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Crater Lake—A Magical Place to Snowshoe

Updated: Apr 24


December 14, 2023—The start of winter is just days away. And you know what that means? Time to get the snowshoes out from my closet. Snowshoeing is my favorite winter pastime. It used to be snow skiing until that sport became so expensive that I would have to sell a kidney in order to ski. These days, I love the quiet solitude of traipsing through the woods on a nice blanket of fluffy white powder.


Here in Oregon, my favorite place to snowshoe is Crater Lake. Without a doubt, it’s the most magical place to snowshoe in the state. The scenery is breathtaking, the crowds are minimal, and missing from the background noise is the whir of snowmobile engines. What you’re left with is a deep-blue lake surrounded by towering pines draped in white, deep snow, and great views of Wizard Island.


Beware of the gray jays who will try to snatch a handout from you. Please don’t allow them or feed the wildlife. The National Park Service (NPS) frowns on that and will even issue you a citation.


The NPS grooms several trails for both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. My favorite trail runs from the Rim Village (the only lodge open in the winter) to Watchtower. Trail maps are available in the park newsletter when you arrive at the entrance station.

Don’t worry if you don’t have snowshoes and want to experience the joy and beauty of snowshoeing at Crater Lake. The NPS offers two-hour guided walks, and they provide snowshoes free of charge. Space is limited.


The park itself doesn’t rent snowshoes or cross-country skis, but businesses outside the park do. Sky Lakes Wilderness Adventures also offers guided tours of Crater Lake.

For the more adventurous, you can snowshoe the entire rim. Doing the entire rim is physically demanding, and you’re subject to extreme weather conditions, so doing the rim trip is only recommended for the most experienced snowshoers and cross-country skiers. Plan on the trip around the rim taking at least three days. You’ll also need to purchase a backcountry permit.


South Rim is the only entrance open during the winter and is regularly plowed. A heavy snowstorm might delay the reopening of the road to the Rim Village, so you are advised to call ahead before making the long drive to Crater Lake or check the park’s home page for weather advisories.


The only drawback to snowshoeing at Crater Lake is the lack of decent lodging. The Sleep Inn & Suites is your best bet. It’s located in Chiloquin, Oregon, next door to a casino and restaurant. Your other lodging choice is in Klamath Falls.

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