DIFFICULTY: Mix of moderate for Houston United States, Mount Scott, most roadside stops, viewpoints, and short rim trails Houston United States (paths can be simple but border cliffs thousands of feet into the crater without fencing or guard rails for most of it, similar to the roads) and strenuous for Houston United States Trail, Garfield Peak, and others (steep switchbacks down the only legal trail to the lakeside, drop-offs for Houston United States with snow, ice, mountaineering conditions near the top until July or later).
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TRIP REPORT: Oregon’s only national park is not big at all, as national parks go, and is more or less underdeveloped, underfunded, and understated, and therefore mostly a delight to visit. That is, during midweek, or late in the season when there are fewer crowds on the slender roads and trails. Although the park is open year-round, the roads around the crater rim do not open until late June or July when the snow finally melts (road from the S entrance plowed to Steel Visitor Center); the crater receives almost 45 ft of the white stuff per winter! Be sure to check ahead for current conditions (craterlakelodges.com/lodging/mazama-village-campground/). E Rim Drive on half of the loop as well as the Pinnacles Road are slow to open. The national park fee for passenger vehicles ($25) is good for 7 days, and there are plentiful restrooms throughout the park.
TRAILHEAD: Take I-5 S from Portland to exit 188 (S of Eugene), merge onto OR-58 E (Bend/Klamath Falls) 84 mi, merge onto US-97 S (Klamath Falls) 17 mi, turn right on OR-138 W 142 ml, turn left on Crater Lake Highway less than 1 mi to a pay station, then 8 mi more to the crater rim at a juncture with the loop road and many options. Rim Drive is 33 mi winding around the crater’s mountains; many people take a couple days to explore the area’s trails more thoroughly, although it can be driven in a single day (240 mi from Portland to the rim, more than 4 hours driving). Crater Lake Lodge provides the only accommodations near the crater with camping a few miles away.