Deciding the Future of Crater Lake’s Trail System

snowshoe hikesThis article was in the September 25th, 2021 issue of the Herald and News
Written By: Lee Juillerat

Public input is being accepted on Crater Lake National Park’s long-awaited trail management plan.

Comments on the plan, which could add up to more than 20 miles of new trails to the park, are being taken through Oct. 21. A public meeting to discuss the plan is set for Wednesday, Oct. 13, from 6-7:30 p.m. Because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the meeting will be virtual.

“We would like to hear your thoughts on the alternatives presented in the plan, the analysis of their impacts and any other concerns you might have,” said Tom Gibney, project manager for the National Park Service’s Denver Service Center in Denver, Colo.

The planning process began several years ago with a goal of developing a comprehensive trails plan that can be implemented over the next 25 years. Public meetings were held at several locations, including Klamath Falls. Marsha McCabe, Crater Lake’s public information officer, said comments from those sessions were incorporated with plans considered by park staff and planners at the Denver office.

“We wanted to get input from staff and the public to determine which ideas are feasible and which are not,” McCabe said.

The draft plan includes three alternatives. The “no action alternative” would make no changes in the park’s existing trail network, which covers 95 miles of summer and winter trails, including nearly 35 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Alternative 1, the NPS’s preferred alternative, would add about 20 miles of new summer trails and make changes to about 9 miles of existing trails. According to the plan, implementing the preferred alternative would disperse visitors to areas where few trails currently exist and would “relieve some of the visitor crowding along Rim Drive during the summer months. New trails would also be added at the lower elevations of the park to improve year-round visitor access to areas that receive less snowfall.”

Alternative 2 would add almost 23 miles of summer trails, largely in the eastern area of the park and again move the focus away from heavily-used Rim Drive.

All alternatives include marking the existing 1.3-mile Lady of the Woods Trail for winter snowshoeing, walking, skiing and dog walking. Additionally, the park’s North Entrance Road, where snowmobiling, skiing and hiking are currently allowed, expanded uses would permit pets, dog sledding, skijoring and snow bikes. A summer trail, a new quarter-mile Chevron Trail would connect existing employee areas and be open for hiking and dog walking.

Actions considered but “dismissed,” include closing East Rim Drive to motor vehicles; closing one lane of East Rim Drive to vehicles and converting it to a multiuse trail; expanding the use of snowmobiles, mountain bikes and other mechanized and motorized transit into backcountry areas; developing a second trail access to the lake; adding trails on and around Llao Rock; and developing trails near Cascade Springs.

The plan also includes cost estimates that include breakdowns for each trail. The total construction cost for Alternative 1 is estimated at $8.5 million with an additional $165,000 in annual operation and maintenance costs. The costs for Alternative 2 are estimated at $4.2 million for construction and $49,000 for ongoing operation and maintenance.

As noted in the TMA, “there is no guarantee that the actions proposed in this plan would be funded. The park will continue to look for creative and diverse funding opportunities … Budget restrictions, requirements for additional data or regulatory compliance, and competing national park system priorities may prevent implementation of some actions.”

Park officials previously emphasized the TMP is intended to establish an outline for possibly developing future trails and said no priorities have been set on which trails might be added.

The TMA also notes that surveys indicate that slightly more than third of park visitors, 37 percent, hiked during their visit.

The plan notes park officials are considering closing the Cleetwood Cove Trail, the park’s most used trail and one that provides the only access to the lake, for one or more summer seasons in the next few years. A closure is needed, park officials say, for extensive repairs, including trail reconstruction, rock scaling, installation of a new boat dock and other upgrades. The trail was closed earlier this year because of safety concerns and trailwork

An online “StoryMap” is available to provide an overview of the draft plan and the corresponding maps at, and the complete draft plan can be found at

Comments can be submitted online at , or by mail to: Tom Gibney, Project Manager, Denver Service Center – Planning,12795 West Alameda Pkwy, Lakewood, CO 80228

People with questions regarding the project or open comment period can contact Tom Gibney at 303-969-2479 or via e-mail at e-mail us. For more information about Crater Lake National Park call 541-594-3000 or visit the park sites on Facebook or Instagram, or the park website at

Breakdown on Crater Lake trail proposals

The draft version of a management plan that could add miles of trails for summer and winter use at Crater Lake National Park provides details on possible new routes that could be added over the next 25 years.

