Ultimate Seattle to Crater Lake Road Trip Itinerary

The pristine blue waters of Crater Lake make it one of the most picture-perfect regions on the US west coast. If you’re planning a Seattle to Crater Lake road trip, it’s important to realize that the journey will be just as good as the final destination.

You’ll be passing through some of the most beautiful areas of the Pacific Northwest and have opportunities to stop in Portland, the Columbia River Gorge, and other top travel sites.

In this guide, we’ll cover the logistics of a drive from Seattle to Crater Lake so you can plan an epic road trip of river rafting and mountain climbing!

Distance from Seattle to Crater Lake

The most direct distance from Seattle to Crater Lake is about 400 miles. To make the most of your road trip in the Pacific Northwest, you can take a more scenic route as you drive from Seattle to Crater Lake, including stops at places like Bend or side trips to visit Mount Hood and other natural parks.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls29 miles (47 kms)35 minutesSnoqualmie
Snoqualmie Falls to Mount Rainier National Park69 miles (111 kms)1 hour 30 minutesMount Rainier
Mount Rainier National Park to Portland135 miles (217 kms)2 hours 20 minutesPortland
Portland to Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area16 miles (26 kms)20 minutesColumbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to Mount Hood56 miles (90 kms)1 hour 20 minutesMount Hood
Mount Hood to Bend113 miles (182 kms)2 hours 15 minutesBend
Bend to Eugene138 miles (222 kms)2 hours 30 minutesEugene
Eugene to Crater Lake National Park127 miles (204 kms)2 hours 20 minutesCrater Lake
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

This means the drive will be closer to 450 miles or possibly a bit longer, depending on how many side trips you add on.

How is the Drive From Seattle to Crater Lake?

Driving non-stop from Seattle to Crater Lake would take between 7 and 8 hours, depending on the traffic. However, there’s no reason to torture yourself with that much time behind the wheel, particularly when there are so many beautiful places to explore.

Planning for at least three days of driving will give you enough time to stop at parks and cities along the way, but you could easily take a week driving from Seattle to Crater Lake if you’re hoping to make multiple stops.

Best Time of Year to Drive from Seattle to Crater Lake

June through September are the months with the best weather for a drive from Seattle to Crater Lake. Keep in mind that Crater Lake is one of the snowiest places in the United States-often winters will bring an average of 43 feet of snow! This can make driving conditions difficult, if not impossible.

The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are also doable, but you’re still likely to come across lingering snow drifts in spring or early snowstorms in fall.

Best Stops on a Seattle to Crater Lake Road Trip

From cascading waterfalls to snowy mountain peaks, the number of places to stop on the scenic drive to Crater Lake from Seattle is endless! Below are some of the best places to visit so you can plan your time as you make your way through the wonders of the Pacific Northwest.

Snoqualmie Falls

Don’t get too comfortable driving as you leave Seattle. The first place worth stopping on your drive to Crater Lake from Seattle is just 30 minutes or so outside of the city.

Snoqualmie Falls plummets a jaw-dropping 270 feet and is considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state of Washington.

USA Seattle to Crater Lake Road Trip  - Snoqualmie Falls, Washington

The viewing platform from the top of the falls is very close to the parking area, but it’s also worth your time to explore some of the other trails. There’s a short hiking trail to reach the bottom of the falls (just be prepared for the climb back up), and the surrounding area has other trails through the forest.

If you’re already hungry, there’s also a picnic area where you can have lunch or a quick snack break before you keep driving.

Mount Rainier National Park

Any road trip in Washington should include a visit to the popular Mount Rainier National Park. It would be easy to spend a week or more at Mount Rainier, but at the very least, you can stop for the afternoon to check out some of the top hiking trails like Skyline Trail or Mount Fremont Lookout.

The first segment of the Skyline Trail to reach the spectacular Myrtle Falls is particularly family-friendly since it’s on a paved path. From there you can decide if you want to continue to the more difficult parts of the trail.

USA Seattle to Crater Lake Road Trip  - Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier also has a lot of scenic drives, so you don’t necessarily need to get out of your car much to see some of the best areas of the park.

Paradise and Sunrise are two of the best places to drive in Mount Rainier, although be prepared for lots of traffic and tourists, especially during the summer months.

If you want to spend more time at Mount Rainier, there are lots of campgrounds and lodges in and around the park, but make sure you reserve a place well in advance since spots fill up quickly.

Portland

Portland is about 3 hours south of Seattle, and it makes a good midway point for a drive from Seattle to Crater Lake. Spending a night or two in the city will give you more time to explore the fun cultural attractions as well as some of the nearby natural wonders.

USA Seattle to Crater Lake Road Trip  - Portland, Oregon

Full of quirky eateries, beautiful parks, and cool museums, Portland has something every traveler will enjoy. On rainy days there are plenty of indoor activities like the Portland Art Museum, which has over 45,000 works of art on display. Another good indoor activity is browsing for books at the famous Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore.

If the sun is shining, explore the International Rose Test Garden, where over 650 types of roses from around the world are grown. Forest Park is another popular outdoor place to visit and covers 5,200 acres with trails along the river and through the forest.

Kids will enjoy picking up a treat at Voodoo Doughnuts, a bakery famous for its homemade artisan doughnuts of unique flavors bigger than your head!

