Panoramic views of Wizard Island, Phantom Ship, and Crater Lake
Distance: rated at 3.4 miles roundtrip, but you will likely hike further due to parking (our distance was 5.0 miles)
Type: out and back
Difficulty: moderately difficult with 1,010′ elevation gain at high elevation (trail tops out out at 8,054′)
Best Season: July – Sept
Our Oregon vacation was coming to an end and it was time to start heading home. It would be a long drive from Crescent City, California to our home in SE Washington. Since neither of us had ever visited Crater Lake, we decided to spend part of a day there. We’d break up the drive home plus we’d get an introduction to a new (to us) National Park and a stunning Cascade lake.
We began the day out on East Rim Drive where we made stops at Cloudcap and Phantom Ship overlooks and then hiked the short Sun Notch Trail.
Next we headed to Rim Village for our main hike of the day, an ascent to the top of Garfield Peak. We parked by the Rim Village Café and hiked the Rim Trail (flat and paved in this section) east to the beginning of the Garfield Peak Trail. Views of the lake were immediate and stunning. The Rim Trial was crowded with people as we made our way past Crater Lake Lodge. Fortunately, the further we got from the lodge, the fewer people we saw. But have no doubt, this is a popular trail and we saw plenty more people than we prefer.
The pavement ran out at the beginning of the Garfield Peak Trail and we immediately began climbing. At 7,090′ feet in elevation, we were sucking air after having spent a week at sea level. The trail was in excellent condition and well graded with easy tread except for a few rocky places.
From minute one, Garfield grabs and holds your attention. The views are incredible and become even more so the further you climb. About the time I’d get really out of breath, a stunning photo op would present itself. This provided regular opportunities to catch my breath and snap a few shots. Best of all, we had more shade than I anticipated—a big relieve when climbing on a sunny 70 degree day.
One couple coming down assured us there was a 7-Eleven at the top that served cold beers! Alas, they were wrong. We found no convenience store serving ice cold beverages on top of Garfield Peak (elev 8,054′), but we did find some of the most amazing views imaginable. You know from seeing photos of Crater Lake that the water is an intense blue. But you really can’t comprehend the depth of the color until you see it with your own eyes.
It was a pleasant hike down. The excellent condition of the trail allowed for an easy descent. Back at the Rim Village Café, we celebrated with ice cream for Jason and a giant cookie for me (any excuse to indulge our collective sweet tooth).
We ended our short Crater Lake introduction by hiking about half a mile of the Rim Trail near Discovery Point. Here we were treated to great close-up views of Wizard Island and The Watchman.
Our visit to Crater had been short, but very sweet. We will return one day soon and catch the sites we missed including hikes to the top of Mount Scott and The Watchman as well as the boat ride out to Wizard Island.
Directions to trailhead: this hike begins behind Crater Lake Lodge at the far eastern end of the Rim Trail.