Hiking in Crater Lake National Park

With over 90 miles of hiking trails in Crater Lake National Park, there are plenty of options to suit every time frame and skill level. In addition, many of the trails are fairly short, so it is easy to pack a lot into one day. With only two days to spend in the park, my friends and I were able to do almost everything we wanted to do, and we didn’t even have to rush.

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We arrived around dinner time on our first day in the park, so didn’t have much time to see things. So we started our adventure by visiting Crater Lake Lodge (lodge details in another post) and strolling the paths that run behind the lodge along the edge of the crater. And as it was absolutely freezing (by CA girl standards), I was grateful the lodge had a coffee cart so I could warm up!

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The sunset was gorgeous that night, and watching it set with my best friends was a perfect way to spend our first evening in the park.

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Morning, Day 2 in Crater Lake. We started by hiking to Garfield Peak, just under 4 miles round trip. This was a really nice trail. The park trail guide lists it as “difficult”, but it was only difficult in that it was almost 2 miles uphill (as a hike with the word “peak” in the title might suggest). But with plenty of spectacular views along the way necessitating photography stops, we were hardly winded by the time we reached the top.

The panoramic views of Crater Lake from the summit of Garfield Peak are absolutely incredible. If you have enough time and your skill level permits, this is the trail I would recommend as the best trail in the park. It provides a wide variety of scenery, and the best lake views you’ll find anywhere.

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After Garfield Peak, we headed over to the visitor center, where there are a few trailheads for short hikes, including The Lady of the Woods (0.3 mile loop) and Castle Crest Wildflower trail (0.4 mile loop). The Lady of the Woods trail was nice, but Castle Crest Wildflower trail was beautiful! Wildflowers, deer, and babbling streams surround you, making this trail feel nothing short of magical.

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From there we took the scenic drive, and stopped at Vidae Falls. This was just a scenic viewpoint, but is very pretty and worth a stop if you drive past it.

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We then continued the scenic drive, and stopped to do the Sun Notch trail (0.5 mile loop).

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This was an easy trail, and took us to an awesome viewpoint for Phantom Ship island.

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Further down the scenic drive, we stopped to do the Pinnacles trail (2 miles roundtrip). The best part of this trail is at the very beginning, before the trail even really starts. So if you are pressed for time, skip the rest of the trail. It only leads to the park border, and then continues for who knows how long outside of the park.

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Our last hike of the day was Godfrey Glen (1 mile loop). This trail was also easy, and takes hikers through mossy old growth forests and along the top of Annie Canyon. Flowing water can be heard from this hike, but not seen. The trees on this hike are really cool though, and look kind of spooky. So definitely worth checking out.

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I was really pleased with our trail selection on our first full day in the park. I feel like we really got to see a wide variety of the scenery in Crater Lake.

Evening, Day 3 in Crater Lake. We spent the earlier part of the day on a boat tour of the lake (discussed in another post), but had a little time left before the day was over, so we headed to Watchman Peak (a little under 2 miles round trip). This trail leads to a historic fire lookout, and is supposed to be the best place to watch the sun set in the whole park.

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Sadly, during our visit there was (and still is, at the time of press) a huge wild fire burning through Oregon right at the border of the park. The air was horribly smoky, to the point where it was almost hard to breathe, and giant smoke clouds could be seen growing larger by the hour. It was heartbreaking to see, but it sure made for some haunting photos of the smoke barreling down the sides of the crater and enveloping the lake.

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Even with the smoke, the sunset was still very pretty, and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be to see it from Watchman Peak on a clear evening.

DSCN8486Click here for a listing of the trails in Crater Lake! And there are additional trails not listed on this guide that you can learn about by talking to the rangers at the visitor center.

Have any questions about the trails or things to see in the park? Leave a comment! I am always happy to talk about our beautiful National Parks!

Author: Natalie Bates

LA-based freelance writer | Blogger | Craft beer drinker | Rock 'n roll girlfriend | Adventurer | Lover of tattoos, red lipstick, and popcorn | World traveler | Compassionate human | Photography enthusiast | Eco warrior | Celtic babe ❤️

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