Cross Country Skiing
Crater Lake offers some of the best cross-country skiing trails in the country. There are beginner, intermediate, and advanced level trails. The trails are not groomed, giving skiers a unique wilderness experience in this area that seems isolated in the wintertime. The Rim Village area is where to find most of the cross-country ski trails.
Many experienced skiers enjoy going around the entire Rim of the lake. A trip around Crater Lake is known as the Circumnavigation Trail, with a round trip distance of 31 miles. This trail is estimated to take 2 to 3 days on average to ski, weather permitting.
A popular (and much easier) trail overlooking Crater Lake is the Wizard Island Overlook. It is a 5-mile round trip, and has some of the best views in the park. It is a trail of subtle hills and is achievable by amateur skiers. An even simpler trail is the Mazama Village Loop, which is 1-mile round trip. This is a relatively flat trail near the junction of Highway 62.
People with adequate cross-country skiing experience would enjoy the Sun Notch Trail. It is 10 miles round-trip, so skiers should be in relatively good physical shape. This trail overlooks Phantom Ship and also has a great view of the lake. Another shorter, 1-mile trail also suited for intermediate skiers is the Hemlock Trail. This trail takes visitors through the Mountain Hemlock forest and overlooks the Klamath Basin.
A short, but difficult trail for advanced skiers is the Raven Trail. It is 2-miles round trip path, which begins at Rim Village and descends steeply into the park. Advanced skiers can also try the Dutton Creek Trail. This trail leads toward Annie Springs and is 9 miles round trip. The Dutton Creek Trail has many sharp turns and dramatic slopes in certain areas.
There are many backcountry trail possibilities for skiing around Crater Lake. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through the park and stretches from the Mexican to the Canadian border. There are 33 scenic miles of it at Crater Lake National Park, with an excellent vista of the lake below. This trail also runs through 7 other U.S. National Parks. It was developed to give people a closer look at some of the most beautiful places in America. Skiers should use caution on all trails by bringing adequate clothing and heeding avalanche warnings.
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Crater Lake National Park is near many impressive mountain peaks. The abundance of winter snow in the region makes them terrific downhill ski locations. Some may be hard to access directly from the park due to local road closings, but they are all off main highways in the area. These ski resorts are all around 2 to 3 hours away by car.
There are some nice ski resorts in southern Oregon. About 2 ½ hours north of the park is the popular Willamette Pass Ski Area. This resort is known for its forested slopes and abundant trails for skiers of every ability level. Willamette Pass also has a ski school and Nordic Center on site to help improve visitors' skills. They have everything from a designated beginner area to steep moguls for advanced skiers. The resort is open late November through April.
Mt. Ashland Ski and Snowboard Resort is nearly 3 hours south of the park, off Interstate 5. The Siskiyou Mountain range has a lot of powdery slopes in the winter to take advantage of. This area is usually sunny. The resort and has a full-service rental shop and is open is open from Thanksgiving to the beginning of April.
Another option is Mt. Bachelor, about 20 minutes away from Bend, Oregon. It is an extinct volcano situated in the high desert, 3 ½ hours away from the park. They offer lessons, equipment rentals, and provide half-pipe and free riding to skiers and snowboarders. Mt. Bachelor has a longer season than most, usually open mid-November to mid-May.
Mt. Shasta Ski Park in California is 3 hours south of Crater Lake National Park, and 19 miles off Interstate 5. They have advanced guest services and competitions throughout the winter season. They have food service, bar, retail shop, and all the amenities you'd expect from a quality ski facility. This resort is open around mid-December to April.
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Park rangers and volunteers offer snowshoe ecology walks around the lake in the Rim Village area. Scheduled walks for the general public are given Thanksgiving weekend through March at 1 p.m. These walks are typically 1 ½ hours long. The ranger provides insight about the animals and plants that flourish in this environment. Snowshoes are provided free from the National Park Service. Children must be at least 9 years old to participate because the snowshoes likely wouldn't fit them otherwise.
Many animals leave their tracks in the snow, which are often seen before they are. The park's headquarters are where these animals are most commonly spotted. Deer are sometimes seen by drivers crossing the road in snowy weather. The pine marten is another species living in the park year-round. They keep a brown coat throughout the year because of the lack of predators remaining in the park in the winter. They've adapted to run over the snow with their lightweight feet as they hunt for small rodents to eat.
Snowshoe hares make tracks in the snow around Crater Lake. Their large hind feet and tails leave unique prints in the snow. They also have feet that prevent them from sinking all the way into the snow as they travel. Unlike the pine marten, the snowshoe hare camouflages itself, turning white in the winter and brown in the summer. The Clark's Nutcracker is a bird that also lives in the park during the wintertime. This is a gray-colored perching bird with a black beak. They live off of pine needles, insects, and some small mammals. They are native to this part of Oregon. Other animals found in Crater Lake in the summer either hibernate or leave as the winter approaches, such as bears.
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