Winter at Crater Lake - Explore! Winter at Crater Lake - Explore!

Winter at Crater Lake

Crater Lake in the Winter


WARNING! Always check conditions before visiting Crater Lake National Park in the Winter. For current conditions and active alerts at the park visit the Park website.

Winter at Crater Lake National Park is a quiet time.    It begins with the first large snowfall in October or early November and continues into May or June.  Tourists are few and generally spend a few minutes enjoying the lake, visitor center and  gift shop before moving on.  Craig Ackerman, Park Superintendent,   told us that a group of Chinese tourists was  bused the 85 miles from Medford to Crater Lake only to spend precisely six minutes at the rim tossing snowballs at each other before returning to Medford.   It’s great that they saw the lake and experienced the snow, but it’s also sad that they missed so much that the park has to offer.  If nothing else,  winter at the rim is a time to absorb the beauty and power of nature at its finest.  On a clear day with the blue sky reflected from the much deeper blue lake and contrasted with the whitest of snow, the scenery is the finest in the world.  During a squall, the scenery may be limited to a few feet in front of you.  A calm snow can blanket everything in minutes, adding a beauty of its own.  These are the moods of Crater Lake.  They are to be enjoyed, contemplated or endured, depending upon your frame of mind.

Wizard Island in Nasty Weather

Wizard Island in Nasty Weather

In the winter, driving is limited to the road to Rim Village as all other roads are buried in snow.  Only the Steel Information Center at park headquarters and the restaurant and store at Rim village are open for visitors.  There is no entrance fee in the winter.  If you arrive on a weekday, you won’t have much company.  On a sunny weekend, however, the rim parking areas may be nearly full as locals partake of the nordic skiing and snowshoeing opportunities around the rim.   Of course with 15 feet, or more, of snow at the rim, park crews aren’t able to keep many parking spaces free of snow.

A bull dozer with a tough job ahead.

Bulldozer with a Challenge

Park workers are focused on snow management and keeping the road open to Rim Village.   In April of 2011, the calendar suggested spring, but it was still winter at Crater Lake.  The road had been closed due to an avalanche for several days the week before our visit.  To find out if the road to Rim Village is currently open, call 1-541-594-3000 (followed by option 1, then option 2) and listen to the recorded message. You may also call the visitor center at 1-541-594-3100. Workers use huge rotary snow plows, loaders and bulldozers to move the snow aside.  It is, however, impossible to keep the entire rim road open in the winter.  Later on crews begin breaking through the snow along the west side of the lake in a weeks-long effort to open the north entrance to the park.  In 2011 it was particularly difficult.  Some January rain soaked a six-foot layer of snow turning it to ice.  That layer was compressed by new snow forming an almost impenetrable barrier.  Not only that, as the snow began to melt the water  reached the ice layer making it extremely slippery.  Given the slopes upon which this snow rests, the avalanche danger was extreme

A Road at Crater Lake Headquarters

A Road at Headquarters

If you come to Crater Lake in the winter without snowshoes or skis,  your options are fairly limited.  It’s best to come in the morning, before the sunshine softens the snow.  You’ll be able to walk up an often slippery snow slope to get spectacular views of the lake.   Contemplate the winter moods of the park.  Those moods are driven by the weather and can change from moment to moment on the many blustery days.  Be aware that the snow overhangs the cliffs on the rim.  Getting too close to the edge can lead to an exciting ride with a deadly ending.  In 2011, significant snow lingered well into July when a visitor decided to get too close to the caldera and found himself 300 feet down the slope to the lake.  It took park workers five hours to rescue him.  He then spent several weeks in intensive care.  Another fellow, last weekend, went over the edge and slid 1300 feet down into the caldera.  He stopped within 100 feet of the water.  He will also be in the hospital for awhile.  Both men are extremely lucky to be alive.

Visitors sometimes find a perch near Crater Lake Lodge.  It offers protection from south winds and a wide open view of the lake.  As the day progresses and the sun warms the snow, you’ll find your boots sinking deeper.  When your weight breaks the fragile surface crust, you will be sinking to your knees or even deeper.  It’s best to return to the parking area at this point as it becomes increasingly difficult to move on the snow.  You may want to walk around the roads at park headquarters.  For many people its a new experience to stand between vertical walls of snow 12-feet or more tall.  The lovely rustic buildings that make up the Historic District are all but invisible under 12 feet of snow.

