Rangers' Secrets: Crater Lake National Park

As the deepest lake in the United States and one of the clearest bodies of water in the world, it's no surprise that Crater Lake is the centerpiece of Oregon's only national park.

Most visitors plan their trip to Crater Lake National Park in the summer—the only season in which roads and hiking trails are completely free of snow. The area receives an average of 44 feet of snowfall per year and snow often stays on the ground from September to July.

While a summer visit combines spectacular views with spectacular weather, Park Ranger Dave Grimes also highly recommends a trip to Crater Lake in its "determining season."

"When you visit in midsummer, you don't get a sense of how important the winter is to the park," he said, explaining that the harsh weather is responsible for the clarity and depth of the lake, as well as the area's unique plants and animals.

No matter what season you go, try Grimes' recommended trips to make the most of your trip and to avoid the crowds.

Snowshoe the Crater Rim
While you can opt for a short, ranger-guided snowshoe walk, more adventurous travelers will prefer a self-guided 3-4 day trip around the perimeter of Crater Lake. While summer visitors are not allowed to camp on the rim of the lake, those who brave the winter can have a campsite with a view. Throughout the journey, you're likely to have complete privacy. Only a couple hundred people do this trip each year, Grimes said. The route is best in March and April.

Hike the West Rim Trail
This unpublicized path is normally open from July through September and extends from the better known Discovery Point Trail. Discovery Point Trail begins in Rim Village and ends a mile later at a lookout. At this point, most people turn back. If you continue on to North Junction, however, the crowds disappear and you get some of the best views in the park. Not only will you see classic landmarks such as Wizard Island, but also the Pacific Ocean to the West and several nearby mountain ranges. This 12-mile roundtrip hike will take a full day.

For more information on any of these activities or locations, visit the visitor's center in Crater Lake National Park.