Crater Lake National Park and Lodge

Kid tested and approved: Crater Lake is perfect for families!

One of the Pit Stops crew’s favorite national parks is in our backyard: Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon. Open year round, Crater Lake is a true natural wonder that’s (surprisingly) never swarmed with crowds. It’s not too large a park as to be overwhelming for families, and with hiking trails, nature programs, boat tours, and a beautifully maintained historic lodge on-site, its an ideal vacation spot to bring kids.

And if you’re looking for a place to spend an upcoming getaway, Crater Lake is included in the long list of national parks offering free entrance this Veteran’s Day Weekend and every fee-free day in 2011!

When to go: Crater Lake has something to offer in all seasons. Though some roads in the park are closed in winter due to snow, Hwy 62 (into and out of Crater Lake NP) and the Rim Road around the lake are almost always plowed and open. For updates, always check the Current Conditions page for road closures. Our favorite aspect of Crater Lake in winter is the snowshoeing. Every Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm, join park rangers for a free snowshoe trek! (Thanksgiving through May.) Check the Ranger Led Activities page for programs in other seasons as well!

Crater Lake Lodge is iconic of the northwest!

In the summer season (July through September), book a boat tour to Wizard Island. Only two boats depart per day (more without a Wizard Island stop) so be sure to book in advance through Xanterra Parks and Resorts. Watchman Peak hiking tours are also offered all summer, as are evening campfire programs.

Where to stay: Crater Lake Lodge sits right on the rim of the lake. In summer, take in the view from an adirondack chair on the deck, and in winter, curl up by the huge fireplace with a good book in the grand lobby. The lodge dining room is fantastic, and while elegant, it’s not stuffy. Kids are encouraged guests! If staying in the lodge is not for you, the Crater Lake Cabins are situated below the rim at Mazama Village, but the only lake view accommodation is the lodge. Bear in mind; both the lodge and cabins are rustic: you won’t find TV, air conditioning or land lines. (A campground is also available.) No matter which lodging you prefer, reservations are a must in summer!

Date last visited: August 2010.

Distance from the interstate: Hwy 62 takes visitors right up to the Rim Road. The park is approximately 2 hours from I-5.

Admission Fee: One of the most affordable national parks in the country, seven day passes are only $10 per car.

Room Rates: Nightly rates at the lodge start at $157 ($129 for a cabin) at the time of this publication.

Dining: In addition to the lodge dining room, Mazama Village offers a nice family-style buffet at Annie Creek Restaurant. We’ve been pleased with the healthy yet kid-friendly selection there. And best of all, picnic meals are welcomed on the lodge’s expansive veranda. We usually pack a lunch and eat overlooking the fabulous view!

Directions: The easiest way to approach the park in all seasons is from the South entrance, which is always open (Hwy 62 from Medford, Oregon). The North entrance is closed winter and spring. To approach Crater Lake from the north in summer, take take Route 138 from Roseburg or Hwy 97 from Bend.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler.