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Crater Lake, OR -- West vs. East Rim Drive? June or August?

Crater Lake, OR -- West vs. East Rim Drive? June or August?

Mar 16th, 2011, 06:26 AM
  #1  
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Crater Lake, OR -- West vs. East Rim Drive? June or August?

Hi there --

My husband and I (and our two young children) are planning a 2.5 week trip to Oregon. We haven't yet decided whether we're going to travel in June or August. We'd prefer to travel in June because the crowds will be much less and the timing just simply works better for our family. But Crater Lake seems like a must-see and we definitely want to include it in our travel plans (we'd also like to include time on the coast, in Portland and the Columbia Gorge).

In the hopes that June travel dates will work, I have a few questions about Crater Lake. If we travel in June, we'll likely travel from June 10th-June 26th. We'd plan to visit Crater Lake close to the end of our trip (read: June 22nd or 23rd). From what I've read, it sounds like the "East Rim Drive" will still be closed due to snow. But there seems to be some suggestion that the "West Rim Drive" usually opens in mid-June (I'm actually surprised that I can't locate more information about east vs. west!). So! Here are my questions:

- What is the difference between the West Rim and East Rim Drives?
- Is it fairly certain that the West Rim Drive will be open by late-June?
- Is it worth the drive to Crater Lake if we can only do the West Rim drive (or is it seriously worth postponing our entire trip to August in order to be able to do the East Rim drive too)? [I should add here that while my husband and I are avid hikers, with the two (very) young kids, we'll likely be limited to the car in any event, so the inability to hike in June doesn't make a difference here]
- if we do decide to postpone our trip to August, will the crowds at Crater Lake be crazy? I should add here that we really do love solitude during our travels and so if there is enough to see (i.e. some beautiful scenic views) in June, we'd likely prefer that...

This will be our first true trip since our second son was born and we're VERY excited! I've been quite active on fodors' forums in the distant past, but haven't been in a while... I can't wait to hear back with responses from all of you "Oregon experts"! Thanks in advance...

Jenn
alwaysafrica is offline  
Mar 16th, 2011, 07:27 AM
  #2  
 
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I live in northern Klamath County-north of Crater Lake NP.
The northern entrance to the Park off Highway 138 normally does not open until the first week of July unless we have a real extended warm spell. The southern entrance off Highway 62 is open all year. They use a rotary snow plow from the Park HQ up to the Lodge parking lot on the south side of the lake and also several miles on the west side up to the view of Wizard Island.
The things you miss seeing if you can't go on the east side are the "phantom ship" formation and the trail down to the boat ride. In August it will be open all the way around but there will be throngs of tourists-some on tour buses.
For solitude and the chance to show kids snow, come in June.
If the north entrance is open, consider coming up the east side of the Cascades through Bend on your way up to The Dalles. Somebody hikes in the Park every day of the year-it's just that now they are using snowshoes.
tomfuller is offline  
Mar 16th, 2011, 07:39 AM
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Thanks so much for your reply... I'm sorry to show some ignorance but I find that the reading isn't overly clear on this. You talk about "entrances" into the park, but is this the same as the Rim Drive? Some reading material refers to the 33-mile Rim Drive (and states that it's only open mid-July-October) and some refer to East and West Rim drives? Are these the same as the northern and southern entrances? Sorry for not knowing the proper terminology - I tried to figure it out for a while before posting, but then gave up

Thanks again!
Jenn
alwaysafrica is offline  
Mar 16th, 2011, 08:19 AM
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Crater Lake National Park has two entrances: one from the south (off hwy 62) and one from the north (from hwy 138). The south entrance is the shortest route up to Rim Village, where the Lodge and most other park services are located. The north entrance accesses Rim Drive at the north end of the lake, close to where the boats run from. The west Rim Drive (around the west side of the lake) is plowed/cleared first, so it and the north entrance usually open before the east Rim Drive, which as Tom said, often doesn't open until July.

Another thing to consider in your planning is weather. Usually no worries for August, but in June it can be iffy. And when the mountain is covered with clouds, you may not be able to see the surface of the lake from Rim Drive.
killintime is offline  
Mar 16th, 2011, 09:24 AM
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I would say if you want less people, come in June but don't count on good weather

If you want good weather ( at least more likely) come in August - but you will have to deal with more people.
I have been at Crater Lake when you could not tell the lake existed even though I was almost on the rim but there is nothing more beautiful on a beautiful sunny day
sunbum1944 is offline  
Mar 16th, 2011, 10:10 AM
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The first time I visited Crater Lake (1965?) was with my parents in June. I remember the pile of snow at the north end of the parking lot that overlooks Wizard Island on the West Rim. It rarely snows more than an inch here after May 3, but it takes quite a while for it to melt off the roads.
The West Rim Drive is a left turn at the entrance to Rim Village. Even if you can't get a room there, walk inside the Lodge to admire the architecture.
There are other airports in Oregon, so don't think PDX is your only choice.
tomfuller is offline  
Mar 16th, 2011, 12:56 PM
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Thanks so much for all of the input. Just one more quick question -- how steep/windy/scary are the roads? As I say, we'll be traveling with two small kids and I don't want to be terrified the whole time

When our eldest son was 12 months, we took a trip to California and drove Hwy 1 and many of the twisty roads in Yosemite. We weren't bothered by it... but there wasn't snow!!

We'll actually be traveling from Toronto, Canada and so the snow isn't the biggest draw for us (we'd actually love to escape it!), but the lack of crowds would be fantastic.

Thanks,
Jenn
alwaysafrica is offline  
Mar 16th, 2011, 01:13 PM
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Posted speed limit is 45 MPH (75 KPH). There are a few blind corners that you will want to slow to 30 in case you meet a tour bus. There are also some brave young people who ride bicycles all the way around the lake in 1 day.
tomfuller is offline  
Mar 16th, 2011, 01:30 PM
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Dont think the roads will be too scary - although there were a couple of times where there were no guard rails that made me a little nervous.

Hope you enjoy your trip - I live in Eugene- but I am a fellow Canadian - from Sask
sunbum1944 is offline  
Mar 16th, 2011, 02:57 PM
  #10  
mms
 
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There is also a new trolley that goes around the rim, so if you go later when the entire drive is open that might be a good option for you. That way you can all enjoy it.
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Mar 16th, 2011, 04:44 PM
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Some years ago, when only the south entrance was open, and the rim roads closed, I was enchanted with Crater Lake's bright blue, surrounded by blindingly white snow in the sunshine. We are going to see it again this May.
Killintime, if we hire snow shoes, and presuming the weather is good enough (I'm always hopeful!) could we snow shoe around on the road? I'm from Down Under, so snow is special for me. Would you suggest turning west or east from the village?
Carrabella is offline  
Mar 16th, 2011, 07:31 PM
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you can snowshoe around on the rim close to the Visitors Center and lodge- there will be lots of trails already established I am sure.

On Sundays you can do a free snowshoe with a ranger who will describe the flora and fauna and the snowshoes are included. It can be kind of a slow walk as they stop a lot - depends on the ranger- if enough of you agree to doing a more challenging snow shoe - they may go for it.

It is so fabulous on a sunny day in the winter - one of those "pinch me, I can't believe I am doing this" kind of experiences.
sunbum1944 is offline  
Mar 17th, 2011, 04:10 AM
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Thank you all so much for all of your advice. Crater Lake sounds exquisite and it sounds like there might actually be enough for us to see in June!! Now comes the more practical question... Given that our 2 kids and are 12 months old and 3 years old, do you think the drive all the way down to Crater Lake is a smart addition to our itinerary? I know I haven't laid out our exact itinerary, but as I mentioned, we'd like to spend time in Portland, the Columbia Gorge and on the coast. I've read that the drive from Portland to Crater Lake is a long 5 hours -- what is there to do in the middle? We'd obviously like to break that drive up significantly... what would be a good place to stay? I just don't want 2 miserable kids in order to drive down to Crater Lake -- which sounds beautiful, but also sounds like only worth a day visit (given that we won't be able to do any hiking etc.).

