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Portland to Crater Lake National Park

Portland to Crater Lake National Park

Oregon is the ultimate state for nature lovers, home to towering mountains, pristine lakes, enchanted forests, and hundreds of miles of coastline. But with so much to explore, planning a trip here can be overwhelming.

That’s why we created this Portland to Crater Lake National Park itinerary. Road-tripping through Central Oregon, you’ll be able to experience Oregon’s highlights at your own pace.

Imagine yourself hiking around Mt. Hood one day, floating down the Deschutes River the next, and exploring Oregon’s only national park the following. During this Portland to Crater Lake road trip, you’ll do all that and more! Read on to discover everything you need to know to prepare for this incredible journey.

Best Route From Portland to Crater Lake National Park

There are two main routes from Portland to Crater Lake National Park: the Eugene Route and the Bend Route. The Eugene Route is faster and more direct but mostly consists of interstate driving. Alternatively, the Bend Route is slightly longer, but the drive is more scenic and passes through a range of landscapes.

Following our five-day itinerary, you will take the Bend Route. First, you’ll drive from Portland to Mt. Hood to experience Oregon’s highest mountain. Next, you’ll head to Bend for a day of exploring the Deschutes River and sampling local brews. Then, you’ll have two days to explore Crater Lake National Park. Finally, you’ll head back to Portland to drop off your camper van.

Pro Tip: If you’re short on time, we recommend following the Eugene Route and driving directly from Portland to Crater Lake. This makes for a great long weekend road trip. 

Travel Time From Portland to Crater Lake National Park

This road trip is a roundtrip journey from the Portland Escape Camper Vans hub. From Portland to Crater Lake National Park, the drive is approximately 487 miles and takes about 8 hours and 36 minutes from start to finish. 

We recommend using this route for a five-day road trip. However, there are a few ways that you can shorten this trip. Throughout the article, we provide several route suggestions to help accommodate shorter trips as well.

Please note that the exact time and distance of this road trip will vary depending on which entrance you access Crater Lake National Park through. The North Entrance is closest to Portland, but it is only open during the summer. The South and West Entrances are open year-round, though. 

Best Time of Year for a Portland to Crater Lake National Park Road Trip

Crater Lake National Park is open year-round and is uniquely beautiful each season. However, several parts of the park close down in the winter. Since all of the park’s roads, trails, and facilities are open from late spring to early fall, we highly recommend visiting during this time. 

Here are a few more seasonal differences to think about before booking your trip from Portland to Crater Lake National Park. 

Spring: Crater Lake National Park usually remains covered in snow throughout early spring. In late spring, the snow starts to melt, and most park facilities and trails reopen. Late spring is also a great time to visit the park because of the blooming wildflowers and the relatively small crowds.

Summer: Visiting Crater Lake National Park in the summer means that you’ll have full access to the park. Because all park entrances are open at this time, you can reach the park more quickly from Portland through the North Entrance. However, as summer is the peak tourist season here, you’ll likely experience crowds around the park. That being said, it’s especially important to book campsites in advance at this time. 

Fall: The weather in Central Oregon and at Crater Lake can be unpredictable in the fall. But, if you’re willing to brave the elements and visit during this time, you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds and beautiful fall foliage. Keep in mind that park roads and facilities begin closing in October as it starts to snow, so you may have limited access to the park then.

Winter: Crater Lake transforms into a picture-perfect winter destination each November with pristine white snow covering the park. There are tons of fun activities for winter sports enthusiasts, including sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Keep in mind that navigating some roads in the park and along this route can be tough in the winter, though.

Preparation for a Portland to Crater Lake National Park Road Trip

To enjoy a smooth, stress-free Portland to Crater Lake road trip, a little preparation is necessary. But don’t worry! Follow our tips, and you’ll be ready to hop in your dream camper van and hit the road in no time!

Crater Lake National Park Entrance Passes

While you don’t need to make a vehicle reservation to visit Crater Lake National Park, you will need to purchase an entrance pass. There are a few different pass options, so it’s important to pick the best one based on your travel plans. 

Standard Entrance Pass: This pass admits one private vehicle and is valid for seven days from the date of purchase. It costs $20 from November 1st to May 21st and $30 from May 22nd to October 31st.

Annual Entrance Pass: The annual entrance pass is ideal for anyone planning to visit Crater Lake multiple times in a year. It costs $55 and grants a year of access to Crater Lake National Park.

