Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Best trails for seeing Crater Lake highlights

Crater Lake. Photo courtesy of Kozzi.
Among the best ways to see Crater Lake National Park’s major sights is via a day hike. Just five short trails allow visitors to enjoy the park’s major highlights – its namesake, the Pumice Desert, the Pinnacles, old-growth forests, and a historic fire lookout tower.

Crater Lake
A volcano caldera formed more than 7000 years ago, Crater Lake reaches a depth of 1,943 feet, making it the United States’ deepest lake. The 2.2-miles round trip Cleetwood Cove Trail heads downhill 700 feet from Rim Drive to the lake’s shores, where you can touch the water.

Pumice Desert
The volcano explosion that created Crater Lake deposited up to 200-feet of pumice and ash that covers 5.5 square miles, leaving behind a barren wasteland. There are no marked routes through the desert, but the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail skirts its eastern edge.

The Pinnacles
Hot gas cemented other ash and pumice deposits, forming pinnacles and spires that soar up to 300 feet above the forest floor. The 0.4-mile Pinnacles Trail in the park’s southeast corner allows visitors to see many of these fascinating geological formations.

Old-growth forests
Forests of mountain hemlocks and shasta red firs that have never seen the lumberjack’s ax cover nearly 50,000 acres in the park. The 1-mile loop Godfrey Glen Trail off of Munson Valley Road heads through these verdant woodlands.

Historic fire lookout tower
A tower built in 1932 offers incredible views of Crater Lake, Wizard Island, Mounts McLoughlin, Thielsen and Scott, Union Peak, and the Klamath Basin. The 1.6-mile round trip Watchman Trail gains 700 feet in elevation via several switchbacks to reach the tower.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.