Heading to Crater Lake with kids? You’re in for a special treat with your whole family. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, and one of the most picturesque places to visit in Oregon.
Having formed over 7,000 years ago from a 12,000 ft volcano, Crater Lake is now the deepest lake in the United States (with the second being Lake Tahoe) and known for is deep blue colour. Crater Lake is family friendly, and there were plenty of other families there with kids of all ages when we went.
We went to Crater Lake with our kids, which included my 10 year old and 2 year old daughters – and it was was one of the most beautiful, and interesting places I’ve ever seen.
There are a few ways to visit and enjoy Crater Lake, and also some things that you might want to keep in mind before your visit.
So let’s jump in – Crater Lake with kids.
Best Time to Go to Crater Lake with Kids
The best time to go to Crater Lake (with or without kids) is in the summertime. The best month to go to Crater Lake is likely the month of July, when most of the snow is cleared and its no longer snowing – and its also before fire season.
Sometimes there is a very small window of time where the weather conditions are ideal for travelling to Crater Lake.
With the snowfall that is still possible in May and June, along with fire season that typically occurs in August – you may have to really pay attention to the weather conditions and forecast in order to have the most successful trip.
If there is still snow when you head there, you can normally still visit – its just possible that some of the trails and roads may be inaccessible. If you’re heading to Crater Lake in August, check to ensure that there aren’t any fire warnings.
How Long to Spend in Crater Lake
You can spend a few days exploring Crater Lake, but you could also only spend 2 hours! If you only want to spend a few hours, then you can drive along half of the rim (east or west) and make quick or longer stops, admiring the view and taking photos.
If you want to spend a few days there, then you could enjoy some of the hiking trails (there are a few that are very easy for kids of all ages) and there are also some moderate ones that older children or experienced hikers may be able to do.
6 Things to Keep in Mind About Crater Lake with Kids:
Here’s what would be helpful to know in advance of visiting Crater Lake with kids
1. Bring warm clothing (even in the summer)
Crater Lake sits at an elevation of 6,178 ft (1,883 m). There’s still snow up there, even in July.
In July, the average temperature is a high of 21°C (69.8°F) and a low of 5°C (41°F) Be sure to bring a sweatshirt or layers in case you find it chilly.
2. Be careful against the edges
You should keep ahold of toddlers and young kids in most spots. There are barriers, but they’re very short; low enough for a small child to climb over if we wanted to. We had our 2 year old with us, and never let her out of our sight.
3. Drive carefully and take it slow
It can be busy on the highway running through Crater Lake, as you can imagine with it being a popular tourist attraction. Some parts of the highway have steep edges. Take your time. You’re going to want to take a LOT of photos. Crater Lake is absolutely beautiful, and there is so much more to see there besides the crater!
4. The East Rim is often closed
When you visit Crater Lake, depending on the time of year you go, its possible that you may only be driving through/visiting one side of it (the west rim.) Both, the East and West Rims, are closed for the winter, but the east rim is often the first one to reopen and the one you’re more likely to drive on if you visit Crater Lake in the summer.
We were in Crater mid July and the east rim still hadn’t reopened, because of the amount of snow that there’d been that year.
5. Avoid the long lineup to get in
Arrive earlier in the day if possible. Around 11am, a huge lineup at each entrance will form; especially at the south entrance. We managed to get in through the south entrance right before the line up formed around that time and were glad that we didn’t have to wait in the long lineup of cars.
Good to Know: There are restrooms at the Welcome Center by the south entrance, but if you continue heading on to the first main stop, which is. – there are restrooms there as well. We stopped the first time without realizing that we could have waited until the next stop for bathroom breaks.
6. Don’t feed the wildlife
There are some very friendly wildlife that you may encounter at some of the lookouts at Crater Lake – birds and chipmunks mainly. Your children will be very tempted to feed some of the wildlife, but feeding the wildlife at Crater Lake is prohibited. It can have negative consequences for the wildlife, as well as for their ecosystem and for us to.
Good to Know: This document teaches more about mammals that call Crater Lake home and why we should not feed them.
7. Hold your hats!
It can be windy up in Crater Lake. My daughter was wearing a cap that was pretty important to her, and a gust of wind took it right over the edge. (Luckily I was able to reach and retrieve it.) Just be aware that the wind can be very strong, and make sure hats are on securely, especially if you’re wearing one thats important to you.
1-Day Itinerary for Crater Lake with Kids
Keep in mind that this itinerary can be done in reverse as well (north to south, instead of south to north)
Here is a sample 1-day itinerary for driving through Crater Lake with kids. This itinerary can be completed in anywhere from 2 hours to a full day, depending on your preferences; whether you stop for a picnic or a hike.
