Skip to Content

9 Best Crater Lake Hikes You’ve Got to Take On!

9 Best Crater Lake Hikes You’ve Got to Take On!

Sharing is caring!

If you’re looking for the best Crater Lake Hikes, you’re in the right place.

Sitting in the heart of Crater Lake National Park in south-central Oregon, this impossibly blue volcanic crater lake wows from every angle – and this list of hikes will help you see it from every vantage point possible!

You could sit on the lake’s edge and take some time enjoying the scenery, but it’s also worth tackling some of these trails to explore more terrain. 

These trails range from strenuous tracks climbing mountains by the lake to easy routes to see waterfalls and other geological formations.

Whatever your ability and interests, you’ll find something to suit you at Crater Lake!

Best Hikes in Crater Lake


1. Cleetwood Cove Trail

Distance: 2.0 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain:
620 ft

Cleetwood Cove Trail is a two-mile out-and-back hike and is one of the best Crater Lake hikes for uninterrupted views of the beautiful surroundings.

Wooden hut on the Cleetwood Cove Trail one of the best hikes in Crater Lake
The Cleetwood Cove Trail is the best hike for direct lake access (in fact, it’s the only way to get down into the lake!)

While it’s only short, it’s fairly demanding, particularly on the way back up! It descends to the lake, with beautiful views as you go, and then climbs back up – which can be challenging, but you can always turn around and admire the views as you go!

The water’s chilly at the bottom, but it’s worth taking the plunge if you’re there in summer – you’ll warm up on the hike back uphill.

2. The Watchman Peak Trail

Distance: 1.7 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain:
400 ft

The Watchman Peak Trail is a 1.7-mile out-and-back trail, taking just under an hour for most people to complete.

Be sure to stop at Wizard Island on your Crater Lake hikes.
Views over Crater Lake from the Watchman Peak Trail

While the trail’s only short, it involves a lot of switchbacks covering elevation gain, so you’ll get your heart pumping as you ascend.

It traverses up from a car park above the lake to a watch tower, where you can enjoy even more mesmerizing vistas over the incredible scenery. 

3. Discovery Point Trail

Distance: 2.4 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain:
337 ft

This 2.4-mile hike is a lot easier than others on this list, although it also boasts incredible views of the water!

Paved Discovery Point Trail one of the best hikes in Crater Lake
Paved sections make this one of the easiest Crater Lake hikes

Discovery Point Trail mainly runs parallel to West Rim Drive so that you can hear some car noise, but it’s well looked after and is a great accessible route that’s suitable for most people.

It terminates in Discovery Point Lookout, an idyllic vantage point ideal for photography. This is also the best trail to wander in winter. Mostly because it’s one of the only accessible trails during that time of year!

Stunning view on Crater Lake in winter in Oregon
Discovery Point Trail in winter

RELATED: Beautiful Places in Oregon for Photography Lovers (And Adventurers!)


4. Garfield Peak Trail

Distance: 3.4 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain:
1,069 ft

Now we’re getting a bit more challenging! Garfield Peak Trail is a 3.4-mile out-and-back trail that should take you just over two hours to complete.

Garfield Peak Trail is one of the best Crater Lake hikes
A tough upward climb just means better views

There’s a 1,069-foot climb, and it’s pretty steep, so make sure you have plenty of energy before tackling it.

It’s also quite an exposed trail, so be mindful of this in the summertime, and don’t rush. While it’s fairly challenging, the adrenaline rush and vistas from the top are unmatchable. 


RELATED: 37 of The Best Oregon Hikes You’ve Got to Check Out


5. Annie Creek Canyon Trail

Distance: 2.1 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain:
305 ft

For something a little bit different, why not tackle the Annie Creek Canyon Trail, which descends into a canyon and takes in some of the area’s best flora and fauna before ascending again?

Annie Creek Canyon is a gorgeous Crater Lake hike
Annie Creek Canyon offers unique scenery

The uphill and downhill hikes are a bit challenging, but the middle of the trail runs along the creek and is very scenic, with wildflowers and beautiful terrain.

