Crater Lake In One Day. How We Explored It With Kids

Crater Lake in one day in a relaxed way. Hiking, swimming, wildlife. The oddity of the lake. Best time to go. Biggest pros and cons.

Crater Lake is magnificent. The whole idea of the lake in a crater of a volcano is surreal! And just think about how BIG it is: the depth of it is 0.5 km and the width is almost 10 km. I was happy as a child when I saw the lake :D. We were lucky to watch it vivid blue, because of the sunny weather. “Crater Lake In One Day” is about how we explored it with little ones in a “relaxed manner” and what we loved the most. 🙂

Crater Lake In One Day.

1. Best time to go

Since Crater Lake is located at a high elevation of 6,178 feet (or 1,883 m, at the lake’s surface), the most popular and best months to go are July, August, and September. This is the time when the roads and trails are cleared from snow and visitor centers are open.

2. Entering the park

Our trip was in the first days of July 2020. It is always cool to see the snow during the summer :D.

In the picture below: Northern entrance to the Crater Lake National Park and the first parking area. The pole’s height can tell how snowy local winters can be:

3. What we were able to see in one day. Overlooks

(In 5 hours, to be exact.)

Pictured below: the historic Rim Drive, 33 miles long, narrow, winding road with 30 pullouts. The speed limit at Rim Drive is 35 mph or less.

Crater Lake In One Day. Rim Drive on the map of Crater Lake
Crater Lake In One Day. Rim Drive on the map of Crater Lake

The most popular way to explore Crater Lake is to make a circle around the lake and see as much as possible. In a day we could explore West Rim Drive (see the map above). The road at the East Rim was closed.

In the picture below: the very first outlook, 2 minutes walk from the first parking area:

Merriam Point, the very first observation platform

One of the biggest pros of Crater Lake – most of the beauty could be observed from overlooks/pullouts, without any hiking. It was a big luck for us since one of the kids was sleeping or falling asleep in the car.

The biggest con was no railing at many overlooks. We have a very active 3 y/o and were constantly keeping an eye on him.

Even the 11 y/o was amazed by the height of the cliff and the water far below:

Crater Lake in One Day. Merriam Point
Crater Lake in One Day. Merriam Point

4. Crater Lake NP: Steel Visitor Center

As a result of Covid, the Visitor Center wasn’t open in 2020 (and still closed by the end of summer 2021). But it certainly was a great stop: they had information about the best hikes for the day and Junior Ranger Books:

5. Crater Lake in one day: Hikes

Since we were very limited in time, we chose only one hike. We love wildflowers and hiked “Castle Crest Wildflower Trail” (0.4 miles roundtrip).

Wildflowers are a big hit in the mountains but the full bloom is hard to predict. There were not much during our visit (4th of July), but the trail was a lot of fun with its many streams and puddles:

Castle Crest Wildflower Trail

We, adults, were mesmerized by the air. It’s smelled like on the South Coast of Crimea (Ukraine), our childhood summer dream destination.

Other popular hikes at Crater Lake at TripAdvisor.

6. Swimming at Crater Lake

Cleetwood Cove trail is one of the most popular in the park: it offers safe and the only legal access to the shore where you can take a dip or jump off the cliff:

photo credit: Powderruns

The trail usually opens mid to late June, 1.1 miles one way, 700 feet down the hill. We skipped it because the 3 y/o was too tired for a strenuous hike.

7. Waterfalls and mountain road

I’d rate Crater Lake as one of the best National Parks for travelers with limited mobility and lazy visitors. The scenery you can watch without leaving the car is exceptional:

8. Crater Lake and the Pink Snow

We saw a lot of Pink/Watermelon snow at Crater Lake. This phenomenon is caused by snow algae and scientists say it’s a bad sign: the red pigment accumulates the heat and accelerates the melting process. Pink snow definitely looks weird:

For the first time in our lives, we saw pink snow in Alaska from a plane.

9. Wildlife at Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake is home to many birds and some big animals: elks, bobcats, and deers. I’d love to see an American White pelican :). The most common birds during our visit were Clark’s Nutcracker and Stellar Jay:

"Don't you dare people to litter at the Crater Lake. I'm watching you!" - Clark's Nutcracker
“Don’t you dare people to litter at the Crater Lake. I’m watching you!” – Clark’s Nutcracker

Please don’t feed the wildlife. It’s very tempting but animals/birds can become aggressive and it’s not good for them to be used to human food.

10. The pullout at Anne Creek Canyon. Crater Lake pinnacles

Crater Lake pinnacles remind me of Yellowstone’s “Towers in the air”. The pictures below are from the pullout. But if you are ready for more, the Pinnacles trail is an easy 1-mile roundtrip hike.

11. Crater Lake: The Old Man of the Lake

If you are lucky, you may spot and take a picture of the “Old Man of the lake” – tree stump bobbing vertically in Crater Lake. First-time it was discovered floating in the lake in 1896. The tree (most likely hemlock) might be at least 450 years old.

Old Man is 9 meters (30-feet) long. The stump stands about 4 feet above the water:

Old Man of the Lake. photo credit: reddit
Old Man of the Lake. photo credit: reddit

All the mentioned places on My Map

Movies and Books about Crater Lake

Crater Lake was one of the locations filmed in the “Wild”, a biographical adventure drama. The movie based on a 2012 best-selling memoir by Cheryl Strayed “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”. IMDb 7.1

photo credit: Wikipedia

Thanks for reading, friends!

Crater Lake Essentials

Weather in the mountains is unpredictable and can change at any time. Make sure you are ready!

Check all the necessary information (trail conditions, fees, etc.) before you go on a trip.

Read next:

Wonders of Oregon or The top sights on the way from Seattle to Crater Lake

Oregon Coast: dramatic scenery and cool thongs to do. Cannon Beach, Oregon: a must-see beach town on the Pacific Ocean. Tide pooling, panoramic views, puffins, etc. Astoria. 19 great things to do in Oregon

Hawaii on a budget 2021. Famous Hawaiian islands: Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Big Island. Volcanoes. Yellowstone top pros and cons

By Mrs. Grazy Goat

I am Ira, the author behind Grazy Goat. My husband and I run this blog and share our experiences about thrilling places and cultures. Our son Artem recently joined us and helps with editing.

We are very happy to have YOU here 😻

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