Crater Lake National Park is one of the most unique and incredible sites in the world. The lake itself is the clearest in the world AND the deepest in the United States! Add in the fact that there are tons of awesome mountains and hiking trails all around the lake, and you get an incredible adventure destination! We are bringing you a 2 day Crater Lake hiking guide to see all of the awesome sites in the park. Mount Scott, Cleetwood Cove, Garfield Peak & more, let’s get to it!
If you’d like to watch and read about Crater Lake, check out our video vlog below. We had a blast hiking, camping, and exploring, and we are 100% sure you will too!
Hiking – Day 1
Day 1 in Crater Lake is going to be a SUPER fun adventure. You’ll see Crater Lake from the shore, and from above. You’ll see a fantastic panorama of the entire National Park, and you’ll have the opportunity to do a cannonball into the pristine clear waters of Crater Lake! You could even try and go fishing if you’d like to!
On your way into the park, depending on where you are coming from, you may be driving by the Crater Lake National Park visitor center. If so, we recommend you stop there and have a talk with the rangers. They are super knowledgeable, and will be able to guide you in the right direction if there are any trails closed or anything like that. Also, there is a 30 minute video on the history of the park that was fascinating to see, and gave a new perspective to the park that we were able to see in reality on our hikes.
Cleetwood Cove is the very first hike on our Crater Lake itinerary, and it is a special one. The Cleetwood Cove trail is the only chance to get up close and personal with Crater Lake, as it is the only trail down to the shore.
Rim Drive, the road that encircles the lake, is typically a few hundred feet above Crater Lake itself. This offers stupendous views of the lakes and the mountains in the background, however it means that there is only 1 way down to the lake, and that is on the Cleetwood Cove trail.
The trail itself is pretty much just 1 mile or so of switchbacks going down to the lake. The hike is super easy on the way there, however remember that what goes up must come down (in this case what goes down must come up). The hike back to your vehicle will be 1 mile of switchbacks climbing up over 500 feet.
At the conclusion of the Cleetwood Cove trail is a chance to swim in Crater Lake! Bring a swimsuit in case you’d like to dive on in, but be prepared for the cold reality that is this alpine lake. Even during the heat of the Summer, the water temperature will be in the 50s (maybe even the 60s) degrees Fahrenheit.
The beauty of Crater Lake is apparent on the Cleetwood Cove trail. At the base of the lake, you’ll see up close and personal how clear and pure the lake really is. As the clearest lake in the world, it really is almost as if the lake is made of glass, you can see right through it!
Cleetwood Cove Hike Details
- Distance: 2.1 miles out & back
- Elevation Gain: 620 feet
- Trailhead: Cleetwood Cove Trailhead
Since Cleetwood Cove took us to the bottom of Crater Lake, it is now time to see the lake from above at Mount Scott. Mount Scott is the highest peak in all of Crater Lake National Park, and offers the chance to see a full panorama of the entire landscape.
We absolutely LOVE photography, and sharing pictures! These are the cameras we use on all of our adventures. The drone and GoPro help us get cool new perspectives (underwater, in the air, wide angle) and the Rebel we use on a day-to-day basis for most of our shots!
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The Mount Scott hike is relatively short, just over 2 miles each way, however the elevation gain is over 1,000 feet. Therefore, you should take your time and enjoy the view along the way. In fact, pack a picnic along and enjoy your lunch on Mount Scott!
In addition to a picnic, you’ll also want to bring a camera along. From Mount Scott you’ll have a bird’s eye view of Crater Lake and the surrounding landscape, which is one of the most incredible views your eyes can see. Take a few pictures at the top so that you’ll be able to show friends just how blue and beautiful this lake really is.
Mount Scott Hike Details
- Distance: 4.2 miles out & back
- Elevation Gain: 1,250 feet
- Trailhead: Mount Scott Trailhead
Hiking – Day 2
Day 1 offered the chance to see the highest and the lowest points in Crater Lake National Park. Cleetwood Cove trail went to shore, and Mount Scott went to the skies. On Day 2, there is another absolutely full day of adventure, complete with the opportunity to see the 2 awesome islands in Crater Lake!
