We visited Crater Lake in May, and it was wonderful. The crowds were low, the snow was still piled high around the edge of the lake, and we got to enjoy a magical sunset and sunrise over the lake.
When we arrived in Crater Lake in late May, the snow was still piled high along the roads. On a sunny day, the temperatures were not bad even for our Florida blood. At night we bundled up to stay warm and enjoy the stars shining down on the lake.
While you cannot go all the way around the deepest lake in the United States in May, visiting Crater Lake National Park in the spring is still a great time to see the view from the lodge before the crowds come pouring in for the short time the road is fully open.
Here is everything you need to know to spend some time in May in Crater Lake National Park.
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Weather in Crater Lake National Park in the Spring
In May, Crater Lake National Park is still getting snow. The rim of the lake has an elevation between 7,000 and 8,000 feet, so it stays colder than nearby areas with a lower elevation in Southern Oregon.
According to the National Park Service, the average temperature is 50°F (10°C) during the day and 29°F (-2°C) at night. However, they also get an average of 19 inches of snow in May. The surface temperature of the lake is just 40°F during May.
Overall, the temperatures are much warmer than March (37°F/19°F) and April (42°F/23°F) though, making May the ideal month to visit in the spring.
The chances of snow are also lower considering Crater Lake averages 83 inches in March and 45 inches in April. March sees the highest snow depth at 115 inches, but by May, the snow has melted down to 75 inches. That’s still over 6 feet of snow on the ground!
Take layers with you when visiting Crater Lake in May. We found that we were fine in just a long-sleeved shirt during the day in the sunshine. In the shade of the lodge, a jacket was needed.
However, as the sun set and again the next morning as we waited for the sun to rise, we needed our heavier layers, gloves, and heavy jackets. The temperatures dropped quickly at night, and in the morning, they were slow to rise again.
Thankfully, if you are watching the sunset or sunrise from the deck of the lodge, you can sneak back inside to warm up by the fire before returning to the view or even just watch the sky light up from one of the indoor seating areas.
How to Get to Crater Lake in May
Is Crater Lake Open in May?
Crater Lake is open in May, but not all roads and entrances are open during winter and spring. When we visited Crater Lake in late May, Rim Road was not open yet, and this is the case most years in May. The south and west entrances are open year-round.
There have been some years in the recent past when the North Entrance and West Rim Drive opened by the end of May, but you will have to check current road conditions in the park here.
Rim Village is open year-round, and Crater Lake Lodge is typically open most of May (see opening dates for lodging here). Annie Creek Restaurant in Mazama Village opens in late May and closes in late September (view the current dates here).
The Steel Creek Visitor Center is open all year except on holidays, but it is closed until Fall 2023 for renovations. The Rim Visitor Center is sometimes open by the end of May, but you’ll want to check the open dates here.
During the winter months and spring months, Rim Drive and the North Entrance are closed. The west entrance and south entrance are typically open but may close due to snowfall, downed trees, or traffic accidents.
When we visited, we came in from the west entrance on our Oregon road trip. If you are coming from Bend, the south entrance is likely the easier entrance to use. From Eugene, either entrance can be used.
Crater Lake National Park Entrance Fees
Entrance to the park requires an America the Beautiful Pass, Crater Lake National Park annual pass or paying the park entrance fee. Cash is not accepted for entrance as of January 2023.
From November through May 21, the entrance fee is $20 per private vehicle. From May 22 through October, the fee is $30 per private vehicle. If you ride a snowmobile into the park, the fee is $15. The annual pass is $55 at Crater Lake.
Parking in Crater Lake National Park in Spring
As you get close to Rim Village, some of the parking areas are used to hold the snow that has been cleared from the roads. Instead, people park in a single file line in the middle of the road with enough space for a lane of traffic on either side.
There are also some spaces available in the parking lot at the lodge and at the Rim Village Cafe and Gift Shop. However, with limited parking, even with lower crowds, it may take a minute to find a spot.
We drove up to the lodge on an afternoon in May and found a spot in the lodge parking lot right away. We also passed several other spots along the way we could have used if needed.
What to Do at Crater Lake National Park in May
May and June are considered the transition months in the park where it is not winter anymore but not summer yet. Visiting during this time of year means the weather conditions are nicer, but many of the activities that are popular in the summer months are not available yet.
If you just want to see the lake though, May is one of the best times to visit as you’ll have a much easier time finding a spot to enjoy the view from the Crater Lake Lodge.
