There are just a few months out of the year when it’s ideal to visit Crater Lake National Park. April is not one of those months. Now, I knew this long before I headed up to the lake, and given the weather I had experienced on Day 7, my expectations were quite low. I wasn’t even sure if I’d get to see the lake. But taking a chance paid off.
This is the awesome, incredible view from Rim Village (above). In winter (unless you have cross-country skis), this is the only view of Crater Lake you’ll get. About all you can do is walk through the snow from the parking lot to the rim, and then just stand there.
You never know what the weather will be like at Crater Lake. It didn’t matter that it rained, sleeted, and snowed on my way up and over the rim. Once I reached the lake, luckily, the clouds parted, and a giant blue window opened up directly over the middle of the lake. In the distance I could see Wizard Island, the cinder cone that built up long ago, after the top of the mountain was blown away in a volcanic eruption.
The clouds around the edge still obscured the mountains surrounding Crater Lake. Also, from this viewpoint, I wasn’t able to see Phantom Ship, another often-photographed island near the southeast shore.
That “blue window” lasted just long enough for me to take some pictures. Within about 15 minutes, the sky was cloudy again, and the lake nearly disappeared. On my way out of the park, I stopped at Steele Information Center (the only building that remains open during the winter months, even though it’s nearly buried in snow). A ranger asked me if I was able to see the lake, and I was happy to say yes. I guess some people come all this way, only to gaze out at some very scenic fog, and nothing more.
No surprise, Crater Lake Lodge is closed for the snowy months of the year. The windows are shuttered, and the parking lot is unrecognizable, thanks to snow drifts that approach the building’s second story.
Perhaps the least photographed thing at Crater Lake is the, um, facilities. But I thought this was a good illustration of just how high the snow reaches.
And for even more perspective, check out this giant snow blowing machine, used to clear the roads. This thing is at least 15 feet high, yet it would be easy to lose it in a drift. Keep an eye out for these machines on the road in and out of the park.
– Snowfall averages 533 inches annually
– in 1950, Crater Lake set a snowfall record, with 903 inches in one calendar year
– On April 3, 1983, park officials measured 21 feet of snow on the ground at park headquarters.
The steam rising from the pavement in April is a good sign that the snow will be melting sometime soon.
Note: This trip was first published in 2007.