More than 90 miles of trails lead into the park's backcountry. They're usually snow-free from mid-July to early October. There's no smoking on all trails.
Annie Creek -- This is a scenic walk through old-growth forest and wildflower meadows. It's a nice little break from all the ancient volcanic starkness going on up at the rim. There is an elevation gain of about 200 feet. 1.7 miles RT. Easy. Access: Mazama Campground Trailhead, btw. the D and E loops of the campground.
Castle Crest Wildflower Garden -- Summer is short on the rim of Crater Lake, so when the snow finally melts, wildflowers burst forth with nearly unrivaled abandon. This trail meanders through one of the best displays of wildflowers in the park. Late July and early August are the best wildflower periods. Although this trail is rated "easy," be careful of slick rocks. Hiking boots, or shoes with good tread, are helpful. The trail has an elevation gain of about 100 feet. .5 mile RT. Easy. Access: Park headquarters, Mazama Village.
Cleetwood Cove Trail -- This is the only trail down to the shore of Crater Lake, and it stays busy with those trying to get to the water or to Cleetwood Cove to take the boat tour. Because the trail leads downhill, many visitors are lured into thinking that this is an easy trail. It's not! Volcanic boulders line the trail, and the climb 700 feet back up from the water to the rim is strenuous and steep. 2.2 miles RT. Strenuous. Access: North side of the lake, 4 1/2 miles east of the North Junction.
Discovery Point -- This trail, like most trails around the rim, provides brilliant views of the vast lake and Wizard Island below, ending after a short climb at an overlook where John Hillman, one of the first European explorers of the area, first witnessed the beauty of Crater Lake in 1853. 2.2 miles RT. Easy to moderate. Access: West end of Rim Village parking area.
Godfrey Glen -- This trail is a very easy walk through an old-growth forest overlooking the Annie Creek Valley (also accessible by trail). You'll cross Munson Creek at Duwee Falls before you head back to the car. It's a good walk for kids, with lots of possibilities to see deer, elk, rabbits, and grouse. 1 mile RT. Easy. Access: 1 1/2 miles past Mazama Village Entrance, on right side of the road.
Sun Notch -- This trail, with an elevation gain of 115 feet, takes hikers through a meadow to a terrific overlook of Crater Lake and Phantom Ship. There are steep drop-offs, so be careful. .5 mile RT. Moderate. Access: 4 miles east of park headquarters on East Rim Dr.
Watchman Peak -- With a historic fire lookout perched on its summit, the Watchman is one of the high points on the rim of the caldera. A short but steep (420-ft. elev. gain) hike leads to the top for an outstanding view of the lake, with conical Wizard Island rising from the deep blue of the foreground. This is the shortest climb you can make along the rim of the caldera. 1.6 miles RT. Moderate. Access: 3 3/4 miles northwest of Rim Village on West Rim Dr.
Wizard Island -- Though it is small, Wizard Island is a great place to visit. The island, with its steep volcanic cone rising from the deep, is fun to explore for a few hours. This trail climbs 760 feet up to the island's summit, capped with a 90-foot-deep crater. To spend some time here, take an early boat tour, get off on the island, and return on a later boat. Because most of the hiking is on jagged lava rock, be sure to wear sturdy boots. 2 miles RT. Moderate. Access: Cleetwood Cove Trail, then boat tour; disembark on the island.
Bald Crater/Boundary Springs -- The ashy, flat, and rolling Pumice Desert stretches north along the trail as you travel approximately 3 miles toward the 8,763-foot summit of the Red Cone, a miniature Mount Mazama before it collapsed and created the caldera that holds the lake. The plains give way to ancient forests interspersed with fields of wildflowers. At the junction of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Bald Crater Trail, turn right to head for Bald Crater Peak. The peak is about 2 miles south of some fine campsites at the end of the Bald Crater Trail, along Boundary Springs, near the headwaters of the beautiful Rogue River. 20 miles RT. Easy to moderate. Access: Rim Dr. to northwest of Rim Village area; continue to the Northern Park Junction of the Rim Dr. and the northern access road; from here, it's 3 miles down the northern access road to the trail head, on the left.
Crater Peak -- This beautiful hike takes you to a peak that is also a crater. How? The summit of the hike is the rim of yet another little volcanic cone, south of once-huge Mount Mazama.
