From Portland to Crater Lake: 5 Best Ways to Get There
Crater Lake is one of the world's greatest natural attractions and is approximately a five-hour drive from Portland. The main route follows Interstate 5 South for over a hundred miles to Eugene. It's another hundred-plus miles through Oregon national forests from there. In total, it's an approximately 283-mile drive to Crater Lake from Portland.
The drive is possible in a straight shot or done over many days. Alternative road trips to Crater Lake follow the coast or pass by Mount Hood on the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. Crater Lake is also one of the northernmost stops on the state-spanning Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, enticing longer adventures beyond Crater Lake.
A train ride also delivers passengers from Portland to Crater Lake National Park during the summer. The Coast Starlight Train from Amtrak spans the length of the U.S., from Seattle to Los Angeles and beyond. Both Portland and Klamath Falls land on this year-round train route. Between July 1st and Labor Day, the Klamath Shuttle takes passengers from Klamath Falls to the Rim Village Visitor Center.
Other options to get to Crater Lake from Portland include bus or plane. It's approximately a six-hour bus ride from Portland to Medford, where visitors catch a connection to Klamath Falls. The two nearest airports to Crater Lake are in Medford and Klamath Falls. Direct flights are available to both cities from Portland, and both airports offer a wide range of rental cars.
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1. From Portland to Crater Lake by Car
It takes approximately 230 miles to reach Crater Lake by car. A straight shot to the national park takes just under five hours to drive, with good road conditions. The route begins with driving over 100 miles southbound on Interstate 5. Drivers then head 90 miles on Oregon 58, cutting east through the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests of Central Oregon. After merging onto US 97, Crater Lake is less than 30 minutes away.
An alternative route to Crater Lake from Portland includes cutting across the Cascade Mountains via Highway 26. Highway 26 is part of the Mount Hood Scenic Byway and offers excellent views of Mount Hood, alongside optional side trips at places like Timberline Lodge. From Highway 26, drivers head south on US 97 for over 100 miles to reach the park. This route takes an extra hour to traverse for a total five-hour trip.
For those with a few days to spend traveling, the road trip possibilities are endless from Portland to Crater Lake. A scenic diversion from the traditional route includes heading south on the Oregon Coast to reach Crater Lake. Eugene and Bend are both on the way to Crater Lake from Portland and make for great stopover destinations.
For those with a car looking to extend an adventure, Crater Lake is just the beginning of the state-spanning Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. This 500-mile route dips into Oregon and displays the long-standing landscapes of the region's volcanic history. Other notable destinations along the route include Mount Shasta and Lava Beds National Monument.
2. From Portland to Crater Lake by Train
A scenic train ride provides another option to get to Crater Lake from Portland. The Coast Starlight train extends the entire length of the country between Seattle and Los Angeles. This Amtrak route includes stops in Portland and Klamath Falls. From Klamath Falls, passengers take the Klamath Shuttle to the Rim Village.
This cross-country train features a dining car and a Sightseer Lounge. Sleeper cars are also available. The train ride takes over seven hours to reach Klamath Falls from Portland. The entire journey to Crater Lake takes over 20 hours, however, with an overnight layover in Klamath Falls to catch the shuttle the next morning. One-way tickets between Portland and Klamath Falls are approximately $60.
Crater Lake by train is a popular choice on a more extended train vacation. It's also a popular route for people from Portland who don't want to rent or drive a car. The Coast Starlight train operates year-round, but the Klamath Shuttle is only available between July 1st and Labor Day. Outside of this summer season, visitors need to rent a car in Klamath Falls to get to the park.
3. From Portland to Crater Lake by Bus
It's possible to take public buses from Portland to Crater Lake. Buses are available year-round that travel from Portland to Medford, and from Medford to Klamath Falls. From Klamath Falls, the Klamath Shuttle delivers passengers to the Rim Village Visitor Center in the park. The Klamath Shuttle operates seasonally between July 1st and Labor Day.
Outside of Klamath Shuttle's operating season, public transportation users will need to rent a car to make it to the park. Car rentals are available in both Klamath Falls and Medford. If the Klamath Shuttle isn't running, renting a car in Medford makes the most sense, as it avoids two bus transfers to Klamath Falls.
Greyhound operates the only long-distance route between Portland and Medford. It's an approximately six-hour trip between the two cities. The route typically runs three times a day, and tickets can be less than $50 (one-way). The Greyhound makes five stops along the way.
To reach Klamath Falls and the national park from Medford, users catch the Route 60 bus from Rogue Valley Transportation to Crater Lake Avenue. The Southwest Route from the POINT takes passengers to Klamath Falls from here. Depending on connections and transfers, an entire ride on public transportation to the park could take upwards of 20 hours.
4. From Portland to Crater Lake by Plane
The two closest airports to Crater Lake National Park are in Klamath Falls and Medford. Car rentals are available at both airports. It's approximately a 75-minute drive from Klamath Falls to the Rim Village Visitor Center and nearly two hours from Medford. During the summer, Klamath Falls operates the Klamath Shuttle, which provides a round-trip to the visitor center.
Flights to Medford or Klamath Falls are similarly priced, with one-way tickets available for under $100. Some trips include a transfer at Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington. Direct flights are also available, which make the journey in under an hour. Expect three to four hours for non-direct flights - or roughly the same amount of time it takes to drive to Crater Lake.
The decision to fly into Medford or Klamath Falls comes down to preference. Medford is well over twice the size of Klamath Falls and offers a wider variety of restaurants and places to stay. Klamath Falls is closer to the park and provides a shuttle in the summer. Klamath Falls also has a unique cultural charm of its own. Portland visitors can experience the best of both cities with a long weekend in southern Oregon.
5. From Portland to Crater Lake by Hiking Trail
It is possible to hike from Portland to Crater Lake thanks to the state-spanning Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). However, the 240-plus miles of hiking make this journey a strenuous endeavor. But picture-perfect Oregon landscapes span the entire PCT between Mount Hood and Crater Lake, making for an unforgettable backpacking trip to Crater Lake.
Hikers first need to get from Portland to Mount Hood to access the PCT. Head South from the Timberline Lodge and slowly progress through some of Oregon's best national forests and public lands. Of particular note are places like Three Sisters Wilderness and several Cascade Peaks, including Mount Jefferson and Mount Bachelor.
Strong hikers looking to cover a lot of ground can travel this distance in two weeks. Three-to-four weeks is a better estimate for those who want to enjoy the route at a more leisurely pace. Central Cascade Wilderness Permits are required for overnight use in the wilderness sections along this route. Because the length of the trail is less than 500 miles, it does not qualify for a PCT Long Distance Permit.