10 Best Things to Do in Crater Lake National Park

crater lake at sunrise

Crater Lake National Park is a truly extraordinary place, well-known for one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

The water body is situated in the crater of a dormant volcano. It has a circular shape and steep high shores, covered in places with pine trees.

The water surface is smooth like a mirror and is known for its irresistible cobalt blue color.

With its 1,949 feet (594 meters), this is the deepest lake in the United States.

The best time to visit the lake and the national park is the summer season, when the average temperature during the day is very pleasant and comfortable – around 72 – 74°F (22 – 23°C), combined with plenty of sunshine.

There are many beautiful places to visit within the borders of the national park.

Of course, the main attraction is the lake, but it is far from being the only one.

Here are 10 of the best things to do while in the national park:

1. Take some pictures of Wizard Island

wizard island
Wizard Island by Udo S/Flickr

Wizard Island is one of the biggest attractions in Crater Lake.

Located off the western shore of the lake, the island is a volcanic cone that rises 755 feet (230 m) above the smooth and mirrored cobalt-blue surface of the water.

While walking and exploring any of the tourist trails in the area of the lake, the island reveals itself to you in its full beauty.

It is clearly visible from any point of the circular 33 miles long loop around the lake.

2. Do not miss the Phantom Ship

Along the southern shore of the lake there is a small rocky island, which is covered with sparse coniferous vegetation.

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Although it is located near the slopes of the crater, there is no trail to the lake at this area, so you can enjoy it only from the rim of the crater or from a tourist boat.

The island is well-known for its impressive silhouette, which really resembles a ghost ship.

Its height is about 170 ft (51.8 meters) above the surface of the lake.

3. Plaikni Falls

plaikni falls
Plaikni Falls by oliver.dodd/Flickr

Crater Lake is a special place that offers many things to see and to do.

Not far from the east rim, nestled into the pine forest, you will find Plaikni Falls.

This is a truly magnificent waterfall that is considered one of the most beautiful in Oregon.

Although Crater Lake National Park is relatively popular with Americans, the area of the falls is little known.

Actually, only a few people had heard about the falls before the first hiking trail was completed in 2011.

4. Swimming into the lake

a girl jump into the lake
A girl jump into the lake by daveynin/Flickr

As the slopes of Crater Lake are extremely steep and dangerous, there’s only one way to reach the shore.

This is the so-called Cleetwood Cove Trail, which is approximately 2.2 miles (more than 3.5 km) long.

Steep but busy, the trail runs under the pleasant shade of the coniferous trees, ending to a small rocky beach approximately 700 feet downward.

Although the lake is deep and quite cold even in summer (only about 57°F or about 14°C), you can swim in its crystal clear and limpid water.

However, you should know that the trail is open only for a short period in summer, usually after the second decade of June.

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5. Crater Lake Pinnacles

crater lake pinnacles
Crater Lake Pinnacles by Rene Rivers/Flickr

Pinnacles are a spectacular geological formation, located in a picturesque canyon, approximately 7 miles (11.3 km) southeast from the rim of the Crater Lake.

The formation is the main attraction of the Pinnacle Valley Trail.

The trail itself is easy to explore, regardless of your fitness level.

The total length is 0,7 miles (1.1 km), and there are no too steep, dangerous or difficult sections of the route, as long as the weather conditions are appropriate.

6. Enjoy the view from Garfield Peak

crater lake from garfield peak
Crater Lake from Garfield Peak by Wayne Hsieh/Flickr

Garfield Peak is one of the highest places in the ring of Crater Lake.

It is located on the southern rim and offers a breathtaking scenic view of the entire area and the deep blue waters below.

The peak rises to 7,976 feet above sea level (2481 meters), and the slope in front of you is extremely steep and dangerous so you must keep a safe distance from the edge.

This is a popular hiking place with tourists, especially from the surrounding lodges.

Climbing the peak, however, is not so difficult or dangerous if you walk slowly and carefully and if you follow all the safety tips in the national park.

7. Meet the sunrise

crater lake at sunrise
Crater Lake at sunrise by CEBImagery/Flickr

If you are staying in Crater Lake National Park, be sure to get up early in the morning and meet the sunrise.

The western rim of the crater offers the most beautiful panorama, and the view is equally enjoyable both in summer and in winter.

The disadvantage during the summer months is that you have to get up really early in the morning, because in early summer the sun rises at 5:30 am.

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8. Go to the Watchman Lookout Station

watchman lookout station
Watchman Lookout Station by NPS CulturalLandscapes/Flickr

Built in 1932, Watchman Lookout Station was initially created to serve as a fire lookout.

Nowadays, because of the stunning panorama, it serves mainly as an observation station and attracts a number of visitors.

Situated on the top of the Watchman Peak, it reveals a breathtaking view to the cobalt blue waters of the lake, which lies 1,849 feet (or 563 meters) below the structure.

This place offers one of the very few safe ways to get closer to the western rim of the crater.

9. Explore the flora in the area

hilman peak
Hilman Peak by Don Graham/Flickr

Crater Lake National Park is well known for its unique flora.

Here you will find some extremely resistant and longevous species of trees, some of which are really ancient.

A typical example is the Whitebark Pine tree.

Becoming one of the symbols of the national park, it grows surprisingly well in extremely severe weather conditions, including drought, low temperatures and strong sun.

10. Enjoy the most amazing night sky ever

milky way over crater lake
Milky Way over Crater Lake by Joe Parks/Flickr

Due to the clean air and low humidity, Crater Lake National Park is considered one of the best places to observe the night sky in the United States and in the world.

The area is sparsely populated and there are no artificial lights from big cities.

For this reason, in clear and cloudless weather, especially at full moon, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views you can imagine.

The Milky Way is clearly visible, and the stars are millions.

The view is equally enjoyable on a clear summer night or on one of the crystal clear and frosty winter nights.