Photo courtesy of Travel Southern Oregon.

There’s so much to do in Southern Oregon, and when your journey starts in Phoenix, you’re just a short trip from a winter wonderland. 

Crater Lake is the jewel of Southern Oregon and a highlight for many visiting the area. Most visitors experience Crater Lake in the summer months, but did you know that Crater Lake makes a great road trip in the winter? 

Experience One of Oregon’s Natural Wonders 

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America. Surrounded by cliffs nearly 2,000 feet high and with the bluest waters you’ll ever lay eyes on, the stunning visual is only enhanced with the addition of snow-capped peaks. Among other activities, you can cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter, or hike in an old-growth forest when it’s warmer. While many of the roads and facilities are closed during the winter, the park is open and accessible throughout the year.

But before embarking on your winter adventure, check for any park or road closures.

Crater Lake is open 24 hours a day and the entrance fee for most vehicles is $20 from November 1 through May 21. When winter road closures are in effect, you can drive into the park through the West or South entrances. Highway 62 and the road to Park Headquarters are plowed daily and open year-round. Additionally, the road from Park Headquarters to Rim Village is plowed during winter, but is sometimes closed during times of heavy snow accumulation. 

Winter Exploration

Winter is a great time to visit Crater Lake. You can backpack in the park all year long, and there’s ample opportunities for skiers and snowshoers to experience Crater Lake’s natural beauty.

While the park’s summer trails are hidden under snow, you can still enjoy a winter trek. One of our favorites is the Raven Trail, which provides access for cross-country skiers and snowshoers to reach the rim of the lake. The trail is two miles roundtrip and gains 610 feet in elevation. It begins at the gate across from Park Headquarters and is marked with blue diamonds on the tree trunks. However, Raven Trail crosses the runout of several avalanche chutes, so don’t linger when crossing these areas. There’s a lot to see on this hike, so stay alert, have your camera ready, and take in all the gorgeous natural scenery around you.

If you love to snowmobile, the next stop on your journey should be the park’s North Entrance Road. At North Junction, snowmobilers enjoy amazing views of Crater Lake. Most people start their ride at Diamond Lake Resort, five miles north of the park, where there are also snowmobiles for rent. Inside the park, snowmobiles must stay on the groomed and marked route. It’s the ride of a lifetime! 

A Snowy Oasis

The Rogue Valley is home to numerous winter activities. Play in the snow, and let the refreshing, cold air rejuvenate you from the inside out. The next time you’re in Phoenix and looking to explore more of our valley, visit Crater Lake. It’s one of Oregon’s greatest wonders in our own backyard!

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