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.

Mount Scott and Phantom Ship

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.

happy hikers atop Garfield Peak

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.

The Watchman
Garfield Peak at far right

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.

2 Replies to “Oregon’s Crater Lake: Garfield Peak, Sept 2016”

  1. I really like this that you are doing . Your photos are great as always , and you are doing a great job of explaining the hikes . I can relate to the ones hear in Oregon mainly because I’ve done most of them at one time or another , maybe not always the whole trail but most in a different way . Keep it up and I look forward to the next one . Looking to be in your area this summer for a trip op the river into the canyon . Did it the other way from the top down and back on a small sled , so thought it would be fun to do it again the other way around .


    1. Thank you for the kind comments Rich. The photos are easy and fun, but the writing has taken me a while to settle into. Your feedback helps! Let us know when you will be in our area. We’d love to meet you for a hike or even just dinner!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *