Wild Logo v4

Crater Lake National Park – Summer Season Guide: What to Expect?

The warm season at Crater Lake National Park is short. The busiest months July and August are characterized by crowds, lines, and traffic jams. June and September are less busy, but most amenities remain open.
itiswild.com Crater Lake Warm Season Guide
Crater Lake Caldera View
Source: unsplash

Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon experiences two seasons rather than four. 

The warmer season generally runs from late June through September, with the colder season covering the period from November through April. 

The busiest months July and August are characterized by crowds, lines, and traffic jams. June and September are less busy, but most amenities remain open.

May, parts of June, and October are transitional periods.

Crater Lake National Park Visits by Month Diagram
Visits by Month Table

Related: Crater Lake – Winter Season Guide

Pros of Visiting Crater Lake in Summer:

  • Roads and facilities are frequently open throughout the park
  • Visitors can see Crater Lake from many vantage points
  • Comfortable temperatures generally prevail
  • Hiking, biking, camping, and enjoying the lodge facilities are possible
  • Excellent food options exist, though reservations may be required
  • Ease of travel to other areas in southern Oregon

Cons of Visiting Crater Lake in Summer:

  • The short “summer” season leads to crowded roads, overfilled parking lots, and slow drivers rubbernecking for bears
  • Arriving without reservations often leads to delays
  • Many tours, talks, and activities fill quickly
  • Those who fail to bring a jacket may occasionally have to contend with unexpected summer snow flurries

Backpacker Girl Looking at Crater Lake at Sunset Wizar Island and Watchman Peak in the Background
Source: dreamstime

Things to Do in Crater Lake in Summer:

  • Bird and nature watching
  • Taking available tours, including those along Rim Drive or on Crater Lake
  • Enjoying ranger-led programs when available
  • Hiking along trails
  • Enjoying waterfalls, especially early in the season
  • Sharing memorable moments watching sunrises and sunsets along at Rim Village or other overlooks
  • Experiencing the geology of the caldera and the volcanic pinnacles

Within the summer season, a period between late May and early October, weather conditions and visitor usage patterns do vary month-by-month. Some of these trends and additional information are included below. 

Related: Crater Lake – Winter Season Guide

Crater Lake in May

Crater Lake, Oregon in May - Tourist taking pictures and posing for photos with the lake and fog in the background
Source: dreamstime
  • Average Daily High: 50°F
  • Average Daily Low: 28°F
  • Average Snowfall: 20 inches
  • Average Snow Depth: 76 inches
  • Average Lake Surface Temperature: 40°F

Oregon Highway 62 remains open throughout the year, except for periods of intense and significant snowfall, allowing guests to enter the park at the Annie Spring Entrance Station. 

This route should remain open and accessible to the Steel Visitor Center at the Park Headquarters, at an elevation of 6,450 feet above sea level, as well as the road to Rim Village, at 7,100 feet in elevation. 

On occasion, this zig-zagging road that climbs over 600 feet to Rim Village will become inaccessible. 

Visitors should consult the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Tripcheck site before driving to the park and always ask about updated road conditions at the point of entry or the visitor center.

May is a transitional month. Visitors should have realistic expectations and be prepared to turn around. 

A great place to stop is along Highway 62, before entering the park, to admire the Ponderosa pine standing tall in the snowfall. 

After entering the park, a popular place to visit is Ponderosa Picnic Area. Only 4,400 feet in elevation, this is one of the park’s “warmer” areas and the best place to see the great diversity of plant species. 

Most park trails remain covered in deep snow in May. Winter fat tire biking is not permitted within the park.

Dining options and accommodations are limited until late May. The park’s only year-round establishment is the Rim Village Café and Gift Shop. During periods of late snowfall, guests may still need to access this facility through a snow tunnel. 

Crater Lake Lodge and the Dining Room opens in mid-May, allowing overnight stays at Rim Village. The Cabins at Mazama Village and Annie Creek Restaurant open a little later in May. 

Those traveling to these destinations should secure advance reservations or prepare for a long drive to Medford, Grants Pass, Ashland, or Klamath Falls. 