Administration Building at Crater Lake National Park

Administration Building

With snowshoes or nordic skis (our preference) it’s an entirely different story.  If you’d like to try snowshoeing, guided walks are offered every Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. from late November or early December through the end of April.  Snowshoes are loaned free of charge and no previous snowshoeing experience is necessary.  Get all the details and sign up in advance at the Steel Visitor Center or by calling 541-594-3100.  Beginning in January of 2012, the concessionaire at the park is offering snowshoes for rent in case you want to set off on your own.  They are available at the Rim Village Gift Store.

Crater Lake's Rim Village under the snow.

Rim Village

During our April visit there were a few inches of fresh powder on top of the crusty old snow, a skiers paradise.  When the weather is nice, skiers prefer following Rim Drive westward from Rim Village.  It’s usually an out and back trip to one of several destinations: Discovery Point (1.2 miles, these are all one-way mileages), Wizard Island Overlook (2.3 miles), Union Peak Overlook (3.1 miles), Watchman Overlook (3.9 miles), Diamond Lake Overlook (4.6 miles) or North Junction (6.0 miles).  Note that traveling is sometimes very hazardous past Watchman Overlook.  When it’s windy or snowing,  the rim can be uncomfortable and unsafe.  In these conditions, skiers prefer the East Rim Drive, starting near the Steel Information Center.  This is also an out and back opportunity.  Popular destinations include Vidae Falls (3.1 miles), and Sun Notch (4.5 miles).  There are avalanche chutes along the way, so get the details on alternative routes and current condition information at the Steel Center before you start out.  The park offers several other trails as well.  Be aware that these trails are not groomed.  You may have to break trail, but those that follow will appreciate your efforts.

To us, the greatest winter adventure is to circumnavigate the lake on skis or snowshoes.  Under the best conditions, this 31-mile trip can take 3 days.  It requires winter camping, survival skills and knowledge of avalanche safety.  Fewer than 100 people make this trip each year, usually in late March or April, when the days are longer and the weather is better.  Like all back country camping in the park, a free permit is required. General snow-play is always an option at Crater Lake in the winter.  Sledding and inner tubing can be great fun if you choose your play area carefully.  Be sure there is no way to get in front of cars, that there are few obstacles in the way, and that you’ll be able to stop safely.  Ask for help locating a spot when you are at the Steel Center or speak to one of the ski patrol members you may see around Rim Village.


Winter at Crater Lake Rating

Winter is a surprisingly great time to visit Crater Lake National Park.  The view across the lake on a clear winter day is the best on the planet. Getting to the park in the winter can be an adventure in itself.  With rapid weather shifts and deep snow almost any journey into the back country is threatening in a way that gets the adrenaline pumping.  For those that make the trip around the lake, it’s a world class adventure.  The variety of things to see and do at the park is limited in the winter.  The great historic treasures in the park are mostly under the snow.  There are some fun opportunities for kids if you bring sleds, inner tubes, skis and other equipment.  Overall, our rating totaled a 7.0 on our scale of 10.  If you’ve visited the park in the winter, give us your thoughts in the comment box below.

More Information

For more information about winter activities at Crater Lake, check out the winter edition of the park’s newspaper Crater Lake Reflections.  It also includes a map of the park and here is a large PDF version of the official park map.  The park also offers this flier about winter trails in the park. Check out the Crater Lake Web Cameras for a current view of the Lake (remember the photos will be black at night).  Also, check out our blog post on driving in winter conditions, to help you get there safely.


This article, the photos and the video were created by Jerry Haugen, Pathfinder.  ©2011-2016, Global Creations LLC.  All rights reserved.

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45 Responses to “Winter at Crater Lake”

  1. Your Pathfinder says:

    Hi Gisselle,

    Actually you can go anytime after October to be sure to find snow – or check the web cams at Just start at the south entrance (Annie Springs Entrance) and drive into the park. As you climb from 4000 feet to 8000 feet the snow will get deeper and deeper. The three web cams will show you what you will see when you get there. There are parking spots along the road, so just pick a spot that suits your needs.

    Congratulations on your engagement.


