Crater Lake National Park

Among the most scenic national parks in the United States, is Crater Lake National Park. The only national park in Oregon, Crater Lake does not disappoint. This ancient lake was created over 7,000 years ago and it remains the deepest lake in the United States of America.

Crater Lake used to be a tall volcano, Mount Mazama. After this volcano erupted, a caldera formed. As precipitation fell, the caldera filled with water, forming a lake that is over 1943 feet deep.

This caldera is part of the High Cascades Mountain Range, which contains 13 major volcanoes. Included in the 13, are Lassen Peak and the commonly well-known Mount St. Helens.

The Crater Lake Caldera is its own watershed, meaning that no rivers flow into it from outside the caldera. This results in very pure water and gives Crater Lake its vibrant blue color.

Visiting Crater Lake National Park with Dogs

Dogs are allowed at Crater Lake National Park, but be sure to read the rules ahead of time and know where you can go. While most of the rules and regulations concerning dogs are similar to other national parks, an interesting addition to the normal national park pet rules is that Crater Lake specifies that you can only have one pet per hiker. Find the rest of Crater Lake’s official pet regulations at the site

For the best dog-friendly views of the lake, make sure to head to Rim Village and walk along the ¼ mile paved promenade. The views were so magnificent and we stopped to take so many pictures, that this trail felt much longer than ¼ mile. When we did reach the start of the unpaved rim hike, it was hard to turn around and head back to the village. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the many miles of the unpaved hiking trail that circles the rim of the lake.

Sasha posing on the rock wall along the paved promenade.

After you have soaked in the amazing views of the lake, consider a hike on one of the dog-friendly hiking trails. Unfortunately, as state above dogs are not allowed on the rim hiking trails around the lake. And none of the hiking trails that are dog-friendly have a view of the lake.

The hiking trails that allow dogs are Godfrey Glen Trail, Lady of the Woods Trail, Grayback Drive, and the official Pacific Crest Trail (no the alternate PCT along the rim).  We love that this national park allows dogs to thru-hike with their humans. This is the last national park along the PCT that allows this. 

The website for Crater Lake National Park also states that you can leave your pet, unattended, inside your vehicle if you want to explore any of the areas where your dog is not allowed.

During our visit to Crater Lake, we mostly hiked outside of the national park. We focused our visit in the park on the paved promenade at Rim Village and the drive and overlooks along the rim of the lake.

While we wished we could have hiked on the unpaved trails along the rim, we still felt like we were able to appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty of this national park from the dog-friendly areas.

Glia enjoying the view from the paved promenade at Rim Village.

Camping at Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park has two developed campgrounds, and pets are welcome at both of them. Both campgrounds are located south of the lake and are open only in the summer.

Mazama Campground is the largest of the two and can accommodate both RVs and tents. You can reserve a campsite July through September.

Lost Creek Campground is first-come, first served. This is a tent only campground.

During our trip, we elected to camp outside of the national park so we could enjoy dog-friendly hiking trails right from our campsites. This worked well on our way to Crater Lake National Park when we stayed overnight at Joshua H. Stewart Recreation Area (an Oregon State Park).

Joshua H. Steward Recreation Area had miles of dog-friendly hiking trails around Lost Creek Reservoir. And on top of that, they also had a fenced off-leash dog area. We highly recommend camping at this lovely Oregon State Park if you are headed to Crater Lake from California. Find more information about this state park below. 

The night after we visited Crater Lake, we found a lovely campground in Willamette National Forest.  We stayed at Black Canyon Campground.. The campground felt like a jungle with thick undergrowth and lots of greenery. All the vegetation made our campsite feel even more secluded. This campground was supposed to have a 1-mile nature trail. Unfortunately, it was overgrown and mostly unwalkable. 

Dog-Friendly Activities in the Area around Crater Lake National Park

This section will be longer than normal, as we spent more time in Oregon compared to other states with only one national park. Mostly this is because I absolutely love Oregon. If I ever move away from the Midwest, this is likely where I will end up.

