Frequently Asked Questions & Regulations

 

Permits

Where do I get a permit?
Backcountry camping permits can be obtained in person at the Canfield Ranger Station located at park headquarters.

I will be arriving after you are closed, how do I get a backcountry permit?
We do not issue permits for after hours. You must come into the office during our regular business hours (8:00am - 5:00pm in summer and 8:00am - 4:00pm in winter). Only one member of your party needs to be present to receive a permit, however they must have contact and vehicle information for all group members. Otherwise you must wait until the next day to receive a permit.

Can I reserve a backcountry camping permit in advance?
We do not reserve permits in advance. Permits are free of charge and only issued the day of or the day before the trip start date.

Is there a limit to the number of permits issued at a given time?
We do not currently have a quota on the total number of permits given out at any one time, however there are limits to the number of permits issued at the established backcountry campsites in the summer. If the established backcountry campsite you hoped to stay in is full, you may need to make alternate plans for dispersed camping in the area.

How large can my group be?
The maximum group size for backcountry camping is 8 people. Larger groups must split into smaller groups, which must camp and eat at least 1/2 mile apart or apply for a special use permit.

Where do I pay my park entrance fee?
Park entrance fees may be paid at the entrance stations when you enter the park or online at Your Pass Now.

Where do I need to park my car?
During the winter months, all overnight vehicles must be left at park headquarters located three miles below the rim. In the summer, vehicles may be left at designated trailhead parking areas or near by pullouts. A valid park entrance pass and backcountry camping parking permit must be displayed on your dashboard.

Do I have to check in with the backcountry office after my trip ends?
No, but we appreciate it. When you check in after your trip you can provide us with feedback that can then be passed on to other hikers who ask questions about trail conditions.

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Where to Camp

Can I camp with a view of the lake?
During the summer summer months it is not permitted to camp along the rim of the caldera. Camping along the rim is permitted during the winter as long as you are at least 100 feet from the rim of the caldera, out of sight of any other campers, and out of sight of the trail.

What's the difference between a designated or established backcountry campsite and dispersed camping?
Designated or established backcountry campsites are official, mapped campsites in popular areas that are heavily used and have permitted fire rings. Using established backcountry campsites helps to restrict human impact in high use areas to a small area.

Dispersed camping is camping outside of established campgrounds. When dispersed camping, you must be at least 1 mile from any maintained road and you must be at least 100 feet from any water source or meadow, unless the meadow is covered by at least 1 foot of snow. Campfires are prohibited when dispersed camping and you must be out of sight of all trails, ski routes, and other campers.

Are any area closed to backcountry camping?
Yes, camping is prohibited in Research Natural Areas and within 1/4 mile of Boundary Springs, Sphagnum Bog, and Thousand Springs. Camping is also prohibited inside the caldera.

Are there other camping options nearby?
The park is surrounded on all sides by National Forests. These lands provide many opportunities for camping. During the winter, alternative camping options are located at the Oregon Sno-Parks located outside the North, South and West park entrances.

Can I use my hammock?
Yes, but you need to protect the trees you use by wrapping padding around the tree where you will place your straps. This will help to prevent damage to the trees bark.

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Food Storage and Wildlife

Are bear canisters required?
Bear canisters are not requires but in order to protect you and the wildlife you must store you food, garbage, and toiletries in one of three ways overnight. You may either store these items in a bear canister or hang the food and scented items in a bag suspended from a tree at least 10 feet from the ground and 4 feet away from the tree trunk. Alternatively, you may leave your food and scented items in your vehicle with the windows rolled up and doors locked.

Do I have to worry about bears?
The only bear species found at Crater Lake are black bears. They are generally afraid of humans and will run away if you make noise, but will protect themselves if they or their cubs are threatened. The best way to protect the wildlife in the park is to properly store your food or scented items.

Are the mosquitos bad?
Mosquitoes can be prevalent in the park from snowmelt in early summer to the first snow in the fall. Wearing long-sleeves, loose fitting clothing and insect repellent are all helpful methods to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
 

Leave No Trace

What are the best ways I can help protect the park while backcountry camping?
Following the seven Leave No Trace principles will help to lower your impact and protect the resources in the park as well as provide a more enjoyable experience for other visitors. The seven Leave No Trace principles are:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare - Planning ahead for your visit to the park is the first step in helping preserve the park and your experience here. Know and follow all park regulations. Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.

  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces - Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rocks, gravel, and snow. Stay on trails to keep from trampling fragile vegetation. Avoid shortcutting trails; shortcuts create new trails and increase trail erosion.

  3. Dispose of Waste Properly - Keep the park clean! Pack it in; pack it out. Pack out all trash and food scraps from backcountry areas. When backpacking, deposit solid human waste in a hole at least 6-8 inches deep into the soil and 200 feet from water, camp, and park trails, pack out all toilet paper.

  4. Leave What You Find - All plants, animals, rocks, and artifacts are protected in Crater Lake National Park. Preserve the sense of discovery for others by leaving all natural and cultural artifacts as you find them. Take pictures, write poetry, or sketch to help you remember what you discovered here.