Crater Lake in June

A cascading waterfall in Crater Lake National Park Oregon - Vidae Falls
Source: dreamstime
  • Average Daily High: 58°F
  • Average Daily Low: 34°F
  • Average Snowfall: 4 inches
  • Average Snow Depth: 24 inches
  • Average Lake Surface Temperature: 45°F

Depending on weather conditions and the amount of snow and ice present, the North Entrance Road and West Rim Drive should open early in the month. 

Plowing of some sections of West Rim Drive begins in mid-April, though most sections may not open until mid-June. 

Rim Village offers spectacular lake views, with snow still found along much of the caldera and Wizard Island. 

Most of the park’s 90-plus miles of hiking trails remain closed since they are hard to follow in the snow-covered terrain. 

As plows continue to work their way around East Rim Drive, bicyclists may ride along areas closed to motor vehicles as long as those stretches of pavement are snow-free.

June is a great time of the year to experience sections of the park that will soon overflow with visitors. 

When the southern section of Rim Drive opens to bikes or is clear of snow, Vidae Falls is a 3.1-mile journey that involves some elevation gain from the Steel Visitor Center. 

The most visible waterfall at Crater Lake, this roadside cascade usually has its greatest presence as melting ice and snow add to the water flow. In most years, the flow reduces to a trickle in the latter part of the summer. 

By late June, the impressive viewpoint at the Sinnott Memorial Overlook along the lake opens. Completed in 1931, this sheltered area includes panels that describe the geology of the region and provide impressive views of Crater Lake.

Crater Lake in July

Crater Lake Reflection, Phantom Ship Island, Boat Blue Sky Oregon Pacific Northwest
Source: dreamstime
  • Average Daily High: 69°F
  • Average Daily Low: 41°F
  • Average Snowfall: 0.2 inches
  • Average Snow Depth: 1 inch
  • Average Lake Surface Temperature: 54°F

As snow and ice dissipate around Crater Lake, East Rim Drive typically opens for vehicular traffic early this month. By the middle of the month, the park’s roads, facilities, and trails should all open. 

Pockets of snow will remain in a few shaded areas, and, on rare occasions, snowfall may even occur during July. 

Vehicular traffic along Rim Drive noticeably increases as visitors drive along this 33-mile route that circumnavigates Crater Lake. 

Roadside pullovers with panoramic views of the lake become more crowded, as do parking lots, campgrounds, lodge and cabin rooms, and tours.

New areas open for visitors by early or mid-July. The Pinnacles Access Road opens along East Rim Drive, allowing access to 100-foot high rock needles – also known as fossil fumaroles – created from volcanic ash. 

Traffic along this road can become especially frustrating for people trying to see everything the park has to offer in a single day. 

Indeed, by July, drivers should exercise great caution along the narrow and winding park roads, especially since many segments will include bicyclists and few areas have shoulders for pulling over. 

Natural beauty brings many guests to Crater Lake during the busy season. Guests who want to see the lake from many perspectives without driving along the entirety of Rim Drive can reserve tickets on the Crater Lake Trolley, which offers two-hour tours around the lake, with opportunities to stop for pictures. 

Getting out and stretching while enjoying a view of the Phantom Ship at the overlook near the junction with Pinnacles Access Road is very popular. 

By early July, another in-park lodging option opens when the 214 sites in the Mazama Campground allow for tent and RV camping. Located seven miles south of Rim Village, this area near Annie Creek comes to life as visitors arrive in increasing numbers.

Anglers who want to cast a line in Crater Lake may walk from a parking space along the roadway on the northern side of the lake, along the 1.1-mile Cleetwood Trail. 

The Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout swimming in the caldera are invasive, and guests do not need a fishing license or worry about a limit on catches. 

Only artificial bait is permitted since the National Park Service wants to prevent the introduction of other non-native species. 

