The Watchman Peak Trail

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Moderate
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
1h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
2.7 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
122 m
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Directions to Trailhead

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.

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Route Description for The Watchman Peak Trail

The Watchman's Peak Trail is our favorite hike in Crater Lake National Park. Don’t tell the other hikes, but this one wins for its unbelievably beautiful view on a clear day, elevated above the lake on one of the highest peaks in the area. If you’ve only got enough time for one hike while you’re visiting, this is the one you should pick.

Where did this lake come from? Crater Lake was formed over 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted and subsequently collapsed. The lake is now the deepest in the country at an impressive 1,943 ft and one of the most pristine in the world. Surrounded by the Cascades, it’s regarded as one of the most beautiful blue lakes in the world.

The Watchman is an 8,011 ft mountain on the west side of the lake, and this trail (as the name suggests) climbs up to its peak, which looks out at Wizard Island in the water nearby and to the expanse of the lake and the Cascades beyond.

For such a scenic viewpoint, it’s quite easy to reach. This hike is doable for most skill levels and ages and doesn’t take very long to complete– under an hour for most. Night hikes with a ranger are available for adventurous hikers who want to go stargazing.

Please note that this route is not advisable for winter use due to avalanche risk. There are other ways to safely reach the peak of Watchman in the winter, notably the western approach. As always, should you be adventuring in the winter, stay away from the rim where cornices tend to form. Expect road closures due to snow and bring your snowshoes if you have them.

The trailhead is on W Rim Drive at the Watchman Overlook, a lovely view to start your adventures with. There’s parking here for easy access to the trailhead.

Follow the Pacific Crest Trail Alternate North heading west as it wraps around the base of The Watchman.

Stay left where the trail to the peak splits from the PCT. You’ll hike through a set of gradually narrowing switchbacks as you approach the top, which is marked by a fire lookout. This lookout also serves as a museum of sorts, and you can pop in for a look when it’s open.

Take your time enjoying the expansive view of Crater Lake and Wizard Island. When you’re ready, turn back and retrace your steps back to the starting point at the lookout.

Hiking Route Highlights

Crater Lake

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 known for its clarity and deep blue color. It’s surrounded by the Southern Cascades, boasting its dramatic beauty. Go on several hikes cutting through the mountains circling the lake or go on the summer ferry that takes visitors to Wizard Island.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Watchman Peak Trail open?

This route is generally snow-free and open for hiking from July through October.

How many trails are there at Crater Lake?

There are about 30 trails in the park.

Is The Watchman hike safe?

In ideal conditions (snow-free), this trail is safe to hike.

Insider Hints for The Watchman Peak Trail

  • For more information on the fire lookout museum or night hiking, check out the NPS website.

Getting to the The Watchman Peak Trail Trailhead

The trailhead for The Watchman Peak Trail is off W Rim Drive.

Route Information

  • Backcountry Campground

    No

  • When to do

    June to October

  • Pets allowed

    No

  • Family friendly

    Yes

  • Route Signage

    Average

  • Crowd Levels

    Moderate

  • Route Type

    Out and back

The Watchman Peak Trail Elevation Graph

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The Watchman Peak Trail Reviews

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