Camping in Crater Lake National Park can offer a spectacular location for summer outdoor fun in Oregon’s southwestern corner. Crater Lake National Park is unlike any other place on earth.
Visitors can descend into a volcanic caldera, swim in the deepest blue waters known to mankind, and top off their magical visit with a boat trip to Wizard Island. Its lure draws tourists off the beaten path in smaller numbers than some parks, but those curious few are rewarded magnificently.
Crater Lake camping is the best way to experience this geologic wonder. Keep reading to learn more.
Why You Should Plan a Camping Trip to Crater Lake National Park
A relatively recent volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama caused the structure to collapse into itself, creating the huge caldera seen today. Over the years, a small volcanic cone grew toward one side of the caldera, forming Wizard Island.
Rainwater and snow runoff filled the caldera creating Crater Lake, eventually becoming the nation’s deepest body of water, averaging 1,943 ft deep. Evaporation and seepage keep it at its current level. Although the region typically receives almost 500 inches of snow each year, the lake rarely freezes over because of its vast volume of water.
It’s the nation’s fifth oldest national park and the only one in Oregon. The Klamath people inhabited Crater Lake and its surrounding region for hundreds of years before prospectors stumbled upon the deep blue lake in 1853.
They were more enticed by their hunt for gold and quickly forgot their discovery until a United States Geological Survey went out to study the lake in 1886. Crater Lake became a national park in 1902 with a push to protect this exceptional landscape.
Today, visitors can drive around Rim Road, hike the many trails along the rim and down to the lake, or take a boat ride to Wizard Island. Crater Lake Lodge takes on many overnight guests, but you can also try Crater Lake camping at the two campgrounds. The area caters to outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy biking, fishing, skiing, and birdwatching.
When Is the Best Time to Go Camping in Crater Lake National Park?
When’s the best time for Crater Lake camping? July, August, and September will give you the best opportunities to experience the park as everything will be open. The spring weather in May and June can bring sun or snow, even up to 20 ft! Coming during this time may mean closed roads and cold weather. In June, the park averages highs of 58 degrees.
Both park campgrounds open in the summer. So July 1 through the end of September is considered Crater Lake camping season. However, winter snow brings out the winter camper. Backcountry tent camping is allowed year-round with a permit.
Campgrounds in Crater Lake National Park
The park only has two campgrounds within its boundaries, and both are quite popular. You will find that Lost Creek only allows tent camping, but Mazama has RV sites. But don’t forget you can always find some Crater Lake backcountry camping if these campgrounds are full.
Address: OR-62, Crater Lake, OR 97604
Season Dates: July 1 through Sept. 30
Sites Available: 214 sites for RVs under 50’ and tents
Price: Prices for this Crater Lake camping option range from $5 to $42 depending on walk-in tent sites or those with or without hookups.
About: Mazama Campground, located 7 miles south of Rim Village, is the only one with RV sites. It also has restrooms, water, food storage, a gas station, and a dump station. You can make a reservation up to a year in advance for 150 campsites. The remaining ones are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Pro Tip: Want to camp in the snow in Crater Lake National Park? We found the 7 Best Cold Weather Tents for Your Winter Adventures.
Lost Creek Campground
Address: Grayback Drive, Lake, OR 97604
Season Dates: Open July 1 through Sept. 30
Sites Available: Lost Creek has 16 tent sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. You can’t make reservations in advance.
Price: $5 per night
About: Lost Creek Campground usually fills up by mid-day and has a self-service pay station. The only amenities are food storage lockers and portable toilets. You can’t have wood fires when camping at Crater Lake, but you can use camp stoves with fuel canisters.
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How to Reserve a Campground in Crater Lake
Unlike many national park campgrounds, Mazama Campground at Crater Lake does not take reservations through Recreation.gov. Instead, campers can make a reservation by visiting the Crater Lake Hospitality website or by calling 866-292-6720.
You have to pay in full when you make the reservation before they assign you a campsite. You can book most of the sites by reservation only. However, the remaining one-fourth are first-come, first-served. Because the snow at Crater Lake lasts well into the summer, you can’t make advanced camping reservations for dates before July 1.
Lost Creek Campground is entirely self-serve, with no advance reservations allowed. It is strictly available for tents only — no RVs, trucks with toilets, trailers, or vans. You’ll have to show up at the campground to see if you can find an available spot. You can pay with exact cash or personal checks.
Camping Limits in Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake camping at both campgrounds has a limit of 30 days per calendar year, with no more than 14 consecutive days in any campground. But you can find several private campgrounds located outside of Crater Lake National Park that would happily assist you in lengthening your camping trip to the area.
Pro Tip: After exploring Crater Lake National Park, head to the Oregon coast and stay at one of these 9 Best Oregon Coast RV Parks and Campgrounds.
Can You Have a Campfire in Crater Lake National Park?
You can’t have any campfires inside the park, as wildfire danger has increased greatly in the past several years due to drought. However, campers can use camping or backpacking stoves that use fuel canisters for cooking.
Is It Safe to Camp in Crater Lake National Park?
Crater Lake National Park camping is very safe in one of the two official campgrounds and in the backcountry with a permit. However, you can’t camp within view of the lake during the summer. But winter camping has become popular, even with the park roads closed. Snowshoers and cross-country skiers can enjoy a stunning view of Crater Lake in the snow from their tents.
Staying safely away from animals can sometimes be challenging because some wildlife has become accustomed to cleaning up after the tourists. But the campgrounds have bear lockers and bear-proof trash cans available, and campers should prepare adequately to lock up food and keep their tents unscented from food and toiletries.
Make a Plan to Camp in This National Park
One of the most unique and breathtaking destinations within the national park system can set the backdrop for a picturesque camping trip. It may take a little planning, but there’s no reason to miss this gem with two campgrounds from which to choose. Crater Lake camping is guaranteed to be the highlight of any tour of the Pacific Northwest.
Have you ever camped in Crater Lake National Park? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
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