Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cleetwood Cove Trail

Illustration of Cleetwood Cove with trail accessing the dock, where to embark a boat to Wizard Island
All around Oregon's Crater Lake you will find spectacular lookouts to get a bird's eye view of the deep blue lake. At the Sinnott Memorial Overlook at Rim Village the lookout experiences is enhanced by exhibits and ranger talks. The only place to actually access the lake shore is found at Cleetwood Cove located opposite to the village at the northeast corner of the lake. There is a tour boat dock, from where boats connect with Wizard Island and cruise the waters around Phantom Ship
View of Crater Lake from Cleetwood Cove Trail
Lake view from Cleetwood Cove Trail with Mount Scott in the far back
To get to the boat landing, you have to descend along the switchbacks of Cleetwood Cove Trail. The trailhead is next to the Rim Drive. The down-and-up round trip takes 2.2 miles (1.7 km).  A board at the trailhead introduces Cleetwood Cove Trail as follows:

Due to extreme instability of the steep walls of the caldera surrounding Crater Lake, Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only access to the lake shore. The route is strenuous, with a steep grade made even more difficult by the high altitude. Because of the difficulty of this hike, it is recommended only for those in good physical condition. It is not recommended for people with heart, breathing or walking problems. The switchbacks wind through a forest of lodgepole pine, mountain hemlock and Shasta red fir, with lake views along the route.

No pets. No bikes. And no rock throwing. Expect a lot of visitors despite all the warnings of loose soil and falling rocks. Some are hiking down in swimsuits. Other are in a hurry to get to their tour boat in time. Actually, not the route is so challenging, but the way you manage it can make your hike less enjoyable as it should be. The trail is not as strenuous as the above description would have it. William L. Sullivan writes in his book Trails of Crater Lake (Hike 10):

If you are an experienced hiker, you won't find this hike particularly difficult. But people unaccustomed to the rigors of the outdoors often stroll downhill to the lake, only to be surprised that the climb back up to their car seems hot, steep, and difficult indeed. Bring plenty of water, rest often, and take your time. Sunscreen and a hat can be important too.

If you are not embarking a boat to Wizard Island, you may want to look for a spot on the rocks at trail end, test the water temperature and get ready for a dip or swim.

Cliff rocks ready to break and slide down near the end of Cleetwood Cove Trail, where a sign says: FALLING ROCKS - NO STOPPING IN THIS AREA

Getting to the Cleetwood Cove Trailhead
From Crater Lake's Rim Village, the 10.7 mile-distance along West Rim Drive is shorter than the distance via East Rim Drive with its multiple off-rim inland loops. From the park's north entrance, drive south to the North Junction west of Llao Rock. Turn left and follow the Rim Drive for 4.6 miles. Trailhead parking is to your left.

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