The America the Beautiful Pass: If you’re planning to visit multiple national parks in a year, this is the pass for you! With this pass, you’ll have access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including Crater Lake National Park. The annual pass costs $80. It can be purchased online or in person from authorized vendors

You can also conveniently pick up the America the Beautiful National Park Pass from Escape Camper Vans! Purchase the pass when you pick up your rental and enjoy 12 months of exploration from the date of purchase.

Mt. Hood National Forest Pass

Depending on your plans at Mt. Hood, you’ll likely need to purchase a pass here as well. You can purchase a day pass for $5 or an annual pass for $30. Both passes are valid at all Forest Service recreation sites in Oregon and Washington. Additionally, the America the Beautiful Pass can be used at some of Mt. Hood’s recreation sites.

Please visit the Forest Service’s website to check which recreation sites at Mt. Hood require a pass.

Gear

Layers: As you journey through Oregon’s mountains and forests, you’ll likely face changing weather. Even in the summer when the days are warm, the temperature drops quickly at nighttime. We recommend that you pack a jacket and some extra layers so that you can be prepared for any kind of weather!

Seasonal Clothing: From October to April, Central Oregon experiences lots of rain and snow. If you visit during this time, you’ll either want to bring a rain jacket or a heavy winter coat. Be sure to check the weather and consider the activities you’ll be enjoying while packing for your trip! 

Gas: There are many gas stations along this route, but there is only one gas station located within Crater Lake National Park. It’s at the Mazama Village Store, and it’s only open in the summer. Therefore, we highly suggest you fuel up before entering the park!

Snow Chains: Vehicles are required to have either chains or traction tires whenever winter conditions exist. So, if you’re planning a winter Portland to Crater Lake road trip, make sure to add the optional snow chains

 

Food & Water: Stocked with a well-equipped kitchenette, our vans have needed to enjoy delicious meals on the go. Head to the grocery store at the start of your trip to make full use of your van’s kitchen!

Campsites

From Portland to Crater Lake, there are a variety of campground options. However, since the destinations along this route are very popular in the summer, campsites usually book up around this time. To secure campsites for a summer road trip, we recommend making reservations several months in advance. In late spring and early fall, first-come, first-served spots may be available at some campgrounds. 

Many of Oregon’s campgrounds are closed in the winter. But, with a camper van, you still have the opportunity to explore Oregon at this time, thanks to dispersed camping. Dispersed camping allows you to camp for free on federal and BLM land in a camper van. Because there are several national forests along this route, there are tons of options for dispersed camping during this road trip. To discover dispersed camping areas from Portland to Crater Lake, check out these apps.

Navigation

Phones & Chargers: Navigation is crucial for a smooth trip, and your phone is one of the most important navigational tools! Keep it charged with a car charger while your camper van is running, and use a portable charger when your van is turned off.

Maps: Cell phone service may be spotty as you ascend in elevation along this route and in some parts of Crater Lake National Park. Therefore, you’ll want to pack a printed map just in case. We also recommend that you download the Google Maps route before your trip to view it offline.

Escape Camper Vans Rental

The final thing you need to book for your Portland to Crater Lake road trip is your camper van rental! You can pick between the Mavericks, Mesa, and Del Mar van models in Portland.

These vehicles each include a queen-sized bed, a functional kitchenette, and solar panels. Each van can sleep up to five people with an optional rooftop sleeper. The Mavericks is our most budget-friendly option and is recommended for couples and small groups. The Mesa and Del Mar models are more spacious, which makes them great options for larger groups. 

Browse our selection of vans to choose the ultimate camper van for your Portland to Crater Lake adventure!

Portland to Crater Lake National Park Road Trip Stops

The drive from Portland to Crater Lake National Park is lined with amazing stops, which makes this journey just as exciting as the destination itself. Gorgeous mountains, charming towns, and the awe-inspiring Crater Lake- you’ll experience it all with our five-day itinerary!

Camper van in front of Mt Hood on its way from Portland to Crater Lake

Day 1: Mt. Hood

After picking up your camper van from the Portland Escape Camper Vans location, head to Mt. Hood. Brimming with scenic beauty, Mt. Hood is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. There are countless opportunities for exploration at Mt. Hood, making it  the perfect first stop on this road trip. 

