- Crater Peak:
Just past Vidae Falls on the Crater Lake Rim Road on an early August Monday,
we turn right on a winding gravel driveway down to the trailhead for the Crater Peak Trail.
A lonely car is in the lot at 9A, but no one is in sight at the height of the tourist season. In one trail guide description of the Crater Peak trail, it says a highlight of the trail is the solitude. Labeled a strenuous hike of 6.8 miles round trip, it is the first of today’s three hikes and the most demanding.
On this 57 degree morning, we start at 6700 feet on a trail that steadily meanders up through a Douglas fir forest. Despite its name, Crater Peak has no view of Crater Lake itself.
Fact is, this is not an amazing hike. It’s pedestrian. It fills the bill as a satisfactory morning of exercise as we breathe noticeably, heading to the summit. Maybe the smoky conditions from the wildfire have colored our impression.
Heading for 7200 feet this morning, we hike relentlessly on a dry, packed dirt trail. Though easy on our feet, the trail means Hannah and I kick up clouds of volcanic dust.
Over the last mile to the summit, the rocky trail steepens as we navigate around a mountain meadow.
After 70 minutes of hiking to the top, we see the smoke which hovers over the park from the Douglas Complex fire, which is 17% contained, 50 miles to our south. Covered with a lava/pumice rocky mix, the summit, though unsuitable for lounging, offers expansive and yet murky views of the Klamath Basin to the southeast.
Returning for the trailhead, for the first time on any trail in the national parks that we’ve hiked in the West, we spot trash ten to twelve feet off the trail. Two nasty Red Bull cans litter God’s good green earth. It’s truly a sacrilege.
Crater Peak is a “check off the to do list” kind of hike, nothing earth shaking. If you have the choice between Crater Peak and Garfield Peak (see my blog for September 20, 2013) , in a hiker’s minute choose the latter for its heart-stopping views of Crater Lake.
- Plaikni Falls
Open to the public in 2011, the brand, spanking new Plaikni Falls Trail is off the Crater Lake Rim Road near the turn off to the Phantom Ship.
Though “serious hikers” may scoff at a one mile hike, Plaikni Falls delivers with a “whoa” just around the bend view of a waterfall.
Described as an easy hike, we walk on a level graded trail for a mile to the falls themselves at 70 degrees on this midday Monday. Named by the Klamath Tribes, Plaikni mean from the high country. The falls tumble over a glacier-carved cliff from a spring at 7000 feet.
Hiking through an old growth forest, we wind and really just stroll along. You can call this a hike, but it’s really a walk through the woods as the first three quarters of the trail are wheel chair accessible.
Being a mellow hike, the Plaikni Falls trail has many walkers and none of the solitude of the Crater Peak, which is not a bad thing at all.
At noon today twenty to thirty people celebrate at the falls; mission accomplished for we “family” of out-of-staters.
Enjoy this 49 second video of D and H at Plaikni Falls
Above us the sky is bright blue, but in the distance, smoke from the wildfire whitens the sky.
It’s a delightful 45 minute hike in Nature’s Sofaraway From Home.
- Sun Notch
The Sun Notch Trail is another simple one mile loop with some 150’ of elevation gain to 7050′ at the rim of Crater Lake.
As a short trail, it draws many visitors to see the Phantom Ship, a volcanic cone arising from Crater Lake. This short uphill walk begins in a forest of Mountain Hemlock, then passes uphill through an open meadow of pumice to the very rim of Crater Lake.
The Phantom Ship is a natural rock pillar which derives its name from its resemblance to a ghost ship, especially in foggy and low-light conditions.
It’s a gentle walk down from the lake that completes a most pleasing three pack of hikes.
At 2P, with our cabin at Mazama Village just twenty-five minutes away, we have time to relax before an evening hike to Annie Creek (see my blog of October 19. 2013).