  2. Gisselle says:

    Hello! I’m planning to have my engagement photos taken in a few months and I hope to have a snow theme and would like to see when is the best time to go visit before the snow gets too bad. Thank you 😊

  3. Your Pathfinder says:

    Hi Wade,

    In October the average daily high is 52F and low is 31F with 10 days of precipitation. Some of that precipitation is likely going to be snow – the average is 21 inches over the month with 2 inches on the ground, again, on the average. The 2 inches on the ground could be 4 inches over two weeks, 8 inches over a week or 21 inches for a day or two if that ‘average’ snow falls all on one day.

    By October the north entrance may be closed, but there shouldn’t be enough snow for avalanches to block the road to the rim from the south entrance. Crater Lake Lodge closes in mid-October and the cabins at Mazama Village close at the end of September. The Lost Creek Campground may be open until mid-October. Mazama Campground closes around the end of September.

    Best wishes,

  4. Wade Davies says:

    Hi Jerry, how is the weather at the lake in Mid-October? Thanks, Wade

  5. Your Pathfinder says:

    Hi Andre,
    The only portion of the rim you will be able to access will be between the lodge and the gift shop. Not much cover for a photographer. You might be able to get around behind the lodge, but stay close to it as there is likely to be a snow cornice that will break off if you get past what may, or may not, be recognizable as the patio. Perhaps a photographer could peak around a corner of the lodge.
    Good luck!

  6. Andre says:

    Hey Jerry,
    I am planning on proposing to my girlfriend during thanksgiving time at crater lake. any suggestions on a good location to pop the question? maybe some good cover for a photographer as well, with a good view of the lake for both?
    Is the weather predictable enough in late november ?
    Im thinking something closer to the lodge is what Im looking for.

  7. Your Pathfinder says:

    Hi Lisa,

    It is unlikely that you will be following the rim exclusively during your trip. If you tried that, you would be climbing and descending mountains. In addition, there are typically large cornices of snow hanging over the rim so it would be very difficult to know where solid ground ends and a death spiral begins. Once you back off the rim a bit, you will be on the rim road and the route most people take.

    There is a profile of the rim road here: I’m not a snowboarder, so I can’t assess how easy/difficult this would be for you. Hopefully the road profile will help you decide what to do. Cross country skiers, that are capable of the trip in the first place, don’t seem to have any difficulty with the slopes – it is, after all, a road. Having said that, with the amount of snow it won’t look much like a road. You’ll, basically, be traveling cross slope. I haven’t taken the trip, but I imagine one could adjust the route to stay at a relatively uniform elevation to avoid downhills that are too steep.

    When you get there, be sure to ask about the avalanche situation and snow conditions. Besides changing after every storm, they can change through a day as temperatures fluctuate.

    Have fun!


  8. Lisa says:

    Hi Jerry! You seem so knowledgeable and I have one question that I can’t seem to nail down info on no matter where I look regarding a winter backcountry circumnavigation of the lake. We are heading out at the end of March (weather dependent) and have been in a constant debate whether to snowshoe or splitboard (snowboard that changes into skis for traversing/uphill). Obviously, the splitboard/ski version will allow for more loft in the snow and more speed during travel, but we were concerned about the amount of descent or steepness of the downhill when traveling the route clockwise. The uphill part is manageable for us, but the downhill will require some planning. We can always ride the snowboard downhill, but it is difficult to do with a full backpacking pack,and the skis are not ‘real’ skis for traveling downhill as they are more for ascents and don’t offer much control for downhill riding. So, the long and short of it is can we travel downhill using a more slow, cross country style movement on skis, or are we going to pick up too much speed and need to actually ‘ski’? We are avid snowshoers, so as of now we are just leaning toward that even though it is slower. It is hard to really get a read on the elevation changes of the route because it travels over such a significant distance of 30+ miles! Plus, snow levels are pretty heavy this year…so we have a lot to factor in to the planning of the trip.

    Thanks so much for your help in advance!


  9. Your Pathfinder says:

    Hi Rama,

    I often make it to the rim without chains with 4WD, but then I pick my days carefully. It’s best to carry chains in case you need them.

    The only approach is via the Annie Creek entrance off Highway 62. Normally, you can get from the south entrance to the rim where the gift shop/restaurant is open. Created Lake Lodge is closed for the winter and the entire rim drive is closed as is the north entrance. The Steel Visitor center is open. Earlier this week, the road from the Steel Visitor Center to the rim was closed due to snow. That happens a lot although they do try to get it open as soon as they can.