From Portland to Mt. Hood Village, the drive is approximately 38 miles and takes about 50 minutes.

Pro Tip: If you’d like to shorten this road trip, we recommend combining days 1 and 2. Alternatively, you could also skip one or both of these stops to save time. If you skip both Mt. Hood and Bend, you should follow the Eugene Route to Crater Lake instead to save driving time. 

Sights and Activities in Mt. Hood

Hike the Tamanawas Falls Trail: Experience the beautiful Tamanawas Falls on this 3.4-mile out-and-back hike. The trail is shaded by large Douglas fir trees and follows Cold Spring Creek, making it an ideal hike for a warm summer day. In the winter, the trail is covered in snow and is popular amongst snowshoers. 

Explore Trillium Lake: Known for its unparalleled view of Mt. Hood that beautifully reflects onto the water, Trillium Lake is a can’t-miss destination in Mt. Hood National Forest. You can explore the lake up close by renting a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. Or, you can stroll around the lake on the family-friendly Trillium Lake Loop Trail. Swimming and fishing are also permitted here. 

Marvel at the View From the Magic Mile Sky Ride: For an unforgettable look at Mt. Hood, hop onto the Magic Mile Sky Ride. Departing from the Timberline Resort, this chairlift will take you up 7,000 feet in elevation to see Mt. Hood from a new perspective. Please note that this attraction is typically only open from mid-June until Labor Day Weekend.

Hike Along the Pacific Crest Trail: While you won’t have enough time to hike the entire 2,650 miles of the trail during this road trip, you can hike a segment of the iconic Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Mt. Hood. There are plenty of day hikes along this trail that are accessible from Mt. Hood, if you want to give it a try. 

Campgrounds in Mt. Hood

Trillium Lake Campground: Book a campsite at the Trillium Lake Campground and enjoy convenient access to all of Trillium Lake’s recreation options. Located in a beautiful area right near the lake, this campground offers dozens of campsites with basic amenities. 

It’s open from the end of May to the end of September, and reservations can be made online up to six months in advance.

Lost Lake Campground: Another gorgeous lakeside camping option, Lost Lake Campground, is located just north of Mt. Hood. This campground is home to 125 campsites located around the lively Lost Lake. This means you can enjoy an abundance of activities right near your campsite. 

Lost Lake Campground is open from early May to the end of August, and reservations can be made online up to six months in advance. 

Where to Eat in Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood Brewing Co.: Located in the laid-back mountain community of Government Camp, Mt. Hood Brewing Co. serves up classic American fare and unique locally-produced beers. Whether you choose to sit inside at the cozy bar or on the patio, this brewpub is a great stop for solid food and a relaxed atmosphere.

Skyway Bar and Grill: Barbeque might not be the first food you think of when you think about Oregon, but the Skyway Bar and Grill might change your mind about that. Featuring mac and cheese and house-cured meats that are to die for, this restaurant is a hidden gem in Mt. Hood. Not only is the food incredible but Skyway’s fun atmosphere and live music are also impressive.

The Rendezvous Grill: A local staple for 28 years and running, the Rendezvous Grill is one of Mt. Hood’s most highly-rated eateries. Featuring tons of fresh, seasonal menu items and mouthwatering desserts, it’s easy to see why this restaurant is so well-loved. While every dish here looks phenomenal, the steak and salmon dishes are especially popular.

Day 2: Bend

The vibrant town of Bend awaits, so it’s time to pack up your van and keep driving. Known for its amazing outdoor recreation, charming downtown, and thriving craft beer scene, Bend is a laid-back city that has something for everyone. 

From Mt. Hood, drive approximately 119 miles (about 2 hours and 15 minutes) to Bend. 

Escape camper van on a road trip to Crater Lake

Sights and Activities in Bend

Stroll Along the Deschutes River Trail: Flowing from the Columbia River, the Deschutes River is a mighty waterway located in Central Oregon. We recommend checking out the Old Mill District first and then heading to the trail from the nearby Bend Whitewater Park. 

Float the Deschutes River: After strolling along its trail, cool off with a tube ride down the river. One of Bend’s most beloved summer activities, river floating is an excellent way to spend a warm day here. There are several tours that offer tube rentals and provide shuttle buses back to the starting point. Additionally, you can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. 

