Crater Lake is recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon and rightfully so. The rim of the lake is easily reached by car in summer and if you are outdoorsy there are simply oodles of possibilities for recreation in every season.
If you live in Oregon, the Crater Lake Rim Ride is almost a prerequisite for calling yourself a serious cyclist. While only bikeable during the summer months, the weather is frequently perfect for a long ride with multiple challenging hills. Food and services are available nearby and the views are simply breathtaking. That blue color that seems to explode from every single picture of Crater Lake? It's real, all of it.
The route is simple and easy to follow, and while traffic can be heavy on weekends, the Park Service has started providing two Saturdays every September where 24 miles of the route is completely car-free. As the Park is relatively far from civilization, a wise adventurer will spend multiple days in the area and sample a few of the hikes as well.
GUIDEBOOKS & MAPS
- Bicycle at Crater Lake – National Park Service
- Crater Lake Rim Route – Ride Oregon
- Vehicle Free Days on East Rim Drive – Two weekends a year, 24 miles of the route is car free.
The entrance fee into Crater Lake National Park is $15 per vehicle or $10 per person ($15 per family) when walking or bicycling into the park.
July, August, September. For two weekends in September, Crater Lake National Park has Vehicle Free Days on the East Rim so visitors can hike, run, or bike on 24 miles of the route without cars. On car free days there are also rest stops and shuttles along the route.
Parking at Rim Village near the restrooms and gift shop (map) gives you the opportunity to fill your water bottles and use the bathroom before starting, while also giving you a chance to walk 50 meters to view the lake too. Alternatively, you could park at either Mazama Village or the Steel Visitor Center. I suggest an early start to help avoid busy tourist traffic on the road.
The entire route is hilly with very few flat sections, so it really does not matter too much which direction you head but most people go clockwise. The road does not contain much of a shoulder in parts, so be visible and be wary of tourists in cars admiring the views and not the road. Along the route, there are multiple pull off areas for visitors to stop and take photos. Crater Lake is really quite something, so I highly suggest you do the same if this is your first trip here. You can always set a PR another day.
Going clockwise, your first stop should be the Watchman parking area in 4 miles. It offers a stellar view of Wizard Island and is right after the first major climb, so it is a good place to adjust clothing and gear.
In another 2 miles, you will reach a Y junction in the road. Go right and continue on Rim Drive. In another 3.5 miles you will reach Pumice Point, which has an expansive view of the lake from the north side and is another nice spot for photos.
The next few miles may have traffic as you are approaching Cleetwood Cove, where there is a hike down to the dock where the boat tours leave.
Continue on and about 13.5 miles into your ride starts the nice, long climb up towards Cloudcap. At the top of Cloudcap is a parking area for the trail up to Mt. Scott, the highest point in the park. There is also a turn off to a higher parking area and overlook but stay on the main road, unless you want to add a couple extra miles to your trip.
In 3.5 more miles, you reach Kerr Notch, which has a view of the infamous Phantom Ship. Take a break here and enjoy the view of the lake from the East side. You are already more than halfway done!
From here, you proceed up 2.6 miles to Dutton Ridge, which I found quite lovely as it is at 7,400 feet and has an European alpine feel to it.
The next part of this route, at least in 2015, had serious pothole issues because of rocks falling from the roadside cliffs. There are a couple amazing descents, but you have to be vigilant because the road can be rough and may contain rocks.
About 29 miles in, you reach the junction with Crater Creek Rd., which to the left takes you down to Mazama Village and to the right takes you back up to Rim Village. Take the right and enjoy your last climb up to Rim Village.
Congrats! You've done the Crater Lake Rim Ride! For your reward, I highly suggest you go to the far end of the Rim Village parking lot and have food and drink at the Crater Lake Lodge. The outside porch has a lovely view of the lake and the food is quite good, especially after such a hilly ride.