    The best view is from the rim. Later in the day, the sun often softens the snow so you won’t be able to walk around much without snow shoes. People ski from the rim down to the Steel Center, get the details from the visitor center.

    If you want to spend a full day at the park, you’ll probably want to stay at Jo’s Motel ( ).

    Have fun!

  10. Rama says:

    Hi Jerry,

    I am visiting a Bend, OR resort from Seattle, more like Redmond area, from Dec 23-27. We are 2 adults and 2 kids 11 and 15yrs. Thought of visiting crater lake from there for one full day.

    I have a Nissan Pathfinder, 4 wheel drive. Do I still need the chains? what is the best approach. What is open and closed. where are the best views and which activities are available. It seems like the snow shoe walk in the afternoon is available. BTW, Couple of us are Alpine Skiers. Please advise.

  11. Your Pathfinder says:

    Hi Mohini,

    Current conditions at Crater Lake have little to do with tomorrow’s conditions there – much less a week from now. I suggest that, before you leave Eagle Point, you check out the web cams at: You will be entering the Annie Creek entrance to the park and driving past the Steel Visitor Center on the way to the rim. There are cameras at all three locations. There are a couple of additional cameras at the rim that you can find at The north entrance and the rim road are, of course, closed for the season.

    For what it’s worth, the long range forecast has snow every day between now and Thanksgiving Day with a total of as much as a foot of new snow. It’s supposed to get above freezing most days, so some of that snow should be gone by Thanksgiving and the roads will likely be pretty clear. Thanksgiving Day: “A chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 30.” Call the park at (541) 594-3000 for up-to-the-minute details.

    Have a great visit!


  12. Mohini says:

    Hey Jerry,

    We are a group of 5 friends planning to drive to Crater Lake on Thanksgiving day. We do not have a lot of experience driving in the snow. This year seems to be warmer at least around Seattle. What would your advice be based on the current weather conditions? We plan to stay at Eagle Point so we would only be visiting Crater Lake for a couple of hours but I am more concerned about the drive. Suggestions?

    Thanks. :)

  13. Your Pathfinder says:

    Hi Ivory,

    Yes, there is always snow at Crater Lake in the winter. Actually, an average total of 43 feet at park headquarters and more at the rim. The average snow depth in March is almost 10 feet. The video and most of the photos in the story were shot in April when the snow depth was almost 12 feet.

    Whether you can see the lake or not depends upon the weather. Sometimes the view of the lake is spectacular and other times it is hidden by falling snow or fog/clouds. Sometimes the road to the rim is closed due to heavy snows or avalanches, but park staff is really good about getting it open ASAP. You will not be able to drive around the lake and will need to come in through the south entrance.

    You can always check current conditions via the links at:

    Driving conditions vary on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis, so be sure to carry tire chains and be prepared to use them if necessary. Usually that 10 feet of snow is piled along the roads so you can’t slide off of them even if you tried. Other than that, driving on snow is pretty much the same everywhere – it’s just a matter of driving slowly and carefully and being especially careful with your brakes on the way down.

    Enjoy your visit!


  14. Ivory says:


    We are coming to Oregon the week of March 13th, 2017. We are coming from Iowa so we are used to the cold and snow. My question is, will I be able to see any of Crater Lake at this time? Is there always snow during the winter? I am a little nervous about driving on the roads out there. We go to Oregon every year, but this will be the first time we go during the Winter.

  15. Hi Greg,

    Get there as early as you can, even if it’s still dark. It’s the first day of National Park week so entrance should be free – getting there early will avoid the crowds – if any – later in the day. Expect ice on the road! Parking at the rim depends upon the snow situation. I suspect the Park Service has cleaned it up pretty well so you should be ok. Hopefully it will get cold tonight so the snow will be hard in the morning. You should be able to walk around on top of the snow to get good views of the lake. I don’t know about rentals at the park. Supposed to be sunny tomorrow!

    Have fun!

  16. Greg says:

    Hi Jerry!

    Thanks for all the great information here. Planning to head into the park tomorrow, April 16. I am thinking of arriving at rim on around 8:30-9:00. Is that a good time? How much parking is there? I don’t have snowshoes and called to sign up too late for ranger led trek. How much can you walk around and see. How much time do you recommend spending given no snowshoes? I have seen doing some research the Rim Village Gift shop might rent snowshoes. Any information in regard to that? Thanks so much for the great info!