Follow the Bend Ale Trail: After safely parking your camper van for the night, enjoy Bend’s craft brews by following the Bend Ale Trail. The trail includes 18 of Bend’s finest breweries and pubs. If you’re up for a challenge, try to visit 10 breweries to receive a Bend Silipint cup.

Hike to Tumalo Falls: Open year-round, the Tumalo Creek Trail is one of the most popular hikes around Bend. This 5.2-mile out-and-back hike is moderately challenging and takes about 2.5 hours to complete, but it’s definitely worth it for the epic views of Tumalo Falls. 

Campgrounds in Bend

The Camp: Unlike most of the camping options on this list, The Camp is an urban RV park that’s conveniently located in the heart of Bend. It offers 31 sites and access to very clean facilities, including showers and bathrooms.

With rates starting at $49 per night, The Camp is pricier than most campgrounds, but, you’re really paying for the location with this accommodation. If you want to be a stone’s throw away from all of Bend’s breweries and restaurants, it’s worth the splurge to stay at The Camp.

Tumalo State Park Campground: Located about four miles north of town along the Deschutes River, Tumalo State Park Campground is a great base for exploring Bend. The campground is home to 54 tent sites that are accessible to camper vans along with 23 full-hookup sites. Some of the campsites are open year-round.

Reservations are not required to stay at Tumalo State Park, but they are highly recommended, especially during the summer. Reservations can be made online up to six months in advance. 

Where to Eat in Bend

Spork: Featuring a creative menu of globally inspired fusion food, Spork has been serving rave-worthy dishes to the people of Bend for years. You really can’t go wrong with any of the flavorful dishes here, but the spicy fried chicken and noodle dishes are especially popular. 

The Lemon Tree: The Lemon Tree has become one of Bend’s hottest brunch spots for many reasons. This quaint spot attracts quite the weekend crowd, but the line usually moves quickly.

Jackson’s Corner: Whether you’re in the mood for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Jackson’s Corner has something for you! Known for its homemade pasta, pizzas, sandwiches, and baked goods, this local farm-to-table joint definitely lives up to all the hype.

Day 3 and 4: Crater Lake National Park

Start your day with a hearty breakfast in Bend, and then hop back into your camper van to head to your final road trip stop- Crater Lake National Park. Home to the United State’s deepest lake, Crater Lake National Park is a mesmerizing destination. Crater Lake’s deep blue water is rightfully the focal point of the park, but there are a variety of other sights and activities to enjoy around Crater Lake National Park as well.

From Bend, drive approximately 90 miles about (1 hour and 34 minutes) to Crater Lake National Park’s North Entrance. 

Please note that this entrance is only open in summer. During the other seasons, you’ll have to enter the park through the South or West Entrances. Thus, the travel time and distance will be slightly longer.

Crater Lake rim trail viewpoint

Pro Tip: For a more scenic drive to Crater Lake National Park, check out the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway on your way out of Bend. This 66-mile road is dotted with beautiful lakes and stunning viewpoints of some of Central Oregon’s most impressive peaks. If you choose to drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, allot plenty of time for stops along the route. 

Sights and Activities in Crater Lake National Park

Complete the Rim Drive Loop: The best way to experience Crater Lake National Park is by driving around the park’s 33-mile road that circles the lake. As there are tons of scenic viewpoints and sightseeing opportunities around the lake, you can easily spend hours exploring this road. The Sinnott Memorial Overlook and the Watchman Observation Station are a couple of our favorite spots along the Rim Drive!

Please note that the Rim Drive Loop is usually only fully open from June to October since parts of the road close each winter. To check road closures, visit this website

Visit Crater Lake’s Shore Via the Cleetwood Cove Trail: If you’re up for a rewarding challenge, follow the Cleetwood Cove Trail to the shore’s only legal access point. This hike is 1.1 miles each way and includes a steep 700-foot drop in elevation. 

Take a Boat Tour: Experience the stunning blue water of Crater Lake up close during a ranger-led boat tour. There are a few tour options, including one that stops at the park’s iconic Wizard Island. This volcanic cinder cone island is located on the west side of the lake and provides unique views of Crater Lake from its summit. 

Go Stargazing: Crater Lake National Park is one of the country’s top dark sky locations, which makes it an amazing place for stargazing! After the sun goes down here, you’ll be able to see most of the solar system with nearly perfect visibility. Since the sky is at its peak transparency when it’s clear of clouds and when the humidity is high, summer is typically the best time for stargazing here.

