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March 18, 2016

Snow Camping at Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park snow camping

Crater Lake averages 44 feet of snow each year, and is a great winter snow camping location.

Two friends who had camped there before invited me to join them on a trip this past weekend. We arrived on Friday afternoon and checked in at the park’s ranger station (located in the Steel Visitor Center) to obtain a backcountry permit, required for overnight stays.

Steel Visitor Center

From there, we drove to Rim Village to park our car and load up the pulk (sled) that my friend had just constructed for winter camping. Plus, we all had fully loaded backpacks.

Crater Lake National Park snow campingCrater Lake National Park snow camping  Crater Lake National Park snow camping

We put on our snowshoes and headed out on the trail that is the park’s West Rim Road in the summer. It was a warm, sunny and clear day, with great views of the lake.

Crater Lake National Park snow camping

Once we got past the initial roped off area that most of the tourists stick to, it was just the three of us and a few other snowshoers and cross country skiers.

Crater Lake National Park snow camping

We hiked in about 1.5 miles and setup camp next to the rim, then had a quick dinner before it got too dark.

Crater Lake National Park snow camping

Goodnight!

Crater Lake National Park snow camping

The next morning, we got up at sunrise to enjoy the views and have breakfast next to the rim.

Crater Lake National Park snow camping Crater Lake National Park snow camping Crater Lake National Park snow camping Crater Lake National Park snow camping

Saturday was another warm and sunny day, so we snowshoed for about 2 miles to the south side of The Watchman, stopping for lunch at a viewpoint directly across from Wizard Island.

Crater Lake National Park snow camping Crater Lake National Park snow camping Crater Lake National Park snow camping

Back at our campsite, my campmates built a snow kitchen, with a curved bench wrapping around an area for our campfire. Having a campfire while backpacking is quite a treat, especially in the winter. To minimize our impact on the environment, we used an aluminum firepan so we could pack out all of the ash.

Crater Lake National Park snow camping Crater Lake National Park snow camping Crater Lake National Park snow camping Crater Lake National Park snow camping

Overnight, we could hear the winds increasing, just as the forecast had predicted. It was foggy in the morning, with low visibility. We were lucky, however, that the rain held out until after we had our packs and sled ready for the snowshoe hike back out. By the time we reached the parking lot, we were soaking wet. We did a quick change of clothes at the Rim Village gift shop before returning the permit to the ranger station and heading back on the long drive home.

Snow camping is definitely more exhausting than summer backpacking, but there’s no arguing that winter is a fantastic time to see Crater Lake, and getting to experience it for two nights is indeed something I won’t forget.

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  • Crater Lake + snow = dream I never want to wake up from.