The trail begins with an uphill climb through 2 miles of alpine forest and meadow. The steep, final half mile leads to the summit of Crater Peak, with its panoramic vistas of the Klamath Basin to the south and the rim of Crater Lake to the north. To the west lies Arant Point, near Mazama, and to the east the Grayback Ridge. All of them combine to form an incredible view. Early in the morning or late in the evening, you may see deer or elk. 6.4 miles RT. Moderate to strenuous. Access: From park headquarters, head east around the Rim Dr.; trail head is at the Vidae Falls Picnic Area.
Dutton Creek -- If you think the whole volcano experience is about ash and pumice, check out the old-growth forest of hemlocks, fir, and pine on the sometimes-vertiginous Dutton Creek Trail. This is also the section of the Pacific Crest Trail that leads the long-distance hiker up to the rim. For short-timers heading south, it provides an opportunity to get away from the crowds and see something besides a volcano's mouth: perhaps a deer or an elk that appears as you hike down this narrow, forested valley along Dutton Creek. The route meets the Pacific Crest Trail, where you climb back the way you came. 4.8 miles RT. Easy to moderate. Access: West end of Rim Village parking area.
Garfield Peak -- Sure, the view from the Rim Village borders on sublime, but this is even better. You'll leave most of the crowds behind, get in a good hike, and treat yourself to a breathtaking (literally -- the hike starts above 7,000 ft.) view of the lake. This hike leads to the summit of 8,054-foot Garfield Peak, which lies just east of the Rim Village. The route gains all of its 1,010 feet of elevation in 1.7 miles of nearly constant switchbacks. From the summit, the entire lake is visible below, including the island called Phantom Ship, which is hard to see from the Rim Village. To the south, Mount Shasta is visible. 3.4 miles RT. Moderate to strenuous. Access: East end of Rim Village parking area.
Mount Scott -- If the trail to Garfield Peak had a few too many other hikers on it for your taste, try this trail to the top of 8,929-foot Mount Scott. This is the highest point within Crater Lake National Park, and the trail is longer and entails more elevation gain (1,250 ft.) than the trail up Garfield Peak. The views from the summit are the most far-reaching in the park, encompassing not only the entire lake, but also such surrounding peaks as Mount Thielsen, Mount Shasta, and Mount McLoughlin, as well as the vast expanse of Klamath Lake to the south. 5 miles RT. Strenuous. Access: 14 miles east of park headquarters on East Rim Dr., across the road from Cloudcap Junction.
Pacific Crest Trail Section -- For those who want to chalk up this particular section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches along the West Coast from the Mexican to the Canadian border, there's a lot to chalk up. The trail essentially bisects the park, with only one section that follows the rim and allows views of the lake. Otherwise, you're pretty much out there in the flatlands.
From the trail head, the path follows the base of the mountain's curve to the west, with views of the mountain's slow climb to its rim to your right, and the rolling high desert plains to your left. At the northern end of the walk, before crossing into the vast Pumice Desert, there is an opportunity to circle back to the rim at North Junction. 33 miles one-way. Moderate to strenuous. Access: Approx. 1/4 mile west of Mazama Village, trail head is on the left.
Pumice Flat -- This is the southern equivalent of the park's northern Pumice Desert area. The dusty trail takes you through gently rolling, forested pumice and ash plains littered with sharp volcanic rocks, before intersecting the Pacific Crest Trail for the loop to Mazama. You can also return on the shorter route back to the trail head where you started. 5.4 miles RT. Easy to moderate. Access: 3 miles south of Mazama Village on Ore. 62.
Stuart Falls -- Stuart Falls is outside the park's boundaries, but the trail head isn't. You'll experience a nice contrast as you climb down to the dusty, volcanically beautiful Pumice Flat before heading into the Red Blanket Valley after the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. You'll begin to notice a bare trickle of water turning into a creek, turning into a much bigger creek that ends up as a fine crashing mist of spray known as Stuart Falls. Folks have been known to take a rest in Stuart Falls' fine white spray before heading back up the steep and often parched trail. 7.7 miles RT. Easy to moderate. Access: 3 miles south of Mazama Village park entrance on Ore. 62.
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