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Crater Lake Rim Drive: Everything You Need to Know!

Crater Lake Rim Drive: Everything You Need to Know!

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Fancy an Oregon road trip? The Crate Lake Rim Drive is a driving loop that traverses Oregon’s only national park!

Encompassing the best hikes, waterfalls, and natural features in the area, this drive is an incredible way to take in all the lake has to offer. 

So whether you want to drive from viewpoint to viewpoint or get out of your car to partake in some incredible hikes, check out this Crater Lake Drive itinerary to see the best spots! 

What is the Crater Lake Rim Drive? 


The Crater Lake Rim Drive is a route that laps the lake, traversing 33 miles. Along the way, there are a few excellent stops – we’ve put together a total of 14. While there are tons of pullouts along the drive, these are going to be the main and most worth-it stops and viewpoints.

Dawn over the lake on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
Crater Lake National Park at sunrise

You can easily spend a day driving this route, stopping at any places that are of interest. You might not have time for every single hike, but of course, if you want to see absolutely everything, you could always spread the drive over multiple days! 

We recommend starting at the north entrance and following this route clockwise, ticking off all the best spots on the way. Alternatively, if you’re starting the south, we’d recommend going counterclockwise.

VW camper on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
Taking an RV means you can easily stay overnight

We recommend driving this way because the east side of Crater Lake Rim Drive is the side with the majority of the things to do. This way, if you run a bit late and can’t complete the drive, you know you’ve done the side with the most attractions!

Things To See on Crater Lake Drive

Below you’ll find all the best stops on your Crater Lake Rim Drive, starting at the north entrance and working your way clockwise all the way back to the north entrance.

Map of Crater Lake Rim Drive
Click the image to view the clickable map of the Crater Lake Rim Drive

Merriam Point

Start your drive with a bang by checking out Merriam Point! One of the best viewpoints in the area, this stop boasts incredible vistas of Mount McLoughlin, Mount Scott, and Wizard Island.

View from Merriam Point on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
Merriam Point is the perfect start to the Crater Lake Rim Drive

It’s right at the start of the drive, at the junction between Rim Drive and Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, and is the ideal place to get your bearings before checking out the rest of Crater Lake’s attractions.

Cleetwood Cove Trail

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

This two-mile hike is a relatively quick stop off while you’re driving around the lake, but the fact that you descend from the rim down to the surface edge – and notably, then hike back up – means that it’ll get your heart racing and blood pumping!

Wooden hut on the Cleetwood Cove Trail on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
Dive into the blue waters from the Cleetwood Cove Trail

At the bottom, you can dip in Crater Lake – while it’s chilly, it’s mightily refreshing on hot summer days! It’s perfect for taking a different perspective of the lake and stretching your legs mid-road trip.  


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


Wizard Island Boat Tour

At the bottom of Cleetwood Cove Trail sits a boat dock where trips leave to Wizard Island (the dock is only accessible by taking Cleetwood Cove trail).

Wizard Island view from Crater Lake Rim Drive
The view is great, but getting up close is even better

This is a beautiful, off-the-beaten-track section of Crater Lake, consisting of a rocky outcrop with a lovely viewpoint. If you want beach time, there’s plenty of space to relax on Wizard Island! 

Cloudcap Overlook

Another epic viewpoint on the Crater Rim Drive, Cloudcap Overlook offers an incredible lake vista. However, it’s fascinating in itself; it’s covered in pumice thanks to a historic eruption of Mount Mazama.

Sign at Cloudcap Overlook on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
Cloudcap Overlook gives you plenty of height to view the area

Visit for the beautiful panoramic views, but take some time to reflect on the ancient natural phenomena that caused such an epic landscape too! 


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


Mount Scott Trail

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

The Mount Scott Trail leads to the highest point in Crater Lake and is an out-and-back trail of about 4.2 miles. A must-do if you love challenging yet beautiful hikes and want the best view of Crater Lake – the mountain is a whopping 8,934 feet tall.

View from the Mount Scott Trail on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
The view from Mount Scott is worth the challenging hike!

It’ll take around two hours and 30 minutes of your day (with no breaks), but if you’re visiting in the summer months, sunset will be late. 

Phantom Ship Overlook

A short but fascinating stop, this viewpoint offers the best vista of Crater Lake’s “Phantom Ship.” This isn’t a ship at all, but it’s an island that resembles a ‘ghostly boat’ sitting in the middle of the lake!

View from Phantom Ship Overlook on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
The ship that’s not a ship

If you’re into photography, you can get some eerie pictures of an old-timely-looking rock ship here – and even if you’re not, it’s worth the quick stop.

Plaikni Falls Trail

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

Crater Lake has it all – hikes, mountains, and waterfalls! Plaikni Falls are twin waterfalls that sit a short distance from the road.

Hiker on Plaikni Falls Trail on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
An easy hike gets you to Plaikni Falls

Park your car up and make the 45-minute round trip – it’s mainly flat (with a bit of uphill right at the end), and the waterfalls are a photographer’s delight and the perfect place to sit and enjoy a picnic lunch or take five to appreciate nature! 