  17. Hi Pete,

    As the year progresses, the park tends to have fewer storms and more sunny days. Those sunny days can melt the snow/ice from the road, but they will freeze up again toward evening. The photos in the story were taken in April, so yes, the park will look like winter in March. There is a lot of snow this year so expect more than shown in the story. There is no chance the rim road will be open either east from the Steel Visitor Center or West from rim.

    The rim above the lake is at around 7100 feet while Klamath Lake is around 4,000 feet. It will be springtime at 4,000 feet and the roads should be good. If you take Highway 97 northward you’ll climb to around 4600 feet then 4800 feet at Chemult. Chemult tends to have more snow than elsewhere, but the roads should be good unless they have a storm near your travel dates. North of Chemult, you’ll take Hwy 58 over Willamette Pass (5200 feet) on your way to Eugene. Chances are the roads will be clear, but they can have a snowstorm anytime too. So to answer your questions: Yes, winter does taper off a bit into March. Travel risk will vary by elevation and when a snowstorm hits relative to the date of your visit. Typically the roads will be clear once you get off the mountain, but that can change rapidly from day to day. Weather risk does diminish, especially on Highway 97 where Mt Mazama and Mt Scott block a lot of the snow. So, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it, until March proves me wrong.

    Have a great trip!


  18. Pete Bradford says:

    Aloha Jerry, Many thanks for this informative string of answers. My wife and I are planning a recon trip to Crater Lake around March 17 -18 for just a quick look enroute north to Eugene. We will have chains in the car and will certainly be careful to hang back from the snow rim. A couple of (perhaps unfair!) questions: Although the weather is always unpredictable,and this El Niño year has already delivered a lot of precipitation, based on your experience,would we be arriving during full winter risk conditions or does the season taper a bit after early March? How far beyond the Lake do hazardous winter driving conditions typically extend in mid March? We will probably be coming from Ashland and be headed up 97 to Eugene after our visit. Does the weather risk diminish a bit once we leave the Crater? Thanks in advance for any insights you can share. Cheers, Pete

  19. Hi Tyler,
    First, you will need chains on your tires, but 2WD should get you there ok. At the moment the road from park headquarters (Steel Visitor Center) to the rim is open, but it could be closed at any time due to snow. Second, be sure to check conditions before you go: and stop at the visitor center to get current details. Finally, stay back from the rim. What looks like solid ground is really snow cornices dangling out over the caldera. If a cornice breaks free, you will have a deadly ride to the lake.


  20. Tyler says:

    Hi Jerry, this is a wonderful place for information regarding crator lake. I will be attempting to make it to the rim between jan 4 and Jan 8 in a 2wd sedan. Is there anything I should be advised of, and is it even possible this time of the year?


  21. Hey Plyush,
    As I mentioned to Abhishek in an earlier comment:
    1. Yes it is safe. There will be many people visiting the park over the holidays.
    2. You’ll need to make your own activities – snowshoeing, skiing, sledding etc.
    3. The lake is not accessible being a couple thousand feet below the rim. It’s typically visible about half the time in December due to storm clouds coming through.
    4. That kind of car will work, but you are required to have chains in the vehicle. It’s also good to know how and when to install them. For more on winter driving see our blog post on that subject.

    Crater Lake has been getting a lot of snow. Heavy snow last week knocked down a lot of tress on Highway 62 west of the part and it remains closed as crews work on opening it. The south entrance to the park is open, but you’ll need to get there from the east. As always, the north entrance and rim drive is closed for the winter. The road from the Steel Visitor Center to the rim is closed at the moment, but crews are working on opening it up. You can get current conditions at the Park website. At last report the snow depth was over 6 feet – 150% of average for this time of year – and more storms are coming.

    Have a great trip!

    PS As of December 22, 2015 the park was expecting an additional 20 inches of snow on top of 80 inches already there. Highway 62 to the west of the park was closed due to many trees that have fallen across it. Access from the east from US 97 to the park on Hwy 62 was open, but the road from park headquarters to the rim was closed due to the heavy snowfall. All facilities at the rim were closed. High winds blew over many snow laden trees over the weekend, so be careful in the woods and be sure to check in at the Visitor Center when you arrive for more information. Have chains for your vehicle and plan to use them!

