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How to plan a 3-day Winter trip to the Crater Lake area

Crater Lake is a must-visit winter destination with adventures at every turn. We have pieced together a stunning 3-day itinerary that includes lodging, hiking, waterfalls, beer, pie, and snowshoeing!

By: Sarina Pizzala + Save to a List

The Crater Lake area is most known as a summer destination. Don’t skip out on this area in the winter, though. With a base camp at Union Creek Resort, adventures are accessible all year round. The area offers solitude, cozy cabins, and endless snow to play in. Whether you enjoy snowshoeing, skiing, or snowmobiling, there’s something for everyone. Plus, you can explore countless waterfalls and hikes from your front door at Union Creek Resort.

Day 1 - Arrive and hike out your front door

Arrive at Union Creek Resort, just 4.5 hours south of Portland, Oregon. This historic getaway near Crater Lake National Park offers cozy cabins and comfortable lodge rooms year-round. 

The cabins offer warm, cozy reprieves from snowy, cold winter conditions. The cabins provide heat, electricity, full kitchens, and cute cabin decor. With easy access to hiking, waterfalls, and more, they make great base camps for adventures nearby. 

The lodge offers on-site snowshoe rentals, pet-friendly cabins, a gift shop, and more. Across the street, stop at Beckie’s Pies & More, where the friendliest staff make fresh pie daily! 

After you’ve checked in, it’s time to explore from your front door. Union Creek Resort offers multiple trails starting from the property. Union Creek Trail follows a raging creek among old growth of towering giants. 

Stroll along the river for an 8-mile loop. In the winter, the trail is coated in a magical layer of snow, making it a true winter wonderland. For more adventures, continue down the trail to Union Creek Falls to a towering waterfall.

When you’re done hiking, end the day at Beckie’s Cafe for a burger, beer, and the tastiest pie. With just a walk across the street, the ease of access to delicious food cannot be beaten.


Day 2 - Explore Crater Lake National Park

You have to be prepared to explore Crater Lake in the winter. Check conditions before you go, and make sure the road to the rim is open by calling the National Park. In the winter, the road occasionally closes due to unsafe conditions and storms. Maintaining a road that goes to 7,000 feet is a challenging task. 

If the road is open, make sure you have a vehicle with good clearance and 4-wheel or all-wheel drive. Traction tires or chains are required to enter the park, and you may not be allowed to enter if you're not well-equipped. 

The high elevation can be very cold and windy in the winter. Pack insulating layers, waterproof layers, gloves, a hat, an emergency kit, water, snacks, and snowshoes. You can bring your own or rent snowshoes at Union Creek Resort. 

With all your gear in tow, it’s time to head out for your adventure! Make sure to head out earlier in the morning to give yourself time to get there and back down, depending on conditions. Union Creek Resort is only 35 minutes away from Crater Lake National Park, providing the perfect base camp for all your adventures!

After passing the national park entrance, continue up the snowy winding road to the crater rim. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America at 1,943 feet and the seventh-deepest lake in the world. A volcano formed the waterway when it erupted and collapsed 7,700 years ago. 

Crater lake has incredibly clear water and is known for its deep blue color. In the winter, skiing, snowshoeing, and backcountry camping are popular among outdoor enthusiasts. Crater Lake sees more snowfall than most other national parks in the lower 48 states, with an average of 41 feet per year!

Step into your snowshoes and explore the crater rim and take in the beauty of the stunning lake. Snowshoe the rim and admire the lake's volcanic features, including Wizard Island. After exploring the island, pack up, and make your way back to Union Creek Resort.

After dinner at Beckie’s Cafe, grab a bundle of wood and a s'mores kit from the lodge and have a bonfire at your cabin. On the edge of a river bank surrounded by snow, get warm and cozy next to a fire while enjoying toasted marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate.


Day 3 - Go chasing waterfalls

After breakfast, grab a map from the front desk and explore some nearby waterfalls. First up, explore Prospect Falls in Prospect, OR. This waterfall is on the main road and easy to access. Pull over and park after the bridge to take in the view of the beautiful falls. 

Next, drive down the road to see two other waterfalls, Mill and Barr Creek Falls. These two share the same trailhead - a rare two-for-one experience! Mill Creek Falls is less than half a mile hike. The falls are 173 feet tall and cascade into the gushing Rouge River. 

Hike a few more minutes down the trail to see Barr Creek falls at 242 feet tall. The rocky outcropping sits over a dramatic cliff and provides views of the waterfall across the valley. When ready for a break, hike back to the car and make your way back to Union Creek Resort. 

Before leaving, make sure to check out the Rouge Gorge area. Take the trail that looks down at the powerful gorge below. Marvel at how volcanic lava carved out the rock, which has since filled with gushing water. Surrounded by snow and old growth, this area offers beautiful hiking trails and sightseeing.

Many people think it can be challenging to adventure in the winter due to accessibility and weather conditions. With a base camp like Union Creek Resort, winter exploration is possible, accessible, and fun. The snow adds extra charm and beauty you can’t find during the warmer months, and the peace and tranquility of wintertime are unbeatable.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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