Hikes in Crater Lake National Park
Sprawling forests, diverse wildlife species, stunning mountain views, and one of the most pristine lakes in the entire world? Sign us up! Crater Lake National Park features all of the above and more within its 183,224 acre area, making it the ideal place for an outdoor adventure in Oregon.
Named after Crater Lake – the deepest in the United States and the result of a volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago – the park was established in 1902 and draws over 700,000 visitors per year. It is the 5th oldest in the US and is the only national park located in the state of Oregon.
Outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike will appreciate the picturesque landscape and vibrant plant/animal life, so iIf you are planning a visit to Oregon, then be sure to add Crater Lake National Park to your itinerary!
10 Fantastic Hiking Routes in Crater Lake National Park
Blessed with a fascinating geological history and varied topography, Crater Lake National Park is an ideal place to set out on a spectacular hiking adventure. A good mixture of challenging mountain hikes and family-friendly forest walks makes this a diverse region suitable for a wide range of hikers. If you are planning on visiting the area, be sure to check out this list we’ve put together of our 10 favorite hikes in Crater Lake National Park below:
- Wizard Island Trail: This spectacular hiking route can be found on Wizard Island, the main island in the middle of Crater Lake. You’ll need to take a ferry to get to the trailhead, but the views are incredible.
- Discovery Point Trail: Following along the rim of the crater, the Discovery Point Trail is a fantastic route for all ages and skill levels that showcases the natural beauty of the park.
- Garfield Peak Trail: As the name suggests, this hiking route leads up to the summit of Garfield Peak, providing incredible views overlooking Crater lake and the surrounding mountains.
- Cleetwood Cove Trail: For those who want to swim or paddle in the Crater Lake, the Cleetwood Cove Trail is the perfect (and only!) route leading down to the water’s edge.
- The Watchman Peak Trail: This may be a short hike, but what it lacks in overall length it makes up for in stunning views of Crater Lake National Park.
- Mount Scott Trail: Another great hike for the family, this trail on the east side of the crater leads up to the top of Mount Scott for beautiful views over the water.
- Mazama Village to Rim Village Trail: Another aptly named hiking route, this lightly-trafficked trail leads between the two villages on the south end of the crater.
- Plaikni Falls Trail: The definition of a family-friendly hike, this short and sweet trail leads to a wonderfully scenic waterfall setting that is too nice to miss!
- Annie Creek Canyon Trail: A great hike for anyone camping at the Mazama Village Campground, this route leads down into a scenic canyon landscape with beautiful views.
- Pinnacles Valley Trail: Quick and easy, the Pinnacles Valley Trail highlights some interesting geological features, including a series of volcanic rock spires that resulted from past volcanic activity in the region.
When is the Best Time to Hike in Crater Lake National Park?
The best time to visit Crater Lake National Park is during the July-October window. Winters are very long in the park, and it is not uncommon for there to still be plenty of snow throughout June. While the Summer and Fall seasons will inherently be busier, you will be able to enjoy the warmest weather and can avoid the need to travel in a 4x4 vehicle… for the most part.
Other Outdoor Activities in Crater Lake National Park
There is no doubt that hiking is the most popular activity in Crater Lake National Park, but what else is there to do in the area? The winter months will naturally provide access to a plethora of winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. Conversely, the summer season offers wildlife watching, fishing, swimming, and boating. No matter what your interests are, everyone should be able to find something fun to do in Crater Lake National Park.
Epic Adventure Tours near Crater Lake National Park
If you sometimes feel like you can’t be bothered to plan an entire trip and simply want to leave it all to the professionals… we get it! Forget about sweating the details and focus on enjoying your trip with one of these fantastic adventure tours in Oregon that will allow you to experience the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Frequently Asked Questions About Crater Lake National Park
What is the best time to visit Crater Lake National Park?
The best months of the year to visit Crater Lake National Park are July, August, and September.
Why is Crater Lake famous?
Crater Lake is well known as being the deepest lake in the United States, measuring at 593 m in depth.
Can you drive all the way around Crater Lake?
Circumnavigating the entirety of Crater Lake, Rim Drive is a scenic 53.0 km road with tight and narrow turns.
