5 Breathtaking Activities at Crater Lake

Oct 02, 2018

While visiting Crater Lake, there are many ways to appreciate the beauty of this natural wonder. Let’s go over 5 of the most breathtaking activities at Crater Lake!

1. Bird Watching

Bird watching is one of the oldest and most-loved activities at Crater Lake. This age old activity is one that traces back to the origins of Crater Lake’s induction. Crater Lake National Park is located in the Cascade Mountain Range within a subalpine forest. A lot of the woodlands of Crater Lake National Park is old growth forest, perfect for numerous species of birds.

The main areas you can find birds while bird watching near Crater Lake are at Crater Lake itself, Mountain Hemlock Forest, Lodgepole Pine Forest, Ponderosa Pine Forest, Willow Streamside, Montane Meadow Complex, and the Pumice Desert. The Crater Lake loop is another wonderful location for birdwatching.

There are many different species of birds you can search for. It's a great idea to keep a list to check off as you go. Of activities at Crater Lake, this is one to take advantage of any time of year. Some bird species are more likely to be present during the summer or winter. But don’t let that deter you, all the birds you will find are beautiful.

August and September are great months to view water birds like the American white pelican, double crested cormorant, herons, gulls, terns, and grebes. In early September, waterfowl migration begins with the arrival of greater white-fronted geese and northern pintails. In November, you can catch glimpses of mallard, American wigeon, green winged teal, Snow, Ross’ and Canadian geese, along with tundra swan. The number of birds hit their peak in March with over a million birds. Fall and spring in the area bring millions of birds to find refuge in the wetlands for migration.

We recommend getting an early start when you birdwatch, and bring binoculars, a map, and your birding list.

2. Photography

Many people take photos on their trips to Crater Lake because of the stunning natural vistas everywhere in the national park. Of activities at Crater Lake, this is one you will find many people engaging in.

Wizard Island is a perfect natural focal point for many photos. There are great angles alongside Crater Lake’s Rim. The south western corner that is close to the volcanic cone that protrudes from the island is a perfect location for some great photos. When walking around the Rim, there are also several perfect rocky outcroppings that give great natural clearings for your photos.

This activity at Crater Lake will allow you to travel all over the park, if you so wish.

We recommend that you try to get as much elevation as you can. Looking down over the lake makes for a more complete perspective of both the lake and the volcano. Photos taken at wide-angle shots give great perspective as well. While you may find it difficult to get the whole lake in your shots, using the surrounding rocks in the foreground helps to get a complete crater-shape in your photos. Taking photos with more colorful foliage, like in the autumn, adds foreground interest. It is also an interesting idea to provide a glimpse of the fall colors in an area that is considered predominantly evergreen.

Taking photos of Crater Lake and the surrounding area can be done easily at night as well, since Crater Lake is far enough away from any city lights which makes for a perfect celestial image.

3. Biking

Each year, increasing numbers of bikers make the journey to Crater Lake to take advantage of riding the 33 mile Rim Drive. This route is extremely grueling and challenges even the most seasoned of bikers. For activities at Crater Lake, this is one for those in peak physical condition. It is advised that for those biking around the Rim, be sure to make stops frequently at one of the thirty overlooks and pullouts.

For this intense ride around Crater Lake, you will be rewarded with some of the best views and scenery while doing it at your own pace.

When engaging in activities at Crater Lake, be sure to obey the numerous rules and safety precautions.

All cyclists are required to obey traffic rules according to automobiles, which include speed limits. Bicycle helmets are required, as you will face many hazards, among which are high speeds, downhill slopes, rocks, animals, and heavy traffic. Only cyclists who are experienced with driving around auto traffic should consider taking the Rim Drive.

The park roads seldomly have shoulders, so be sure to use caution around narrow areas and blind curves. Wear bright, highly visible cycling clothing to help be seen by drivers. Be aware that bicycles are not permitted on park trails. Roads that are closed to cars are also closed to bicycles.

If you wish to go mountain biking, stop by Greyback Drive, which provides eight miles of unpaved, one way road to ride dedicated to mountain biking.

If you are not accustomed to high altitude, you might find breathing difficult. The only locations with water are Rim Village and Park Headquarters.

Bicycle activities at Crater Lake are perfect for those who want to go at their own speed. Bring a map, and stay hydrated while you are cycling.

4. Backcountry Camping

Backcountry camping activities at Crater Lake are a great weekend option, or something for those who just love camping. The best times to plan your backcountry camping trips are from mid-July to September.

It is required to get a permit for all overnight trips you will be taking. The permit is free, but a valid park entrance is required for the entire length of your stay. They are only valid for the dates, locations, and party size specified. All permits must be obtained in person from one of two different locations at Park Headquarters, during normal business hours. They cannot be obtained over the phone and more than one day in advance.

There are 5 designated backcountry camping locations you can use within the park: Bybee Creek, Dutton Creek, Grouse Hill, Lightning Springs, and Red Cone Springs. The sites only include a fire ring and flat area for pitching a tent. Sites will be assigned on a first come, first serve basis. Backcountry camping activities at Crater Lake will put you in prime locations for hiking as well.

Be sure to check with park headquarters about local hazards to keep in mind during your stay, both in summer and winter.

When you backcountry camp in the summer, no camping with a view of the lake is allowed. In the winter months areas that are closed to automobiles and bicycles are open for those going to backcountry camp.

No camping is allowed on any of the park’s main day hike trails, within 1 mile of any developed area or park road except where it is specifically designated, or within ¼ mile of Boundary Springs, Sphagnum Bog or Thousand Springs.

Be sure to add backcountry camping to your list of activities at Crater Lake. You won’t regret it.

5. Cross Country Skiing

There are activities at Crater Lake that are best taken advantage of in the winter months, or in winter only. Among which would be cross country skiing.

Cross country skiing can be a time consuming experience if you take the 33 mile, unplowed Rim trail known as the Circumnavigation Trail. It can typically take 3 days. It is wise to consult with a guide or an experienced skier of the area. This also requires a backcountry permit.

You will also find other trails for a full range of skiing experience. There are beginner, intermediate, and advanced level trails.

An easier trail for beginners is the Wizard Island Overlook that looks over Crater Lake. It is 5 miles and gives some of the best views of the park. Another simple trail is the Mazama Village Loop which is only 1 mile long.

For those with more intermediate experience, Sun Notch Trail is 10 miles long and overlooks Phantom Ship. A shorter 1 mile intermediate trail is the Hemlock Trail that overlooks the Klamath Basin.

If you are looking for a more advanced trail, try Raven Trail, a 2 mile trail that starts at Rim Village and descends into the park. Dutton Creek Trail, which is 9 miles, leads you to Annie Creek. This trail features many dramatic slopes and sharp turns.

All skiers should use caution on the many cross country trails, and bring adequate clothing and heed avalanche warnings.

Activities you will Enjoy

There are so many choices to choose from with activities at Crater Lake. Whether you take advantage of one of our 5 recommended adventure ideas, or choose another, you will find your trip to Crater Lake will be memorable. Other things to do at Crater Lake range from snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, the Crater Lake Visitor Center , waterfall exploring , taking the Crater Lake Trolley , downhill skiing, or even zip-lining . Good luck out there as you enjoy the many activities at Crater Lake.