Why you ask? Well, just scroll down to read about all the amazing waterfalls, dog-friendly beaches, and wooded hiking trails. Add to that the more temperate climate and fewer mosquitoes and you might consider moving to Oregon too.

Because we were trying to experience a large portion of Oregon, our driving route wasn’t exactly linear. As a result, it might be helpful to reference this map to figure out where each of these locations is located in Oregon.

Joseph H. Stewart State Recreation Area

Our first stop in Oregon was the Joseph H. Stewart State Recreation Area.

We were happy to find a nicely maintained campground with grassy campsites. As an extra bonus, the campground had a fenced off-leash dog area. Sasha loved the chance to play a game of fetch in the off-leash dog area.

Additionally, there were several miles of trails around the Lost Creek Reservoir, and even a small waterfall nestled in the woods. The trail system totals 11 miles of combined hiking and biking trails, which is more than enough for a good day hike.

Natural Bridge

A few miles outside of Crater Lake National Park is a paved trail in Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest. The Natural Bridge Interpretive Trail gives you a front row seat to one of nature’s intriguing magic tricks, as the river disappears and reappears right in front of you. How you ask? Well, it is at this location that the Upper Rogue Wild and Scenic River dives into an ancient lava tube and runs underground, forming a natural land bridge. The river emerges from the lava tube downstream.

The trail is relatively short and leashed dog-friendly, making it a great quick stop on your way to or from Crater Lake National Park.

Salt Creek Falls/Black Canyon Campground

From Crater Lake National Park, we aimed our RV back towards the Pacific coast. But since we were in Oregon, of course there was a dramatic waterfall or two to check out before we made it to the ocean.

Salt Creek Falls is the second highest single drop waterfall in Oregon. It cascades 286 feet. This waterfall is located in Willamette National Forest and has a paved, accessible trail to a viewpoint near the origin of the falls. A steeper trail winds down to the base of the waterfall. However, as we found out during our visit, the last 100 feet of the trail to the base of the falls has been damaged by a rockslide.

If you want to take a dog-friendly hike at this location, consider hiking the Diamond Falls Trail loop. This loop is 2.5 miles in length and offers access to a spur trail to the base of Diamond Creek Falls. When we visited, the spur trail was a bit steep and slick, but it was worth descending to obtain views from the base of this beautiful waterfall.

After leaving Salt Creek Falls, we set up camp at Black Canyon Campground in Willamette National Forest. This campground is supposed to have a 1-mile nature trail. However, when we visited the trail was very overgrown and we were unable to walk on most of it. Despite this, we still loved our stay at this campground. The campground felt like a jungle with thick undergrowth and lots of greenery. All the vegetation made our campsite feel even more secluded.

Carl G Washburne State Park

Have you ever been to the Oregon coast? It is a magical place.

To start our coastal experience off right, we found a campsite at Carl G. Washburne State Park. We loved this state park and we would definitely recommend this campground to anyone traveling with dogs.

The campground was set on the east side of Highway 101 in a heavily wooded area. The campsites were relatively close together and the picnic table area was a little small. However, the brush was thick and it kept the campsite feeling relatively private.

The best part of the campground was the proximity to the beach – just a short 1/2 mile walk through a nice wooded path. The beach was nice and sparsely populated on a weekday. And there were even areas where dogs could enjoy the beach off-leash. Sasha took full advantage of this opportunity, chasing her ball up and down the sand.

There was also a lovely 6-mile round trip hike to a nearby lighthouse. The Heceta Head Lighthouse is a fantastic destination hike.

We turned this hike into a loop trail by hiking through the woods and up to a few scenic overlooks on our way down to the lighthouse. Then we spent most of our return trip walking along the beach.

The walk through the woods to the lighthouse offered some unique views that one doesn’t normally get – such as an almost direct look into the “light”. It was a unique experience to get pictures from that angle.