  22. Piyush Kansal says:

    Hey Jerry,

    We are a group of 8 friends (4 driving from Seattle and 4 from SF, California) planning to visit on the Christmas weekend Dec 24-27, 2015. Can you please help me with the following questions:

    – is it safe to visit the Crater Lake during the above mentioned time period?
    – what are the activities we can do for 2-3 days?
    – will the lake be visible/accessible?
    – we are getting a 2 wheel drive sedan with All Weather Tyres. do you think this car can work in the current weather conditions?

    Thanks for your time.

  23. Hello Jose,

    The campgrounds at Crater Lake are closed for the season. However, if you are an experienced winter camper, you can still backpack in the Park and camp in the snow almost anywhere, if you are at least a mile from a plowed road. For more details see the park publication “Winter Backcountry Use.” For accommodations outside the park, check out:
    Crater Lake Bed and Breakfast
    Crater Lake Resort
    Jo’s Motel and Campground

    Snowshoe walks are offered every Saturday and Sunday (and some holidays) through May 1, 2016. Walks will also be offered on weekdays in late December and early January. The walks start at 1:00 p.m., last two hours, and cover one mile of moderately strenuous terrain. They don’t follow a trail—the hike is an off-trail exploration through the forests and meadows along the rim of Crater Lake. No previous snowshoeing experience is necessary. Snowshoes are provided free of charge, and there is no cost for the tour. Participants should be at least 8 years old and come prepared with warm clothing and water-resistant footwear.

    Space on each tour is limited, and advance reservations are required. For more information and to sign up, call the park’s visitor center at 541-594-3100. The visitor center is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. except on December 25. Groups of 10 or more people may be able to arrange for a separate tour just for their group.

    Crater Lake National Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day. The park’s north entrance and Rim Drive are closed to cars in the winter, but the west and south entrances are plowed daily and are open to automobiles throughout the year. There is no winter lodging in the park, but the Rim Village Café and Gift Shop is open daily except on December 25. Spectacular views of Crater Lake can be obtained at Rim Village during periods of clear weather.

    Have a great visit!


  24. jose rivero says:

    Hi, how are you ?
    First, thanks a lot for all the information you provided.
    My question is… Could be possible to camp next 19, 20th of december near the lake ?. There,re winter campgrounds ?
    We,re two people, one adult and one child ten-years-old.
    My second question is … could I do reservation rangers snowshoes tour ? I already hearing that is possible for free saturday and sunday morning… right ?
    Thanks a lot again

  25. Hi Abhishek,

    1. Yes, it is safe. The park is open and staffed year-around. When you arrive, stop at the Steel Visitor Center and ask about any special hazards. Most dangerous in the winter are the snow overhangs along the rim above the lake. Stay well back from the edge to avoid collapsing a cornice and falling down the cliff. There may be avalanche hazards in some places so ask about that. None of this may be an issue at Thanksgiving time, but one never knows.

    2. National parks do not provide much in the way of ‘activities’, you will need to make your own. They do sometimes offer snowshoe walks, but otherwise bring your cross country skies, sleds, saucers, snowshoes and whatever you need to play in the snow – assuming there is snow then. If snow is lacking, you will be able to take various hikes. How far you go depends upon your winter outdoor skills.

    3. Yes, most likely the lake will be visible. Sometimes snowstorms can make it hard to see as shown in photo in the article.

    4. It’s hard to say about chains or traction tires. It all depends on the weather. Your best bet is to buy a set of chains before you come. I believe Les Schwab Tire Stores will sell you a set then refund the cost if you don’t use them. They will also instruct you on how to install them. Be sure your winter driving skills are sharp. Take AAA’s advice.

    Be sure to check the park’s web cams at: At the moment they appear to have a little bit of snow and ice on the roads. The view of the lake is spectacular today.

    Be aware that you will be entering the park from the south entrance as the north entrance and the rim road closed on November 1, for the winter.

    Enjoy your visit!


  26. Abhishek says:

    Hi Jerry,

    We are a group of 6 (2 driving down from Seattle and 4 from Sunnyvale California) planning to visit on Thanksgiving weekend 2015. I have a few questions.
    1: Is it safe to visit crater lake in late November ?
    2: Are there enough activities we can do for 2-3 days ?
    3: Will the lake be visible/accessible ?
    4: Will snow chains be required for cars ? If yes, will they be available anywhere near the national park ?

