Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Scott and Down to Crater Lake Itself

crater lake map 4

Forty-one degrees this first Tuesday in August morning as we wake at first light.  For the last two days, we’ve tasted the best our country has to offer, one of America’s national parks.  Our two hikes today in Crater Lake National Park will complete our septfecta (seven hikes) 0ver three days.

  1. Mount Scott Trail


Heading northeast on the Rim Road from our overnight cabin at Mazama Village, we are only the second car to parallel park at the Mount Scott trailhead.  Nearly 9A at 8000’, the smoky sun warms our journey to the highest peak within the park.  Mount Scott is named for Levi Scott, a 19th century Oregon pioneer.

Mount Scott from the parking area

Mount Scott from the parking area

From the road Mt. Scott is visible as we cross the alpine pumice meadow.  Though we are at an altitude that we neither live nor work out at, our breathing is normal and easy and allows for conversation throughout our hike to the summit.  Though the Crater Lake visitor guide rates it a strenuous hike, many of the online reviews call it easy.  We say easy, breezy, and enjoyable, and very simply negotiated by one and all.

Climbing towards the summit of Mount Scott

Climbing towards the summit of Mount Scott

Soon we are skirting the side of the mountain through a forest of hemlock.  On their way down, an athletic post-college age couple passes in the other direction.  They had come to be a part of the sunrise experience atop Mount Scott.  Ah, youth.

Fire Outlook on the top of Mount Scott

Fire Outlook on the top of Mount Scott

Arriving at the mile mountain ridge within sight of the top, the fire lookout cabin awaits.

Mount Scott Fire Lookout

Mount Scott Fire Lookout

After 70 minutes of hiking the 2.6 miles to the top, we have a smoky view of Crater Lake due to the forest fire 50 miles to our south.  We can barely make out Wizard Island in the middle of the lake.

Hannah, the Hiking Woman

Hannah, the Hiking Woman

As with all park trails, this one is well-marked and easy-to-follow.   On our descent we pass singles, couples, and families.  Crater Lake is a popular national park so there are many on the trails; I love to interact along the way.

Crater Lake on a clear day

Crater Lake on a clear day from Mount Scott

  1. Cleetwood Cove Trail

crater lake map 3

Having bagged Mt. Scott, we drive on the Rim Road towards the north entrance; by afternoon we will heading back to McMinnville, OR in the Willamette Valley some five hours away.  But before we leave, we will hike the one mile Cleetwood Cove trail down to Crater Lake itself with its 700 foot drop in elevation.

At 1130A on an early August Tuesday, the parking lot is wall-to-wall cars, vans, and RVs while other vehicles line the Rim Road.  No surprise it is busy, for Cleetwood Cove is where visitors embark for the $45 boat rides to Wizard Island in the center of the lake.

Hannah on the shaded switchback to the shore at Crater Lake

Hannah on the shaded switchback to the shore at Crater Lake

The trail is a series of switchbacks which makes the descent quite manageable.  As with other trails in the park, the trail is dusty from the volcanic soil.  It’s by far the most crowded trail in the park, but that just adds to the festive nature of this short hike.

Dan on the Cleetwood Trail with Crater Lake in the background

Dan on the Cleetwood Trail with Crater Lake in the background

As we descend, we wonder how they get the boats down to the lake.

crater lake boat

To a hiking-up-and-out ranger we pose this question.  Being a Socratic teacher, he doesn’t answer our question, but asks what do you think?

Stumped myself, Hannah nails it.   What do you think?   See Addendum for his response.

Since the trail is so steep many hikers coming up have little to say (or breath with which to say it).  We will soon learn what they are experiencing, but for now we cruise to the craterside.


Once at the lake 25 minutes later, some 100 of us descenders are all tucked on a two to three tenth mile stretch of trail along the crater’s edge.

Jumping into Crater Lake

Jumping into Crater Lake

At the far end, kids and adults are jumping off a 20 feet cliff.  Feeling none of the peer pressure that I felt as a ten year old jumping from the roof at the Radburn Playground (which I ended up putting my front top teeth through my lower lip and did the blood ever flow!), I don’t even consider jumping.  Hannah is another story.

Let me have her tell her story.

To jump or not to jump?

 At first, there is no question in my mind, even if it the water might be frigid.  There he is, an 8 – maybe 9 – year old, being encouraged to “Jump!”  – rocking back and forth, clearly not wanting to disappoint his father (waiting in the water below) and mother.  It seems just a matter of “rocks,” before he will jump. And then….he does! Cheers and yahoos galore – everyone joining in the celebration, making it their own.

Watching from a distance, I get the idea of jumping myself – especially as a young girl (also probably 8 going on 9) steps up to the edge. After not all that many “rocks,” she is in the air.  “You go girl!” I think.  And, “You go girl, too!” I think to my very own self.

Yet, almost in a nanosecond, I change my mind. Remembering (vividly) breaking my leg a year ago, and the year of serious rehab to follow, I realize that nope, I will not be taking this leap.  I can also picture the helicopter coming down into Crater Lake to haul me out and air-vacking me to the nearest hospital.  And, I can only IMAGINE thoughts in people’s mind (who saw me through my year of rehab and recovery)….”You did WHAT?  Tell me you’re not serious.  Dan, tell us she was pushed.”    

Thankfully, no one pushes me.


Told by a ranger that water temperature is 62 degrees, we dunk our feet in to cool our jets.

Dan's feet in the clearest water!

Dan’s feet in the clearest water!

My submerged feet are as clear to the naked eye as if they were above water.

The cliff we will climb back to the trailhead

The cliff we will climb back to the trailhead

It’s a steady 25 minute climb from the shoreline to the Rim Road midday at 70 degrees.  It’s comparable to walking up 65 flights of stairs.

Before we head out of Crater Lake, we find a picnic table by the side of the road.  Two miles previous, we had stopped at a rest area with a sign with a picnic table symbol.   Turns out there is one single picnic table and it is occupado.   Really?  You call it a picnic area with one picnic table!

We travel on and find another rest area with a whopping two picnic tables and settle in at the one vacant one for lunch.  As we begin, we see an older couple creep by in their car.  Waving to them, we call out Do you want to share the picnic table with us?  They do and we lunch with Barbara and John from Missouri.


Though the park never closes down because of the smoke this early August and the threat of a government shutdown closing the national parks on October 1 seems remote, we are fortunate that our vacation has not been disrupted.

We recommend you add Crater Lake National Park to your bucket list.


Addendum:  How do boats get to the shore of Crater Lake?  Helicopters.  The ranger adds that in the 1920s, the boats were built at the water’s edge.