Crater Lake Overview

Crater Lake National Park, located in the southern part of Oregon, USA, is a stunning testament to the power of natural forces. Established in 1902, it is the fifth-oldest national park in the United States and encompasses approximately 741 square kilometers (about 286 square miles). The park is renowned for its namesake, Crater Lake, which is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the clearest and most pristine lakes in the world. Formed about 7,700 years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama, Crater Lake has no rivers flowing into or out of it, with its waters maintained solely by rain and snowfall, leading to its remarkable purity and deep blue color.

Surrounding the caldera are forests and meadows that transition into the rugged landscapes of the Cascade Mountains, offering a diverse range of ecosystems and habitats for wildlife. The park’s terrain provides a habitat for various plant and animal species, including black bears, elk, and a wide array of bird species. The park’s flora and fauna thrive in an environment ranging from lush old-growth forests to high desert.

Crater Lake National Park is not just a place of natural beauty but also a destination for adventure and exploration. It offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, biking, camping, and fishing. In the winter, the park becomes a wonderland for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, with the Rim Drive offering spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding terrain.

One of the most iconic features of the park is Wizard Island, a cinder cone that rises from the lake’s surface, offering a unique opportunity for hiking and exploration. The park also features various overlooks and trails that provide breathtaking views of the lake and the geological features of the surrounding area.

Crater Lake National Park serves as a powerful reminder of nature’s ability to create and shape the landscape, offering visitors a place of awe-inspiring beauty, tranquility, and outdoor adventure. It stands as a jewel in the crown of the United States National Park System, inviting people from all over the world to experience its wonders.

advertisement banner
Park Map
advertisement banner

Crater Lake National Park Highlights


Crater Lake National Park, known for its stunning deep blue lake formed in the caldera of Mount Mazama, is also a refuge for diverse wildlife species that thrive in its forests, meadows, and rugged landscapes.

American Black Bear – While shy and elusive, the American Black Bear is occasionally spotted by visitors, foraging in the forests and meadows around the park.

Roosevelt Elk – Named after President Theodore Roosevelt, these majestic elk are among the largest in North America, often seen in the park’s open meadows.

Steller’s Jay – Vibrant and noisy, Steller’s Jays are recognized by their striking blue bodies and black crested heads, commonly found throughout the park.

American Dipper – Unique for its aquatic hunting techniques, the American Dipper can be seen diving into Crater Lake’s chilly waters in search of food.

Clark’s Nutcracker – Often heard before seen, Clark’s Nutcracker is a resourceful bird, known for its role in dispersing pine seeds in the park.

Bald Eagle – A symbol of American wilderness, Bald Eagles are occasionally spotted soaring above Crater Lake, a majestic sight against the backdrop of blue waters.

Mountain Lion – These apex predators are seldom seen but roam the park’s wilderness, a reminder of the wildness that characterizes Crater Lake’s landscape.

Mazama Newt – Endemic to Crater Lake, the Mazama Newt, a subspecies of the Rough-skinned Newt, is adapted to life in and around the cold lake waters.

Pika – Adorable and hardy, Pikas live in the rocky alpine regions of the park, gathering vegetation to store for the long winter months.

Northern Flying Squirrel – Gliding between trees during twilight hours, Northern Flying Squirrels are a nocturnal presence in the park’s old-growth forests, feeding on fungi and seeds.

Crater Lake National Park’s array of wildlife, from the aquatic Mazama Newt to the elusive Mountain Lion, offers visitors a unique opportunity to connect with nature and witness the adaptability of species to this mesmerizing volcanic landscape.

Crater Lake National Park Pictures

Engaging Crater Lake

Embark on a breathtaking scenic drive along Rim Road encircling Crater Lake. Marvel at the mesmerizing vistas of the cobalt-blue lake, framed by sheer cliffs and ancient forests. Numerous viewpoints offer panoramic views, providing ample opportunities for photography and contemplation of the lake’s majestic beauty.

Explore a network of hiking trails that wind through Crater Lake’s pristine wilderness, catering to hikers of all skill levels. From leisurely strolls to challenging treks, each trail offers unique perspectives of the park’s diverse landscapes, including old-growth forests, volcanic formations, and alpine meadows. Don’t miss the iconic Rim Trail, which offers stunning vistas of the lake from various vantage points.

Experience the splendor of Crater Lake up close with a boat tour across its crystal-clear waters. Learn about the lake’s formation, geology, and natural history from knowledgeable park rangers as you cruise to the submerged caldera known as Wizard Island. Enjoy unparalleled views of the surrounding cliffs and peaks from the tranquil expanse of the lake.

During the winter months, Crater Lake transforms into a snowy wonderland, offering opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and other winter activities. Traverse snow-covered trails and open meadows, immersing yourself in the serene beauty of the winter landscape while enjoying the solitude and tranquility of the park’s snowy vistas.

Crater Lake National Park Trails

Garfield Peak Trail

Rating: Moderate to Strenuous

Distance and Elevation Gain: 3.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet (305 meters)

Description: This trail offers one of the most spectacular views of Crater Lake and the surrounding landscape. As hikers ascend to Garfield Peak, they are rewarded with panoramic vistas of the lake, Wizard Island, and the Phantom Ship. The trail can be challenging due to its steep sections, but the breathtaking views are well worth the effort.

Cleetwood Cove Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 2.2 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 700 feet (213 meters) on the return trip

Description: The only legal access to the shore of Crater Lake, this trail descends to Cleetwood Cove where visitors can swim in the lake’s deep blue waters or take a boat tour to Wizard Island. The hike back up is steep and challenging but offers unique perspectives of the lake’s clarity and depth.

Watchman Peak Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 1.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 420 feet (128 meters)

Description: A relatively short hike to one of the best sunset spots in the park, Watchman Peak Trail offers stunning views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island. The trail ends at a historic fire lookout, providing an excellent vantage point for photography and wildlife spotting, including birds of prey.

Wizard Island Summit Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 2.2 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 760 feet (232 meters), accessible only by boat

Description: After a boat ride to Wizard Island, hikers can ascend to its summit for a unique perspective of Crater Lake from within. The trail offers a moderately strenuous hike with panoramic views of the caldera, lake, and surrounding cliffs from the top.

Plain Falls Trail

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 2 miles round trip with minimal elevation gain

Description: This family-friendly trail leads through old-growth forests to the beautiful Plaikni Falls. The easy walk is accessible to most visitors and provides a chance to see a variety of wildflowers in the summer months, as well as the serene beauty of the waterfall itself, nestled in a lush, green setting.

  • AllTrails, Best Trails in Crater Lake National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Britannica, Crater Lake,, retrieved April 2024.
  • National Park Service, Crater Lake,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Oregon Explore, Facts About Crater Lake,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Southern Oregon, Crater Lake,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Travel Oregon, Crater Lake,, retrieved April 2024.
  • US Department of Interior, 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Crater Lake National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Visit Bend, Crater Lake National Park,, retrieved April 2024.