  27. Hi Janice,

    If you want to camp in the park, you can camp anywhere in the backcountry at least one mile away from a plowed road. You will probably need your skis or snowshoes to get there and, even if there isn’t any snow when you set out, you should expect snow before you return and carry skis or snowshoes with you. Ask for up-to-the-minute advice when you get to the park. For all the details see:

    Have fun!


  28. Janice chua says:

    We would like to backpack and camp in crater lake second week of December for two nights. Where can we go hike and camp that is open besides diamond lake?

  29. Hi Swami,

    I’ll be happy to help however I can as your travel date gets closer. I’m sure you will have a great time.


  30. swami says:

    Thank you very much jerry for your guidance. i am feeling confident now and would not be cancelling my hotel reservation ! we take it as a good chance to experience the snow. i will buy those tire chains for my van to be safe. i will contact you once more, in the third week of November before starting our travel for your guidance.

  31. Hi Swami,

    1. I see no problem with a Honda van – if the heater works. If there is snow or ice at that time, you might want to bring tire chains or cable chains and know how to put them on. To get here, the safest way is to take I-5 to Weed then US-97 to Klamath Falls. That avoids a pass on I-5 that is sometimes a problem. Usually we don’t get much snow until later in December – of course that’s hard to predict.
    2. Again, no problem with a Honda van. The drive is pretty flat until you get to the Park itself. If there is snow, you might want to have those tire chains to help get up the hill without slipping around. With all the sunshine here, the snow melts off the roads pretty fast. You just need to drive with respect for the road conditions.
    3. There shouldn’t be enough snow at that time of year to have any danger of avalanches. There is only one place on the way to Rim Village that is sometimes closed due to an avalanche. Your odds of getting hit by an avalanche are somewhere close to zero. I’d be more afraid of driving around Sunnyvale. If it’s cold enough, you can get frost bite, but wear your coat, hat, boots and gloves and keep the heater on when in your van and you should have no trouble.

    It is, of course, safe to visit in November. Lots of people live here all winter, including kids of all ages, without any problem. As far as extreme cold, it’s pretty rare for it to get a lot below zero here, but it happens occasionally. Dress appropriately and cold will not be an issue. The kids will love it. Now, I hope we have some snow for your visit! Well, there may not be snow in Klamath Falls, but it’s a pretty sure bet there will be some at Crater Lake.

    When it gets time to come, you can check the webcameras to see what’s happening:

    Crater Lake
    Road Cameras from Weed to Klamath Falls

    Best wishes,

  32. swami says:

    Hi Jerry

    I writing this to you from sunnyvale,CA. We as a family of 4 ( with 2 little boys) are planning to visit crater lake. we have booked a hotel in klamath falls in the last week of november. I checked the weather only after booking the hotel and am kind of in doubt. we are not used to extreme cold conditions but the sight and feel of snow is something we would love. I have the below questions :-

    1. would it be safe to drive from sunnyvale in a honda odyssey van to klamath falls ?
    2. how is the drive to klamath falls to crater’s lake in odyssey van ?
    3. would there be a fear of avalanches or frost bites ?

    please let me know if it is safe to visit there in november end especially with two boys aged 5 and 2.

    thank you very much jerry.

  33. Hi Don,
    Regardless of the Rim Road situation, come anyway! Even if it’s closed, you will still be able to get to the rim from the south entrance (usually) and the snow adds to the beauty of the lake. Summer visitors miss that. Some of the services at the park close earlier in October (see: and you can always check the park website for current conditions (
    Best wishes,

  34. Donald Marshall says:

    Thanks for all the great info.
    We will arrive Crater Lake on October 13th and hope to be able to complete the drive around the Lake, weather permitting. Any comments would be appreciated.

    brgrds, Don

  35. Hi Hong,
    Snow has been sparse this winter. Today there were 30 inches on the ground at park headquarters. Average for the date is 120 inches. There is a storm moving through now with a prediction of 8 to 19 inches additional snow by Wednesday. The weather has been quite variable this year, so it’s hard to guess the conditions a couple weeks out. Best if you give the park a call at (541) 594-3000 closer to your planned trip.

  36. Hong says:

    Hi, Jeff:

    I and my friend want to snowshoeing around crater lake 4/17-20/2015, do you think the snow and weather condition will be good for us to do it at that time period?



