Crater Lake National Park: Trees, wildflowers, dazzling views on trail to Crater Peak – August 14, 2008

Crater Lake National Park: Trees, wildflowers, dazzling views on trail to Crater Peak

Herald and News

Klamath Falls, Oregon
August 14, 2008

By LEE Juillerat

H&N Regional Editor

Most everyone who visits Crater Lake National Park takes at least a peek at the lake. For hikers, there’s another way to take a peak at Crater Lake.

If you go …Begin the hike from the Videa Falls picnic area, about 3 miles from park headquarters by East Rim Drive. Turn off Rim Drive to find the picnic area. It’s almost 3 1/2 miles to the summit on a very clearly marked trail with an elevation gain of about 800 feet. Depending on hiking ability, and 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 for the walk back.Take food, water, sunscreen, bug spray, a flower guide and, for the best views from the peak, binoculars.

Among the park’s lesser hiked trails is one that leads to Crater Peak, a 7,263-foot elevation summit that gets its name from its extinct crater. Crater Peak is located toward the sound end of the park and can be seen while traveling the East Rim Road.

The trailhead for Crater Peak begins at the Videa Falls picnic area off the East Rim Drive, a great spot to stop while driving around the rim with picnic tables and restrooms. A well-signed trailhead leaves no doubt where to begin. It’s slightly less than 3.5 miles to Crater Peak’s summit, an elevation of only about 800 feet that seems higher because of some up-down sections.

Park historian Steve Mark says the trail was realigned in 2001 so that from the trailhead, shortly after passing bubbling Videa Creek, it steeply climbs a series of switchbacks to Videa Ridge. Rock steps were blasted to make the climb easier as the trail parallels the unseen East Rim Road.

For botanists, the early section of the trail is seasonally alive with Lewis monkeyflower, forget-me-nots, lupine, scarlet gila, several varieties of paintbrush, red elderberry, fireweed, sticky currant, bleeding hearts and, closer to the summit, wild strawberries, pussypaws, buckwheat and red columbine.

The trail goes nearly due south through hemlock forests with western white pine. From openings along the ridge, the most dazzling views peer into the depths of Sun Creek, which drops sharply to the east.

Within a half mile of the peak, the trail climbs steadily as it curls southwest, always gaining elevation until bending north, where the surprise is a section of the long-eroded crater. Based on the amount of scat, it’s a favorite place for deer and elk.

The final push to the summit passes through a ghost-like forest of dead whitebark pines, their spiny trunks and branches bleached and bent into irregular shapes. Union Peak, at 7,709 feet in the park’s southwest corner, rises like a horn while Bessie Rock and the Rabbit Ears, both east of the park boundary, in the Rogue River National Forest, are other visible markers.

Crater Peak’s summit is truly breathless. It’s a great place to stop for lunch, and enjoy a 360 degrees view. Most spectacular is a panoramic view south of Agency and Upper Klamath lakes and the Klamath Basin and, closer in, are lush verdant meadows. To the east are portions of the craggy cliffs of the Pinnacles. And while the view north doesn’t include the lake, sections of the lake’s forbidding caldera walls are viewable.

Even if you can’t take a peek at Crater Lake, Crater Peak is a great peak at the park.

Union Peak and the high Cascades provide a spectacular backdrop for hikers nearing the top of Crater Peak in Crater Lake National Park. H&N photo by Lee Juillerat

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