Cleetwood Cove Trail
Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only way to reach the lakeshore of Crater Lake in Crater Lake National Park. This trail will be what you’ll use if you want to swim, paddle, get to the ferry, or just enjoy the shore. This trail is fairly quick, but it is quite steep, so unfortunately it does restrict water access to those who can handle a steep trail. Definitely dip your feet once you make it down to refresh yourself before the return trip.
If you have poles, we recommend using them. This trail will also stay snowy until June or July, so take great care if there are still wet or slippery patches on the route. Expect a fairly busy route, especially on warm summer days, since everyone bound for the water and for the ferry will be coming up and down this trail.
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Route Description for Cleetwood Cove Trail
Cleetwood Cove Trail is the go-to trail in Crater Lake National Park for hikers who want to get to the lakeshore. In fact, it’s the only major trail that leads to the water, so anyone who wants to swim, splash, paddle, get the ferry to Wizard Island, or otherwise be on the lakeshore will need to take it.
Crater Lake was formed over 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted, followed by a collapse. The lake is now the deepest in the United States at 1,943 ft in depth and one of the clearest and most pristine in the world.
While ideally the lakeshore would be accessible for everyone, this route is quite steep and, while short, presents a moderate physical challenge that might be unsuitable for those with mobility challenges. Poles are helpful. There are plenty of benches to rest at if needed, so you can take it slow on the way back up.
Should you be bound for Wizard Island, you’ll need to factor the hike down and up on Cleetwood Cove Trail into your difficulty consideration.
Note that Crater Lake National Park is open throughout the year, but some roads are closed in the winter and this trail becomes snowed in and treacherous in the wintertime. Be very careful if you want to use it in the offseason.
The trailhead is on E Rim Drive across from the parking lot. You’ll cross the road and begin down through the trees on switchbacks. Enjoy a brief respite as you traverse across the slope to the lower switchbacks. Take a breather on the benches if needed. The trail is often quite busy, so you might be hiking slowly regardless.
The trail is wide and well-maintained all the way down to the lake. Continue down through the caldera through the final switchbacks. At the shore, you’ll find the ferry pickup and the beach. Enjoy the view of nearby Wizard Island in the water and the Cascades rising above you.
When you’re ready, follow the same route for the return trip. This will be the harder trip, so take some time to enjoy the benches and the view if you need, or cruise happily on up and continue onto your next adventures.
Hiking Route Highlights
Crater Lake National Park protects the unique Crater Lake, a body of water formed by the crater left over from the eruption and collapse of Mount Mazama over 7,700 years ago. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the country at 1,949 ft deep, and it’s renowned for its clarity and deep blue color. The bordering Southern Cascades elevate Crater Lake’s dramatic beauty. Discover a collection of hiking trails around the lake or hop on a summer ferry and head to Wizard Island on the west side of the lake.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you swim in Crater Lake?
Yes, but it’s very cold! Bring a warm towel and some warm clothes for after your dip.
Is Crater Lake National Park always open?
The park is open most days of the year, but services and roads close down in the winter months. We’d recommend visiting between mid-June and September if you’re able to.
How do you get down to the water at Crater Lake?
Cleetwood Cove Trail is the main trail that provides access to the water at Crater Lake.
Insider Hints for Cleetwood Cove Trail
- Bring sandals or water shoes if you want to swim. The shoreline is littered with very sharp volcanic rocks.
- If you want to take the ferry to the island, you’ll need an advance reservation.
Getting to the Cleetwood Cove Trail Trailhead
The trailhead for Cleetwood Cove Trail is off E Rim Drive.
Cleetwood Cove Trail Elevation Graph
Weather ForecastCheck Area Weather
Cleetwood Cove Trail Reviews
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