Take in the View of Crater Lake from the Crater Lake Lodge Patio
Crater Lake Lodge is the main attraction in Rim Village. With a large patio overlooking the lake and rocking chairs all along it, you can enjoy a drink or just relax and take in the view. With snow piled up around the edge of the lake, the patio puts you above the snowpack so you can see a clear view of the entire lake.
Crater Lake is not visible at all 20% of the time in May, but we happened to visit on two very clear days. While wildfire smoke can impact air quality in the summer, the air is clean and crisp in the spring. Even though the skies were clear, at sunset the lake got a layer of frost across it. The next morning at sunrise, the lake was covered in fog that burned off as the sun rose.
I enjoyed seeing the lake clear, frost-covered, and covered in fog. Even throughout the sunny weather, the view of the lake seemed to be ever-changing. I found I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it as it reflected the sky in the stillness of the waters.
You can order drinks and appetizers in the lobby area of the lodge to enjoy or grab some of the water available to take out on the patio while you watch the view. There is free WiFi at the lodge as well, but service in the park was spotty for our phones.
Take a walk to the left of the lobby when you enter the lodge to learn about the history of the lodge. Restrooms are also available in this area.
If you are looking for the best things to do in Crater Lake, just sitting on the patio of Crater Lake Lodge and enjoying the view is tough to beat.
Catch a Sunset and Sunrise at Crater Lake
If you have the opportunity, stay overnight near Crater Lake and watch the sunset and sunrise over the lake. Even if you can’t stay overnight, it is worth it to try to be there at least for sunset before you leave.
Sunset was stunning. There were clouds across the lake from the lodge that lit up in shades of pink and orange and reflected their colors onto the lake. Mount Thielsen across the lake lit up as the sun set as well, adding to the scenery.
My favorite part of our time at Crater Lake was sunrise though (and I’m not usually a morning person). We woke up before the sky started to light up and made our way to the patio. As the sunlight started to make the lake more visible, you could see a thick layer of clouds covering just the surface of the lake.
There were breaks in the surface fog that allowed some reflection, but after seeing the lake completely clear and reflective, this was a beautiful and more unique view of the lake. Later in the morning, the fog burned off revealing a clear view of the deepest lake in the USA again.
It’s also possible to see the Northern Lights over Crater Lake in May. We originally decided to stay overnight because there was a chance the Northern Lights would be visible that night. Unfortunately, they ended up not coming quite far enough south for us to see them.
The Milky Way was over Crater Lake during the early morning hours when we were there, but the sky had clouded up and it was not visible when I tried to go see it. I opted for more sleep before an early morning wake-up for the sunrise instead of trying to stay awake to see if it cleared.
Enjoy a Meal in the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room
Meals at the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room are overpriced, but you are paying for the view. With large windows overlooking the lake, you don’t have to miss out on the views while you enjoy your meal.
The Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room usually opens in mid-May, so you may not be able to eat here depending on when you visit (see dates and hours here). Our biggest problem with the restaurant was the hours. It only serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and then dinner from 5:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.
We did not realize this and were just told we could get lunch or dinner there when we checked into the lodge, so we enjoyed the view of the lake first. When we came in to get lunch at 2:30 p.m. on the dot, they let us know they were closed for lunch already and we would have to wait until 5:00 p.m. Thankfully we had snacks in the car to hold us over.
We went back for dinner as soon as it opened so we could finish in time to watch the sunset from the patio. The food was okay, but it was not worth what you pay for it. You are paying for the experience and the view, not for the quality of the food.
I ordered the steak but did not get the glaze with it, and it was very dry and did not have much flavor compared to most steaks I’ve eaten. My husband ordered the trout, and it was good but seemed smaller than the advertised size.
If you decide to eat here at dinner, get the Marionberry Pie. Marionberry is a local berry that is similar to a blackberry. The pie was overpriced for the small slice, but it was so good. I took it to go and ate it on the patio as we watched the sunset.
I tried to get another slice the next day while lunch was being served to take with us on the road. However, they wouldn’t get it out and cut a slice at lunch since it is only available at dinner.
Breakfast was also available but expensive for what it was. Since we already experienced the restaurant in the evening, we opted to just eat our own food for breakfast.
Go Snowshoeing at Crater Lake
Snowshoe rentals are available in the village through late May, so if you want to get out and explore more of the park, check out some snowshoes and head out on the trails.
Snowshoes are only available from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the park. Adult snowshoes are $22.50, and kids snowshoes are $22.
If you choose to snowshoe or play in the snow, watch out for snow cornices. Snow cornices are where the snow hangs out over an edge and collapses when weight is added to them. This is especially true near the edge of the lake, so keep an eye out and stay back from the edge.
