7 Fun Hikes to do in Crater Lake

My parents and I spent two days in Crater Lake National Park this summer taking in the sights and doing some hiking.  We took several different trails over the course of our visit, nothing super strenuous, but enough to give us a variety of angles of the lake and work up a good sweat!  Here are the 6 hikes we took during our trip, plus a bonus one (we tried to hike it but there was too much snow!!)

1.  Pinnacles Trail

The Pinnacles Trail is a short, one mile round trip hike on the South end of the park.  It runs right along the edge Pinnacle Valley so be careful by the cliffs!  It gives a great view of the volcanic spires which were formed as gases came up through a layer of volcanic ash, causing the ash to then hardened into solid rock.  A quick, easy hike that’s worth seeing!

Plaikni Falls

2.  Plaikni Falls Trail

Plaikni Falls is a beautiful waterfall located just off the southern side of The East Rim drive.  It’s a two mile round trip hike, with no dramatic elevation gain except for the last quarter mile.  The trail weaves through an old growth forest, and at the end of July the area around the falls is carpeted with wildflowers.  We saw some flowers starting to bloom and the falls itself was very pretty.

Making my way down to Cleetwood Cove

3.  Cleetwood Cove Trail 

Everyone has to hike the Cleetwood Cove Trail in order to do any boat tour on the lake.  It’s the only trail in the park that leads to the lake shore, and is a strenuous 2.2 miles round trip. It’s a series of switchbacks taking you down into the caldera, and there are great views of the lake and water clarity.  However, once your tour is over, you have to hike back up 700 feet in elevation in just over a mile.  There are lots of benches along the way, and it’s not really that long.

At the top of Garfield Peak

4.  Garfield Peak

We hiked to Garfield Peak as a second choice after deciding the trail to the highest point in the park was too long for us.  Garfield Peak is 3.6 miles round trip, and a moderately strenuous hike up to the summit of 8,054 feet, where you have panoramic views of the lake and Mount Shasta in the distance.  There was still a good amount of snow in two places on our way up the trail and then a lot at the top, but it was passable, and the switchbacks gave us great lake views at every turn up the mountain.

Livin’ on the edge!

5.  Discovery Point

Discovery Point is a two mile trail that runs from the Rim Village to the point and back again.  It’s an easy hike along the rim with great lake and Wizard Island views.  Some parts of the trail run right alongside West Rim Drive, and hikers doing the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) often take this trail if they detour through the park to see Crater Lake- we actually met a woman hiking the PCT by herself!

6.  Sun Notch Trail

This trail is a quick loop off East Rim drive that has great views of the Phantom Ship.  The trail is only 0.8 miles round trip, with several benches along the edge where the trail hugs the caldera rim.  The Phantom Ship can be seen below you, named because it looks like a small toy ship, and on foggy days, can barely be seen.  We were lucky enough to have a day where the water was so calm, the ship was perfectly reflected on the water like a mirror.

At the Watchman’s Peak Trailhead

7.  Watchman’s Peak

Watchman’s Peak was a trail we had lined up first thing on our second day in the park.  It’s a 1.6 mile round trip hike to a fire tower lookout right above Wizard Island.  There are spectacular views of the island and lake at the top, plus it’s a short, only moderately strenuous hike.  Unfortunately, it was still closed due to a lot of snow covering most of the trail except the first quarter mile.  Garfield Peak was a good substitute, but I really would have liked to see a panoramic view of Wizard Island from directly above it.  Next time!!

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