Thanks,
Jenn
alwaysafrica is offline  
Mar 17th, 2011, 02:13 PM
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On your trip from Portland to Crater Lake, you might consider stopping for the night in Sisters, an attractive little town with a cowboy feel. It's on Hwy 20 just as you begin to transition from mountains to high desert. Take a look at FivePines Lodge in Sisters. Also, Black Butte Ranch is close by, with lodging and beautiful scenery. Or just keep going on hwy 20 to Bend, which is a jewel of the high desert, surrounded by mountains and rivers. In Bend try The Ameritel or the Phoenix Inn. Higher budget try The Oxford Hotel. Drive time from Portland to Bend is a little under 3 hours.
roundthebend is offline  
Mar 17th, 2011, 02:38 PM
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If the plan is to just drive to Crater Lake, have a look around, and drive back to Portland, I'd say no, it doesn't fit in your itinerary. But, if from Portland, you traveled down the coast, looped back northeast at Crescent City, CA, then included Crater Lake on your return routing, absolutely yes.

BTW, my wife, who has a fear of heights, nearly freaked out the first time we drove around the lake. She enjoyed it more the next time, when we traveled in a clock-wise direction, where you're mostly on the uphill side of the road.
killintime is offline  
Mar 17th, 2011, 02:47 PM
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Agree with roundthebend about Sisters or Bend. If you come over the mountains use Rt. 22 south of Salem off I-5 to get to US 20.
If you come in June, there is a sign just north of Highway 138 on US 97 that will advise you that you have to go 38 more miles to get to the turnoff to highway 62. There is a slim possibility that the north entrance will be open saving you many miles by using the north entrance road.
If you choose to come south on I-5 you can stay in Roseburg and find out if you can use the north entrance or turn off 138 onto Route 230 to get to Route 62 and the south entrance.
tomfuller is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 12:29 PM
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I also will be traveling with 2 kids for our first trip to crater lake. I thought it was a 2 hour drive to Portland (5 listed here) and my question is to stay at the more expensive Crater Lake Lodge or Mazama Village which is much less? Where to eat at Crater Lake? thanks all (we are also going the last week of June which I thought would be summer-a little concerned about snow)...
love2travel2LA is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 12:58 PM
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As of today there are many parts of Crater Lake NP that have over 100" of snow. I had some bare ground in my backyard yesterday morning. There is a fresh 3" now. I live 45 miles NE of Crater Lake.
tomfuller is offline  
Apr 7th, 2011, 04:39 PM
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love2travel- you very well could have snow and the road around the rim may not be open yet

you might be able to go snow shoeing around the lake

and Portland to Crater Lake is at least 5 hours
sunbum1944 is offline  
Apr 8th, 2011, 09:22 PM
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Crater Lake is a "must see", but I think the drive AROUND the lake is overblown. Much of the time you can't see the lake as the road is too far away from the rim. The area around the lodge is very scenic and if you can drive toward the north entrance (or all the way to it) there are many scenic pull-outs where you will have lovely views. Another alternative for lodging is Diamond Lake on Hy 38, with motel style rooms or cottages. It is about 1/2 hour toward Roseburg (on I-5). Just south of Bend, to the east, is one of my favorites - the High Desert Museum.

We live near Coos Bay on the coast. Mid-June should find most of the rain behind us, though you may still hit a shower or two. If you drive from Portland over to the coast at Seaside or farther south at Newport and follow highway 101 south through Coos Bay you will find something of everything the coast has to offer - high cliffs, sandy beaches, sand dunes. And then you can follow Highway 42 along the Coquille River back to I-5, through Roseburg and on up to Crater Lake following the BEAUTIFUL Umpqua River. Leaving Crater Lake go down to highway 97 and follow that back up to the Columbia River and back west to Portland.

Get a good map of Oregon. The Dept. of transportation puts out a free one. Check on-line and go to any Chamber of Commerce or tourism office site and ask them to send you free information on whatever you want to see, plus maps. June is better along the coast than August. When it gets hot inland the wind comes in along with the fog by 3 pm. When the temperature is more mild inland you get less wind along the coast.

Check on a web site called "tripcheck" for highway conditions as well as cameras showing various highways. They will tell you of any highway closures, construction, etc. We have been in Oregon for over 30 years and never get tired of traveling around the state. Oh, if you come down the coast, through Reedsport, go inland about 4 miles on highway 38 to the Dean Creek Elk viewing area. It is free and MOST OF THE TIME there are elk eating and resting in the fields. The cows will have young at that time so they will stay hidden in the woods, but the bulls and yearlings should still be there. Look carefully! We have rarely gone through there and not seen any and sometimes up to 100.
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