A Portland to Crater Lake road trip allows Oregon to show off some of its best natural wonders. From the greenest city in the country to the desert highlands of Central Oregon, the drive from Portland to Crater Lake is full of places to explore. Travelers will pass through dense forests and mountain passes before arriving at the lake known for its vibrant blue color and shocking depth.
Crater Lake is a gem of Oregon. As the only national park in the state, Crater Lake reveals the remnants of a violent volcanic past. The lake was formed after Mount Mazama erupted nearly 8,000 years ago. The stunning blue shade of the water is a result of a 1,943-foot depth and being fed by only rain and snow. Scientists consider the lake to be the cleanest and clearest body of water in the world.
Keep reading for the best stops to make on a Portland to Crater Lake road trip.
Planning a Portland to Crater Lake Drive
No matter what time of year visitors are planning a trip to Crater Lake, they need to consider weather conditions.
Winter brings several feet of snow that sometimes makes the drive from Portland to Crater Lake slower and more dangerous. Crater Lake covered in snow is a beautiful site to see, but harsh weather conditions can lead to a white out.
Summer brings intense heat and smoke from wildfires in southern Oregon. Travelers should check the weather conditions before planning their trip and take proper precautions.
Visitors coming from a distance should consider renting a car and booking overnight accommodations in advance. Bend or Sunriver are both great half-way places to stop on the drive from Portland to Crater Lake.
If you need to rent a car in Portland for this trip, Rentalcars.com has deals across major suppliers. Alternatively, browse Outdoorsy for campervans and RVs that can be used for a longer road trip such as from Portland to San Francisco.
How Far is Portland to Crater Lake?
The Portland to Crater Lake drive time varies depending on which route travelers take.
One route takes travelers through Central Oregon while the other is a more direct path, but doesn’t go through the Columbia River Gorge. Passing through the Gorge on Interstate 84 E clocks in at 298 miles and takes just over 5 hours. Without taking I-84, travelers drive 255 miles with around 4 hours of total travel time.
Both routes keep road trippers on main interstates and highways that frequently pass through small towns with plenty of gas and snack options. That said, travelers should still plan to leave Portland with a full tank of gas as the Central Oregon route has fewer places to stop.
Travelers who haven’t explored the Columbia River Gorge should opt for the longer and more scenic route.
Best Portland to Crater Lake Road Trip Stops
What looks like a regular hotel and restaurant reveals itself to be so much more as soon as visitors step through its doors. The property is a sprawling 74 acres and a 20-minute drive from Portland.
Inside the bar and restaurant boast a quirky and fun atmosphere. Outside visitors are encouraged to wander the gardens, play golf, visit the winery or distillery, watch a movie, and listen to live music. Guests of McMenamins Edgefield are allowed to relax in the beautiful soaking pool.
For seven decades, Edgefield was a poor farm built in 1911. The hotel has over 100 guest rooms furnished with classic turn-of-the-century decor.
Visitors just passing through can stop for a bite to eat at the Black Rabbit Restaurant or for an afternoon drink while roaming the grounds. There is plenty to explore at Edgefield.
Columbia River Gorge
Just beyond Edgefield, travelers enter the Columbia River Gorge.
The Gorge is consistently ranked among the top places to visit in Oregon. I-84 passes through right next to the Columbia River. Here is where you’ll find favorite spots like Multnomah Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Crown Point, and Beacon Rock State Park.
There are countless day hikes that range in distance and difficulty. Visitors can trek up Dog Mountain for incredible views of the Gorge and a glimpse of Mount St. Helens on a clear day.
Wine and craft beer lovers will also find several places throughout the Gorge where they can stop for a sample flight. For locals, the Gorge provides a scenic weekend getaway for hiking, backpacking, and site-seeing.
Hood River, Oregon is a city most travelers pass through briefly on their way to Central Oregon.
However, if they take a day to explore everything the city has to offer, they’ll most likely be pleasantly surprised. For craft beer connoisseurs, Hood River is home to several craft breweries that are favorites across Oregon.
On a clear summer day, wind surfers can be spotted in the river by their colorful sails. Several hikes are available for outdoors lovers. The White Salmon River is a popular spot for white water kayaking and guided rafting for the more adventurous visitors.
Hood River Lavender Farm
During the summer months, the Hood River Lavender Farm is one of the most stunning places to visit on a Portland to Crater Lake drive. Backdropped by Mount Hood, the lavender farm is a favorite.
Visitors can pick their own bunch of lavender from the farm, purchase a lavender-scented item from the gift shop, or walk the field and enjoy the scent of fresh lavender.
The lavender farm is open until November, but the best time to visit is peak summer. This is when the flowers are at their fullest and visitors are most likely to encounter good weather with stunning views of Mount Hood.
In July and August, the farm hosts Lavender Daze during the weekend. It’s a festival for local vendors to showcase and sell their unique products. The Hood River Lavender Farm is a great afternoon stop on a Portland to Crater Lake road trip.
Lava River Cave
If travelers have never walked through a lava river cave, here is their chance.
The Lava River Cave is part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and allows visitors to conduct a self-guided exploration of the mile-long lava tube.
The initial descent takes visitors down 55 stairs into the depths of the cave. Visitors are encouraged to bring or rent light sources to have the fullest experience of the cave and wear warm clothing as it tends to be around 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
About 8,000 years ago a volcanic eruption formed the Lava River Cave. Lava flowing from a volcanic vent toward the Deschutes River created the cave.
A pro tip for visiting, do not wear clothes into the cave that have been worn into other caves. This is to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome that can easily kill bats living in the lava cave.
