoes and skiers must travel a minimum of 100 feet to the edge of the caldera. Park rules prohibit the use of bicycles, especially bicycles with fat tires on winter roads.
Between Discovery Point and North Junction
As a general rule, most skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts go one or two nights to Discovery Point and camp between North Junction and Discovery Point trail. Camping is prohibited between Rim Village and Discoversy Point. In case of crossing the avalanche-prone slope on the northern side of Storozhevoy Peak, care should be taken.
Many snowshoe enthusiasts and skiers who love skiing gather to camp somewhere between the top of the first ascent and San Notch. You can camp near the famous Applegate picket and Garfield Lake, as well as in Sun Notch. Avalanches are common in Vidae Falls and the Sun Notch area, so care must be taken when using detour routes.
Backcountry Crater Lake
Crater Lake Backcountry offers year-round camping. However, hiking Crater Lake in winter comes with many winter hazards such as extreme and sudden weather changes and avalanches. However, in Crater Lake National Park, lovers of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing like to stop for winter camping.
Some rules apply, but backcountry winter camping is generally allowed anywhere at least 1 mile from the nearest plowed road and at least 100 feet from the rim.
An exit permit is required for overnight stays in remote areas of the Crater Lake National Park. It can be obtained free of charge at the beginning of the trip (cannot be booked in advance). All rules and regulations must be observed, such as the correct storage of products and, of course, the principle of “leaves no trace”.
Hiking in Crater Lake National Park includes some of the most popular ride ideas such as the 20.3-mile Bald Crater Loop, the 24.8-mile PCT Small Loop, and the 30-mile PCT Large Loop. Speaking of the Pacific Crest Trail, 33 miles of this famous 2,560-mile hiking trail winds its way through the Crater Lake National Park.
According to winter tradition, on vacation in remote areas, you can leave your car only at the headquarters of the park. Overnight parking is not allowed in Rim Village. Once skiing or snowshoeing on the Westfall Ski Route, you must follow the Crow Trail from the park headquarters to the village of Rim.
Lost Creek Campground
Lost Creek Campground is a small, rustic option for backcountry camping on Crater Lake, only camping in tents is available here. Lost Creek Campground is open until October, so it will be difficult to officially set up a tent here in winter.
Is Crater Lake Worth Visiting in December?
Winter adventures can be very dangerous. The most dangerous hazards on Crater Lake in winter are avalanches, tree wells, and snow ledges. You must be safe as long as you know how to avoid these dangerous circumstances.
Crater Lake National Park has resources for tourists in the winter to enjoy the adventure and stay safe. Winter camping in Crater Lake National Park is sure to be a unique and memorable experience for you and your family.
However, it is worth paying attention to the possible dangers that may await you in the national park in winter.
Snow eaves are overhanging snow not supported by rocks or soil underneath. It is possible that they may suddenly collapse and cause harm to those who are on or under them. We advise you to avoid ridges and edges, because these signs do not allow you to accurately determine the presence of a snow cornice.
The national park does not have an official avalanche forecast, so winter safety is an important skill. Refresh this skill before a winter visit Crater lake. Rangers can explain current conditions and suggest routes to avoid avalanche terrain.
A tree well is a pocket of thaw near a tree that can trap people and prevent them from escaping.
Terrain traps are places that can shrink during avalanches, such as canyons, depressions, and under steep slopes. They are dangerous because they can falsely appear safe while traveling.
Is Crater Lake Lodge open in the winter?
Although Crater Lake National Park is open year-round, some facilities and entrances are closed during the winter. The northern entrance to Crater Lake is inaccessible to hikers during the cold season (October till May). Therefore, visitors must enter from the southern Oregon entrance.
The Steel Visitor Center serves as a winter base for those who want to spend an unforgettable time on winter camping or winter sports in Crater Lake. The place is open from 10:00 to 16:00 during the winter months. In Winter 2022 it is closed for renovation.
Blizzards usually occur in Crater Lake from December to the end of February. The lowest temperatures can be observed here from December to March. Crater Lake once recorded a temperature of 20 degrees Fahrenheit, which is still considered a record minimum temperature. We recommend checking the weather conditions before heading out for winter camping.
I hope,you liked the article. Write about your experiences in the comment.
Read also my another arcticle about winter camping in Yosemite: Yosemite winter camping – the best places
If You are interested in Camping in the following regions, read my other articles:
- Northern California
- San Diego Beach
- Death Valley
- Florida Keys
- Orcas Island
- Red Feather Lakes
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