Crater Lake was formed when Mount Mazama (previously one of the tallest peaks in Oregon) collapsed into a huge caldera. Over time, rain and snow accumulated in the caldera and began to form a lake. Over thousands of years, the lake grew taller and taller from that snow and rain. To this day, there are no creeks or rivers that flow into or out of Crater Lake. All of the water in the lake came there from precipitation, and stays for good. The lake owes its status as the clearest lake on earth to that fact, because none of the water ever moves! Therefore, no extra dirt or sediment makes its way into the lake, which happens with creek-fed lakes.
Garfield Peak is hike number 1 on day number 2. This hike will be a bit shorter and less high than Mount Scott, however there is perhaps a better view of the lake at Garfield Peak. Whereas Mount Scott is set a ways back from the lake, Garfield Peak is situated almost right on top of the lake.
On the way to Garfield Peak, and on top of the peak, you’ll be able to see Phantom Ship Island. Why is this named Phantom Ship Island? Well, because it looks just like a ship! Of course no ships have ever sailed on Crater Lake, as there would be no place to go, however this is still an awesome island to view on your tour of the National Park.
From atop Garfield Peak, you will be looking right out on top of Crater Lake, and from this vantage point the lake is a deep blue color. The hike is 1.7 miles each way, and about 1,000 feet up in elevation, and the view is SO worth the hike.
Also, since this hike begins and ends at Crater Lake Lodge, you can grab breakfast or a nice coffee at the lodge before or after your hike! Talk about a great way to begin a day. You’ll have a yummy breakfast, a great hike, and an absolutely jaw-dropping view of one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. Sign us up!
Garfield Peak Hike Details
- Distance: 3.4 miles out & back
- Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
- Trailhead: Crater Lake Lodge
Discovery Point is stop number 2 on Day 2, and this place can either be an adventure or just a stop. When we visited Discovery Point, we treated it as an awesome pull-out where we could sit and enjoy the stupendous view of Crater Lake.
However, if you’d like to, there is a trail from Discovery Point that takes you on a trail along the crest overlooking the lake. The trail is relatively flat and easy, and you can go as long as you’d like to, up to 4 miles. We recommend taking a nice easy stroll, and then returning to your vehicle to head to the Watchman Peak.
Hiking is our number 1 favorite activity. You get outside, get exercise, see amazing things, and don’t spend a lot of money. It is literally the perfect activity! You do need to have the right gear to go though. Here is all the best gear we use for our hikes.
Discovery Point Hike Details
- Distance: Up to 4 miles
- Elevation Gain: Up to 920 feet
- Trailhead: Discovery Point Trailhead
The Watchman Peak is the final hike on our Crater Lake hiking guide, and this one is absolutely stunning. On a few of the other hikes we’ve done, you will have a view of Wizard Island, the largest and most magnificent of Crater Lake’s 2 islands, however the view from Watchman Peak is by far the best.
The Watchman Peak hike is under 1 mile each way and is less than 400 feet of elevation gain, however the peak is called the Watchman Peak for a reason. You can see everything from this point. The lake spreads before you beautifully and the mountain backdrop of Mount Scott and the surrounding landscape make for a beautiful watercolor painting.
Wizard Island, the last remnant of the volcano that was Mount Mazama (before the volcano collapsed into the caldera that is now Crater Lake) is an awesome island surrounded by the deep blue of the lake. You can take a tour out to the lake via boat, however we think the best view is right here at Watchman Peak.
Watchman Peak Hike Details
- Distance: 1.6 miles out & back
- Elevation Gain: 390 feet
- Trailhead: Watchman Peak Trailhead
Crater Lake Camping
Camping at Crater Lake is one of the best ways to get out into nature and experience the park. If you’d like, there are many great options for campground inside the National Park. However, we recommend getting further out into nature and really experiencing the natural beauty of Oregon.
We love to find free campsites everywhere we go, for 2 reasons. First off, because they are free, and we live on an extremely tight budget. Second, these free campsites typically are deeper into nature, and offer the chance to see places the crowds often miss. In Oregon, right outside Crater Lake, we were able to find some incredible sites on iOverlander. For more free camping secrets all across North America, check out this article:
Thank you SO much for reading our Crater Lake hiking guide. We sincerely hope you enjoyed reading about the incredible hiking and camping adventures you can have in Crater Lake, and hope that you learned a thing or two along the way! If you loved this article, please use the below images to Pin It and save it for later. Enjoy your own Crater Lake hiking and camping experience!
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