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

The Columbia River Gorge is one of the top natural attractions near Portland. If you have time to spare on your road trip from Seattle to Crater Lake, an afternoon (or even a day or two) exploring the gorge is a great stop to include.

With over 90 waterfalls, endless hiking and mountain biking trails, and water sports like kayaking and swimming, the gorge is a perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts to visit.

USA Seattle to Crater Lake Road Trip  - Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Make sure you have your camera along to get photos of some of the most picturesque waterfalls, like Bridal Veil and Multnomah Falls (the tallest waterfall in Oregon!).

Crown Point is another popular spot for photographers; located right along the Columbia River Highway, the point has a spectacular panoramic view of the gorge, plus the cool Vista House which has a museum and gift shop.

Another excellent drive in the gorge area is called the Fruit Loop. For over 30 miles, the charming country lane winds through the apple and pear orchards along the Columbia River, and there are plenty of places to stop to visit wineries and local farms or check out one of the seasonal festivals.

Mount Hood

Oregon’s tallest mountain, Mount Hood, is the volcano looming over the city of Portland. It has the longest ski season in the United States, plus tons of opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities.

USA Seattle to Crater Lake Road Trip  - Mount Hood, Oregon

If you’re looking for scenic routes to include on your drive from Seattle to Crater Lake, the Mount Hood Scenic Byway should be top of your list. It’s a great drive to do along with the Columbia River Highway since combining the two will take you on a full loop starting and ending in Portland.

During the summer, hiking is one of the most popular activities on the mountain, and there is a good combination of easy trails which are appropriate for kids and families, as well as more difficult routes that are better for experienced hikers.

The 2-mile Old Salmon River Trail is one of the best hikes for families and is an easy path to take through the old-growth forests along the river, where you’ll find places to swim in the summer (the water will be cold!).

Bend

If you decide to drive through the Columbia River Gorge and continue south through Mount Hood National Forest, Bend is the next convenient stop to make on a Seattle to Crater Lake road trip.

Known for its nature and outdoor activities, Bend combines a fun cultural scene with stunning outdoor scenery.

With numerous award-winning restaurants, you should at least plan to stop for a meal as you head south to Crater Lake. If you have more time to explore the city, shop at the fun boutiques in the central area of the city or check out the Downtown Bend First Friday Art Walk, which takes place on the first Friday of each month in the summer.

USA Seattle to Crater Lake Road Trip  - Tumalo Falls, Oregon

There are endless options for outdoor adventures near Bend, whether you’re looking for a quick afternoon stop or hoping to camp somewhere for a few nights.

About 20 miles outside of the city, Tumalo Falls is an 89-foot waterfall that is easily accessible by driving to the base of the falls, or you can pick one of the hiking trails if you’d prefer to be outside longer.

During the summer, tubing on the Deschutes River is a popular activity. There are plenty of outdoor gear shops where you can rent equipment as well as catch a ride on one of the shuttle buses to be conveniently dropped off at an access point to float down the lazy, winding river.

Eugene

If you decide to keep traveling straight south from Portland, then it makes sense to plan for a stop in Eugene. The city is about halfway between Portland and Crater Lake, perfect for a lunch break if you’re in a rush or to spend a night or two, giving you time to check out the city.

Eugene has continuously ranked among the top cities in Oregon and has a picturesque location on the Willamette River. During the summer, rafting, kayaking, and swimming on the river are all popular activities to cool off during hot afternoons.

USA Seattle to Crater Lake Road Trip  - Willamette River, Oregon

Take in the scenery at Skinner Butte Park, with excellent hiking trails, panoramic views of the city, and fascinating rock formations which attract rock climbers from around the state.

There are plenty of museums worth visiting, like the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, and the Eugene Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History, which has a huge meteorite on display.

Kids will enjoy visiting the Cascades Raptor Center, which is home to a variety of falcons, hawks, and other birds of prey. Interactive workshops and handler demonstrations with the birds make it a great learning experience for people of all ages.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake itself is the star of the show at this National Park. It’s the deepest lake in the United States and is known for its characteristic pristine blue water. It is possible to swim in the lake, but even on the hottest summer afternoons, the water will be very cold!

USA Seattle to Crater Lake Road Trip  - Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

The park has over 90 miles of trails, including the stunning (but challenging) Cleetwood Cove Trail or the easier Plaikni Falls Trail, which brings you to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the park.

Every visitor traveling to Crater Lake should include the Rim Drive in their trip itinerary. As you might guess from the name, the Rim Drive travels the entire circumference of the lake and offers numerous viewpoints where you can stop for pictures or access trails.

Once you’ve seen the lake from above, you can take a boat tour out onto the middle of the lake for a new perspective. Keep in mind that the only way to get to the shore of the lake is by hiking a trail with steep switchbacks, so this might not be the best option for inexperienced hikers or young children.

More Tips for Road Tripping from Seattle to Crater Lake

  • Parts of Crater Lake National Park will always close during winter, including popular scenic routes like the Rim Drive. Other areas remain open but are still subject to closure depending on weather conditions.
  • Make sure you pack for all types of weather, especially rain! Although other parts of the Pacific Northwest aren’t as notoriously rainy as Seattle, you’re still likely to encounter some showers during your trip.
  • To avoid disappointment, always make reservations for activities and accommodation in advance for a road trip from Seattle to Crater Lake.
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