Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Dates: October 1-4 2020

Day 1

We had been tracking lake visibility for a few weeks before the trip, initially booked the lodge inside the park for mid Sept 2020 but cancelled because of wildfires, followed by rain & poor visibility. After seeing the extended weather report and chances of clear days, we started the drive from Bay area after work on Thursday, drove five hours to Weed, CA, and stayed the night at SisQ inn. We decided to book local business instead of chain hotels, to support them during the Covid times. It turned out be a nice property, with a lawn by the side and flower bed at the front. The room was clean and front desk lady was friendly. The breakfast spread in the morning was really good for a motel like place.

Day 2

After a quick bite from the grab and go breakfast spread, we started our drive towards Fort Klamath & Crater Lake. It took us around 2 hours to reach Fort Klamath, with a stop in Klamath Falls for gas and groceries. We had called two days back and had a reservation at Jo’s Motel and Campground (no online reservations). The couple who own the place (from past 18 years) are very courteous and helpful (our experience was pleasant, few online reviews say otherwise), who believe in all organic food and run a fully organic grocery store. Even though it is a motel setup, rooms are separated by individual car port. They allowed us to check in early, since rooms were available.

After dropping off our luggage at the cabin, we drove to the park and straight to Rim Village. It turned out to be a perfectly gorgeous day. We could see the whole lake with perfect reflection on the other side. The deep blue color of the lake, as viewed from the Sinnott Memorial Overlook and the Rim Trail, made the drive worthwhile. There is a small café at rim village, but we had packed lunch.

After lunch, we went into the park store to buy some souvenir and started driving towards West Rim Drive. We made multiple stops all along, at Discovery Point, Watchman Overlook etc. till we reached Cleetwood Cove Trail at the north end of the loop drive. This is the only trail with access to water and allows swimming. It’s an easy hike down of about 1.1 mile, but keep in mind we have to hike back up the same way with 700ft elevation gain. It’s a must do hike with great views of the lake. The water was close to freezing, but many brave souls were swimming. We stayed in the water for 15-20 minutes (no swimming) and then hiked back up.

We then continued driving east to make a full circle of the rim with stops at overlooks. Pinnacles Road was closed due to downed tree (bummer), but was open till Plaikni Falls Trailhead. This is an easy 2-mile round trip hike through the forest for a nice waterfall sourced by snow melt.

From there, we went back to Watchman Overlook to hike up to Watchman Lookout for the sunset. This is a 1.8 miles round trip to the fire lookout on the top, and is recommended as the best place to see the sunset. That evening had clear skies, and it was one of the gorgeous sunsets (Wakanda-like) and the best way to end the day. We drove back to the lodge, very satisfied with how the day had turned out. Clocked around 9 miles on Fitbit.

  • Fire devastation just outside Klamath Falls town

  • Joe's Motel cottage

  • Clear view of full Crater Lake

  • View from Sinnott Memorial Overlook

  • Panoramic view from Watchman Overlook

  • Cleetwood cove trailhead to access the lake

  • Descent on the Cleetwood cove trail

  • Clear water at the lake access

  • Gorgeous reflection of the blue lake on a clear day

  • Cloud reflection in the lake

  • Ascent back from Cleetwood cove trail

  • Trail to Plakini Falls by the creek

  • Plakini Falls

  • Wakanda like sunset from Watchman Lookout

Day 3

From multiple blogs and articles online, it was evident Mt. Scott (highest point in the park) was a must-do hike. This is a 5-mile round trip with gradual but steady ascent in the beginning, and few switchbacks at the end rated strenuous. The elevation gain is 1250 ft reaching the peak at 8938 ft to a fire lookout. It took us around 1 ½ hours to go up with multiple stops for photos. We stayed at the top for 30 mins, and it took us 45 mins to come down. Make sure to go at your own pace taking in the views all around, high elevation hike can be difficult for some people. Today, the lake view was not as clear as yesterday (got lucky there), it was predicted to be hazy/foggy, and it was.

At the peak of Mt. Scott, we met a local couple who told us about Beckie’s café for their delicious seasonal fruit pies and the Natural Bridge / Rogue River Gorge area. After quickly stopping by at a few viewpoints along East Rim Drive (no great views today because of haze), eating a quick picnic lunch at the Mazama village cabin tables, we drove to Beckie’s café. This is a must-visit place if you have time, it’s on route 62 across the road from Union Creek Resort (www.unioncreekoregon.com/beckies-cafe/). We ordered Boysenberry Pie with Vanilla ice cream (and also got Coconut Pie to go) which was heavenly after the 5-mile hike.

From there, 1mile south is the Natural Bridge Recreation Area. This is an amazing natural phenomenon where Rogue River runs through a lava tube, definitely worth the deviation. After a small walk on the paved path there, we drove back to the park to hike Annie Creek Trail by the Mazama Village Campground. The trailhead is hidden between campgrounds C&D, recommended to do anti clockwise. It is a 1.7-mile round trip hike down to the canyon floor, where the trail goes along Annie Creek, with 200 ft elevation gain to come back up. It was very nice, with fall colors setting in. We only saw 2 other people on the trail, quiet place, a perfect end for the day. We got back to lodge after clocking 9 miles on Fitbit.

  • Mount Scott trailhead, highest point in the park

  • Mount Scott trail starting point

  • Lookout can be seen left of the sun at the tip of the mountain, 2.5 miles to go

  • Initial gradual ascent to Mt. Scott

  • Clearing in the middle of the trail

  • Few switchbacks in the end

  • View from the top, lake was covered in fog

  • Last stretch on the rim, lookout is visible

  • Fire lookout at the summit

  • Boysenberry pie with ice cream at Beckie's café

  • Bridge across Rogue river

  • Rogue river

  • Rogue river running through lava tube

  • The Natural Bridge

  • Annie Creek Canyon Trailhead

  • Descent to the Annie creek canyon

  • Trail down to canyon in the woods

  • One of the 4 bridges across the creek

  • Annie creek at the bottom of the canyon

  • Fall colors in the canyon

  • Ascent back from canyon floor

  • Meadows by the creek

Day 4

We kept the day open for our drive back. We spent a leisurely morning around the lodge. Forgot to mention, Jo’s Motel has one of the best Sumatra ground coffees, do try it. At the back of the property, a small path goes towards Wood River, which runs by their campgrounds. They have a beautiful 3-acre lot maintained very well. After the morning stroll, we started driving around 10am, and stopped at Weed, CA for some souvenirs. We took a lunch break at Priya Indian Cuisine, Redding CA, owned by a nice Indian couple with great food.

Things for next trip: Garfield Peak (skipped as lakeview was hazy on 2nd day), Pinnacles Overlook (road closed), Sun Notch (somehow didn’t get to it), Crater Lake Peak (looks like a nice trail for next time).

  • Backyard of Joe's Motel

  • Wood River at the edge of the property by the campground

  • Wood River at the edge of the property

  • Campground by the river

  • Cottage we stayed in

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