You’ll also want to stay away from trees in case of tree wells. These are unstable holes around the base of the tree where low branches keep the snow from falling.
Cross-country skiing is more popular in March and April when you can get a backcountry permit to ski or snowshoe around the rim of the lake while the roads are closed and covered in snow.
Play in the Snow
On the front side of the lodge next to the parking lot, there is a massive open field covered in deep snow. We saw several kids building snowmen and having a snowball fight in the field when we were there. With the amount of snow piled up around the park, it’s easy to find some snow to enjoy.
Hike on Rim Drive
While Rim Drive is typically closed to cars in May still, you can hike (or bike) along the areas that have been cleared. Arriving later in May means more of the road is cleared than in early May, but by the end of May, the road may be open to vehicles already in some parts.
Even when the roads are closed to vehicles, they are still open for hikers, bikers, and pets on a leash. With many of the hiking trails closed still in May, this is a way to get in a hike while in the park.
Watch the Park Film in the Steel Visitor Center
The Steel Visitor Center is closed for remodeling until Fall 2023.
The Steel Visitor Center is 3 miles south of Rim Village at Park Headquarters. If you want an indoor activity for visiting the park, you can stop in and watch the 22-minute film showing the history of the park every half hour.
Can You Swim in Crater Lake in May?
You cannot swim in Crater Lake in May. Cleetwood Cove Trail, the only legal trail to access the lake shore, is only open from late June through late October (depending on road closures).
You also have to hike this trail for the boat tour to Wizard Island, so that trip is not an option in May either. Wizard Island is the only other place where you can swim in Crater Lake besides Cleetwood Cove.
Not being able to access these two locations means no swimming even if you can handle the 40F temperatures in just your bathing suit. As the deepest lake in the United States and the second deepest lake in North America, the National Park Service does what it can to protect the lake. That includes not allowing wetsuits in the lake.
Where to Stay at Crater Lake in May
When visiting Crater Lake in May, your options for accommodations are limited. While some towns outside the park have lodging, we wanted to stay within the park in case we were able to see the Northern Lights or Milky Way over the lake during the night.
We opted to stay at the Crater Lake Lodge after seeing they had availability online. When we went in to see about booking a room, they told us they were fully booked. We went back out to the car and booked a room online through their website and then came back in and checked in.
The only rooms available for our night were the Standard Lodge Rooms. These rooms do not face the lake, but that was okay since we did not spend much time in the room other than to sleep. The rooms are smaller and older, but you are paying for the location.
There is no air conditioning in the rooms, but that was okay because it was cold outside. When it got warmer during the day, we just opened the window to let the cool air into the room that way.
Our room was on the first floor right along the sidewalk to the entrance to the lodge facing the parking lot and a massive pile of snow piled up there. The bathroom had a window that anyone could look into as they walked by, so we had to keep that window and curtain closed when using the bathroom.
It was convenient to be staying right at the best view of Crater Lake that is available in May. We could easily walk back to the room to get more layers or leave behind layers as needed. Waking up early for sunrise wasn’t as painful when we just had to walk down the hall to be there for it.
The only other option for lodging in the park in May is The Cabins at Mazama Village (opens mid-May usually) closer to the park entrance. Mazama Campground is only open in the summer, so that one is not an option.
If you want to stay outside the park, this page shows the available lodging in nearby towns such as Klamath Falls, Union Creek, Prospect, Diamond Lake, and Chiloquin.
Is Crater Lake Worth It in May?
Overall, yes, May in Crater Lake is beautiful. I loved the snow piled up along the road and seeing the lake with the winter scenery surrounding it.
While I loved being there for sunrise and sunset, the costs add up with the limited options for food and lodging. If you are taking an Oregon road trip, plan a stop at Crater Lake, but don’t feel like you have to stay overnight. You can easily do Crater Lake in a day or even a few hours.
The prices of food and lodging make it expensive if you choose to stay overnight. You just need an hour to two to take in the views in May. If you can find lodging nearby and don’t mind driving in the dark, stay for sunset and then head out on the rest of your trip.
If you want to stay overnight but also want to save a few bucks, bring some snacks for breakfast and lunch and just enjoy dinner in the lodge.
Summer may be the most popular time to visit Crater Lake, but I think spring might be the best time to visit. I’d love to go back and visit Crater Lake in the summer to drive Rim Road and do some hikes, but I’m glad we got to experience Crater Lake without the crowds and with the snow in May.
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