Tillamook State Forest

Tillamook is famous in Oregon for the ice cream produced at a local creamery. So, of course, we had to stop in for an ice cream cone. And since we were in the area, we took the opportunity to explore a piece of Tillamook State Forest

We arrived at the visitor center and headed out on the Wilson River Trail towards Wilson Falls. The trail itself was lovely and the waterfall was supposed to be located approximately 2 miles from the trailhead, making for a total hike of about 4 miles.

Around mile 1.9, we crossed a little rocky stream that just appeared to be spring water run-off. But when we hadn’t encountered a waterfall by mile 2.3, we began to doubt our trail instructions.

When we returned, we inspected our little stream further and found that if you looked up, there was a waterfall above our heads. Could that be Wilson Falls? We concluded it was, but if any of our readers know differently, leave us a comment below.

With the dogs, and ourselves, exercised, we continued on to our next Oregon destination – the Columbia River Gorge.

The Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls

I had first experienced the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge in 2013 when I was in Oregon on a veterinary externship. During that trip, my main priority was the externship, so I didn’t have time to hike much in this area.

As a result, I was very much looking forward to better exploring this area and sharing the experience with my travel companions and the pups. So I was sad to find that the Elk Creek Fire had burned through this region in the fall of 2017. When we visited in the spring of 2018, almost all of the trails in the area were closed.

We spent a night in this area at Ainsworth State Park. Typically, this state park has leashed dog-friendly hiking trails available for use right from the campground. However, none of the trails were open while we were there. We did have a nice campsite with full hook-ups in a quiet campground. And we were able to get a short walk in by walking the campground loop a couple of times.

The next morning, we woke up early to see two famous waterfalls that were still open for viewing after the Elk Creek Fire: Multnomah Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. We had to leave early as parking fills up fast. When we had attempted to visit the falls the day before, there were no RV parking spots open that afternoon.

Multnomah Falls is the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest. It’s USDA website reports that it receives over 2 million visitors every year. No wonder it is hard to find parking.

Only the lower viewing platform of Multnomah Falls was open after the fire, but we are still able to get a fantastic view of this over 600’ tall stunning waterfall. For those who like to hike, normally there are miles of hiking trails open around this landmark. Make sure to check the website for details about which trails are currently open before planning your own trip.

There are multiple waterfalls in this area of the Columbia River Gorge, so after viewing Multnomah falls, consider visiting some of the other waterfalls in the area. In the spring of 2018, our other open option was Bridal Veil Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls is located inside of Bridal Veil Falls State Park. The park features two different trails, both of which allow leashed dogs to enjoy. The upper trail heads along the cliffs of the Gorge and offers great overlooks of the Columbia River Gorge.

The lower trail heads down to the base of Bridal Veil Falls. This short one-mile round trip hike is moderately sloped as it descends to the base. The falls is about 120 feet tall and stunning. While Multnomah falls is much taller and more dramatic, we really enjoyed the more natural setting of Bridal Veil Falls.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Crater Lake National Park with Dogs

Traveling with dogs should not stop you from enjoying a visiting to Crater Lake National Park. While most of the hiking trails around the rim of the lake are closed to dogs, you can still obtain fantastic views from the paved Rim Trail. Then take a hike on a few of the unpaved dog-friendly trails inside the national park.

Or choose one of the many other dog-friendly hiking trails that Oregon has to offer outside of the national park. As you have read by now, we found plenty of dog-friendly activities to keep us busy during our time in Oregon.

So don’t wait, plan a visit to this fantastic area of the United States for you and your dog. 

And if you are interested in visiting a different national park with your dog, head over to our National Parks page to find out more about our dog-friendly visits to over 36 of the 59 US National Parks. 


Kate is the writer of Pawsitively Intrepid. She has spent the last 9 years working full-time as a veterinarian, treating dogs and cats. But as of June 2023, she is taking a year to travel with her dog, volunteer, and work on some passion projects.

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