Crater Lake

  • Difficult
  • 11.8 miles round trip
  • 2970 feet elevation gain
  • Open late July through October
  • Use: hikers, horses

Much smaller and quieter than Oregon’s more famous Crater Lake, this pool high in the southern Wallowas is so clear that you can watch fish swim away from their jump-rings. The lake’s deep, circular basin is not a volcanic crater, but rather a dimple in an ancient glacier’s bed. The trail here is truly an athletic challenge, with nearly 6 miles of unrelenting uphill switchbacks.

Note that maximum group size on the trail is 12, that campsites must be at least 100 feet from the lake, and that horses cannot be grazed within 200 feet of the shore. Campfires are strongly discouraged. Expect a $5 parking fee.

Start at …

Finally the path crests at an alpine upland of heather meadows, passes a pair of ponds, and forks at the shore of Crater Lake (GPS location ...). The main trail goes left, but circle the lake on a path to the right for the best views. Here you’ll also find the tunnel and 16-inch pipe that have converted this lake to a reservoir. Originally the lake drained north to the Imnaha River. Now it leaks south to Kettle Creek each summer, feeding thirsty ranchlands near Richland.

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Eastern Oregon.