You are here

National Park Road Trip 2011: Crater Lake Lodge

It's difficult not to be attracted to the view from Crater Lake Lodge. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

Editor's note: Leaving Oregon Caves National Monument behind, lodging experts David and Kay Scott returned to the snowbelt, heading to Crater Lake National Park, which has had a very impressive winter in terms of snowfall, to update their book, The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges.

It is approaching mid-June and much of Crater Lake National Park remains blanketed with snow.  National Park Service headquarters received 55 feet of snow this winter and pretty much remains buried under a white umbrella of the stuff. 

The rim where Crater Lake Lodge is located generally receives even more snow than the lower elevation at park headquarters, so you can imagine the scene here.  A snow bank across from the lodge must be 20- to 25-feet high.


The drive from Oregon Cave National Monument to Crater Lake is an easy 160 miles, so we didn’t depart the Chateau at Oregon Caves until mid-morning.  We took our time and stopped for gas ($3.89/gallon) and groceries in Grants Pass.  We forgot to mention the price of gasoline declined about 20 cents per gallon when we crossed the California border into Oregon.  One oddity, as progressive as Oregon seems to be, drivers are not permitted to pump their own fuel.  We are unsure of the reasoning behind this.  We seem to remember that New Jersey is the only other state that has the same restriction.

Crater Lake, the centerpiece of this national park that was established in 1909, is the remnant of a collapsed volcano. The crater is in the heart of the magnificent Cascade Range that runs from northern California to southern British Columbia.  The scenic drive that circles the lake remains closed by snow.  A ranger told us the western side of Rim Drive might open within a couple of weeks.  With Rim Drive being closed by snow, the next leg of our trip with be more lengthy because we have to exit the park on the south side even thought we want to drive north.

Alternate Text
Crater Lake Lodge. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

Crater Lake National Park offers two very different lodging options, both operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts.  Mazama Village Motor Inn consists of 40 identical motel-type units just inside the park’s south entrance station.  The village, about 8 miles from Crater Lake’s rim, includes a market, gas station, Laundromat, and a relatively new restaurant and gift shop.  Rooms at the motor inn are about $25 per night cheaper than the least expensive rooms at Crater Lake Lodge.  The location at a lower altitude means warmer temperatures than on the rim, although the area isn’t particularly scenic. 

Crater Lake Lodge has always been one of our favorite national park lodges.  Situated directly on the rim of beautiful Crater Lake, views from the back porch and many of the rooms are quite spectacular.  At least the views are spectacular during most of the season.  At present the views from the back porch are blocked by a high snow bank that also obscures lake views from first-floor rooms.

The lodge has an interesting history and was at one time headed for demolition.  The building was completed in 1915 using what apparently were shoddy construction techniques resulting, in part, by lack of adequate financing.  The result was a lodge that looked good on the outside, but suffered from major electrical, plumbing, and structural problems.  The region’s hostile climate certainly contributed to the building’s accumulation of problems until, in 1989 the lodge was closed to guests.  A major $15 million government-financed restoration started in 1991 resulted in a reopening of the lodge four years later.  The completion was a year prior to our first stay during the summer of 1996.

Room prices vary depending on room size, view, and bedding.  As you might expect, rooms with a lake view are more expensive than rooms on the opposite side of the building with a valley view.  Least expensive are four economy rooms on the bottom floor that rent for $158 per night.  These frequently have no view at all because of snow piled next to the building.  At the high end are two-story loft rooms that can accommodate four adults and rent for $288 per night.  Most majority of the rooms rent from $190 to $220 per night. 


Alternate Text
The Great Hall of Crater Lake Lodge. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

The best part of a stay at Crater Lake Lodge is enjoying the Great Hall that attracts guests who wish to read, play cards, or enjoy a glass of wine and a conversation. 

The focal point is a huge stone fireplace that is lit each evening.  Granted, the fireplace has gas logs, but the ambiance of a fire on a cool night remains.  Lodge guests enjoy relaxing in the Great Hall and in rocking chairs scattered along the back porch that spans a large section of the building. 

Following a two-night stay, we'll leave Crater Lake Lodge and head north for Mount Rainier National Park.   In between we are hoping to get in a couple of nights of camping.  One is likely to be along the Columbia River, where it should be considerably warmer.  Weather permitting, we will camp another night in a U.S. Forest Service campground northwest of Yakima.  Then we are scheduled for a two-night stay in Mount Rainier, one in at Paradise Inn and the other at National Park Inn.  The lodges of Mount Rainier National Park will be the subject of our next note.