  37. Hi Jeff,
    There isn’t much snow for Crater Lake, at the moment, but there is still plenty to ski on. so that’s not an issue (check the web cams at .

    The problem is the rapidly changing weather. Had you gone last week you would have faced a blizzard pushed by hurricane force winds. The recommendation for going in the spring is the tendency for more stable weather then. The bottom line is, go when you want, but be certain to check the weather forecast and be prepared to settle in for a few days if things change.


  38. Jeff says:

    How are conditions up there for skiing around the rim so far this winter? Any reason to wait until March or April?

  39. Sorry Betty, that’s not permitted in the Park: “Pets are not permitted on any ski routes or in the backcountry. Pets are permitted on leash up to 50 feet from plowed roads, and parking areas.” For all the details about winter park use see:

    The park is, however, surrounded by National Forests that do, in general, allow dogs to travel with skiers.

  40. Climbing Betty says:

    Do you know what the policy of the park is for pets? We love to have our dog accompany us when we cross country ski.

  41. Group Travel Specialists says:

    There are so many beautiful things to see in Oregon, Crater Lake among them. In the summer, winter, spring or fall, Crater Lake is gorgeous and these photos offer a fresh look at what this majestic location looks like under snowfall.

    If you are visiting Oregon, it is a mere 250 miles from Portland Oregon to the majestic Crater Lake. So many beautiful places to see, it does not matter the time of year, go and explore all the beauty that the Pacific NorthWest has to offer.

  42. Pathfinder says:

    Hi Loie,

    I apologize for the delay in responding. Here is the list of motels provided by Dahniel Ferris from Discover Klamath Visitor & Convention Bureau:

    Crater Lake Bed & Breakfast
    Lodging Type: Hotel/Motel
    City: Fort Klamath
    52395 Weed Road Fort Klamath, OR 97626
    Phone: 541-381-9711 Fax: 541-381-0960
    Price: $99 or less
    A great lodging choice in the Crater Lake National Park area. Beautiful year round, each season outshines the other. QUIET rural setting. Just 15 minutes from the south entrance to the Park.

    Crater Lake Resort & Cabins
    Lodging Type: Cabins
    City: Fort Klamath
    50711 Highway 62 Fort Klamath, OR 97626
    Phone: 541-381-2349 Fax: 541-381-2343
    Price: $99 or less
    Located just 25 miles south of Crater Lake on Highway 62. Cabins and RV camping available.

    Jo’s Motel & Campground
    Lodging Type: Hotel/Motel
    City: Fort Klamath
    52851 Hwy 62 Fort Klamath, OR 97626
    Phone: 541-381-2234 Fax: 541-381-2231
    Price: $99 or less
    Jo’s Motel & Campground invites you to be comfortable, whether you’re camping, lodging or just passing through. Guests will enjoy full kitchens in two-bedroom suites and park model cabin. Jo’s Motel and Organic Grocery was recently chosen for inclusion on National Geographic’s geotourism map. See why by visiting them any day between 9 AM & 7 PM. Prepare to be impressed by their full line of organic groceries & meats, fresh produce and dairy, full breakfasts, as well as sandwiches, burgers, and fries. Pick up snacks, beer, and a wide selection of wines.


  43. Loie says:

    What are the best low-cost nearby lodging options (indoor, with heat!), in your opinion?

  44. Pathfinder says:

    Hi Colin,
    Great question. Your trip can start either at the visitor center or at Crater Lake Lodge. The Park Service keeps the road between the restaurant/store and the lodge open and you can park in the middle of the road in a sort of island area. That’s best if you want to ski clockwise around the lake. If you want to ski counter-clockwise, you can park near the Steel Visitor Center. When you pick up your back country permit (free) at the Steel Center, you will be directed to an appropriate parking spot. Your vehicle will likely be buried upon your return, but you’ll probably have a shovel of some sort with you. If not, and it’s during working hours, park staff will be happy to lend you a shovel. By the way, that 3-day trip is a best case. Weather and a variety of other factors can, and probably will, make the trip longer.

  45. Colin says:

    You describe how Crater Lake offers spectacular scenery during a three day snowshoe/cross country ski trip around the perimeter. Due to heavy snow and limited road openings, it seems the trip would have to start and finish at the Park Visitor Center. Since the National Park website says parking is limited here, what areas do you recommend for overnight parking?
    Thanks for the article,

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