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15 Best Crater Lake Hikes (For All Skill Levels!)

Formed thousands of years ago by a massive eruption, the beautiful and pristine Crater Lake is nestled right at the top of a volcano in the crater it left behind, and the resulting Crater Lake hikes are an absolute delight!

This is the deepest lake in the United States and boasts some of the cleanest waters on earth, which are fed entirely by rain and snow. The only way to truly experience this fantastic, picture-perfect area is to explore the best Crater Lake hikes.

Crater Lake National park is a beautiful mix of open peaks and old growth forest. Some of the trails are exposed to the heat of the sun with little option for shade, so a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water are highly suggested.

sign denoting rim hiking trail crater lake oregon

If you’re visiting Crater Lake in winter, a blanket of snow closes many roads and trails, but the lake and surrounding area are still well worth the visit. Stay updated on what is open through the official website and always be prepared for extreme weather conditions.

A park pass is required upon entry of the park, they can be purchased before hand or at the park entrance.

Prices depend on the type of vehicle entering, with a reduced price for cyclists or for multiple-day hikers passing through. A yearly pass is also available. Maps and daily schedules of activities are available at any ranger building and at all entry points.

Here are the best hikes in Crater Lake National Park!

overview of crater lake np

Castle Crest Wildflower Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 0.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 120 ft

Location: Off Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.

This beautiful and short interpretational trail is a must do when visiting the park, while also perfect for casual visitors and children. It wanders through a meadow with the best display of wild flowers in the area.

This garden is not only beautiful but informative as there is a self-guided tour and flowers are labeled for identification.

stone-lined castle crest wildflower hiking trail crater lake np

Sun Notch

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 0.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 130 ft

Location: Off the Rim Road, south side of Crater Lake.

This beautiful stroll hits two birds with one stone as the path will lead you to Sun Notch and Phantom Ship View Point.

Both spots offer beautiful views of Crater Lake along with the unique rock formation, way down in the lake, named The Phantom Ship. Expansive meadows with wildflowers and the opportunity to see wildlife complete this perfect opportunity for photos and to stretch your legs.

Read our guide to the best scenic road trips in Oregon!

phantom ship formation, as seen when hiking in crater lake national park

Pinnacles Valley Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 1.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 60 ft

Location: Off Rim Road and Pinnacles Road.

Unique and interesting pinnacle volcanic spires sit along this short and east trail and is one of the best Crater Lake hikes that offers great rewards for little work.

The first ¾ of the trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible making it perfect for families and everything interesting can be seen at this point.

The pinnacles are complete with the surrounding area and valley as its backdrop.

pinnacles as seen along pinnacles valley trail, one of the best crater lake hikes

Godfrey Glen Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 1.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 72 ft

Location: Off Munson Valley Drive.

An easy and almost completely flat loop through meadows abundant in wildflowers and butterflies, hiking Godfrey Glen is one of the best things to do in Crater Lake NP. The meadow is surrounded by interesting volcanic pinnacles and a little stream completes the enchanting spot.

Brochures are available at the beginning of the trail for an educational, self-guided tour.

wooden sign denoting godfrey glen trail

Plaikni Falls

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2 miles

Elevation Gain: 200 ft

Location: Off Pinnacles Road.

Perfect for all skill levels, this short but highly rewarding hike in Crater Lake NP ends at one of the best waterfalls near Crater Lake. Water is present year-round, but most active in the springtime.

Along the way, beautiful tall trees are home to all types of birds and wildflowers attract butterflies during warm weather.

The well-maintained trail also has multiple benches to stop and rest, giving visitors the chance to stop and really enjoy nature.

plaikni falls, one of the best crater lake hikes

Annie Creek Canyon

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 305 ft

Location: Off HWY 62 near Mazama Village

This well-kept, if dusty during the summer months, trail explores all the beauty that hiking in Crater Lake National Park has to offer.

With clear streams, tall trees, green brush, and wildflowers, you cannot go wrong with this hike. Benches are dotted along the trail in case rest is required or just to to sit and enjoy the sounds of nature for a while.

overview of evergreen trees in annie creek canyon

Discovery Point Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 100 ft

Location: Out of Rim Village.

