Saturday, May 9, 2015

Trail passes fossil fumaroles on volcano

Blossoms of the big huckleberry. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Trail map. Courtesy of Crater Lake NPS.

Variety of unique wildflowers also found on Annie Creek Trail

Some 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake National Park was the sight of incredible destruction, as lava and ash flowed from the southern Oregon volcano. Today, it’s the location of a clear blue lake surrounded by lush greenery. Kids will love hiking the verdant side of this extinct volcano on the Annie Creek Trail.

Sometimes referred to as “Annie Creek Canyon Trail,” you’ll want to plan your visit for mid-July through August. Because of the high elevations, snow typically covers the trail from October through early July.

Ridge above canyon
To reach the trail, take Hwy. 62 at the park’s south entrance. Turn onto Munson Valley Road to reach Mazama Village. Park at the village store; the trailhead is behind the park amphitheater.

For about a third of a mile, the trail heads through a forest of mountain hemlock, lodgepole pine, and Shasta red fir forest. Impressive, almost framed views of the canyon below can be seen through the open trees.

Along the way, you’ll pass the Annie Creek Pinnacles, which are fossil fumaroles. After the volcano exploded 77 centuries ago, hot gasses rose through the pumice deposits, molding the rocks into these cone-shaped stones.

Switchbacks next take hikers about 200 feet down to Annie Creek at the canyon’s bottom. The creek and canyon were named for Annie Gaines, the first white woman to climb down the caldera wall and touch Crater Lake’s waters, all the way back in 1865.

Pumice banks
The trail follows the creek upstream for about a mile. The clean white water rushes and cascades down the canyon, whose floor is cut through the volcano’s side. Note the stream’s pumice banks. As heading upstream, the canyon widens into a meadow.

Wildflowers usually bloom along the creek and across the meadow from mid-July through August. Among those that might be spotted are Macloskey’s violet, big huckleberry, sulphur flower, Crater Lake currant, western mountain ash, and wax currant.

The trail’s final leg switchbacks up to the canyon. Great views of the canyon below and the pinnacles can be seen simply by stopping and turning around. At the canyon rim, the trail ends at the Mazama Campground near the village store.

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