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


Pinnacles Overlook

Cliffs in Pinnacles Valley on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
The ancient formations that give Pinnacles its name

Park up at the Pinnacles Overlook trailhead and take the short hike to The Pinnacles. This is an easy route; at the end, you’ll admire the tall grey volcanic pinnacles that sit like jagged shards of glass in the forest. 

Vidae Falls

Vidae Falls on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
You can see Vidae Falls without leaving the main road

Another excellent Crater Lake Waterfall, Vidae Falls, consists of a dramatic 115 feet drop. Unlike Plaikni Falls, you don’t need to follow a trail to reach Vidae Falls – there’s a viewpoint right from the road. 

Annie Creek Canyon Trail

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

The Annie Creek Canyon Trail offers another side to Crater Lake with this path, which is moderate in difficulty but relatively short at just 2.1 miles, taking less than an hour to complete on average.

Annie Creek Canyon is a gorgeous thing to do at Crater Lake.
Annie Creek Canyon is a must-do on the Crater Lake Rim Drive

Annie Creek Canyon is a deep ravine that runs beside the highway for ten miles, but this loop trail is an excellent way to see its best bits!

Garfield Peak Trail

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

Another excellent hike for avid nature fans! The Garfield Peak Trail is a 3.4-mile out-and-back route from the road up to Garfield Peak, offering immense views over the brilliantly blue lake.

Garfield Peak Trail on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
Garfield Peak Trail is another challenging hike with a great payoff

From the vantage point, you’ll take in the vistas of Wizard Island, Phantom Ship, and the beautiful mountains. 


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


Rim Village Visitor Center

Rim Village Visitor Center is open year-round – although it’s especially popular during the winter months when many of the trails are inaccessible! It also offers skiing and snowshoeing opportunities in the winter season.

Rim Village Cafe on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
Stop for a coffee, or a pair of snowshoes!

However, it’s well worth visiting in the summer, too—As well as those iconic Crater Lake views, the visitor center has some local information, a gift shop, and a cafe for refreshments. 

Discovery Point Trail

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

This 2.4-mile route is an easy out-and-back trail that meanders along a flat route with beautiful views. It follows the Crater Rim Drive but is a chance to get into nature that you might not have if you just stayed in the car!

Paved Discovery Point Trail on the Crater Lake Rim Drive
Discovery Point Trail is one of the easier hikes along Crater Lake

It followed John Wesley Hillman’s route when he spotted Crater Lake in 1853 – although Indigenous people had lived in the area for millennia.  

Watchman Peak Trail

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

A final short and easy hike, Watchman Peak Trail is a 1.6-mile route close to the north entrance – and is the perfect way to end your day in Crater Lake National Park!

View of island from the Watchman Peak Lookout on the Crater Lake Rim Drive

This is a busy route, but you’ll understand why when you hike it. Don’t miss the two-story lookout tower, dating back to 1932, which is a great way to take in some 360-degree vistas of the lake. 

Where to Stay Along the Crater Lake Rim Drive

The Crater Lake area has two developed campgrounds, Mazama and Lost Creek, as well as five backcountry areas, but be aware that these tend to fill up fast. If you’ve missed securing a spot, or want something with a few more creature comforts, there are a few lodges and cabins around here too.

  • Cabin on Klamath Lake – This rustic 1940s lakefront cabin has a full kitchen, two bedrooms, and a front deck with seating and views of the lake.
  • Red Blanket Cabin – This custom-built cabin is located on a wooded property and has two bedrooms, a front porch with Adirondack chairs, and a fire pit.
  • Aspen Inn – This cozy and quaint inn offers private rooms, suites, and chalets, some of which have living rooms and simple kitchenettes.
  • Heartland Ranch – A 250-acre horse ranch that offers accommodation in traditional Native American tipis for an unforgettable experience.

Tips For Crater Lake Rim Drive

  • We recommend starting at the north entrance and following this route clockwise, ticking off all the best spots on the way. Alternatively, if you’re starting the south, we’d recommend going counterclockwise. We recommend driving this way because the east side of Crater Lake Rim Drive is the side with the majority of the things to do.
  • Don’t forget Crater Lake Rim Road is a seasonal road. May through October are the general months it’s open, but it depends on snowfall. It could open/close later or earlier! You can check here for updates.
  • Despite what’s mentioned above, Crater Lake is open year-round! In winter, you’ll be able to see the stunning snowy scene from the Visitor Center area coming up from the south side. You won’t be able to drive the rim road in any other direction.
  • There isn’t much out here—Fill up your tank and bring snacks!
  • If you don’t have your own car, you can check for nearby car rentals and on Outdoorsy if you want to rent and stay in a van or RV to extend your time road-tripping Oregon.

The Crater Lake Drive is an ideal way to take in the area’s very best attractions while enjoying the area’s iconic views. If you’re looking for a way to see the bucket-list destinations of Crater Lake National Park in a day, don’t miss this road trip!

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