Crater Lake

  • Crater Lake -  - © William Mackesy
  • Crater Lake -  - © William Mackesy
  • Crater Lake -  - © William Mackesy
  • Crater Lake -  - © William Mackesy
  • Crater Lake -  - © William Mackesy
  • Crater Lake -  - © William Mackesy
  • Crater Lake -  - © William Mackesy
  • Crater Lake -  - © William Mackesy
  • Crater Lake -  - © William Mackesy

Key information: Crater Lake

  • Extraordinary circular lake under deep cliffs, inside a crater left by a massive volcanic explosion.
  • This day walk (or less) is around the crater rim is high in the mountains of Oregon, with magnificent views all round.
  • Beautiful changing colours of the lake far below you.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating87
  • Beauty35
  • Natural interest18
  • Human interest3
  • Charisma35
  • Negative points4
  • Total rating87
  • Note: Negs: popularity, some crowding

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Some 35 km/day or less
  • Maximum Altitude: 2,440m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
Crater Lake -  - © William Mackesy


As with many of the world's best walks, Crater Lake is a bit freaky. A huge volcano, Mt Mazama, exploded catastrophically some 7,700 years ago. Nothing especially unusual so far (other than size – it was the largest explosion in the Cascades for millions of years), but get this: it left a perfect crater rim, up to 9.7 km across, varying less than 300m in height in its entirety. Inside, beneath its cliffs, is a huge and very blue caldera lake, containing a new little ash cone. At 1,943 feet (592 meters) deep, Crater Lake is the seventh deepest lake in the world and the deepest in the United States.

Initially christened "Deep Blue Lake" by John Wesley Hillman, the first European American to lay eyes on it in 1853, Crater Lake has long been sacred to the Klamath tribe of Native Americans, who may have witnessed the explosion of Mount Mazama and the development of Crater Lake.

Due to several unique factors, most notably that it has no tributaries or inlets, the waters of Crater Lake are some of the purest in North America.

At 2,440m (8,000 ft), Crater Lake is the highest point for mile around; look one way and see the serried uplands of Oregon’s Cascade range; turn around and you are gazing across this wonder of nature.

You can walk round the lake in a day, enjoying the changing light and new angles; or make shorter expeditions if you prefer: the choice is yours.  There are many places to walk, depending on how you feel; the paths tend to wind through the pine forest of the outer slopes, emerging regularly to breathtaking views on the crater rim.  One of the best of the shorter walks is the one hour round trip from the Crater Lake Lodge to the peak to its south, the highest point of the rim, to discover the area’s best views.

The air is thinning here, so be prepared to be a bit breathless. 

Up to 500,000 people come here each year.  High times can be crowded.

A extract from Wild by Cheryl Strayed:

“My guidebook had been correct: my first sight of it was one of disbelief. The surface of the water sat 900 feet below where I stood on the rocky 7,100-foot-high rim. The jagged circle of the lake spread out beneath me in the most unspeakably pure ultramarine blue I’d ever seen. It was approximately six miles across, its blue interrupted only by the top of a small volcano, Wizard Island, that rose 700 feet above the water, forming a conical island upon which twisted foxtail pines grew. The mostly barren, undulating rim that surrounded the lake was dotted with these same pines and backed by distant mountains.”

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.


We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Crater Lake -  - ©William Mackesy

share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Crater Lake -  - ©William Mackesy...

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