Nestled in the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park received its name from the stunning lake in the remains of a collapsed volcano. Stunning views and small islands are just some of the treats visitors to the park enjoy. If your family loves exploring the outdoors, then Carter Lake National Park must be high on your to-do list. When planning your trip, book a nearby Oregon vacation rental to give your family privacy and room to spread out after a day of hiking. Here’s a look at the eight best day hikes in Crater Lake National Park to get you started planning.
1. Upper Rogue Canyon and Rough Rider Falls Trail
Lace up your hiking boots before setting out on this eight-mile hike. You can find the trailhead at the Hamaker Campground and start your journey through conifer forest, complete with towering old-growth Douglas firs. This is a moderately strenuous hike that rises 400 feet in altitude so you can consider the option of a one-way shuttle after seeing the Rough Rider Falls at the four-mile mark.
The trail runs along the Rogue River Canyon and offers breath-taking vistas. Along the way, you pass an unnamed waterfall before reaching the Rough Rider Falls that drop down 30 feet over moss-covered boulders. Either turn around here and hike out or make your way a half mile further to the shuttle stop.
2. Toketee Falls Trail
Bring the entire family for this easy but no less stunning one-mile hiking trail in the park. There’s ample parking at the trailhead, and it’s well-marked so you won’t miss it. While traveling this path, you only gain 100 feet in altitude. The entire walking time in and out should be less than an hour even with small children, but you might consider a picnic, packed at your vacation rental, at the top of the falls.
When you arrive, gaze at the columnar basalt formation that the water cascades down in two steps, a whopping 113 feet. A fence protects adventurous little ones from trying to climb down to the base of the falls.
3. Tenas Peak Trail
Plan to take a full day to hike the Tenas Peak Trail and take experienced hikers only with you on this path that covers just a little over 10 miles. The trail gains around 2,000 feet in elevations, but the beautiful cedar trees provide some shade. Take in the views of the Cascade peaks and Crater Lake Peaks.
The Kelsay Valley Horse Camp and Trailhead on Forest Road 60 is your starting point. Bring plenty of water for this hike, and maybe pack a couple of sugar cubes, because you might come across some horseback riders on the trail. The Forest Service used to keep a fire lookout at the peak, so you’re assured stunning views in every direction when you arrive at the peak.
4. Plaikni Falls Trail
A hidden treasure awaits you as you meander along the 2.2 miles of gorgeous scenery and hemlock trees. The entire family can navigate this easy trail that leads to the lush waterfall hidden in the forest. Depending on stops, this hike should take right around an hour, and you can even bring a family member in a wheelchair and navigate almost the entire trail.
Find the trailhead and a small parking lot on Pinnacles Road, which is a spur road off the East Rim Drive. The water from the falls tumbles over a cliff that was carved by a glacier. Be careful of your step in the area of the waterfall to protect the vegetation and keep you from slipping.
5. Brown Mountain Trail
Challenge yourself and the more experienced hikers in your group on the Brown Mountain Trail that is considered moderate to difficult. You gain almost 800 feet in altitude along this 9.3-mile shuttle hike. Along the way, you catch sight of blooming wildflowers and old lava flows.
Along Forest Road 3705, you find the trailhead to start your hike. Take plenty of water as this hike can take several hours of climbing. You might find horseback riders and mountain bikes sharing this well-developed trail with you. At the 3.6 to 3.9 mile mark, view the lava flows through the trees and catch sight of the mountains. There are several side trails along the way you can explore.
6. Indigo Lake Trail
Bring your camera to try and capture the beauty of Indigo Lake at the end of the trail. This hiking trail is an easy hike although it runs 3.8 miles and gains 800 feet in elevation, so leave smaller children at the vacation rental with an older family member or someone who wants to rest for the day.
On the way to the lake, you cross mountain meadows filled with wildflowers in the spring and old-growth forest. The lake offers an intense blue color. You can choose to hike the loop around the lake before hiking back out. This trail isn’t heavily hiked, so you can enjoy some real peace and quiet.
7. Natural Bridge and Rogue Gorge Trail
This is easily navigated hiking trail is perfect for families with kids since it’s pretty level, and you can choose between a 2.4-mile loop or an eight-miles round-trip experience. While you wander along this path that parallels a river, you get to see some unique lava formations created by the rushing waters of the Rogue River.
At one point along the hike, the water from the river disappears from your view as it shoots through the lava tubes and then reappears a little further down the trail. For the shorter hike, you start at the Natural Bridge viewing area or access the longer one close to the Rogue Gorge parking area.
8. Mt. Scott Trail
Hiking the Mt. Scott trail provides you some of the best views of the caldera and Cascade peaks since it takes you to the highest point in the Crater Lake National Park. This challenging trail runs for five miles and gains 1,200 feet of altitude over the course of the hike. Terrain along the trail includes pumice fields and hemlock trees. At the top of the peak, you find a fire lookout that was built in 1926.
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