Find other fantastic hiking regions in
- Umpqua National Forest
- Mount Hood National Forest
- Willamette National Forest
Best Hikes in Crater Lake National Park
Wizard Island Trail
Wizard Island is the main island in the middle of Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the country and one of the most pristine on earth. This lake was formed by the violent eruption and subsequent collapse of a volcano over 7,700 years ago. Wizard Island is the biggest island in the lake (the other being quite tiny), and a ferry runs to and from, giving hikers the chance to explore the 3.7 km out and back hike to the island’s top.
The Wizard Island Trail is rated as moderate and is suitable for most skill levels. Keep in mind that dogs are not allowed in the park. You’ll have to plan your hike around the ferry schedule, but we also advise checking the webcams to see if the lake is visible or not before visiting. It’s often shrouded in clouds, and you’ll want a clear view from the top. All of this information can be found on the NPS website.
Discovery Point Trail
Discovery Point Trail is an easy, very scenic hiking route that follows the rim of the crater that holds Crater Lake. This crater was the result of an eruption and collapse of Mount Mazama around 7,700 years ago, forming the deepest lake in the United States, known for its color and clarity. This route follows the rim of the crater on a relaxed path, offering an excellent view of the lake.
The Discovery Point Trail conveniently begins from the Rim Village, making it an easy choice for visitors to the park. It runs to Discovery Point, one of the most popular viewpoints of the lake, and back to the village. This hike is great for all skill levels and ages, and it can be hiked most of the year, although hikers should stay away from the rim in winter months as cornices commonly develop.
Garfield Peak Trail
Garfield Peak Trail climbs from the Rim Village of Crater Lake National Park up to the top of its namesake peak, providing hikers with excellent views of this perfectly blue spectacle and the mountains that surround it. This crater was the result of an eruption and collapse of Mount Mazama around 7,700 years ago, forming the deepest lake in the United States, known for its striking blue color and exceptional clarity.
The Garfield Peak Trail conveniently begins from the Rim Village, making it an easy choice for visitors to the park. This route is suitable for most skill levels, but beginners and small children might find the final climb to the peak a bit challenging. Hikers can and do explore this trail in the winter, but you’ll need appropriate gear. Dogs are not permitted in the park.
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.
The Watchman Peak Trail
The Watchman Peak Trail is a short hike to the tallest peak on the west side of Crater Lake. This hike is quick but offers great payoff with wide-open views of the lake before you. On a clear day, this is one of the best ways to earn a memorable vantage point over the lake. It might be one of the tallest mountains in the area, but the climb is only moderately difficult and the entire hike can be completed in less than an hour. If you only have time for one hike while visiting, this one is our recommendation.
This route is suitable for all skill levels and adventurous kids should be able to make it to the viewpoint with little assistance needed.
Mount Scott Trail
Mount Scott Trail is a wonderful moderately difficult hike in Crater Lake National Park that leads you to the top of the tallest mountain in the park. Rising above the east side of Crater Lake, Mount Scott is a great objective for impressive views, but it’s not too difficult to complete. While the park map says it’s hard, this route is moderately challenging at best with no technical or loose sections and the incline is consistent and manageable.
Active children should be able to complete this hike. We recommend planning your trip for the early morning–sunrise even, if you’re willing–for the best experience. Expect sweeping views of the park and the lake on clear days!
Mazama Village to Rim Village Trail
Mazama Village to Rim Village is a route that connects, as you might’ve guessed, two villages: one just south of Crater Lake and the other on the rim of the crater. You might find yourself at Mazama Village if you’re staying at the Mazama Campground, so this can be a great option if you want to reach the lake from the campground by foot. It’s a moderately difficult hike with nearly all of the elevation gain at the start of the trail. Expect light traffic.
Plaikni Falls Trail
Plaikni Falls Trail is a pleasant, easy hike in Crater Lake National Park that leads you to a scenic green-flanked waterfall on the southeast corner of the lake. This hike is definitely family-friendly and it won’t take long to complete, making it an easy addition to your other plans at the lake. Expect moderate traffic and a well-maintained path.
