Best Hikes at Crater Lake

May 9, 2016

There’s a trail for every level

By Lindsey Banks

Photo at right: Sunset over Crater Lake from the summit from Mount Scott. Photo by Robert Mutch. Courtesy of Crater Lake Institute


With 90 miles of hiking trails, Crater Lake National Park has a trail for every skill level. Be aware that some trails are closed until July due to snow. Trailheads are well-marked. Check trail and weather conditions with a Park Ranger before hiking.

Easy Hikes

Castle Crest

A half-mile loop trail through a meadow, along a creek and with views of wildflowers in early summer. Trailhead starts a half mile southeast from the Steel Visitor Center parking lot near the south entrance.

Sun Notch

A 0.8-mile loop trail with a short uphill meadow walk to the rim of Crater Lake. Here you will find a great view of the Phantom Ship, an island that resembles a sailing ship. Trailhead starts 4.4 miles east of Steel Visitor Center along East Rim Drive.

The Pinnacles

A 0.8-mile roundtrip trail along the rim of the Pinnacle Valley, with views of the volcanic spires rising out of the cliff edges. The trailhead lies at the end of the Pinnacles Spur Road, 7 miles southeast of the Phantom Ship Overlook off Rim Drive, on the southeast corner of the park.

Plaikni Falls

A 2-mile hike through the forest with a waterfall greeting you at the end. The trailhead is along Pinnacle Road, 1.2 miles southeast of the Phantom Ship overlook off East Rim Drive.

Moderate Hikes

Discovery Point

A 2-mile trail along the rim of Crater Lake with views of the lake and Wizard Island. The trailhead is not designated and starts on the west end of Rim Village, where the paved walk becomes a dirt path.

Watchman Peak

For panoramic views of the park, take this 1.6-mile hike up to a fire lookout above Wizard Island. The trailhead is located adjacent the east side of the Rim Drive, 3.8 miles northwest of Rim Village.

Strenuous Hikes

Wizard Summit

After taking the tour boat to Wizard Island, you can climb to the top of the island on this 2.2- mile trail for incredible lake views. Embark on a boat tour at the bottom of the Cleetwood Cove Trail.

Cleetwood Cove

This 2.2-mile steep trail allows for the only access to the shore of Crater Lake.

Cleetwood Cove trailhead and parking is on the north side of the lake 11 miles from Rim Village if traveling clockwise on Rim Drive.

Mount Scott

To get some of the park’s best views, navigate your way up this 4.4-mile hike to the highest peak in the park. The trailhead is 14 miles east of the Steel Visitor Center on East Rim Drive.



Crater Lake Institute

National Parks Blog