What To Do with Kids at Crater Lake National Park

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Our trip to Crater Lake National Park was spectacular. Those views! That water! Some scientists believe Crater Lake is the largest, clearest, cleanest body of water on earth. We already know it’s the deepest in the US at over 1,900 feet deep. Oregon’s only national park sure is a good one, but what can you do there with kids?

Hike – The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses into Crater Lake National Park and many through hikers camp at Mazama campground at the park’s entrance. When we were there a wildfire closed part of the PCT so many hikers were forced to change plans. I wouldn’t attempt the massive 2,650 mile scenic backpacking trail with my three tots, but I would try the six mile alternate hike with views of Crater Lake.

Drive – The rim drive is the highlight of any Crater Lake visit. Even the original National Park to Park Highway tour had the chance to drive around this beautiful blue, since building a road around the rim was a top priority when the national park was first formed. It’s a beautiful scenic drive, but be aware that parts of the road are closed until mid to late June every year because of snow.

Bike – The 30 mile ride circumventing Crater Lake was well beyond my family’s abilities, but it’s definitely something I’d like to try in the future. While the road is open to cyclists all season long, you may not enjoy the small shoulder, heavy traffic experience. Well, you’re in luck! Twice a year Crater Lake hosts vehicle free on the East Rim Drive. It’s a perfect chance to get out without all the car traffic. This year the vehicle free days are September 17 and 24, 2016.

Swim – Jump in the bluest water this side of the Caribbean, only don’t expect it to be that warm. The water in Crater Lake comes solely from rain and snow melt and surface temperature averages only 55 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. The only access to the lake is via Cleetwood Cove trail, a steep 1.1 mile hike from the rim. Even so, we HAD to swim in Crater Lake. It was too beautiful to pass up and I highly suggest you make the effort to jump in. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the trail is closed for maintenance from August 2016 through summer 2017.

Ski or Snowshoe – With over 500 inches of annual snowfall, Crater Lake is a great place for winter recreation. Parts of the rim drive are closed to vehicles in the winter, but cross country skis and snow shoes are allowed in those areas. Strap some on and see Crater Lake in a whole new way.

Boat – Private boats are not allowed on Crater Lake, but craterlakelodges.com offers lake cruises or tours of wizard island. This is the only legal way to experience Crater Lake by boat, but be aware that children under three are not allowed.

Camp – Mazama campground at the southern entrance of Crater Lake National Park has over 200 camp sites, a camp store, laundry and nearby restaurant. There are also backpacking campsites available, but permits are required. Check out all the camping options here.

Crater Lake was so beautiful, I kinda wondered why it wasn’t as popular as Sequoia or Yosemite. Now that I’ve been there, I think it should be on the list of every outdoor traveler in the US. Why not visit the deepest lake in the US? It’s pretty amazing.

Have you ever been to Crater Lake? What was your experience?

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Author: Mountain Mom

Hi! I'm Mountain Mom. I live with my husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When we're not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, I spend my time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 we traveled over 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.

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