After visiting the lava cave, take a quick trip over to Paulina Peak. Located in Deschutes National Forest, Paulina Peak is the highest point on the Newberry Volcano and provides visitors with an epic view over the caldera.
On a perfectly clear day, visitors can see as far as Mt. Shasta in California and Mt. Adams in Washington. Visitors can drive to the top of the peak, but should expect to drive on an unpaved road. Most visitors will opt for the hike to the top of the peak.
Umpqua Hot Springs
Oregon’s volcanic past created several kinds of natural features and hot springs are one of them.
The Umpqua Hot Springs are a perfect stop to make along a Portland to Crater Lake road trip for those looking to relax after a long day of driving. Several pools are staggered along a cliffside with views over the Umpqua River.
They are accessible year round, but the main road to the pools is often closed in winter due to snow, requiring visitors to hike an additional 1.5 miles to reach the pools.
Don’t be shocked to find murky water upon arrival as this is normal for the hot springs. Visitors should also use caution when slipping into these steaming baths as water temperatures can reach 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
A Northwest Forest Pass is required to soak in these pools. Bring proper shoes for hiking and prepare to drive on a bumpy road. The rock around the springs tends to be slippery, so use caution when walking near the water.
The pool at the top is usually the warmest and they gradually get cooler the closer visitors get to the river below.
Located within the Umpqua National Forest is Toketee Falls. It’s the perfect hike for those who want a quick midday or afternoon walk to a waterfall as the hike is only half a mile to the falls.
A narrow gorge creates a two-tiered waterfall. The upper descent drops 40 feet while the lower falls drop 80 feet. The falls drop down basalt walls interspersed with shades of greenery to make for a stunning contrast.
Due to the consistent water flow from the North Umpqua River, the falls remain steadily flowing all throughout the year.
While planning a trip to Toketee Falls, visitors should keep in mind the potential for limited access. Hikers can only access the falls by a staircase descending a steep cliff.
Winter storms have been known to topple trees onto the stairs, closing them until repaired. Summer wildfires can also close the trail during peak season due to smoke. Make sure to check with local forest rangers before driving to the trailhead.
Pro tip: Toketee Falls is actually pronounced “TOHK-uh-tee”.
Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge Center
With all the natural sites spurred for volcanic activity near Crater Lake, a marsh is not what most visitors expect to find.
However, the Klamath Marsh is a vibrant slice of Southern Oregon with plenty of hiking, beautiful sites, and unique wildlife. The marsh is primarily wet meadows with some open water wetlands that are home to waterfowl, elk, and frogs.
It was established in 1958 as a sanctuary for migratory birds. The marsh is also thought to be one of the last habitats of the spotted frog. Here, over 40,000 acres of wetland are backdropped by the Cascade Mountain Range.
The area also boasts a rich cultural heritage as part of a former reservation for Klamath tribes.
Of all the things to do on the drive from Portland to Crater Lake, one of the most unique is at the lake itself.
Sitting within the vast lake is a small island known as Wizard Island. The island is a volcanic cinder cone capped by a volcanic crater named the “Witches Cauldron.” Wizard Island is one of several cones that emerged from caldera after it erupted almost 8,000 years ago.
Visitors can venture out to the island via boat during summer months. The boat leaves Cleetwood Cove and stops at Governors Bay on Wizard island.
Visitors are permitted to disembark on the island, but should plan to spend the entire day exploring because the only boat with enough room to take them back comes around later in the afternoon.
Two hiking trails are available to visitors. One climbs to the rim of the crater while the other winds around the base of the island toward the western end.
Where to Stay on the Portland to Crater Lake Drive
If you’re looking for a great place to stay on this road trip through Oregon, then driving from Portland to Bend and making an overnight stop is an excellent choice. Once you’ve arrived to Crater Lake, you will find that there are a number of accommodation options closeby to the park entrance.
Hampton Inn & Suites — If you’re more of a fan of a predictable chain hotel, then this is a great option in the city of Bend. There are a number of clean and comfortable rooms on offer and it’s central location is ideal for exploring a bit of Bend before you continue on to Crater Lake. Click here to see their availability
Oxford Hotel — This eco-friendly hotel is ideal if you’re looking to support a locally-run business in Bend. They have a range of cosy rooms available for all types of visitors and even include breakfast sourced from local farmers each morning. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — If you value your privacy or simply would rather stay in a house than a hotel, then there are lots of private rentals to choose from in Bend. For instance, this historic home within walking distance to central Bend is an excellent option. Click here to browse private rentals in Bend!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Bend!
Klamoya Sleep Inn & Suites – If you’re looking for a clean and comfortable hotel near Crater Lake, then this is an excellent option. There are a number of great rooms available and great amenities to ensure that you’re well-rested to explore the nearby national park. Click here to see their availability
Aspen Inn – If you’re after a more rustic stay near Crater Lake that is locally owned and operated, then this motel is an excellent option. There are a number of basic yet comfortable rooms available and friendly owners that are sure to help with whatever you may need. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental – Sometimes visitors are more interested in privacy or a unique stay rather than going for a traditional hotel, and opting for a private vacation rental is a great option if that sounds like your cup of tea! There are tons of options available near Crater Lake, such as this beautiful wooden cabin. Click here browse private rentals in Crater Lake!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Crater Lake hotels!
Driving from Portland to Crater Lake offers several sites for visitors to explore. Whether travelers are interested in hiking to awe-inspiring waterfalls or enjoying craft beer at local breweries, there is something from everyone.
Are you planning a Portland to Crater Lake road trip? Have any questions about these stops? Let us know in the comments!