  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts - Campfires are prohibited in the parks backcountry, except in established fire rings at designated backcountry campsites.

  6. Respect Wildlife - Crater Lake is home to many animals, and we are visitors to their home. Carry binoculars and observe wildlife from a distance. If an animal changes its behavior because of your presence, you are too close. Wild animals find plenty of their natural food in the park; human food does not give them the proper nutrients to survive the winter, so keep animals healthy by not feeding them.

  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors - People visit Crater Lake for different reasons. Preserve the park experience for all visitors by showing courtesy towards others. Excessive noise and damaged surroundings take away from everyone's experience. Preserve a sense of solitude by hiking in small groups. Keep noise levels down when hiking and camping.

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Navigation

Can I go below the rim of the caldera?
Entering the caldera (going below the rim of the crater) is prohibited, except on the Cleetwood Cove Trail, when the trail is open to hiking in the summer.

Do you have topo maps for sale?
National Geographic topo maps are for sale in the Steel Visitor Center at park headquarters, and at the Rim Visitor Center.

Is there cell service in the park?
Cell phone service at Crater Lake is limited and it varies with each service provider. Do not rely on being able to use your phone.

Is there a hiker shuttle?
No, but often hikers are able to find other friendly visitors willing to drive them to their location.

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Fires

Can I have a campfire?
Campfires are prohibited in the park's backcountry. Backpacking stoves and charcoal grills are permitted (provided that all the charcoal is packed out). Be aware of changing fire restrictions during the summer season.

Do I have to worry about wildland fires or smoke?
In recent years, fire activity has increased within the park boundary and surrounding areas. Anticipate for there to be some fire activity or at least smoke within the park during the summer months, usually from July to October. We recommend hikers to be check our webpage or call the backcountry office for updates to fire activity during the summer and fall.

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Winter Travel

Are the ski trail groomed?
The ski trails in the park are not groomed and backcountry travelers should expect to have to break new trails. As a courtesy to cross country skiers, it is asked that snowshoers stay out of ski tracks.

Can I rent skis or snowshoes in the park?
Snowshoes can be rented at the Rim Cafe and Gift Shop when it is open. There are also several other retailers that rent skis and snowshoes in the communities surrounding the park.

How long does it take to go all the way around the lake?
It often takes skiers 3 days and 2 nights and snowshoers 4 days and 3 nights to make it all the way around the rim. Times will vary based on group abilities, snow and weather conditions. This is not a trip for beginners. Come prepared with backup plans if the weather and conditions change.

Where do I park my car during the winter?
During the winter, overnight parking is allowed only at park headquarters. When you receive your permit, the ranger will show you where to park you car to allow room to the snow plows to move around.

How do I get to the rim from park headquarters?
Backcountry campers can get from park headquarters to rim by skiing or snowshoeing up the Raven Trail. The trail is one mile long, climbs approximately 650 feet in elevation and passes through avalanche terrain. If the road to the rim is open, you may drive up to the rim, drop off gear and other members of your group and then return to park headquarters to park your vehicle. You will then either need to ski or snowshoe up using the Raven Trail or find a ride from another visitor.

Do you require any equipment?
There is no required equipment to travel in the backcountry but we do highly recommend having with you an avalanche transceiver, avalanche probe, shovel and the proper training to go with it. In addition, the ten essentials (navigation, headlamp, sun protection, first-aid, knife, fire, shelter, extra food, extra water, extra clothes) should be carried with you any time you travel into the backcountry.

Are there bypasses around avalanche areas?
The avalanche zones on East Rim Drive (Vidae Ridge, Applegate Peak/Sun Notch, Dutton Cliffs/Kerr Notch) have established bypass routes. The Garfield Peak (Raven Trail) and The Watchman do not have any established avalanche bypass routes.

Do you do an avalanche forecast?
The park does not provide any avalanche forecast or hazard rating. You must use your own judgement if deciding to travel in avalanche terrain. We recommend that any group traveling in the backcountry have the proper avalanche training and equipment.

Is route finding in the winter hard?
Depending on a number of factors, including weather conditions and your location along the rim, route finding during the winter can be difficult. While traveling on the parks ski and snowshoe routes, changing snow conditions can sometimes make it easy to lose the trail. The avalanche bypass routes require traveling into the forest, where landmarks may not be visible. Be prepared to navigate in these conditions, and don’t rely on tracks made by a previous groups. Bring at the least a map and compass and be familiar with route finding techniques.

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Things to Leave at Home

Can I take my dog into the backcountry?
Pets are generally not allowed into the backcountry of the park, with one exception. Dogs are permitted to be on the main Pacific Crest Trail, not the alternate Rim Trail.

Can I ride my bike on the trail?
Bicycles and motorized vehicles are not allowed in the park’s backcountry.

Can I fly my drone?
No. The launching, landing, and operation of unmanned aircraft on lands and waters administered by the NPS is prohibited.

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Last updated: May 26, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Crater Lake National Park
PO Box 7

Crater Lake , OR 97604

Phone:

(541) 594-3000

Contact Us