So, don’t forget to look up at the night sky while visiting Crater Lake National Park! For an enhanced experience, pack some binoculars. 

For additional activities around Crater Lake, check out this fun-filled guide!

Campgrounds in Crater Lake National Park

Mazama Campground: As this is the only campground located within Crater Lake National Park, Mazama Campground is the most highly sought-after camping spot. That being said, it’s important to reserve a spot here in advance to enjoy the convenience of this campground. 

The Mazama Campground is only open from June to late September. Some campsites are first-come, first-served in June. However, reservations are required for all stays during July, August, and September. Reservations can be made online or by calling 866-292-6720.

Broken Arrow Campground: Although it’s located outside of the park, Broken Arrow Campground is another great option in the area. This campground is situated just north of Crater Lake within the Umpqua National Forest. Its 120 beautiful campsites sit on the south end of Diamond Lake, which is another beautiful lake that’s full of recreation opportunities. 

This campground is open from late June to early September. Reservations are typically required and can be made online up to six months in advance. However, some spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Diamond Lake Campground: Diamond Lake Campground is also located within the Umpqua National Forest, but it sits on the east shore of Diamond Lake. This scenic campground offers 235 campsites and a variety of amenities, including showers. 

Diamond Lake Campground is open from mid-June to early September. All stays here require a reservation, and reservations can be made online up to six months in advance. 

Where to Eat in Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room: For a meal with a view, stop by the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room. Located right near the Rim Village Visitor Center, this restaurant serves classic American fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Please note that reservations are highly recommended for dinner. As this is one of the area’s only dining options, it is often very busy. 

Annie Creek Restaurant: Located south of Crater Lake, the Annie Creek restaurant is another in-park option for food. This rustic joint offers pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and fish and chips.

Rim Village Cafe: If you need to grab a coffee or a snack on the go, the Rim Village Cafe is a convenient place for a quick stop. You can also purchase souvenirs here and enjoy a nice view of Crater Lake from the upstairs area.

Beckie’s Cafe: For a delicious meal outside of the park, head to Beckie’s Cafe.  No stop at Beckie’s is complete without a slice of their signature pie, so make sure to save room for dessert! 

Day 5: Crater Lake to Portland

Sadly, the time has come to pack up your gear one last time, say goodbye to Crater Lake, and head back to Portland Escape Camper Vans to drop off your van. On the way back to Portland, we recommend following the Eugene route, as it’s quicker and more direct. 

The drive from Crater Lake National Park to Portland is approximately 240 miles and takes about 4 hours. So, you’ll want to get an early start to return your van on time.

Why Rent a Camper Van for a Portland to Crater Lake National Park Road Trip?

There’s no better way to experience a Portland to Crater Lake National Park road trip than in a camper van. Even compared to a traditional RV, a camper van offers several advantages that you just can’t experience in other vehicles. 

Here are a few reasons why a camper van is the best choice for a road trip in Central Oregon!

Compact: From Portland to Crater Lake, there are countless opportunities for spontaneous stops. With our compact camper vans, you can explore Oregon freely without having to worry about fitting in parking spaces or navigating crowded areas. 

More Mobile: During this road trip, you’ll be driving along narrow mountainous roads, so you’ll want a vehicle that you feel comfortable and confident in. Since camper vans are much easier to maneuver than RVS, they are the more user-friendly road trip option. 

Flexible Camping Options: Camper vans are self-contained, which means they don’t require electrical or sewer hookups, like RVs. This means that camper vans can park at tent sites and explore dispersed camping options. Since many campgrounds along this route fill up quickly and are only open in the summer, having flexible camping options in a camper van is a huge perk.

Designed for Adventure: Our camper vans are designed with adventure enthusiasts in mind, which means they come with everything you need for an epic road trip. With a variety of add-ons available, you can also easily select travel accessories that will enhance your trip. Plus, your van’s unique, colorful exterior will add an element of fun to your adventure! 

Reserve With Escape Camper Vans for Your Portland to Crater Lake National Park Road Trip 

Now that you’ve read this guide, you’re more than prepared for a smooth journey from Portland to Crater Lake National Park. All that’s left to do is book your dream camper van, pack your bags, and head to Portland to embark on the adventure of a lifetime! 

Explore Crater Lake National Park

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