- Trip Name: Crater Lake National Park
- Best Time To Visit: Summer to early fall
- Views: 10
- Recommended activities: Day hike, overnight backpacking
- Best for: Hikers, backpackers, families (pets are not allowed on trails)
- Restroom: Yes, at Rim Village, Mazama Village and several picnic areas around Rim Drive
- Permit: $10 entry fee (valid for 7 days), free backcountry permit for overnight trips
- Recommended map: National Park Service Map which you will get a copy of upon entry to the park.
- Click here to check out our photos from Crater Lake
- Click here to download this Trail Guide as a PDF
Driving Directions from Bend:
Travel Time: 2 hours
Leaving Bend on Highway 97 South travel about 74 miles to OR-138 West. Turn right onto OR-138 and follow it for about 15 miles to the North Rim Entrance Road on the left. Shortly after turning onto the Entrance Road you will come to the fee station where you pay $10 for entrance into the park (cash or credit card accepted). Follow the Entrance Road for about 9 miles to Rim Drive. Once at Rim Drive many park options begin.
A day (or more) at Crater Lake National Park:
Crater Lake is one of the most spectacular visual spectacles one can see. From the old, yet still active, Watchman Tower on the West Rim, to the Pinnacles south of the lake, to the park's highest point, Mount Scott on the East Rim. There is also access to the blue lake following the Cleetwood Cove Trail where swimming and boat tours are available. Crater Lake is Oregon's only National Park and has something for everyone.
Once inside the park, at the intersection of the North Entrance Road and Rim Road, a good place to stop and get a first glimpse of the lake is at Merriam Point. This is also a good spot to take time to review the map and plan your days activities. The map has suggestions for 16 different hikes, with many more possible. We found time to do three of those listed.
After stopping at Merriam Point we headed south around the west side of the lake first. Just 2 miles after Merriam Point is the Watchman Overlook. Here, we found the trail that leads up to The Watchman and its fire tower, a worthwhile short hike with great views.
Hike: The Watchman
- Trip length: 1.8 miles out-and-back
- Trip time: 1 hour
- Difficulty rating: 2
- Views: 10
- Wilderness experience: 2 (crowded, easy hike, easy trail access)
Starting at the Watchman Overlook parking area this trail begins on the south end of the parking area. The trail is well marked and starts off up a wide path on the north side of the lava flow. After 0.4 mile the trail splits, keep left to start the steeper section of this hike. The remaining 0.5 mile of the hike will gain 300 feet making the total elevation gain 400 feet. You will ascend nine switchbacks to get to the summit. Once at the summit, grand views of Crater Lake and the surrounding lands and mountains appear. The fire tower is also of great interest displaying historic and current fire spotting devices. To complete the hike follow the same trail back down to your car.
Once back on Rim Drive, you will pass Discovery Point before arriving at Rim Village. Rim Village has a cafe, gift shop, Visitor Center and Crater Lake Lodge along with more wonderful views of Crater Lake.
Continuing around the lake in your car you will shortly come to the Park Headquarters and the junction of Munson Valley Road. Near this junction are two short and easy hikes if you are ready to stretch your legs again. The Lady of the Woods trail to your right and the Castle Crest Wildflower trail to your left. At the Munson Valley Road intersection take a left onto East Rim Drive.
On East Rim Drive, in a few minutes, you will reach the 100 foot tall Vidae Falls which flows from springs on the ridge above. Just across the road from the falls is the Vidae Falls picnic area. We found this a nice quiet spot for a lunch break, and there's a bathroom here too.
After Vidae Falls, drive five miles to the Pinnacles Road junction. Take a right and follow Pinnacles Road for 6 miles to the end of the road and a parking area. Although it seems a bit out of the way this side trip is definitely worth the time. The Pinnacles are an amazing site and the flat easy walk along the ridge above Wheeler Creek makes for easy viewing. After looking at The Pinnacles and maybe taking a stroll on the the Pinnacles Trail, head back to Rim Drive. Across Rim Drive from Pinnacles Road is the Phantom Ship Overlook. Another spot for views of the odd geology that forms Crater Lake's landscape.
After stopping to view the Phantom Ship, continue driving along East Rim Drive. Our next stop was the Mount Scott trailhead. The roadside parking area for the Mount Scott trail is just after the turnoff to Cloudcap Overlook on the right. Mount Scott is the highest point within Crater Lake National Park and marked as a strenuous hike.
Hike: Mount Scott
- Trip length: 4.4 miles out-and-back
- Trip time: 2-2.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: 7
- Views: 10
- Wilderness experience: 6
The trailhead for Mount Scott is easy to spot as it is marked by a large sign. The trail starts out nearly flat along the edge of a meadow with views of the cirque of Mount Scott and its western slope. The fire watchtower can be seen on the northern summit from here. As the trail enters the woods, the elevation gains significantly. The first half of the hike remains in the woods with views back to Crater Lake and south to the Klamath basin. On a clear day, Mount Shasta, in Northern California, is visible. Larger spruce and fir trees give way to the smaller whitebark pines allowing for more and better views as you climb the switchbacks to the summit.
After the final switchback, and at the southern point of the summit ridge, there are panoramic views of Crater Lake and many of the surrounding Cascade Mountains. Make your way across the rocky ridge taking in the views from all directions. The true summit is on the northern end of the ridge where the fire tower is located. Just beyond the fire tower is a great spot to find a rock and relax before heading back down the mountain.
Follow the same route down and take notice of the great views of Crater Lake that were behind you on the way up. Once back at your car, continue driving along Rim Drive for several miles stopping at the numerous viewpoints available.
As you make your way to the north side of the lake there is one more trail you may want to explore. The Cleetwood Cover Trail leads to the lake and is the only access to water level in the park. This is a very steep trail dropping nearly 650 feet in almost a mile. Here, you will find swimming access and boat rides to Wizard Island.
Drive the final stretch of Rim Drive back to North Entrance Road. Along this drive, there are a few picnic areas, one of which we took advantage of for a quick snack before hitting the road for the drive home.
Crater Lake National Park has so much to offer and we decided a day was not enough time. There are a number of options to spend the night in the park. Overnight accommodations are available at Mazama Village Campground, The Cabins at Mazama Village, Crater Lake Lodge, or backcountry camping.
Please let us know how your hike went and share some of your photos on our Facebook page!