Winter Play Options at Mt. Mazama, AKA Crater Lake National Park, OR

Matthew Oliphant | BackcountryBackcountry

When you think of winter recreation in the Oregon Cascades, your thoughts and imagination might immediately spring for Mt. Hood (Wy’East), Mt. Bachelor, Three Sisters Wilderness, Hoodoo, or the Willamette Pass area. While these areas are fantastic and hard-to-beat places for winter adventuring activities of all kinds, there is one legendary spot in Oregon that flies under the radar and offers some of the finest backcountry and tranquil winter experiences in the High Cascades of the Beaver State! I’m referring to Crater Lake National Park (Mt. Mazama – ancestral lands of the Klamath and Modoc tribes) in the South Central Cascade mountain range in Oregon.

Wizard Island emerging from the clouds – Photo by Matt Oliphant Photography

I will offer four solid winter adventuring ideas when visiting this spectacular caldera.

  1. Raven Trail – This short 2.7 roundtrip mile trek (elevation gain 564 ft~) through stoic mountain hemlock and other coniferous trees to the rim feeds you right near the Crater Lake Lodge. Once you’ve made it to the rim, you’ve got lots of options to continue south along the rim toward the Rim Village and beyond. Or, if you are feeling ambitious you can attempt to summit Garfield Peak @ 8051 ft. If you plan to do this peak, please be advised that this is an avalanche-prone area (uneven cornices and icy cliffs)
  2. Discovery Point – This ~2.4 miles out and back (elevation gain 337~ ft) hike begins at the Rim Village. You can snowshoe, cross-country ski, hike, etc along the rim road to the famous point that overlooks the entire caldera in all its glory.
  3. Wizard Island Overlook – 4.6 miles roundtrip trek (elevation gain 550 ~ ft). Start at the Rim Village and follow the rim road 2.3 miles (north) where you will be gifted with a stellar view of this iconic cinder cone coupled with many different angles of Crater Lake and Mt. Scott as well.
  4. Circumnavigate the entire rim of Crater Lake via the rim road. Please be advised that the entire eastern and northern parts of the rim are the most remote and receive the least amount of human travel. Secondly, there are no plowing services throughout the majority of the rim road nor are there any national park services available (especially after the park closes for the day) in the event something does happen. Avalanche danger is much higher on the south to southeast parts of the caldera. Be prepared for all scenarios when venturing deep at Crater Lake NP.

While there are many additional ways to recreate in the winter months at Crater Lake, I believe these four solid suggestions will give you lots of adventuresome ideas to explore! Happy snow trails!

Crater Lake during alpenglow – Photo by Matt Oliphant Photography

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