Featured Article


Really enjoyed your notes and videos! We will be staying at the lodge on June the 18th of this year and was so surprised to see how much snow was still left on yall's visit to the lake. We will be leaving from the lodge to make the journey to the Oregon caves chateau. Thank you for providing this for everyone's enjoyment! 


 Volcano Boat Cruise Rates
Standard Lake Cruise
Adult: $29.00
Child (ages 3-11): $19.00
Infant (under 3):  Free
Wizard Island Cruise
Adult: $39.00
Child: $25.00
Infant (under 3): FreeSpecial School Group Tours:
Adult: $20.00
Child: $10.00
Maximum 48 passengers. Advanced request only; dependent upon availability of staff.

One follow-up example about the financial reality of Phil Anschutz, Denver Billionaire, as owner
of Xanterra Parks and Resorts is the escalating prices to keep the shrinking American middle-class
out of America's national parks is the 2011 price of a boat ride to Wizard Island now at $30 per person.
This approach to high-end pricing is to reserve these places and services for the upper wealthy classes;
next will be the selling off of national parks to private corporations to pay for the culmulative USA Debt of
15 Trillion. NPS management will began to believe this reality when their park budgets also shrink during the
coming decades of the American & International wealthy vs. the working poor.

Welcome to Crater Lake Lodge, and we truly hope that you will correct the errors
of the previous Lodge Manager. More guests would be critical of Xanterra's management were it not for the fact that the location and views from the Lodge are truly magnificient, so they are happy to be on the Rim despite the over-priced rooms and dinner rates rather than down below without any landscape views.  We realize that had the NPS had the vision to expand the dining room during reconstruction, its management would be much easier with a wider price range among menu selections. 
One issue which has yet to be discussed in any of the earlier posts, is the issue of Noise.  Crater Lake Lodge despite its location above "The Sea of Silence" is noisy.  One way Crater Lake Company which had a staff respecting visitor and guest recommendations, managed the Noise Issue is each evening, they would place "sawhorses" near the entry road to Picnic Hill with
signs reading Lodge Guests Only attempting to communicate to drivers to turn around
prior to approaching the Lodge (thus preventing noisy motorcycles and diesel trucks
motorhomes from rounding the Lodge Loop Road at all hours of the night.  Even the NPS has forgotten the Noise Issue with their noisy, smelly diesel rigs at sunrise working on the
Rim when all should respect the Quiet Beauty of the Place.  The NPS diesel water truck
even reloaded water in front of Crater Lake Lodge at sunrise last week with no concern for sleeping guests when they could have utilized the water hyrant near the Gift Shop. 
Even the NPS maintenance staff often idles their noisy diesel rigs below Park HQ early in the morning with no respect for Air Quality or the relative quiet of "Sleepy Hollow".  As the new Lodge Manager, we hope you will recieve suggestions with a Positive Mental Attitude for change.
[Editor's note: this post has been edited slightly some personal references to individuals which can't be verified.]

Hey Tim, I have to attest to the restroom cleanliness.  Although they were scheduled to be cleaned one morning in August I convinced the maintenance crew to wait a bit as there were  about 400 runners preparing to run the Crater Lake Marathon, Half Marathon and 6.2 mile races.  We outnumbered them, lol!  Awesome place! 

Full disclosure, my name is Timothy Mahoney and I am the current manager of the Crater Lake lodge.  I recently arrived here from Zion NP and have spent 10 years living and working in national pakrs for Xanterra and Aramark. 
  I want to assure you that I take the cleanliness of my lodge very seriously.  The restrooms are located directly outside my office and are checked and cleaned regularly throughout the day.  My door is always open and my desk faces guests leaving the restroom.  I am occasionally given notice that the restrooms are in need of servicing and this is attended to promptly, by myself  if need be.  These small restrooms recieve a huge amount of traffic from the thousands of people who visit the lodge everyday but we take great pains to insure they are consistantly up to standards.
  Our rooms are cleaned quickly, they have to be, but that does not mean they are not cleaned well.  Every room is filled every night we are open.  If guests wish to take their time in departing we extend the checkout time until 12pm without question and most days guests beginning arriving to check-in everyday at the same time.  Despite our stated 4PM check-in time we are able to accomodate the vast majority of guests who arrive before than.  Rooms are cleaned by hard working professionals and each is inspected by one of my managers before being released to the guest.
  I welcome feedback from anyone visiting the lodge and am always open to conversatioon on how we can improve.  This is my second home and I want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable here.

