Crater Lake


Forest Service Trail #1945

Why? Good camping spot off Cliff Creek Trail

Season: Mid-July through September

Ease: Easy, for it’s just 1/2 mile from the Cliff Creek Trail and only a few feet up to the Lake. But that’s misleading, for most would get to this lake from the trail up Little Kettle Creek, a much more difficult hike but one that can be done in one day rather than the two it took us from the Summit Point Trailhead. The lake is 6 miles and 3,000 feet up from that end at the East Eagle Creek Trailhead.

Crater Lake makes for an interesting stop along the Cliff Creek Trail. It’s one of the more desolate-looking places I’ve seen in the Wallowas, if not the most. When we visited in August, the water level was low and the lake was ringed by the striated shoreline that often characterizes reservoirs. The exposed ground seemed ashy. It certainly was fine grained and bits of it flew enthusiastically everywhere whenever the wind blew – which was often.

On the other hand, the far backdrop of the Red to Granite Mountain ridge couldn’t have been finer, especially in the light at the end of the day. And on the route to and from the lake, there’s a fine view down Cliff Creek to the north, all the way to the South Fork Imnaha valley and Marble Mountain.
Basically, the lake makes for a good second night along the Cliff Creek Trail from Summit Point if your hiking days are 6-8 miles long and you want to stop at Pine Lakes. If you skip Pine Lakes, it’s a moderate one day to Crater from Summit.

Directions: The trail to Crater Lake is a left off the Cliff Creek Trail 7 miles from Summit Point. Its other end is at the East Eagle Trailhead.

Information: 2U.S. Forest Service Wallowa Mountains Visitors Services, Joseph, OR, (541) 426-5546.

Maps: USGS Krag Peak, Oregon; Imus Geographics Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon.