A scenic drive around a pristinely blue body of water, a daredevil leap into the frigid cold waters or just a nice campfire in the firs as the evening sun bows out to endless stars above. All of this, and so much more, is yours to explore at Oregon’s only national park, Crater Lake.
On a solo mission? Crater Lake National Park has a plethora of ranger programs where you can not only learn more about what formed this piece of paradise, but maybe meet a fellow traveler as well.
Coming with the family? Their Junior Ranger Program gets kids involved in nature, teaching them to be better stewards of the land and giving mom and dad a chance to break out the binoculars or get a picnic packed in a little peace.
If you were to drive non-stop along Rim Road, the loop that circles Crater Lake itself, the trip would take you maybe an hour and a half, assuming there was little traffic. In reality, you can spend an entire day circumnavigating the park’s namesake feature, as countless opportunities to pull off and pop off a quick selfie alone abound. Along the way, in addition to 30-some scenic views, you’ll be treated to opportunities to see waterfalls, take a short (or much longer) hike, and even get down to the water itself. If you’d rather look out the window than keep your hands on the wheel, there’s a trolley service that’ll scout you around the lake as well, with several stops included, which takes around two hours.
Note that the road is typically only fully open between July and October, though the park itself remains open year-round. You can’t camp at Crater Lake in the winter though, so if you’re planning a trip to Crater Lake in our Class B RV rentals, you’ll want to plan your trip in the summer and fall months.
RV Camping at Crater Lake National Park
The only camping suitable for a van or RV directly within the national park itself is a campground by the name of Mazama Campground.
There are 214 sites, mostly well spaced and with trees for a bit of privacy or shade, but not completely engulfed so that you can’t watch the stars at night. At 6000′, even the warmest summer days are often accompanied by mildly brisk nights, and though you’ll essentially be camping in a small town’s worth of fellow outdoor enthusiasts, in general the campground remains very quiet after the sun goes down.
It’s largely dry camping, so you won’t necessarily have access to an electrical hookup (there are a few sites with hookups, but they typically book up well in advance), however water is available in the campground, along with flushing toilets and showers. You can have a campfire most times of the year, and camping here means you’ll be as close as possible to everything Crater Lake has to offer. Your campsite will be under 10 minutes from the nearest visitor center, and 15 from the rim itself.
Don’t expect much, if any, cell service. But the spots here are often amazing, some with waterfall views, some that feel like you’re a world away from the next camper. Mazama Campground is easily one of the best campgrounds in our entire national park service, and few find themselves let down after a stay here.
Just note that it’s often good to make a reservation in advance, as even with 200+ campsites, the campground fills up often and quickly on the weekends.
You can make a reservation by calling 866.292.6720.
If you can’t get into Mazama, there are other options outside of the park, though they’ll add at least a 20 minute commute time.
The closest spots to the east of the park’s entrance are Thousand Springs Sno-Park (GPS: 42.9131, -122.3245) and Huckleberry Campground (GPS: 42.876, -122.337). In Oregon, a “sno-park” is basically parking lots that, in the winter, serve as entry points to the national forest for people to head out on snowmobiling or cross-country ski adventures. In the summer, they often allow free camping, though you do need a Sno-Park permit which you can learn more about and purchase from the State of Oregon here. If you have a California (or Idaho, for that matter) sno-park permit, they are valid in Oregon as well. Again, note that you’ll basically be camping in a parking lot next to the highway, but given that it’s free, and only about a 20 minute drive to the visitor center near the rim, it’s not the worst place to call home while visiting the national park.
We’d also do well to note at this point that it costs $25 to get into Crater Lake, and that is good for one week. Alternatively, an $80 annual pass is available which will get you into all national parks across the United States.
Huckleberry Campground is more or less a string of sites back a forest road, which once was a bit more of an established campground but is now essentially just open spots in the forest where you can camp for free. There are no services, not even pit toilets, so you’re responsible to pack out what you pack in, and more or less be self-contained.
South of the park’s entrance, on Oregon Route 62, Annie Creek Sno-Park (GPS: 42.7612, -122.0588) is a more popular destination for campers looking for free camping, and it’s about equidistant to the rim as Thousand Springs and Huckleberry. Annie Creek has vault toilets as well, and unlike Thousand Springs, your phone may even work there as well, assuming there aren’t a ton of other campers trying the same.
Just beyond Annie Creek, Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site (GPS: 42.7379, -121.9797) will get you off of the highway and into a more traditional camping scenario, with minimal services though, and not much further from Crater Lake. Another few minutes down the road (now you’re talking 45 minutes to the rim, mind you), Collier Memorial State Park (GPS: 42.6467, -121.8792) provides full hookups in a forested setting and is probably the most comfortable place to camp, outside of Mazama, in the area, particularly if you enjoy a hot shower and a clean place to scrub your teeth every morning. There is also $10 camping available across the street at Williamson River Campground (GPS: 42.6586, -121.8549).
If none of these float your boat, three additional options rest at the junction of Oregon 62 and 230, about half an hour east of town. Farewell Bend Campground (GPS: 42.9162, -122.4351), Union Creek (GPS: 42.91, -122.45) and Natural Bridge (GPS: 42.894, -122.465) are all part of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, with varying degrees of amenities ranging from plain old dry camping to full hookups.
Even with Mazama, the park’s main campground, being a pretty good option for exploring Crater Lake, the area has so many choices that even those who loathe the concept of making plans in advance will easily be able to find somewhere to camp here, and likely have a choice of the type of camping they want. Crater Lake National Park is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in the stunning sea of volcanos, old-growth forests and alpine lakes that this part of Oregon has to offer, and well worth the trip.