Crater Lake National Park

Multi-Use Trails
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park (Steve Terrill/courtesy, Oregon Tourism Commission)

Crater Lake National Park's 180,000-plus acres are mostly backcountry, with elevations ranging from 6,000 to 9,000 feet, and laced with 90 miles of hiking trails. These footpaths are usually snow-free from mid-July to early October. Visitors can hike for several days or enjoy a walk lasting less than an hour. In addition to the many trails that start inside the park, there are several connections with paths in the surrounding National Forests such as the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs all the way from Mexico to Canada. Thirty miles of the PCT passes through Crater Lake's backcountry.

Day hikes are possible on portions of the PCT within the park, but hikers must backtrack or use two vehicles as there is no loop trail encompassing the PCT. The PCT crosses Highway 62 south of the Annie Springs Entrance en route to Medford. It crosses the North Entrance Road in the Pumice Desert Area. The total day hike covers 17 miles.

The "PCT alternate" brings hikers right up to the rim of Crater Lake, whereas previously PCT hikers could get a view of the lake only by leaving the trail and hiking into the Rim Village area. Coming from the north, the alternate leaves the old trail at the Grouse Hill junction with the North Entrance road. The trail parallels the road up to North Junction where it follows the rim of the caldera, offering spectacular views of the lake for six miles all the way to Discovery Point. From there, the trail descends back down the Dutton Creek trail to rejoin the old trail.

Wizard Island offers excellent hiking opportunities to those who make the effort to get to it. Tour boats make regular trips to the island during the summer months. From the 800-foot summit of Wizard Island, you can peer into the clear waters of America's deepest lake and enjoy a great view of Mount Scott and Garfield Peak. Mount Scott, in fact, is just a hop from the visitor's center on the mainland and can round out a weekend of hiking at Crater Lake.

Shore Access

Located on the north side of Crater Lake, Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only safe and legal access to the lake. The trail is one mile in length and drops 700 feet from the East Rim Drive trailhead to the lakeshore. The Cleetwood Cove hiking trail is recommended only for those in good physical condition and should not be attempted by visitors with heart, breathing, or leg problems. It is not accessible for visitors with mobility impairments. Due to the park's heavy snow conditions, the trail typically does not open until late June and closes in mid-October.


No bicycles are allowed on park trails. Bicycling is allowed only on paved roads, the Grayback Motor Nature Trail, and the dirt trail entering the park on the east side near the Pinnacles.


Horses are permitted on all trails except between Rim Drive and Crater Lake, on Mt. Scott, Godfrey Glen Trail, Annie Springs Trail, the new PCT alternate trail, and in camping areas. Access to the rim for stock remains via the Lightning Springs trail.

Group size is limited to 8 persons and 12 head of stock. For trips beginning in the park, horse trailers must park at the Pacific Crest Trail parking lot on Hwy. 62 or the PCT parking lot on the North Entrance Road. Visitors riding horses must carry and use feed pellets on all overnight stock trips as grazing is not permitted. All other feed types are prohibited.

A permit is required for all overnight trips. Pets are not allowed on any park trail (including the Pacific Crest Trail), nor anywhere else in the backcountry.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 27 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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