If you’ve never been to Crater Lake National Park, add it to your bucket list, like right now. The kids and I spent a half-day there last summer on our way to Bend, Oregon. I wish we could have spent more time at this national park. One look out into that blue, blue water and you’ll understand why. So incredible.
Crater Lake is not a very large national park, but there are a surprising number of ways to enjoy all that is so great about this park. Here are a few of my must-do recommendations:
1. Take in the Views from Rim Drive. If you’re entering Crater Lake National Park from the south like we did, make a quick stop at the Steel Visitor Center to chat up a park ranger, then start out east along the 33-mile Rim Drive. It will take between one and three hours to drive the loop, depending on how many stops you make to soak in the views.
2. Stamp Your Passport. Getting stamps in my Passport to Your National Parks is always my favorite part of a national park visit. Keep your eye open for cancellation stamps at every visitor center. You’ll also want to buy the official park sticker to add to your passport.
3. Earn a Junior Ranger Badge. Between July and early-September, kids can take part in a 20-minute ranger-led activity during which they’ll learn all about Crater Lake. Just for participating in the program, every child will earn a patch. This program takes place three times each day at the Rim Visitor Center.
4. Go for a Hike. There are a number of easy hikes at Crater Lake National Park, including the Castle Crest and Lady of the Woods trails, both of which are near the south entrance to the park. Another good one is the Discovery Point trail, which takes you along the rim of Crater Lake on the west side. There are also ranger-led hikes in the every afternoon at 2 pm during peak season.
5. Take the Wizard Island Cruise. We missed this, but my friend, Jeff at Out with the Kids, told me that the Wizard Island Cruise is an absolute must-do and that you must book way in advance. You’ll cruise 45 minutes to Wizard Island, which sits in Crater Lake, then you have three hours to explore on foot, even climb to the summit of Wizard Island, if you like. Next time, for sure.
6. Take Lots of Photos. It’s okay, take as many photos as you like. I easily took dozens of photos of Crater Lake, some with my kids, some without my kids. Every view seemed better than the last and worthy of a photo. It’s incredible to look back at the photos and think that we were there. So amazing.
If you want to go swimming, know that the water is very cold. You can also only go swimming at Cleetwood Cove and Wizard Island. It may be worth a try if you also opt to take the cruise out to Wizard Island and have the time to jump in the water, which by the way, is incredibly clear.
I already can’t wait to go back. If you go, let me know what you think about Crater Lake National Park.