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5 of essentially the most breathtaking runs in Crater Lake Nationwide Park

Did you know that Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest lake in the United States? The sapphire water is easy on the eyes and the climbs in and around this caldera are steep enough that even the most experienced trail runner feels like he’s been working.

While on a road trip through some famous public areas, we scoured the area around Crater Lake National Park for the best trail runs. We found the following:

Rim path

There are several places you can take the Rim Trail. We parked our van at the Rim Village Visitor Center near Crater Lake Lodge and headed northwest (clockwise around the lake). Contrary to the name, the Rim Trail doesn’t go all the way around the lake. However, it offers you a breathtaking view of the lake and the wizard island.

You will definitely want to take your camera with you. You’ll pass Discovery Point, one of the most photo-worthy places in the park. Watch your stance along this section, sticking to the path and staying back from the edge.

The PCT to Annie Spring

To walk to Annie Spring, drop your car in the parking lot for Union Peak and travel north along the PCT for about a mile. As you wind down the gently rolling singletrack, keep your eyes peeled for the parting that leads you to Annie Spring. (It’s marked with a sign, but we still recommend bringing a map and compass with you.)

You follow several steep switchbacks as you head down the mountain towards the source. From there, you can either walk back down the road to your vehicle or retrace your route. To go even more miles, drive along the PCT at the Split until you’ve had enough.

The guard

The Watchman Trail is one of the most famous trails in Crater Lake National Park. Although the observation station at the top was under construction when we visited, the reward for our efforts (a 1.3 km climb with some switchbacks) was an incredible view of Wizard Island. Check the park’s website for up-to-date information on the status of the observation station before your trip. There you will find out what may be closed during your visit.

Take a moment to catch your breath (you are 8,013 feet tall, after all) and point your camera at the indigo color of the water that surrounds the island. If you’re looking to cover extra miles, look for signs indicating the Rim Trail, accessible from the Watchman parking lot as well as about two-thirds of the Watchman Trail way.

Cleetwood Cove Trail

From the top of the trail it’s a little more than a mile downhill to the bottom of the lake. It’s a short but steep trail and the only one in the park that takes you straight to the water. We recommend going early before hikers (who have tickets for the boat) walk the trail all day.

Rim drive

While not a trail, the Rim Drive is an epic 33-mile stretch. There are more than 30 pullouts to give you great views of the lake. If 33 miles doesn’t sound like quenching your thirst for distance, stop by Plaikni Falls on the southeast corner of the lake, or even head towards Pinnacles Overlook.

What you need to know before you go

– Check the park website for road and path closures and COVID-19 restrictions before you set off. Although the park is open all year round, some streets and paths close as soon as it snows (usually late October / early November).

-Rim Drive doesn’t have much shoulder. So be sure to run against the traffic. Headphones are not advisable for listening to cars.

-There are bears in this area. Know what to do when you meet one on a trail.

-Cell phone signals are spotty. Be sure to take the correct navigation tools with you instead of relying on your phone.

– Carry a lot of water with you. This park is several thousand feet above sea level and many of the trails are strenuous. If you want to travel light, refuel at Rim Village, Mazama Village, and the Steel Visitor Center.

– Stay out of the caldera and on the marked trails. If you lose your way, it can lead to falls, which unfortunately can lead to life-threatening injuries and even death.

-The paths are very dusty. Consider wearing something over your mouth and nose to keep the grit out.

All photos by Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley by Authentic Asheville.

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