Visitors are spellbound by Crater Lake’s blue color and mystified by its clarity. For most people, the lake’s beauty is appreciated from viewpoints around Rim Drive, but others desire a closer encounter. Some people want to fish from the shore and others plan to take a boat tour around the lake.
Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only legal access to the shore of Crater Lake. Depending on snow conditions, the trail is usually open from mid-June to late October. Swimming, wading and fishing are permitted in the lake. The links to swimming, wading, and fishing provide important information regarding restrictions and personal safety.
Pets are not allowed on Cleetwood Cove Trail, in the lake, or unattended and tied to an object. If a pet is left in a vehicle and the conditions pose a threat to the animal’s health, a violation notice may be issued. Please see Pets for more information.
Cleetwood Cove Trailhead is located on East Rim Drive, 4.6 miles from North Junction (where North Entrance Road meets West Rim Drive). Access to the trail is dependent on road status and trail conditions. It opens on a different date each year after roads have been plowed and deemed safe for travel, and the trail has been assessed.
Trail DescriptionCleetwood Cove Trail is a steep and strenuous hike. In 1.1 miles (1.7 km) the trail drops 700 feet (213 meters) in elevation through a series of long switchbacks. The trail surface is crushed pumice, which is similar to fine sand, and when it is dry, the pumice is loose and slippery under foot. The trail is only partially shaded. There are a few benches that you are strongly encouraged to use while taking in the views. The trail ends at the boulder-strewn lakeshore without shade and no beach. Vault toilets are located in the trailhead parking lot and at the lakeshore.
Staying on the trail protects the surrounding fragile vegetation, and helps to maintain the trail's integrity.
Going off trail can dislodge rocks and cause loose soil to tumble onto other visitors, resulting in injuries.
Consider Your Physical HealthHow are your knees and ankles? Do you have breathing difficulties? Have you experienced any heart conditions? Are you acclimated to the high elevation? Did you eat and are you drinking water? Overall good cardiovascular, heart, and physical fitness are recommended to hike the 2.2 miles round trip. It is not a recommended trail for people with mobility or health concerns.
The majority of search and rescue operations in Crater Lake National Park stem from visitors being unable to ascend this trail once they have hiked down to the lakeshore.
Ok, So You Made It Down theTrailWalking up the trail is comparable to climbing 65 flights of stairs. Given the steepness, also consider the elevation, air temperature, air born trail-dust, and smoke if there are local wildfires. All of these can adversely affect your ability to ascend Cleetwood Cove Trail. It is best to make frequent rest stops, drink water, eat a snack, and enjoy the views.
You are strongly encouraged to know and accept your fitness level and physical limitations.
Understand that walking down the trail is only half of the experience.
Swimming and WadingSwimming and wading in the lake, especially on a hot summer day, can be refreshing and even a bit chilling. During summer the average surface temperature of the lake is 57degrees (14 degrees Celsius). Only bathing suits and basic clothing may be worn in the water. Please read the section below regarding of protection of the lake and what not to bring. Have warm, dry clothing available to immediately put on after being in the lake.
Swimming is only allowed within 100 yards of Cleetwood Cove and within 100 yards of Wizard Island, provided that swimmers remain at least 50 feet away from any boat, boat dock or buoy.
For information about fishing in Crater Lake visit the fishing webpage.
What to BringRegardless of how long you anticipate staying lakeside, or what your reason is for hiking down the trail, bring these items with you:
— water or any non-caffeinated drinksWheeled devices for transporting people or equipment are prohibited on Cleetwood Cove Trail.
— your favorite energy snack
— sturdy shoes not flip flops or sandals
— walking sticks or trekking poles are supportive to knees and back
— warm, dry clothes to wear after being in the water
— sunscreen and/or sun protective clothing and a hat
What Not To BringTo protect the clarity of the lake and decrease the possibility of introducing invasive species these items are not allowed in the lake:
Cleetwood Cove Trail HistoryPrior to 1958, trail access to the lakeshore and boat tours was around 900 feet (274 meters) above the water from Rim Village. This location became problematic for several reasons. After World War II, visitation to the park and interest in boat tours increased. This created congestion and a demand for more parking. Also, the trail was on the north facing side of the lake, which is slow to melt-out. Days of hand-shoveling was the only way to clear the trail for visitors who wanted lake access.
Construction of a new trail in its current location began in July 1958. Re-grading of steep sections and other work delayed full completion until September 1962. Since then, every year after the snow melts, Cleetwood Cove Trail requires maintenance from grading to stabilization.
Last updated: September 21, 2022