If you’re staying at Mazama Campground, this route is ideal, as you can do an easy loop, taking around an hour. 

6. Plaikni Falls Trail

Distance: 2.0 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain:
137 ft

Chase waterfalls at Crater Lake with the beautiful two-mile-long Plaikni Falls Trail.

This is a well-maintained, reasonably flat route (with a short incline at the end) that leads through shaded woodland and terminates at the beautiful Plaikni Falls.

Hiker on Plaikni Falls Trail one of the best hikes in Crater Lake
Plaikni Falls

You can’t swim here, but it’s a tranquil spot to sit and have a picnic before walking back.

As it’s quite an easy hike, it should only take 45 minutes to an hour, so it is ideal if you haven’t got much time but want to tick one of the Crater Lake hikes off your list. 


RELATED: Things To Do at Crater Lake National Park: Hikes, Camping & When to Visit


7. Mount Scott Trail

Distance: 4.2 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain:
1,259 ft

If you want something a little tougher, tackle the Mount Scott Trail, which is around 4 miles long and takes about two and a half hours to complete.

View from the Mount Scott Trail one of the Crater Lake hikes
From the top of Mount Scott, you can see over Craker Lake and beyond!

You’ll hike up to the top of Mount Scott, which is quite strenuous, but if you take it slow, you’ll be fine!

There’s a little exposure as you go up, and you’ll be graced with panoramic views from the summit. On the way down, enjoy uninterrupted views of Crater Lake with every step.

8. Wizard Island

Distance: 2.3 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain:
751 ft

If you want something a little different, where not many tourists visit, head out to Wizard Island.

Wizard Island trail is just over two miles long and is an out-and-back trail to a beautiful viewpoint that offers a unique view of Crater Lake. The ascent is moderately challenging and rocky but isn’t too strenuous. 

Wizard Island view from Crater Lake hikes

As the name suggests, this is an island, so you’ll need to take a boat out on the lake to reach it. The boat leaves from the end point of the Cleetwood Cove Trail, so you’ll actually be doing both hikes!

Once you’ve reached the summit, head to Fumarole Cove, where you can kick back and relax right on the shores of the lake before catching your boat to return to the mainland.


RELATED: 17+ of The Best Lakes in Oregon for Adventures & Camping


9. Pinnacles Valley Trail

Distance: 0.8 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain:
42 ft

If you want an uber-quick walking route, check out Pinnacles Valley Trail, which is less than a mile long and should only take 15 minutes.

Sign for Pinnacles Valley trailhead one of the Crater Lake hikes
Pinnacles is the quickest of the Crater Lake Hikes

It’s perfect if you want to do one last Crater Lake hike before heading back home.

The walk runs along the edge of a valley and terminates at The Pinnacles, which are enigmatic, otherworldly stacks that look like they belong on another planet!

These multi-colored spires are the result of an eruption from Mount Mazama during the ice age. The valley was filled with lava, but over time, erosion carved it into the pointed formations you see today.

Cliffs on the Pinnacles Valley Trail one of the best hikes in Crater Lake
There’s no reason to miss The Pinnacles with such a short hike

While the trail is only short (and not so much of a hike as the others), it’s worth doing this stroll to experience this incredible natural phenomenon.

The Pinnacles are just down the road from Plaikni Falls and are both quick and easy trails so you could do them both in one morning or afternoon. Do note this is a short detour from the main rim road.

If you’re spending some time in the Crater Lake National Park, make sure you do at least one or two of these epic hikes!

Whether you fancy summiting a mountain for incredible 360-degree views or want to stick to flat hikes on ridgeways or through woodland, there’s something for everyone in this gorgeous region of Oregon.

We hope this post inspired you to take on some of the best Crater Lake hikes! Don’t forget to check out some of the best hikes in the state and more adventures in Central Oregon.

Sharing is caring!

Quick and Easy PNW Gift Guide + DEALS!

X