A breakdown of additions under Alternative 1:

Castle Creek Canyon Overlook – Near the existing Old West pullout, an approach would provide a short route to a viewpoint for visitors seeking a more vehicle-based experience. Near the existing Old West pullout, a separate hardened trail would be built on the north side of Highway 62 leading to a new overlook of Castle Creek Canyon. A crosswalk would potentially be built across Highway 62 for pedestrian safety.

Castle Creek Canyon Trail – The trail would provide visitors with a short, out-and-back hike on gentle terrain shortly after entering the park’s western entrance. The hike would offer scenic views into Castle Creek Canyon and provide opportunities for interpretive exhibits related to the canyon’s formation. A pullout parking area with capacity for up to 10 cars would be established on the north side of Highway 62.

Falls to Flowers Trail – A 2.5-mile trail would connect the Grayback Trail with several trails to the west. The trail, which would serve primarily as a connector, would lead visitors to Vidae Falls near the trail’s eastern terminus.

Mazama Campground Loop Trail – A short, 1.4-mile paved trail on gentle terrain would offer a variety of accessible recreational opportunities for campers, families and dog walkers. The trail would loop through the campground with views of Annie Creek Canyon and old growth hemlock trees. It would be marked for winter use and open to skiers. The trail would be open to pets in summer and closed to pets in winter. The trail would tie into an existing trail to create a loop experience. The trail would also link to other trails, providing longer excursions to park headquarters and Rim Village. If developed, park managers might want to consider interpretive opportunities for campers.

Mazama Rock Trail – A 1.3-mile trail would offer visitors a loop experience away from the lake in an area featuring geologic spires. It would offer a challenging hiking experience in the northeastern portion of the park, where few recreational opportunities currently exist. The existing pullout at Mazama Rock would serve as the trailhead.

Munson Valley Roadside Trail – The trail would provide family and multiuse access from the Mazama campground area to the Steel Visitor Center and connect beyond to the Rim Village Visitor Center via the Munson Valley Spur Trail and the Raven Trail. An out-and-back trail, it would feature gentle terrain and offer a variety of experiences for various modes of transportation, ranging from short rides for cyclists to longer experiences for those walking to Rim Village. As one of the few paved trails proposed in the plan it would be open for a wide variety of users. For pedestrian safety a crosswalk would be built to allow trail users to move from the Mazama campground area to the trailhead. To minimize environmental impacts the trail would use the existing bridge at Annie Spring. As much as possible, the trail would be offset from the roadway and follow an old road corridor. In winter months the trail would be ungroomed, marked for winter use, and open to snowshoeing/hiking and skiing.

The Munson Valley Spur – A hiking trail would connect the park headquarters area to the major visitor attractions at Rim Village and offer spectacular rim views. This short, 1.5- mile route would traverse moderate terrain, utilizing the route of an old horse trail.

Panhandle Trail – The trail would provide visitors with a 3-mile loop experience along easy terrain through stands of old-growth trees. Because it would be located in the southernmost part of the park, i would disperse visitor use into an area currently lacking recreational experiences. To support visitor use, a pullout parking area for approximately 10 cars and a trailhead would potentially be established on the west side of Highway 62, though other design solutions may be considered.

Ponderosa Pine Trail – The trail would offer visitors a relatively short, half-mile hike after entering the park from the south. Interpretive opportunities would showcase rare stands of old-growth trees within the park boundary and discuss aquatic habitat in Annie Creek. The low elevation trail would follow easy terrain along the creek.

