Hiking Adventures, The Pacific Northwest

Hiking Crater Lake with Kids: The Cleetwood Cove Trail

Hiking Crater Lake with Kids | Vagabondr RN

Are you visiting Crater Lake National Park this year with the family?  Hiking Crater Lake with kids is a fun, doable adventure.  The Cleetwood Cove Trail will lead you to directly to the lake’s rocky shore. Below is my guide to hiking Crater Lake with kids. 

Park Information 

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.  It was formed thousands of years ago when a volcano erupted and collapsed into itself. As the caldera filled with snow melt, Crater Lake was formed.


A day pass is $15 per car.  The Crater Lake Annual Pass is $30.  Lastly, the annual National Park pass is $80.  I highly recommend the annual pass.  For the most up-to-date fee information, visit their website.

Hiking Crater Lake with Kids: The Trail 

Hiking Crater Lake with Kids | Vagabond RN

There are many trails to choose from in Crater Lake National Park. However, the Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only access to swimming in Crater Lake.  The hike is rated as a strenuous 2.2-miles out and back hike with a 700-feet elevation change.  The park gives an approximate hike time of 1.5 hours.

A Bench for Taking a Break on Cleetwood Cove Trail | Crater Lake | Vagabond RNAlthough it is rated as strenuous, this was a reasonable hike for my 4-year-old son.  Actually, he did better than me!  I can confidently recommend the trail for healthy kids ages 4 and up.

It took us about 30 minutes going down and 45 minutes going up.  We stopped frequently along the way to drink water, stretch, and take in the view.  I wish I would’ve stretched more as my calves were sore for several days.  Although, that could be due to the fact that I spend way too much time on my couch working on this blog! 

Hiking Crater Lake with Kids: Swimming 

Swimming in Crater Lake | Vagabond RN

Many of my coworkers told me that I couldn’t go swimming in Crater Lake. Total lie! However, it is very cold.  According to the National Park Service, the average surface temperature in August is 59°F (15°C).  There are two types of swimmers at Crater Lake: those who jump in and those who enjoy torturing themselves.  I am the latter.  I find that it is easier to freeze my body one inch at a time. 

Swimming in Crater Lake | Vagabond RN

Speaking of jumping right in, there are rocks available for these brave souls.  I am not one of those souls. Therefore, I have no advice on jumping. Swim and jump at your own risk. There are shallow areas for small children to play in.  However, always keep a close eye on them and remain within arm’s reach. Remember, this is the deepest lake in the United States. 

Hiking Crater Lake with Kids: What to Bring 

Bring water, snacks, and appropriate footwear.  My favorite day hiking snacks are cheddar cheese, nuts, and oranges.  I wouldn’t bother bringing a change of clothes; the bathrooms are stinky and it’s not worth changing in them.  Wear what you will swim in.  Although I wore a cotton T-shirt, clothing made of nylon and polyester are ideal as they are quick to dry.  Finally, bring a small towel if you have room in your pack. 

Hiking Crater Lake with Kids: Souvenirs 

Passport to Your National Parks | Vagabond RN

The Visitor Center has several souvenirs to choose from.  A National Park Passport is a fun way for kids to keep record of the parks they have visited.  They are only $10. At each park’s visitors center, you can stamp your passport.


There are bathrooms at each end of the trail-top and bottom.  Play on the safe side and take potty-breaks before venturing onto the trail as there are no bathrooms on the trail. 


The park is open year-round.  However, many trails and certain entrances are closed during the winter months.  I recommend this trail for mid to late summer.  Also, keep in mind that this is wildfire season in Oregon. Check out the Crater Lake Facebook page and website for updates on current conditions and closures.

Boat Tour 

The Cleetwood Cove trail also leads to the dock for boat tours of the lake.  Tours run from July 1st-September 17th with three variations to choose from.  We decided not to participate as this was not in our budget when we visited. For prices and information, check out the Crater Lake Summer/Fall Visitor Guide. 

Leave No Trace  

I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will.  Pack out your trash.  Don’t take any natural souvenirs from the park including rocks, leaves, sticks, and chipmunks. If we all took a chipmunk home with us, there would be none left in the park! On that note, please don’t feed the wildlife.


The Cleetwood Cove trail is strenuous and steep in areas. However, with appropriate parental supervision, it is a safe, doable adventure. I assure you; the memories you make today will be worth the sore calf muscles tomorrow.

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