See Crater Lake Panorama From Atop Garfield Peak
August 10, 2007
BY BILL KETTLER
Wildflowers, rocks, lichen add colorful accents on the climb
One of the best hikes at Crater Lake begins right at the lodge and winds to the summit of Garfield Peak, a scenic crag that rises sharply to nearly 8,100 feet just east of the lodge.
From the summit you can peer down into the lake some 2,000 feet below for a perspective that most visitors never see. It’s only about 1.5 miles to the top, but with an elevation gain of almost 1,000 feet, you might feel like you’ve climbed a whole mountain by the time you get there.
The trail begins at the east end of the lodge on the paved path alongside the rim of the caldera. The pavement quickly gives way to meadows that fill with wildflowers in July and August, then begins to climb in a series of rocky switchbacks.
The rock is as colorful as the flowers. Shades of pink and orange and purple provide contrast with the predominant grays and blacks. There also are bright splotches of lichen that add tones of yellow and red.
In big-snow years, there may be patches of snow in sheltered areas well into the summer, but Oregon’s only national park had a relatively dry winter in 2006-07. You’ll have more dust than snow this year, so be sure to take a quart of two of water and a hat to shield your eyes from the intense high-altitude sun.
On this rocky and wind-blasted site, relatively few tree species can survive. There are mountain hemlocks and a few subalpine firs where the trail begins, but they yield to whitebark pines as the trail climbs.
You might think the peak was named for President James A. Garfield, but you’d be wrong. It was named for James R. Garfield, Interior Secretary for Theodore Roosevelt. Garfield was the first Cabinet secretary to visit the park.
From the summit, you can see Mount Scott just to the east, Mount McLoughlin and the tip of Mount Shasta to the south, Mount Thielsen and Mount Bailey off to the northwest and Mount Thielsen’s needle spire to the north.
Directions and a trail description can be found in William Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in Southern Oregon” and Art Bernstein’s “Hiking Southern Oregon’s Cascades and Siskiyous.”
To get there, take Highway 62 east from Medford to Union Creek, and stay on 62 all the way to the park entrance. Allow about two hours from Medford.
Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org