Raven Trail – The 1.5-mile Raven Trail would connect the park headquarters to Rim Village and Crater Lake Lodge on steeper terrain. The northern destination would offer visitors views of the lake. The proposed alignment would offer visitors an alternative nonmotorized route to connect major points of interest in this area of the park. With establishment of the Raven Trail, trail connectivity would be significantly increased to the south, east, and northwest areas of the park.

Union Peak to Stuart Falls Connector Trail – A 5-mile connector trail would create a loop experience for both hikers and equestrians by connecting the Union Peak Trail and the Stuart Falls Trail along steeper terrain. Combining it with a segment of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail would create a loop of approximately 11.5 miles. Users could incorporate the loop into a multi-day backcountry trip by connecting to it via the Pumice Flat Trail and/or the PCT from Highway 62. The trail’s location in the southwest portion of the park would fall within recommended wilderness and offer a higher degree of solitude than other park trails. The connector trail would link key points of interest, including Union Peak, Bald Top, and Stuart Falls.

Uses or designation would change on the following road and trails:

Grayback Trail – A 4.95-mile trail would repurpose the existing Grayback Road to allow for hikers, bikes, dogs and equestrians, while retaining vehicular access for administrative use. (The change would categorize the Grayback Road as a trail for the purposes of defining visitor use but the Grayback Road would continue to be maintained as a road.)

Pumice Flat Trail – Currently a hiker-only trail, the trails alignment and signage has recently been updated. Expanded uses would include equestrians. With construction of the Union Peak to Stuart Falls Connector Trail, a 17-mile backcountry loop experience would be possible for hikers and equestrians from the Pumice Flat trailhead. At the Highway 62 crossing a crosswalk may be added.

Union Peak Trail – The trail is currently a hiker-only trail. Allowed uses on the lower portion of the trail, east of the junction with the proposed Union Peak to Stuart Falls Connector Trail, would be expanded to allow equestrians. When combined with construction of the Union Peak to Stuart Falls Connector Trail, the change would make possible a backcountry loop experience that is open to equestrians and hikers from either the Pumice Flat Trail or the PCT.

Under Alternative 2 proposed new summer trails include:

Vidae Ridge Trail – The 2.85-mile trail would connect the proposed east side Rim Trail with the Garfield Peak Trail to the west, creating a continuous, 30-mile network. The trail would traverse moderate terrain while avoiding sensitive vegetation along the rim. The trail would serve primarily as a connector but ultimately would lead visitors to Vidae Falls near the trail’s east boundary.

Maklaks Crater Loop – A 6.8-mile loop would start at the existing Pinnacles Trailhead and circumnavigate the area surrounding Maklaks Crater near the park’s southeastern border on mild terrain, providing a less difficult experience for hikers and pack and saddle use.

Rim Trail (East Side) – The trail would connect 18 miles of trail on the south, east and north sides of Crater Lake with the existing 9-mile portion of Rim Trail on the western side of the lake and the Vidae Ridge Trail to create a continuous, 30-mile network. The 18 miles on the south, east, and north sides would include 13 miles of new trail construction and use the existing Grayback Road. Overnight use would be allowed by permit only. Those hiking the entire trail would use four camps: Grouse Hill Camp, Palisades Camp, Lost Creek Campground, and Lightning Springs Camp. Up to 15 hikers would be allowed at each camp per night. The Palisades camp would be new construction, and the existing camps at Grouse Hill, Lightning Springs, and Lost Creek would be expanded to accommodate additional users.

The following existing summer trails would be removed or redesignated under Alternative 2:

East Bald Crater Loop Trail – The trail would be removed because of low use and high maintenance requirements.

Grayback Road – The 4.95-mile section of the Rim Trail would repurpose the existing Grayback Road to allow for hikers, bikes, dogs, and equestrians, while retaining vehicular access for administrative use.

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