- Arrive at the south entrance (Park Headquarters) as early as possible, ideally between 9 and 10:30 am. Right at the entrance, there is a large visitor centre with a gift shop, restrooms and a café – so you may or may not want to stop for that before you enter the park. There are a few places to turn off for photos before and after the entrance, and there are some beautiful lookouts.
2. Optional hike: Close to the park entrance is the location for the Castle Crest Wildflower Hike. If you want to do this 30-hike, then it will need to be the one of the first things you do when you enter the park. It is often quiet, so you can enjoy nature in peace – keep in mind that dogs are not allowed.
3. Stop at Rim Village (5 minutes from the park entrance and the Castle Crest hike.) There is a huge parking lot, so regardless of how many people are there, there’s plenty of space. This is the most crowded spot on Crater Lake – but honestly, it has the best views. Take a bathroom break if needed, look in the gift shop and take a look at the Sinnot Memorial Lookout which provides information about the volcano and how the lake formed. Take a walk along the walkway at the Rim Village lookout.
4. Make more stops around the lake. After Rim Village, make stops at all the spots of your choosing. If you stop at every stop, they may all start to look very similar. What we did was we stopped at every other stop. This gave us the chance to view the lake and volcano from multiple perspectives.
The stops on the East Rim that we would recommend for really nice views are:
- Watchman Overlook (great place to stop for a picnic)
- Devil’s Backbone and/or Merriam Point
However, you can’t go wrong at any of the stops, because all of them provide a spectacular view. If you only have time to drive one rim (east or west) then I would recommend choosing the East Rim, so that you have better views of the remains of the volcano. From the west side of the lake, its not as noticeable.
Easy Crater Lake Hikes with Kids
There are a number of hikes in Crater Lake National Park ranging from easy to strenuous, and there are a few that are easy enough that kids of all ages can participate.
Easy Crater Lake Hikes to do with Kids of all ages:
- Castle Crest Wildflower -0.4 miles (2.7 km) This is the closest ‘easy’ hike to the actual Crater lake, and its located right near the entrance to the park
- Godfrey Glen – 1 mile (1.6 km) Located before the entrance to the park, so you would do this hike before entering the park
- Pinnacles – 1 mile (1.6 km) located southeast of the lake
Where to Stay Near Crater Lake with Kids
There are a few small hotels and motels located near Crater Lake.
- Budget: Aspen Inn Has family rooms, and all the comforts you need for an affordable price
- Mid-Range: Crater Lake Resort Has a children’s playground and family rooms
Our Road Trip to Crater Lake
We visited Crater Lake as apart of a road trip, but it was a main destination for us. We were travelling from Nevada where we visited Virginia City, Truckee and Lake Tahoe, and from there we drove to Klamath Falls, which is only an hour from Crater Lake.
We chose to stay in Klamath Falls at this great hotel is which is about an hour from Crater Lake.
Crater Lake with Kids: FAQs
Here are the most commonly asked questions about visiting Crater Lake with kids
Is Crater Lake swimmable?
Crater Lake is swimmable, but be aware that it can be a bit chilly, even in the summertime. The average water temperature can reach a high of 57°F (14°C). So, if you do swim, you might not be in the water for a very long time. The other thing to note is that there’s only one place where you can safely (and legally) swim , and its on the Cleetwood Cove Trail. The Cleetwood Cove trail is 3.5 km (2.2 miles) and is considered to be a more strenuous hike.
Can kids hike to Crater Lake?
There are a number of kid-friendly hikes that can be done in or near Crater Lake National Park on a family trip to Crater Lake with kids. Some of them include Castle Crest Wildflower, Godfrey Glen and the Pinnacles Hikes. All of these are under 3k or 2 miles long and have easy trails that aren’t too strenuous.
What is all about Crater Lake for kids?
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,943 feet deep. It used to a volcano, called Mount Mazama. Mount Mazama was 12,000 ft-tall. It erupted and collapsed around 7,700 years ago, and thats what lead to Crater Lake being formed. The water of Crater Lake is derived from rainfall and snowfall, also from the snow blown into it. Its famous for its beautiful ‘deep blue’ colour.
Conclusion: Crater Lake with Kids
Crater Lake provided beautiful views and a nice day out for or family. We found the park services (the visitor centres) really helpful and really enjoyed our visit. We wouldn’t hesitate to come here again with kids, even a toddler. Like Lake Tahoe, we found Crater Lake to toddler friendly, as long as you are keeping a watchful eye on them.
I hope this guide has been helpful in assisting you in planning a day out to Crater Lake with kids.