Bicycling Crater Lake
Bicycling Crater Lake National Park is a magical experience. If you decide to join us on one of our Crater Lake Bicycle Tours, or decided to go it on your own, here is what you can expect…
Gaze down upon one of the deepest, clearest, bluest lakes in the world on a route selected by Bicycle Magazine as one of the top rides in the United States. Allow yourself to be drawn into the frequent pullouts to peer down at the deep crystal clear blue water and the enchanting and aptly named Wizard Island, or cast a glance away from the lake at the spectacular volcanic peaks, evergreen forests, and fertile valleys that stretch to the horizon. It is scenic bliss in every direction, but you do have to earn it. This is a challenging ride. There is nary a flat spot on this loop and your lungs will begin to feel the 7,000 foot altitude with the first of four big climbs.
This route starts and ends at the historic Crater Lake Lodge and follows the rim road in a clockwise direction. This is the most congested area of the park. Be careful as you navigate through the parking area and on to West Rim Drive.
Over the first 6.5 miles, a multitude of viewpoints highlight the breathtaking vistas both toward and away from the lake. Each pullout provides different angle, light, and backdrop to the scene. There is no ‘best’ viewpoint, so stop at many and take pictures. You are guaranteed to capture postcard-worthy images. The setting is so awe inspiring and the stops tempting and frequent, you may not notice completing the first big climb of the day or the sweet downhill to the North Junction.
Stay right at the junction, turning on to East Rim Road. Climb a short section around Llao Rock. Then coast 3 miles downhill to the Cleetwood Cove parking lot. There are restrooms here and if you are really adventurous get off the bike and hike a 1.2 mile steep trail down to the only access to the lake and an opportunity to jump into the chilly water.
Mile 13.9 begins the longest climb of the day. The summit is Cloudcap Overlook, the highest point on the rim road. A couple of downhills on rough road follow, ending at the Phantom Ship Overlook pullout. This is the last view of the lake until the end of the ride. In the mean time, a hefty climb with gorgeous views to the east and south begins at the 23.5 mile mark, followed by another rough downhill to the photogenic Vidae Falls at mile 28.5.
The Steel Visitor Center at mile 31.6 has water and real restrooms. It may be worth a stop before tackling the final 3 mile ascent to the rim. When you reach the summit, follow the road right to Rim Village and continue the last ½ mile to the ride’s end at Crater Lake Lodge.
Once you finish the ride, wander through the historic Crater Lake Lodge to the back deck overlooking the lake nearly 2,000 feet below. Take a seat, relax and enjoy the views and conversation with other visitors. You don’t have to be a paid guest of the lodge for this amenity. Order something from the bar if you like, or bring your own beverages and snacks. It is a great way to end the day and celebrate your achievement.
Since it is a loop, you may choose to start anywhere. The route is simple to navigate without a map or cue sheet. When in doubt, follow the road to the right and you will end at your starting point. To view, print, or download the route and cue sheets, visit our Ambassador page on RideWithGPS.com.
What You Need to Know
Season: July-September. Crater Lake is snowbound most of the year. Roads do not open until they are plowed. Usually the full route is open by the end of June, but check current conditions before you go.
Crowds are lightest in September. The park service offers bicycle and pedestrian days in late September and just after the roads are plowed in spring, closing the East Rim road to motor vehicles. These fun events draw hundreds of cyclists from around the world.
Food and Water: Food and water is available on the rim at the Rim Village Cafe and the Crater Lake Lodge Restaurant. They are at the start/end of the route and the only reliable food options en-route. Pack enough food and water to complete the loop. The Cleetwood Cove concession stand at the 11 mile mark sells snacks and bottled water, but it isn’t always stocked. The Steel Visitor Center at 31.6 miles into the ride and just before the last climb has water, restrooms, and a gift shop, but no food.
Off the route, but still within the park, Annie Creek Restaurant near Mazama Village at the south entrance station serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just behind the restaurant is the Mazama Village Market selling limited food items. Restaurants and markets outside the park boundaries can be found at Union Creek, Fort Klamath, and Diamond Lake.
Lodging: Crater Lake Lodge and The Cabins at Mazama Village offer the only lodging within the park. Rooms often sell out a year in advance, so book early. Union Creek, Diamond Lake Resort, Wilson Cabins, and Fort Klamath offer accommodations just outside the park. Camping is available at Mazama Village. Again, reserve a spot early. Numerous campgrounds surround the park.
Logistics: The park entrance fee is $15 for a car, or $10 per person if you enter via bicycle. If entering the park from the north, consider starting the loop at the North Junction, 6.5 miles into the loop route. There is ample parking here. Another starting option is the Steel Visitors Center, mile 31.6, at the southern end of the loop, near the South Entrance Station. Parking is limited here and you may be asked to park in the gravel lot just south of the visitor center. Parking at the Rim Village and the Lodge is plentiful, but fills by late morning on weekends and holidays.
Cell Coverage: Spotty to non-existent
Road Conditions and Traffic: The park service began improving the road surface in 2015. Work continues in 2016 and you may encounter traffic control and short gravel sections within the construction areas. Surface conditions vary. These roads take a beating from snow, ice, falling rock, and plow blades. Be very careful on the downhills. Rough patches and holes are common and unpredictable features.
There are no shoulders on the rim roads. Traffic is light to moderate along most of the route and vehicles generally move at a slow rate of speed. Heavier traffic exists between the Steel Visitor Center and the North Junction.
Supported Rides: Via Bike Tours offers multi-day fully supported tours that visit Crater Lake with overnight stays in the Crater Lake Lodge. The Lost Cascades Bicycle Club hosts an annual Crater Lake Century ride. It is a great way to experience Crater Lake with a single day supported event.