24 Trails

History of Rim Drive, Crater Lake National Park


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Other Designed Features along Rim Drive


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With only a few notable exceptions, most of the foot trails built during the 1930s were intended to provide park visitors with distinctly different views of Crater Lake from points not reached by road. Trails allowed relatively easy access to a couple of observation stations located along the western portion of Rim Drive, while also giving visitors the opportunity to reach viewpoints such as Mount Scott and Sentinel Point on the opposite side of the lake. Like roads, they were built to specified standards that required (at least in several instances) reconstructing earlier work on prominent features like Garfield Peak or the Watchman. Much like his BPR colleagues, the NPS resident engineer took the lead in locating trails, though final approval of the route along with measures to protect vegetation came through the lead landscape architect on site.

NPS resident engineer William E. Robertson located a new trail linking the western end of Rim Village with Discovery Point during the summer of 1932. This occurred once Merriam and Wallace W. Atwood selected a site for an observation station, one serving as the end of the footpath from Rim Village and a viewpoint that required only a short walk from the nearby parking area on Rim Drive. The Discovery Point Trail thus consisted of two segments, with the longest having easy grades lasting for nearly a mile along the rim before it met the large parking area at Station 55. From there the trail made a short climb to the observation station at Discovery Point. Crews built the trail in roughly three weeks in 1932, while Robertson noted that he consulted Sager both before and during construction.

Trail following the old Rim Road below Hillman Peak.

Work on reconstructing the trail to the top of Watchman also took place in 1932, starting from a point on the old Rim Road that was situated above the new location for Rim Drive. This path utilized portions of a rough trail made the previous summer to transport materials for constructing the lookout and trailside museum, but with better curvature and the addition of features like hand-placed retaining walls and stone slabs for use as benches. The completed trail started at the Watchman Overlook on Rim Drive and incorporated a piece of the old Rim Road to a point where the path built by day labor brought park staff and visitors to the summit. As with other popular trails where dust was perceived as a problem, crews oiled the finished surface.

A trail planned for connecting the parking area at the Diamond Lake Junction with the viewpoint selected by Merriam as the fourth observation station along Rim Drive did not materialize. This probably stemmed from a decision made in 1934 to transfer funds earmarked for development of three observation stations to instead help finance repairs at the Sinnott Memorial. Without money to build masonry guardrail and install a viewfinder at the observation station, there seemed to be little need for a short trail from the junction to what became known as Merriam Point, or a longer path to Llao Rock.

None of the remaining observation stations beyond the Diamond Lake Junction featured trails. CCC enrollees improved a path linking Sentinel Rock with the parking overlook at substation 7-B in 1940, once the steps forming a trailhead were completed through the surfacing contract. The CCC also extended a rough “service road” part way up Mount Scott by building a horse trail that reached the summit, which provided a better way of packing supplies to a lookout located more than 2 miles away from Rim Drive. Visitor use as a foot trail came as a secondary consideration, at least initially, so the connection between trailhead and parking area remained weak.

Building foot trails became even less of a priority once Rim Drive proceeded past Kerr Notch toward Park Headquarters. Nothing more than social trails resulted at Sun Notch, for example, despite of the careful study urged by an art professor commissioned by Merriam to visit the park in 1932. In a similar vein, Lange suggested extending a trail begun by the CCC near Vidae Falls in 1934 to Garfield Peak, or making a loop with an overlook so that visitors could view the falls from above. Neither idea came to fruition, though CCC enrollees built 1 new mile of trail to the top of Crater Peak in 1933. Visitors traveling by foot or horseback on a fire road that commenced where Rim Drive ran near Tututni Pass could thus reach the summit of the prominent cinder cone that can be seen from various viewpoints around the park. The trail through the Castle Crest Wildflower Garden near Park Headquarters originated in 1929, though not in reference to any future location of Rim Drive. A new parking area intended to serve as the trailhead, however, came about as part of the grading contract for 7-E2 in 1938. This development corresponded with an effort led by the permanent park naturalist to reconstruct the trail that summer.