Our drive from Redwood National & State Parks to Crater Lake National Park was uneventful, other than a few stops to see some carnivorous plants and wildflowers. We spent seven days in the park, which was enough time to see *almost* everything. Our plan was to spend three nights at Mazama Campground on the southern side of the park.
Mazama is the largest and most centrally-located campground in the park. When we visited, it was managed by Xanterra, a concessioner that manages guest services in a number of parks. This was new to us, as every other campground we’ve stayed at in a National Park was run by the NPS. Since our visit, Aramark has become the concessioner, so some of these details may no longer be accurate. In general, we’ve had better experiences at NPS-run campgrounds.
Finding a Campsite
We reserved a campsite online when they first became available a few months in advance. Unlike the NPS-run campgrounds we’ve visited, where we reserved the site of our choice, we were only able to reserve a “type” of campsite based on size – in our case, a 12-ft x 12-ft tent site.
As we drove into the campground area, we found parking in a large lot next to Annie Creek Restaurant and Gift Shop. We checked in at a nearby kiosk, and the attendant told us to go find a campsite that had a blue marker on the campground post. But he couldn’t tell us which ones were “blue.” So we wasted a lot of time driving around looking for an empty campsite. The roads are narrow, so watch out for people walking and kids riding bikes.
Eventually, we found a site in Loop G, a tent-only camping area. It turns out that there were only four blue marked tent sites left when we arrived. So really, it’s first come, first served as far as getting a good site. The best sites are the ones in the back of the loops, which look into a canyon and Annie Creek. The trade-off is that they’re further from the bathroom.
Our site, G11, was closer to the road and bathrooms. Given what was available, it was the best of the worst. There was trash in our campsite, the picnic table was broken (but still usable), and there were lots of mosquitoes. It seemed crowded, with neighboring campsites in close proximity, and people everywhere. We set up our tent, ready to make the best of it.
By the time we got set up, we were starving. It was too late to cook dinner, so we decided to check out Annie Creek Restaurant. We’ll leave a review in our restaurant post (spoiler alert: it wasn’t good). While we ate, the weather took a turn for the worse and it started storming. Hail that was 3-4 mm in diameter fell from the sky, which was cool to see, though we grew a bit concerned since we were camping. The hail piled up initially, but stopped – and melted – by the time we left the restaurant.
Back at our campsite, we got ready for bed. The sky glowed a beautiful reddish purple after the storm. The restrooms were near our site, and they had soap and paper towels, which is always a bonus. The other campers were relatively quiet, which we appreciated.
The following morning, we started hearing voices around 7 a.m. – which isn’t bad when you’re camping. We checked out the camp store, where we bought some food and firewood. They also carry ice, dehydrated meals, beer and wine, gifts, and other helpful items. Outside the shop is a gas pump. And thankfully, they also have an air compressor, which came in handy when our rental car developed a small leak in one of the tires.
There were only a few moments it didn’t rain that day. That evening, we built a roaring fire, roasted marshmallows, and generally had a warm and toasty evening. And we were glad, because the storms resumed shortly after. According to some Xanterra employees, rain in Crater Lake is unusual in July. We had planned to stay a third night in the campground, but with the thunder, we bailed and found a room at Diamond Lake Resort, north of the park.
So. Mazama Campground is a campground, and it’s an okay campground. We weren’t wowed. We didn’t like the site selection process, our broken picnic table, the mosquitoes, the crowds, or the overall vibe. It was nice to know we’d have a site waiting for us, though. And we were glad it was quiet and had some amenities.
If we visit again, we would stay in Lost Creek Campground – the other campground in the park – which we drove through after a hike to Plaikni Falls. It’s a smaller, NPS-run, first-come, first-served campground, so we’d also have to consider a backup outside the park. Sites have more sun exposure, are larger, and seem quieter and more peaceful. It doesn’t have as many amenities – but sometimes we prefer that.
Mazama Campground | 214 Campsites
Dates Visited: July 24 – 26, 2017
Location: 7 miles south of Rim Village (Google Maps Directions)
Amenities: Showers | Potable Water | Fire Pits & Barbecues | Picnic Table | Flush Toilets | Bear Boxes | Camp Store | Gas Station | Laundry | Amphitheater
Dates Open: Mid-June through Late September
Prices: $21/night for tent campsite | Between $31-$42/night for RV site | $5/night for walk-in campsite
Reservations: 75% of sites can be reserved in advance for July-September. Otherwise, all sites are first-come, first-served.
Highlights: Annie Creek flows adjacent to the campground.
Best Sites: Campsites to the back of the loops next to Annie Creek. Loop G is tent-only. Other loops have a mix of tent and RV sites. Get there early to select your site.
Notes: Managed by Aramark. Check-in time is between 12:00 pm and 9:00 pm, check-out is 12:00 pm.
- Mazama Campground | 42.8676392, -122.1676625
- Annie Creek Restaurant and Gift Shop | 569 Mazama Village, Crater Lake Hwy, White City, OR
- Mazama Village Store | 42.8675139, -122.1666105