Searching for the ultimate Crater Lake Itinerary? Whether you want to visit Oregon’s only National park for 1, 2, or 3 days, here’s the ultimate guide with the best things to do, the best lookouts, where to catch the sunrise, and the best place to stay.
Crater Lake National Park in Oregon is so blue because of its depth and purity. It’s the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world. Experience the park by visiting the best lookouts, going on a boat ride, and waking up early to watch the most incredible sunrise.
Where to Stay in Crater Lake
Crater Lake Lodge is a beautiful historic hotel that overlooks the deepest lake in the United States. The rocking chairs outside are a great place to watch the sunrise over the lake. The Lodge has a coffee shop, cafe, lobby fireplace, and restaurant.
The lodge is open from late-May to mid-October. There is free self-parking.
Book Now: Crater Lake Lodge (Inside the park.)
How to Get to Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s only National Park, and it doesn’t have a physical address. Type in Crater Lake and Rim Village to help you find the park.
We flew into Medford and rented a car at the airport. It’s about 75 miles from Medford Airport to the National Park. There is also an airport at Klamath Falls.
Crater Lake Itinerary – 1, 2 or 3 days
Crater Lake formed over 7,700 years ago after a volcano erupted, creating a lake that is fed entirely by rain and snow. The lake is 1,943 feet (592 meters) deep.
When you first arrive, you’ll notice the 2,000 feet cliffs that surround the lake. It’s such a spectacular view, but some of the top experiences go beyond the lake.
In the summer, the lake is perfect for swimming, and in the winter, Rim Drive closes and turns into a trail for skiing and snowshoeing.
Itinerary: Day 1
If you only have one day to spend at this national park, your best bet is to start exploring the scenic route. There are more than 30 lookouts on Rim Drive, a 33-mile road around the lake. It’s packed with fantastic lookouts, including Phantom Ship overlook and Vidae Falls.
You can complete the drive in two hours.
Alternatively, if you want to take a break from driving, you can hop on the Crater Lake Trolley. A ranger will take you on a guided tour of the lake that includes 5-7 stops. We learned about the history of the park during the two-hour tour. Tours start in front of the Community House near Crater Lake Lodge.
After you’re scenic drive, head back to Crater Lake Lodge to grab a bite to eat and sit back and enjoy views of the park. There is a fireplace and a terrace with chairs so you can sit back and enjoy the view.
Top Sites and Best Lookouts:
Wizard Island – A floating ancient volcanic cinder cone in Crater Lake.
The Watchman – Find the Watchman Observation Station and Watchman Trail on the summit of Watchman Peak.
Phantom Ship Overlook – Enjoy the view of Phantom Shop from this lookout.
Lady of the Woods – The figure of a woman is carved from a large volcanic boulder in the park.
Itinerary Day 2 – Watch the Sunrise
On day 2, set your alarm early to catch a Crater Lake sunrise. This was one of the highlights of my trip, and I still have a photo of the sunrise at Crater Lake saved as the home screen on my phone. It’s a remarkable view and worth waking up early for.
If you’re staying at Crater Lake Lodge, you won’t have to walk too far. The sun comes up over the east side of the lake, and you’ll get spectacular views of the lake and cliffs during the sunrise. From the parking lot, hike up the ridges to get the best sunrise view.
Boat tour around midday
A friend of mine was shooting a video for the National Park, so we got to go on a boat ride with the research team. We got a close-up look at Phantom Ship, the oldest rock in the lake after Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Some boat tours stop at Wizard Island so you can enjoy hiking, swimming, and stay on the island for three hours. Boat tours run from July through September only. Call 888-774-2728 to arrange a visit.
To get to the lake, you’ll have to hike the Cleetwood Cove Trail. The trail is a 1.1-mile steep hike and the only legal access to the shore of Crater Lake.
Be careful! After getting off the boat, I accidentally broke my ankle and had to hike back up Cleetwood Cove trail. It was incredibly painful!
End your day with dinner and count shooting stars under the night sky.
There is so much of the park to see beyond the lake. The Pinnacles is a can’t miss stop on Day 3 of your visit. The 100 feet spires are called fossil fumaroles and formed under layers of volcanic ash.
When you return from the Pinnacles, take a walking tour through Rim Village. Visit the Kiser Studio Mather Observation Bay and Sinnott Memorial Outlook to learn about the geology of Crater Lake.
Camping near Crater Lake
Mazama Campground – 213 campsites with showers, laundry, and a camp store located near Highway 62 at Annie Springs
Lost Creek Campground – 16 tent campsites located three miles off the East Rim Drive
Whether you’re planning a 1, 2, or 3-day trip to Crater Lake National Park, watching the sunrise will be one of the highlights on your itinerary. Take the scenic drive and enjoy the best views from the lookouts.
What’s on your Crater Lake bucket list? Let us know in the comments.
Planning to stay in Medford? Search for accommodations here.
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