[color=#202d95] [/color]Mazama Village, but this review is not by Xanterrible paid reviewers: 21 reviews  6 helpful votes This member's reviews have been voted helpful by TripAdvisor travelers. [color=#202d95]“Not worth the money”[/color][color=#202d95] [/color] [color=#666666]Reviewed 11 September 2010 [/color]

We have stayed in numerous properties in National Parks. So we know NOT to expect luxury. However, we have begun to notice a disturbing trend amongst properties managed by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. They are overpriced for what you get. This property is no exception. They are taking advantage of having a captive audience.

$140 got us a somewhat spartan room with nasty
carpeting, old and stained furniture and borderline mattresses. The bath in our unit did have some updating with a newer shower and sink. This was cleaner than the main room.

The setting of this property is nothing special. You're 7 miles from the rim in the woods. You aren't getting any views at this locale.

Here is my take on Crater Lake. If you really want to stay in the park, plan early and stay at the lodge. It's pricey (you'll probably feel cheated on room vs cost basis), but you do have the views of the lake and that makes up for a lot.

For most people, you can see Crater Lake in a day. In hindsight, I'd make my visit a day trip and spend my $140 elsewhere.

  • Stayed August 2010
    •  Value
    •  Location
    •  Rooms
    •  Cleanliness
    •  Service

[color=#202d95]less [/color] Was this review helpful? Yes

This series of comments began with a California road trip entering Oregon to visit Oregon Caves
National Monument.  Here is an update on the expansion proposal many decades after the fact
that special ancient Port Orford-cedars have been cut/logged by the adjacent US Forest Service
and now the dreaded exotic root disease is killing the remainder.  Newton Drury of Save-The-
Redwoods League, and former NPS Director during the WW II years recognized many
similarities between Port Orford cedars and coastal redwoods, and
attempted to expand the Monument while the ancient cedars were living, but tragically failed.

A modest expansion of the [color=#366388]Oregon Caves National Monument[/color] is long overdue

While recent attention and controversy has focused on a proposed Siskiyou [color=#366388]Crest National Monument[/color], legislation is now pending in Congress to protect one of the jewels of [color=#366388]Southern Oregon[/color] — a national monument that has existed since 1909.

The Oregon Caves National Monument covers just 480 acres in southern Josephine County. When it was created, that was considered sufficient to protect the caves — although the original proposal was for more than 2,000 acres.

Science has advanced considerably since then, and scientists and [color=#366388]land managers[/color] now realize that what happens over a wide area of the surface affects the health of the caves and the creek that runs through them.

[color=#366388]The National Park Service first[/color] proposed expanding the monument in 1939. Expansion was proposed again in 1949 and most recently in 1998.

The expansion is needed now more than ever, and Congress should see that it happens.

Bills were introduced in 2008, but were not successful. In April, Sens. [color=#366388]Ron Wyden[/color] and [color=#366388]Jeff Merkley[/color] reintroduced a Senate bill, and [color=#366388]Rep. Peter DeFazio[/color] introduced a measure in the House.

The bills would expand the monument from its current 480 acres to about 4,000 acres — enough to protect the watershed that feeds the cave system. The new boundaries also would encompass three caves that now lie outside the monument.

A key to the legislation is retiring grazing leases that now cover a portion of the expansion area. [color=#366388]Applegate Valley rancher Phil[/color] Krouse, whose family has held grazing privileges there since 1937, has agreed to sell his permits, and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center has agreed to buy them using privately raised money. In the meantime, KS Wild is paying Krouse an annual fee to refrain from grazing cattle on the land.

There are several good reasons to expand the monument, not the least of which is to increase the number of visitors, which will bring more tourism dollars into the economy of Cave Junction and the Illinois Valley.

Park Service surveys show the average visitor to the caves stays just 2.5 hours. Visitors frequently ask what else there is to do, and monument staff suggest [color=#366388]hiking trails[/color] in the vicinity, but many of those trails are outside the monument boundaries. Including them would make the monument more attractive to visitors.

Attendance at the monument has been declining in recent years, and the nonprofit Illinois Valley Community Development Organization, which operates the [color=#366388]Oregon Caves Chateau[/color], is concerned that the historic hotel may not be viable in the future without increased use.

Supporters of the expansion are confident the Senate bill will be successful. Approval in the Republican-controlled House may be more difficult.

The caves are not in his district, but [color=#366388]Rep. Greg Walden[/color], as a member of the House GOP leadership, should lend his support to this effort.


Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments