Winter Backpacking at Crater Lake

Winter Backpacking at Crater Lake

Traveling to Oregon this winter? Looking for a once in a lifetime experience? Well, be sure to add an overnight winter backpacking trip at Crater Lake to the top of your list.

Backpacking Crater Lake in the winter is a magical experience. You’ll find snow covered peaks, tranquility, and an overnight journey that you’ll never forget.

Crater Lake is truly a unique destination. It’s Oregon’s only National Park and it’s the deepest lake in the US. It sits in a caldera that was formed long ago from a volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama. Its crystal clear water and two small islands (Wizard Island and Phantom Ship Island) make it a majestic scene straight out of a post card.

In the summer months Crater Lake, like most National Parks, can be crowded and overwhelming. But, in the winter months you have a chance to have it all to yourself and what better way to fully experience it then camping out.

For this trip there are some things you’ll want to know ahead of time, like weather, road and safety conditions. Any trip in the backcountry has some potential risk. But, if you do your homework and know what to look for, like avoiding avalanche terrain and snow cornices, then you’ll be out of risks way.

Make sure to pay attention to the weather, it can be variable. Even on a glorious sunny weekend clouds can briefly sock everything in on a moment’s notice, so be prepared. But, have your camera on you, because when the sun bursts back through it’s a majestic scene you’ll want to capture.

Don’t worry, anyone can do this if you’re up for an adventure. Just be prepared and the only thing you’ll have to worry about is if you brought enough hot chocolate.

Packing for winter backpacking at Crater Lake

Making sure you have the right equipment like a 4-season tent, lightweight cooking system, an overnight backpack, sleeping bag and pad will keep you warm, comfortable and make your trip awesome. Don’t own all this gear? No problem. At TruNorthwest Exchange we have you covered. We rent what you need for winter backpacking and we can even ship it right to you.

Dressing for winter conditions is all about having the right clothing from head to toe so you stay warm, dry and cozy. Waterproof jacket and pants, an insulated jacket, comfy base layers, gloves and a warm beanie are some basics.

Food and water. Bring lots of delicious high calories snacks and easy to cook warm hearty meals for around camp. And of course, stay hydrated and drink lots of water.

See Winter Backpacking Tips for additional guidelines on what to pack and how to stay warm and prepared for your winter backpacking trip.

Getting to Crater Lake

You can enter Crater Lake through the South entrance in the wintertime, from HWY 62. You can leave your car parked overnight only at Park Headquarters. From there, it’s time to explore this majestic National Park by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing into camp.

Passes & Permits

A backcountry camping permit is required. It is free, non-reservable and you can grab it at the park headquarters during business hours.

A National Parks pass is also required. You can grab one for $20 at the entrance station to the park.

How to get to camp

Cross Country skiing or Snowshoeing are the easiest and best ways to get around Crater Lake in the winter. If you’re not a savvy skier, then snowshoeing makes it’s easy. If you can hike, you can snowshoe.

You will want to bring your own XC skis or snowshoes or rent ahead of time (Pine Mountain Sports in Bend or Mountain Shop in Portland).

Where to camp

You’re here, parked, permitted and ready to explore. Now where do I camp? Per regulation you must camp at least 1 mile from the nearest paved road and at least 100 hundred feet from the edge of the rim, safety first! Camping somewhere protected from the wind will make things a lot more comfortable. So, find a spot to pitch your tent near trees or build a protective wall using snow.

Once you’re at camp take some and relax. It’s been no joke getting here and you’ve earned some chill out time. So, tell those stories and laugh with friends, take photos of majestic Crater Lake, sip some whiskey or just put your feet up.

Winter backpacking at Crater Lake is an absolutely incredible experience that most don’t participate in. It can take a more adventurous hearty soul to want to experience a night in the snow, but the rewards are so worth it!

Tranquility, snowcapped views for days, an unforgettable outdoor adventure, and bragging rights make this journey one that will live in your memory forever.

So, when you’re ready to go, check us out at and make your backpacking equipment reservations. We make it easy and ship your gear right to you. And, make sure to tell us all about it, because we can’t wait to hear about your awesome winter camping adventure at Crater Lake.


Happy trails!

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