Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
There are many places where you can enjoy amazing views of Oregon’s Crater Lake, but few compare to the summit of Garfield Peak. One of the best hikes in Crater Lake National Park, the Garfield Peak Trail takes you to a panoramic viewpoint high above the shimmering blue lake below
Hiking the Garfield Peak Trail in Crater Lake National Park
Visitors to Oregon’s only national park have many options to explore this amazing area. Crater Lake National Park is known for its spectacular Rim Drive, which encircles this entire volcanic lake and has several overlooks, exhibits and hiking trails. The road is popular among motorists and cyclists alike.
Hikers, on the other hand, can access a variety of trails all along the Rim Drive. One of the best hikes in Crater Lake is the Garfield Peak Trail, which starts at the park’s main tourist area.
This half-day, 3.6-mile roundtrip hike offers everything from summer wildflowers to occasional wildlife sightings and increasingly spectacular views as you climb to the summit.
From the top, you get to enjoy unobscured views of one of the most gorgeous lakes in the United States. Created by the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Mazama 7,000 years ago, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the country.
Moreover, because it’s not fed by any springs, but takes all of its water from rain and snowmelt, Crater Lake is also one of the purest and clearest lakes in the world. On a bright summer’s day, it’s as bright blue as the sky, while on clear nights, it reflects the Milky Way in spectacular fashion.
Wildflowers and Wildlife
The Garfield Peak trailhead is at the eastern end of Rim Village, which has a visitor center, a café and the historic Crater Lake Lodge. The Garfield Peak hike begins behind the Crater Lake Lodge—when facing the lake, with the lodge behind you, just follow the paved path to the right until it turns into a dirt trail. That’s the start of the Garfield Peak Trail.
The first half of the trail roughly parallels the southern edge of Crater Lake, running through beautiful forest scenery, made up firs, pines and hemlocks.
The higher you climb, the more regular and expansive the views get. Be sure to listen for the songs of birds. Many species are found here. If you’re lucky, you might spot some deer, too.
Eventually, you’ll hit a series of switchbacks that run rather steeply up the northwestern flank of Garfield Peak. Watch for yellow-bellied marmots and American pikas, which thrive on the rocky slopes along the trail.
Additionally, in mid-summer, an abundance of alpine wildflowers add beautiful color to the landscape. Once you’re at the ridge, it’s a short walk to the actual summit of Garfield Peak.
Take your time exploring the area at the top—it’s a wide-open summit with panoramic views in all directions. At 7,976 feet above sea level, this is one of the highest peaks in Crater Lake National Park. The views are, in my opinion, the very best in the entire park.
Soak up the sight of Crater Lake shimmering in the summer sun below; look toward the south for a stunning mountain peaks-filled South Cascade landscape. You have a clear view of the lake’s two islands from here: Phantom Ship and Wizard Island, an extraordinary “volcano within a volcano.”
The Garfield Peak hike is an out-and-back journey, so retrace your steps back down the same way you came up.
Note: Garfield Peak is an exposed summit with steep drop-offs and cliff ledges. Be careful and don’t go too close to the edge. Because of the peak’s high elevation, the top section of the trail can be covered in snow and closed until as late in the season as mid-July. Come prepared and don’t take any unnecessary risks.
I love this hiking trail in Crater Lake National Park because it offers lots of variety in a relatively short distance, from high country forest scenery to wildflower and wildlife to sensational views. It’s by far my favorite hike at Crater Lake.
After hiking the Garfield Peak Trail, I recommend grabbing a beverage and snack at the historic Crater Lake Lodge. This century-old lodge is a prime example of the “National Park Service rustic” architectural style, also known as “parkitecture.” It’s one of the park’s main attractions.
Garfield Peak Hike FAQ
How Long Is the Garfield Peak Trail?
From its trailhead at the Crater Lake Lodge to the peak, the Garfield Peak Trail is 1.8 miles long. The total distance of this hike is 3.6 miles.
What Is the Difficulty of This Crater Lake Hike?
While it’s not particularly long, the Garfield Peak Trail does climb 1,080 feet in 1.8 miles. Certain sections are fairly steep, including some switchbacks. The National Park Service classifies it as “strenuous”, although I think it’s a very doable hike for most people.
How Long Does the Garfield Peak Hike Take?
This is a half-day hike that takes just a couple of hours to complete. Capable hikers can finish it in just 1.5 hours, while others may take up to 3 hours to hike the Garfield Peak Trail. Either way, it’s a great morning or late afternoon hike.
Where Is the Garfield Peak Trailhead?
The Garfield Peak Trail starts behind Crater Lake Lodge in Rim Village, on the southern edge of Crater Lake. Follow the paved path that runs between the lodge and the rim to the east. After a few minutes, the path will turn into a dirt trail—that’s the start of the trail to Garfield Peak. Super-easy to find!
When Should I Hike Garfield Peak?
Almost 8,000 feet above sea level, Garfield Peak, just like the rest of Crater Lake National Park, is covered in snow for a large part of the year. It’s not unusual for the upper parts of the trail to be snow-covered well into July.
So, the hiking season for this particular trail starts around mid-July, running through September. Late-July to early-August is arguably the best time to hike Garfield Peak.
Are There Any Restrooms Available?
Yes, there are restrooms in Rim Village, the main tourist center within the national park. Additionally, Rim Village also has a visitor center, exhibits, a bookstore, historic buildings and the Sinnott Memorial Overlook.
Is There a Fee to Hike the Garfield Peak Trail?
Visitors to Crater Lake National Park must pay a park entrance fee. The fee depends on your means of transportation and/or the number of people in your group. These are the current, most common, fees:
- Car: $30 in summer, $20 in winter. Valid for all passengers in the car, up to 15 people.
- Motorcycles: $25 in summer, $20 in winter. Valid for one or two passengers.
- Bicycles and pedestrians: $15 per person
“Summer” means from May 22 through October 31, while “winter” in Crater Lake National Park is from November 1 through May 21. All regular passes are valid for 7 days. Check the park’s website for up-to-date fees.
Can I Camp in Crater Lake National Park?
Lost Creek Campground is the most basic of the two, featuring 16 tent sites (no RVs here). Located on the Pinnacles Road, it has portable toilets, bear lockers and picnic tables, but no water.
Mazama Campground is the park’s main campground. It has 214 tent and RV sites, drinking water, flush toilets, bear lockers, picnic tables and fire rings. Nearby Mazama Village, located 7 miles, below the rim, has a gas station, grocery store, restaurant, showers and laundry facilities. It’s a popular stopping point for thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Other Recommended Hikes in Crater Lake National Park
Besides the Garfield Peak Trail, there are several other great day hikes in Crater Lake National Park. These are some of my personal favorites:
- Discovery Point Trail – Easy hike along the Crater Lake rim, through forests and offering amazing views. 2.2 miles total.
- Plaikni Falls Trail – Underrated out-and-back trail to the park’s most beautiful waterfalls. Lots of wildflowers in summer. 2 miles total.
- Watchman Peak Trail – Popular hike to a viewpoint on the rim, overlooking Wizard Island. 1.6 miles total.
- Cleetwood Cove Trail – Steepest trail in the park and only place where you can access Crater Lake itself. It is also the starting point for boat trips on the lake. 2.2 miles total.
The Garfield Peak Trail summarizes everything that’s great about Crater Lake National Park. It’s accessible yet (relatively) challenging, has wildflowers and wildlife and offers spectacular views of America’s deepest and clearest lake.
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