Crater Lake in August

A brave cliff jumper leaps into Crater Lake on a scenic summer day inside Crater Lake National Park.
Source: dreamstime
  • Average Daily High: 69°F
  • Average Daily Low: 41°F
  • Average Snowfall: 0.1 inches
  • Average Snow Depth: 0 inches
  • Average Lake Surface Temperature: 59°F

Plants, animals, and humans at Crater Lake take full advantage of the warmer months. Mule deer, black-tailed deer, elk, black bears, and mountain lions are on the move. 

Even smaller residents – such as the Cascades frog and Pacific tree frog – hop around during these warmer days. 

With pre-dawn temperatures still usually below 50°F, a warm cup of coffee is the perfect partner for those who stand along the overviews at Rim Drive to watch the first light hit the western side of the caldera and Wizard Island. 

Recreation opportunities increase in August and continue into early September. During this peak period of visitation, scheduled runs of the Trolley are almost always full. 

Lines of visitors walk along Cleetwood Trail to and from the shore of the lake for scheduled departures of cruises that offer tours of the lake. 

Those planning to secure tickets for standard lake toursWizard Island tours, and the Wizard Island shuttle should confirm availability and secure tickets before making the hike. 

Some tours were not offered in 2022, so knowing their scheduled times is imperative. 

Crater Lake in September

Crater Lake National Park in September
Source: unsplash
  • Average Daily High: 63°F
  • Average Daily Low: 37°F
  • Average Snowfall: 3 inches
  • Average Snow Depth: 0 inches
  • Average Lake Surface Temperature: 56°F

Fall arrives quickly at Crater Lake. Before the end of September, many areas of the park will experience their first snowfall. 

Evening temperatures become noticeably cooler as the month progresses, even if daytime temperatures remain in the 60s. 

Crowds thin out by the middle of the month, a time when those parked at the overlooks will notice migratory birds and still see deer and other wildlife on the move. 

Flowering fireweed becomes prominent in some areas, while the few aspens will transition into their fall colors. 

Within a few days, warm weather can transition into windy thunderstorms at lower levels and blankets of snow at higher elevations. 

The number of ranger-led programs declines as facilities also begin to close. This is a great time to enjoy the last loop around Rim Drive or hike along the less-populated trails before they close. 

Southern Oregon’s fire season continues into early October, so hazy days may impact air quality. 

More seats may become available on the Crater Lake Trolley before service ends. 

The campgrounds and cabins at Mazama close before the end of the month, as does the restaurant at Annie Creek. 

On the second and third Thursdays of September, vehicle access along East Rim Drive is halted for a special event, Ride the Rim

This bike and pedestrian-friendly event allows guests to enjoy the road without worrying about vehicles coming around the corner. 

Crater Lake in October

Visiting Oregon Woman Tourist Looking at Phantom Ship Rock Island Crater Lake National Park
Source: dreamstime
  • Average Daily High: 52°F
  • Average Daily Low: 31°F
  • Average Snowfall: 21 inches
  • Average Snow Depth: 2 inches
  • Average Lake Surface Temperature: 50°F

In colder years with early significant snowfall, most of Rim Drive and the North Entrance Road will close long before November 1. In some years, these roads have closed as early as October 1. 

Travelers planning to add a Crater Lake visit to their itinerary will need to examine Oregon’s Tripcheck system for road updates. 

They will also need to make sure they have plenty of fuel before arriving. The general store at Annie Creek that offers the only place to purchase gasoline will close in October, and the date may vary by weather conditions. 

Snow reappears on the landscape in noticeable amounts, even if it continues to melt in areas that receive direct sunlight. 

In years when East Rim Drive and the North Entrance Road close to vehicular traffic early due to snow, this is a great time for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

By the middle of the month, the Sinnott Memorial Overlook closes for the year, in part to prevent people from slipping on ice patches. Indeed, visitors in October should take extra care when walking, hiking, or driving in unexpected icy areas. 

Crater Lake Lodge closes early in October. By the time the rooms and dining facilities in this impressive building shut down for the winter, snow is usually a common sight throughout Rim Village. 

Roads become impassable, bears prepare to hibernate, and cold breezes punctuate the days. 

Parks in Oregon:

Lakes in Oregon:

Hiking Trails in Oregon:

You Might Also Like: