Crater Lake National Park’s website says it best, Crater Lake inspires awe. And the easy trek on snowshoes to Discovery Point right on the crater’s rim is one of the best ways to experience this marvel in the winter. So hop in your car and head up to over 7,000 feet at Rim Village, driving through towering walls of snow along the roadsides, and experience one of the coolest places in the United States for yourself.
Crater Lake was formed 7,700 year ago when Mt Mazma collapsed following a major eruption. The layer of pumice and ash it deposited across Oregon is easily recognizable and can be feet thick in places. In the wake the eruption, a huge crater was left. Slowly, over course of about 250 years, rain and snow which accumulated in the caldera filled the crater to present day levels. There are no streams that flow in or out of the lake, as it is completely fed by precipitation. Today, this lake is the deepest in the US at 1,943 feet deep. The water of the lake is also some of the purest, resulting in a dazzling blue color. Seeing the blue of the lake contrasted with the pure white of snow makes for one of the most magical vistas you may ever see.
Begin your trek from the Rim Village parking area. Climb up out of the parking area and begin heading to your left, or westward around the lake. There isn’t an official trail that does to Discovery Point, but both the West Rim Road and hordes of other snowshoers and skiers will have paved the way for you.
Head out staying close to the crater’s rim, but not too close. Cornices, or overhanging cliffs of snow, can form around the edge and can break off underneath you. It’s a long way down to the lake, and that would not be a fun trip. So just stay back for a ways.
The trail and the road are pretty much one and same for about a third of a mile. Then the road swerves to the left, heading around a small hill. The trail heads up that hill, hugging the rim of the crater. Climb the small hill and journey through some open forest with the lake on your right. The views are incredible.
In about ¾ of a mile, you head back down the hill again and rejoin the road. This is Discovery Point. You can keep going if you choose. The road completely encircles the lake, but the 33-mile journey would likely take 3-4 days, so I hope you are prepared. Another popular destination is the Watchman, 2.5 miles further around the lake. The further you get from the village, the less defined the road and trail get. The Watchman also has some avalanche danger.
If you choose to head back, mix things up a little and follow the road around the hill this time. The views to the south of Union Peak and Mt McLoughlin are also spectacular. The West Rim Road spends about a mile coming around that hill you climbed on the way out before rejoining with the trail near the village.
To snowshoe in Crater Lake National Park in the winter, you have to head through the South Entrance, as the north is closed during the winter months. Head south on Highway 97 109 miles from Bend until you reach Chiloquin. Take exit 247 onto the Chiloquin Highway towards Crater Lake. After 3 miles, make another right onto OR-62, the Crater Lake Highway. Stay on 62 for 24 miles, through Fort Klamath, until you reach the Munson Valley Road. Head right and in 6.7 miles, you will find yourself at the Rim Village.
Passes: Between November 1st and May 21st, $15 will admit one vehcile into the park for 7 days.
Dogs: Are not allowed outside of the parking area at the Rim Village
Open Season: All year round, but the snow goes away at some point.
Hazards: Don't get too close to the edge of the crater. Cornices can form and break off underneath you.