Crater Lake’s Backyard trails offer a variety of walking opportunities to exercise the legs and lungs.
Take a leisurely hour-long walk, hike for a day, or explore a designated wilderness for a week. All the choices provide beautiful scenery, abundant birds and wildlife, and an opportunity for some solitude.
Most trails are MULTI USE, with hikers, horses, dogs, and bicycles welcome. Motorized use is not permitted on any summer hiking trails, even when labeled “multi use.” Wilderness trails are RESTRICTED USE with bicycles and mechanized equipment prohibited.
The Northwest Forest Pass, required to park within 1/4 m of many trailheads in National Forests, is $5/day & $30/year. It is available at Lake of the Woods Resort, USFS offices, and often at trailheads. Consult the Fremont-Winema National Forest website for more information on trails, winter snowmobile trails, passes, and permits.
Staff at Fish Lake Resort has information on these and other hikes in the Cascades.
Local businesses can provide for all the hiker’s needs. From the south Odessa Market, Rocky Point Resort, Fish Lake Resort, and Lake of the Woods offer supplies and/or dining. North and east end hikers will find grocery stores and restaurants in Chiloquin, while Jo’s Motel, and Crater Lake Resort have supplies and snacks in/near Fort Klamath. Williamson River Resort and Let’s Paddle guides (541.281.7775) can arrange shuttle service for those hiking or cycling one way and wanting pick-up and/or drop-off service.
Check out High Desert Trail Riders Back Country Horsemen for info on our area’s great trail rides. If they get you excited to experience our trails from the back of your horse, Lonesome Duck has luxurious cabins for you and a corral for your horse, and ask their staff for trail suggestions. Collier Memorial State Park has horse camping.
If you’re a serious runner, try the Crater Lake Rim Runs in August.
West Side of the Lake
SKY LAKES WILDERNESS
(RESTRICTED USE) Cold Springs/Heavenly Twin Lakes Trail. 3 mostly-flat miles to the Sky Lakes Basin, at MP 41 on Hwy 140. Twin Ponds Trail, Easy and popular 10 mile roundtrip, starts at Fourmile Lake Campground and goes north west, following the old Rancheria Trail, a Native American trade route. Badger Lake Trail. Easy 10.5 m round-trip, starts about 200 yds onto the trail toward Twin Ponds past Orris and Norris Ponds and along the shore of Squaw Lake. Long Lake Trail. Easy 1.5 miles heads north from the Fourmile Lake Campground to Woodpecker Lake or continue to Long Lake and the heart of the wilderness.
Cherry Creek Trail. Gentle mile to first creek crossing, 5 more steep miles to first lake. An easier route involves a much flatter 4 mile route from the Cold Springs trailhead.
Access the Wilderness from the east to reach Ranger Springs, the gushing headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Rogue River. It’s a gentle 1.75 miles to the PCT, turn right, and then left at Middle Fork Basin Trail sign over the crest of the Cascades and on to the springs. It’s about 2.75 m total one way from the Sevenmile Marsh Trailhead. To reach the trailhead, take Westside Road to USFS 3134, or Nicholson Rd. from Fort Klamath to 3134.
Mountain Lakes Wilderness
(Restricted Use) From the north off Hwy 140, MP 48, Varney Creek Trail. Gentle 2 miles with 3 more steep miles to the first lake in the designated Wilderness. Enter from the west near Lake of the Woods, Mt. Lakes Trail. 3 nukes to 2 small shallow lakes. Another 2 miles to the junction with a loop trail for a longer journey through the Wilderness.
(Multi use). Easy 2.8 mile walk with gentle elevation gain and postcard views of Mt. McLoughlin is a good choice for a family hike. Take forest road 3600/190 off of Hwy 140 just W of Rocky Point Road intersection. Park anywhere at the base of the hill and take the old dirt road/trail up Tomahawk.
(Multi use with motorized use welcome on the road.) Easy 2 miles on rough but nearly level narrow gravel road from the county park, as it continues to the end of the ridge. Enjoy panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Much of the road is at the water’s edge, so it’s most suitable for adults and older children.
High Lakes Trail
(Restricted Use, with mountain bikers welcome.) This area is popular with hikers, mountain bike riders, and winter enthusiasts. SHORTEST: Easy 1.5 miles starts at Great Meadow, along the southern edge of the meadow, to Aspen Point Campground. This portion of the trail is level and wheelchair accessible. Wildflowers draw oohs and ahs in the late spring and early summer. MEDIUM: 7.5 mile Fish Lake to Lake of the Woods section passes through the impressive lava flows of Brown Mt. and offers views of Mt. McLoughlin. It’s easier to start at Great Meadow or Lake of the Woods than Fish Lake, since the trail drops 300 feet heading west. LONGEST: The total 9.3 mile trail meanders from the Great Meadow/ Brown Mt. Trailhead, around the north side of Lake of the Woods, and on to Fish Lake. (see Brown Mountain Trail photo below)
Billie Creek Trail
(Multi use) Easy 1 mile loop trail could be the best cooling off leg stretcher around. Just past the Lake of the Woods turnoff and MP 36 on Hwy 140, pull off to the right and park at the Rye Spur trailhead. The 5,000 ft. elevation trail loops through heavy timber and crosses Billie Creek twice. This flat, easy hike invites the weary to soak their feet in cool waters.
Pacific Crest Trail
(Restricted Use.) To brag that you’ve hiked on the PCT, start at the Summit Trail Head about 1.5 miles east of Fish Lake on Hwy 140 and hike a while north or south. North leads toward Fourmile Lake. South from the parking lot, the trail skirts the base of Brown Mt. and jagged lava flows.
North and East Sides of the Lake
Crater Lake National Park
has more than 90 miles of one-way and loop trails, including 33 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Sun Notch Viewpoint, Castle Crest Wildflower Garden, Godfrey Glen, and the new Plaikni Falls hikes are 0.5-1.0 mile gentle strolls. Moderate climbs of 1.5-2 miles include Annie Creek Canyon, Pinnacles, and Watchman Peak. Hikes up Garfield and Union Peaks and Mt. Scott are strenuous with 1,000-1,600 ft elevation grains. The strenuous Cleetwood Cove Trails ends at the lake’s edge. Most Park trails are open mid-July to early Oct. Check with staff for regulations specific to the Park. For example, pets are only allowed on a few of the Park’s trails.
Check our Be Prepared page for some safety tips.