This must-do Crater Lake hiking trail is right out of Rim Village and usually open year-round, offering nonstop views of the lake even when surrounded by snow on the cliffs.

There are especially fantastic views of Wizard Island, a fairly new volcanic cone out on the lake. The family-friendly trail is perfect for all ages and full of interesting information about the lake and park.

sunset over crater lake from discovery point, one of the best crater lake hiking trails

The Watchman Lookout Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 1.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 415 ft

Location: Off Rim Road on west side of Crater Lake.

This trail has a bit of a climb to a lookout structure at the very top, but it is well worth it for the views. It is well maintained as it’s the shortest peak hike and therefore quite popular, interesting information is also available at the top.

But the best prize is the commanding views of Crater Lake, Wizard Island, and the surrounding peaks and valleys with views as far as the eye can see. 

view of wizard island from watchman lookout

Cleetwood Cove Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 2.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 700 ft

Location: Off Rim Road on the north side of Crater Lake.

This is the most popular hike in Crater Lake NP, as it is the only access point to the lake and the launch point for boat tours. It is a steep hike down and then quite a climb on the way back with little respite.

However, beautiful lake views reward visitors the entire way. Down at the water’s edge is the perfect spot to swim and soak up the sun.

woman standing at the edge of the water of crater lake in cleetwood cove

Garfield Peak Crater Lake Hike

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 3.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 1100 ft

Location: Out of Rim Village.

360-degree views reward those willing to dare the almost non-stop climb to this viewpoint. Crater Lake stretches below, and surrounding landscapes complete the breathtaking picture.

It is similar to Watchman Lookout, but less crowded and arguably, a more diverse and beautiful hike in Crater Lake National Park. 

view of crater lake from garfield peak trail

Mount Scott

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 5.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 1325 ft

Location: Off HWY 49 on the east side of Crater Lake.

This Crater Lake hiking trail switches back and forth across the mountain, offering a constant view of the lake to distract from the more strenuous hike.

A 360-degree view at the lookout at the top is not disappointing as it is the highest point in the park.

Crater Lake is further in the distance, giving it a stepped-back unique view in perspective of the surrounding area.

view from mount scott oregon crater lake in distance

Crater Peak Trail

Difficulty: Difficult

Length: 7.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 1184 ft

Location: Vidae Falls Picnic Area.

Unlike many of the other hikes in Crater Lake NP, this trail does not include a view of Crater Lake. Instead, this still-worthwhile destination winds through some beautiful and diverse forest and then up to a peak that will showcase the surrounding landscapes.

Not many people do this hike, so enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. Also, chances of wildlife encounters such as deer are more likely because of the lack of crowds.

man overlooking crater lake from rim

Mazama Village to Rim

Difficulty: Difficult

Length: 8.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 1742 ft

Location: Off Munson Valley Road near Mazama Village.

As the name suggests, this trail runs from Mazama Village to Rim Village at the edge of Crater Lake (or vice versa).

This is a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, so chances of running into interesting people to chat with are pretty good.

Open year-round, this trail runs right through beautiful meadows and forest with most of the climb near Rim Village.

crater lake lodge at rim village in winter with heavy snow

Union Peak Trail

Difficulty: Difficult

Length: 9.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1683 ft

Location: Off HWY 62 near Mazama Village.

The Union Peak trail is a rocky outcrop that truly shows the beauty of this volcanic landscape.

Though the climb is tough, the reward at the top is well worth it. Even if fog rolls in, the exciting and eerie, the atmosphere is the perfect photo opportunity.

Use caution on the trail! Though it is well maintained, at some points the trail narrows, and the steep drops can be dizzying.

purple wildflowers along union peak trail oregon

Stuart Falls Trail

Difficulty: Difficult

Length: 11.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 1440 ft

Location: Off HWY 62 south of Mazama Village.

Away from the crowds, this peaceful and quiet hike, if long, is perfect for some solitude. It is also a unique experience as the trail makes its way over a ridge and then down into a valley to end at a dramatic waterfall.

This breaks up the elevation gain well and allows breathtaking views half-way through the hike, a perfect stop to stop and rest.

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