About the Site
Crater Lake National Park  


Park History

The Lake

The Boat

Wizard Island

The Phantom Ship

North Rim

East Rim

South Rim

West Rim

Llao Rock

Sun Notch

Mt. Scott

Park Mountains

Mt. Thielsen

Peripheral Views

Pumice Desert

The Pinnacles

Godfrey Glen

Crater Lake Lodge

Visitor Facilities


Rim Drive



Birds & Animals

Evening & Sunset



Crater Lake is located at about 6000 feet, and the rim runs between 7000 and 8000 feet. At this altitude the lake area receives a great deal of snow in the winter time. The deep blue of the lake against the white on the rim provides a spectacular contrast.

Crater Lake receives an enormous amount of snow at the altitude of the rim. In fact, about 495 inches (more than 40 feet) inches of snow are received in an average year on the rim of the lake, one quarter of which may be found on the ground at any one time. 73 feet of snow were recorded in the winter of 1932-1933; the record is 903 inches which fell in 1950. In April of 1983, a record snowpack of 21 feet (252 inches) was recorded on the rim of the lake. 530 inches a year of snow fall on the lake itself. This is equivalent to 73 inches of precipitation on the lake.

Although western Oregon has a very wet winter climate, and a great deal of snow falls in the higher altitudes of the Cascade mountains, more snow falls on the Crater Lake rim than in any other part of the entire state. In the winter, storms approach the Crater Lake area from the west. These include moist air from California and subtropical ocean regions. The Pacific Ocean sends a large amount of moisture laden air inland.

The Lake The lake is especially beautiful during the winter with the pure snow around the rim. The picture below looks northeast across the lake from the Rim Village area.

Although it might be expected that, given the cold climate of the park area during the winter and the high altitude of the lake, that it would freeze, the great depth of the waters prevent this. In fact, the last time the lake completely froze was in 1949. The Cascade Range blocks the arrival of Arctic air and its potential effects on the temperature of the waters of the lake.

One additional reason that the lake usually does not freeze in the winter is that the water in the lake stores summer heat which retards ice formation in the winter. This is aided by the lake's great depth and the large volume of water which it contains. Also, the currents on the surface of the lake are driven by strong winds characteristic of the winter season.

The lake froze solidly enough in 1949 that Dr. George Ruhle, the park naturalist, and another man were able to walk out onto the ice. Although 1949 was the last year the lake completely froze, 99% of the lake's surface was frozen in 99%(???).

The vegetation around the lake is also well adapted to the heavy snow cover. The mountain hemlock is very flexible, and the young trees can even bend over underneath the deep snow. The subalpine firs have a spire-like shape which allow the trees to handle the snow and wind.

Rim Village The only place along the rim of the lake which is accessible and features amenities for visitors during the winter is Rim Village. The restaurant and gift shop area (shown on the left) is partially open, even though the building is largely covered by snow. The road is plowed all the way to Crater Lake Lodge (on the right), although the lodge is not open in the winter.

The picture below shows the old restaurant and gift shop complex in Rim Village, plowed to allow visitation in the heart of winter. With the newer complex, built in 2006-2007, the parking lot has been moved away from the rim and behind the buildings.

The normal view of the lake from the rim is obscured by the height of the snowpack especially on the western rim. To provide visitors with an opportunity to see the lake a "tunnel" is dug through the snow to the rim's edge.

The picture below from the Rim Village area shows The Watchman (left) and Hillman Peak (right) with the Sinnott Memorial in the foreground. Wind at the top of The Watchman sometimes creates snowdrifts as high as 60 feet.

Facilities located on the south rim of the caldera make it practical to plow a route into them during the winter. Attempting to plow a route on the north rim during the winter would be very difficult given the enormous amount of snow which accumulates there.

Crater Lake Lodge Of course, Crater Lake Lodge is not open in the winter, but as in summer it is almost certainly the most beautiful and interesting of the man-made facilities in the park However, it provides a quite different appearance in the snow as can be seen below at the foot of Garfield Peak.

A similar, but much closer view of the lodge is shown below. It is interesting to see just how deep the snow on the roof of the hotel can get.

Although the lodge is not open in the winter the road is plowed all the way to the building, which provides a visual indication of just how deep the snow on the rim is.

The incredible depth of snow is one of the original reasons it took so long to build Crater Lake Lodge in the first place. The construction season here is hardly five months a year. It's easy to see from the picture below just how impractical it would have been to work on construction during the winter season.

Winter Landmarks Many familiar landmarks in and around the park take on a special appearance in winter. Below, the area in front of Crater Lake Lodge, covered by deep snow and traversed by cross-country ski trails, is shown below. In addition to the tracks of human visitors a close look at the snow in many places will show lots of animal activity as well. For example squirrel and pine marten tracks may be found in many places. That is a winter view of Garfield Peak in the background.

Mt. Thielsen to the north of the park peeks above the rim toward the center of the picture below.

Wizard Island and its crater are covered by snow which is punctuated by the many trees on the slopes of the volcano. It is not possible for visitors to the park to get to the island during the winter or even well into the summer.

The face of Llao Rock is too steep to accumulate much now except in crevices and shelves.

The picture below shows Llao Rock, but also shows Pumice Point in the foreground and Mt. Thielsen and Timber Crater beyond the rim.

Two of the park's highest mountains, Mt. Scott (center) and Garfield Peak (right side), are seen below, covered with snow.

One of the loveliest view of the lake in winter occurs when it is still and reflects the snow covered rim. In this picture the view stretches from Steel Bay on the left to Cloudcap on the right. Views such as this one has resulted in the lake being likened to a "sapphire in a winter wonderland setting" (Warfield, 1997).

Roads Most of the park is closed in the winter because of the enormous snow pack which lies on the roads. However, other types of vehicles such as snowmobiles are able to cross the park. Below is a picture of the north entrance to the park, closed in the winter, with the tracks of the snowmobiles which run along the road's route north and south during the winter.

Only the route to the Annie Spring Entrance Station is open during the winter. This route is approached by Highway 62 which leads from the Medford area in the south of Oregon.

An idea of just how deep the snowpack is even at the lower elevations near the entrance station can be obtained from the picture on the left of the booth at the entrance. The road beyond the station, plowed and bare of snow, is shown on the right.

This picture of the road plowed through the Munson Valley provides an idea of just how deep the snow is even below the rim in Crater Lake National Park. In places alongside the plowed roads snow may be piled as high as a three story building. This particular section, stretching from the area of the park headquarters to the Rim Village, may be covered by so much snow that it is not plowed until later in the day. In 1983, in fact, the rim was inaccessible for many weeks.

Snow covers administrative buildings in the Munson Valley complex.

The road is plowed up to Rim Village all the way to Crater Lake Lodge. Approximately 25 miles of roads are plowed during the winter in the park. It was in 1935 and 1936 that park roads were first begun to be plowed so as to be usable year round.

Winter sports are also popular in the park during the winter. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in particular are favored activities. Rim Drive, covered by many feet of snow, is a popular cross-country ski route during the winter, stretching 33 miles completely around the lake.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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  • Comments and other remarks can be sent via e-mail to parkvision@shannontech.com