Winter Backcountry Camping

Backcountry Camping regulations are different in the winter months (November through May). When the Rim Drive is closed to automobiles and bicycles for the season, it becomes a trail for snowshoers and cross-country skiers. Camping along the rim is allowed with a valid permit. Snowshoers and skiers must travel at least 1 mile from the nearest plowed road in order to camp, and must camp at least 100 feet from the edge of the rim.

 

Getting Here

Please use caution when travelling to Crater Lake National Park during the winter. All vehicles must carry chains or have winter traction tires installed on their vehicle. For the latest road restrictions and closures, check out Oregon Department of Transportation Trip Check website and the Crater Lake current conditions page.

Highway 62 and the road from highway 62 to Park Headquarters remain open during the winter months. The road from Park Headquarters to Rim Village is also open, however after large snowstorms, the road may close temporarily. All other roads in the park are closed during the winter.

 
Two cars parked in a parking lot with high walls of snow around them

Overnight Parking

During the winter, overnight parking is allowed only at park headquarters. Overnight parking at Rim Village is prohibited. In addition to their backcountry permit, overnight campers will be given a parking pass to display in their windshield. Those wanting to access West Rim Drive will need to ski or snowshoe up the one mile Raven Trail.

 

Winter Hazards

Weather conditions can change rapidly. Always carry adequate clothing, food and water. Check your group’s skill level and supplies before traveling into any hazard areas.

 
Snow cornice overhanging the caldera rim

Snow Cornices
A cornice is an overhanging ledge of snow on the edge of a ridge, cliff, or crest of a mountain. Cornices form by wind blowing snow over the leeward edge in successive layers. They can be very dangerous to those traveling above and below them. A person putting weight on top of a cornice can cause it to break off and collapse, causing a major fall, with no ground beneath, just snow or ice.
Snow cornices can be deadly. Stay back from caldera edges at all times.

Avalanches
Avalanches don’t happen by accident, and most human involvement is a matter of choice, not chance. Most avalanche accidents are caused by slab avalanches, which are triggered by the victim or a member of the victim’s party. Any avalanche may cause injury or death and even small slides may be dangerous.

  • Be familiar with and always practice safe route finding skills.
  • Be aware of changing conditions, and carry avalanche rescue gear and know how to use it.
  • Avoid hazard areas by using avalanche bypass routes when available.

Weather
Weather in the winter can change very rapidly. The park can experience blue skies that quickly change to whiteout conditions over the course of only a few hours. Always be prepared for any weather condition. During whiteout conditions, having proficient navigation skills with a map and compass can be crucial. While useful, GPS devices require batteries and can fail. Always carry a map and compass. Before your visit, please check the latest weather forecast for the park.

Have a Backup
With constant changing weather conditions and hazards, not all trips go as planned. When planning your trip, plan a backup route or campsite in case conditions warrant the change. With longer trips, it is advisable to allow for an extra day on your itinerary. Know when it’s time to turn back. Playing it safe means you’ll be able to come back and enjoy Crater Lake National Park another day.

To learn more, visit our winter safety page.

 

Trip Ideas

West Rim Drive Distance: Varies
This trip is an out and back. Most skiers and snowshoers go out for one or two nights and camp somewhere between Discovery Point and North Junction. Camping between Rim Village and Discovery Point is not permitted. Caution must be used when navigating around the avalanche area on Watchman Peak.

East Rim Drive Distance: Varies
This trip is an out and back. Most skiers and snowshoers go out for one or two nights and camp somewhere between the summit of the first climb and Sun Notch. Camping with lake views is possible between Garfield and Applegate Peak as well as Sun Notch. Caution must be used near the Vidae Falls and Sun Notch avalanche areas. A bypass route is available.

Around the Lake Distance: 31 miles, 32 miles with avalanche bypass
Often popular in the springtime, the trip all the way around Crater Lake is both challenging and rewarding. Most groups travel clockwise over the course of three or four days. Caution must be used in avalanche areas.

Pacific Crest Trail Distance: Varies
The PCT allows groups to access areas of the parks backcountry that are seldom used in the winter. This trail can be challenging at times, often not having any fresh tracks. Caution must be used in avalanche areas.

Last updated: March 12, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Crater Lake National Park
PO Box 7

Crater Lake , OR 97604

Phone:

(541) 594-3000

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