Annie Creek Canyon Trail
Annie Creek Canyon Trail is a moderate, lightly trafficked hike in Crater Lake National Park that leads you down into a canyon beside the plateau that the Mazama Campground sits on. This makes it an easy adventure for campers. The hike has a bit of a workout involved, but it’s mostly a meandering walk along a pretty stream. Expect light traffic.
Pinnacles Valley Trail
Pinnacles Valley Trail is a very quick hike in Crater Lake National Park that shows off a set of interesting rocky spires created by volcanic ash after past volcanic eruptions. This hike is very short, entirely flat, and suitable for hikers of all ability levels and ages. It’s also right inside the eastern entrance to the park, so you can do it on the way in or out. Expect light traffic.
Stuart Falls Trail
Stuart Falls Trail is an off the beaten path hike in Crater Lake National Park that sees very light traffic. It’s a long, moderately difficult route that leads to a waterfall. While the trail to the waterfall is not the most inspiring, the falls are certainly worth the trip! This hike requires some route-finding skills, so we recommend bringing a downloaded GPS track with you. This route can also be used for backpacking.
Godfrey Glen Trail
Godfrey Glen Trail is a short, pleasant hike in Crater Lake National Park that sees light traffic. This quick loop is dog-friendly, so it’s the perfect option if you’re driving through the park and want to get your dog outside (most trails in the park do not allow dogs). This hike reveals an interesting canyon cliff face and beautiful views. It’s easy enough for all skill levels.
Castle Crest Wildflower Garden Trail
The Castle Crest Wildflower Garden Trail is a route that leads you through a meadow to a stream in Crater Lake National Park. This hike is short and easy enough for all ages and skill levels. We definitely recommend this one if you’re visiting in June and July when the blooms are out in full force. Hiking outside of the wildflower season offers a less enticing, but still pleasant, experience.
Crater Peak Trail
Crater Peak Trail is one of the longest hikes you can do in Crater Lake National Park, but it’s still only moderately difficult and can be done in a half day. This lightly trafficked trail leads to the top of Crater Peak, from where you can enjoy 360-degree views of the entire park, from the peaks to the forest and beyond. This hike is steep in places but doesn’t require any technical skill.
Lightning Spring Trail
Lightning Spring Trail is one of the longest hikes you can do in Crater Lake National Park, leading from the carter’s edge to the PCT and back. However, you don’t need to go far on this trail to enjoy its highlights, the main one being Lightning Spring Backcountry Campsite, a very pretty place to pitch your tent. You can go as far as you like on this route before turning back. Expect light traffic and moderate difficulty.
Dutton Creek Trail
Dutton Creek Trail is a hiking trail that starts from the Rim Village at Crater Lake National Park. This hike leads you along its namesake creek, enjoying mountain views and a peaceful forest. This route reaches its turnaround point at the PCT but it can be hiked as a shorter adventure if needed. Expect light traffic and moderate difficulty.
Lady of the Woods Trail
The Lady of the Woods Trail is a short, easy hike in Crater Lake National Park. Back when permanently changing the landscape on a hike wasn’t so firmly discouraged, a physician with an artistic flair hiked back here and carved a woman’s figure into a boulder. You can see the Lady of the Woods as well as several cabins on this hike. This hike is great for all ages and easy to follow.
Union Peak Trail
Union Peak Trail leads through Crater Lake National Park to the top of Union Peak. The route is quite relaxed until the final climb to the top, which is said to be one of the steepest in southern Oregon (according to the signage at the trailhead). Don’t worry, there are lots of good handholds. This route is not a good pick for kids, and although dogs are allowed on leash, they would likely be unable to reach the top with you.
Sun Notch Trail
Sun Notch Trail is a short, easy hiking route that shows off the namesake of Crater Lake National Park, with a particularly good view of the Phantom Ship. It’s easy enough for all ages and won’t take long to complete, so add it onto your adventures in the park. Expect moderate traffic and remember that dogs are not permitted on this trail.
Fumarole Bay Trail
Fumarole Bay Trail is a short hike along the southwestern coast of Wizard Island in Crater Lake. If you’ve ferried over to the island and want to enjoy a particularly quiet hike, this is the way to go. The trail itself mostly just meanders along the water, but the lake is very pretty and you’ll probably not have any company as you explore. Dogs are not permitted here, but it’s a family-friendly trail.
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