hike: Crater Lake – Wizard Island

The trail to the top of Wizard Island offers the unique experience of hiking on a volcano inside a volcano. Wizard Island was formed about 7,300 years ago, emerging from Crater Lake in a shower of fiery cinders that piled into a symmetrical cone, with lava flowing around the island and forming its shores.

Crater Lake - Wizard Island hike

This hike description is an excerpt from my “I Heart Oregon’s Seven Wonders” guide book.

The only way to get to Wizard Island is via a ranger-narrated boat tour, departing multiple times each day (weather permitting) from Cleetwood Cove. Purchase a ticket in advance online, or during a visit from automated kiosks inside Crater Lake Lodge and the Annie Creek Gift Shop. Arrive at least 45 minutes before the boat departure time for the 1.1 mile hike down to the boat dock.

Cleetwood Cove

Distance: 2.2 miles (roundtrip)
Elevation Gain: 700 ft.
Difficulty: moderate
Hike type: out and back

Located on the north side of Crater Lake, Cleetwood Cove is the only lake-level access, with a large boat dock for the park’s tours. Swimming in the chilly waters at the cove is allowed from the shoreline near the end of the trail.

Take the 1.1 mile trail down to the boat dock via several long – and steep – switchbacks, losing about 700 feet of elevation on the way. The trail is wide, with loose rock, and offers views of Mount Scott to the east. Save plenty of energy for the return hike up this steep trail. The return boat ride circles the lake, with a ranger providing information on Crater Lake’s geology, historic events and more.

Depending on the type of ticket purchased, the boat ride may include a full ranger-narrated tour of the lake, including circling around Phantom Ship, a small island made of 400,000-year-old lava, and possibly a sighting of The Old Man of the Lake, a hemlock log that has been floating vertically on Crater Lake for over 100 years.

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Wizard Island

Distance:  2.2 miles (roundtrip)
Elevation Gain: 760 ft.
Difficulty: moderate
Hike type:  out and back
Open: mid-July – September
Best time of year: mid-July – September
Features: geological features; panoramic views

Arrive at the boat dock at Governors Bay and take the Summit trail to the right. The trail crosses through an area thick with lava rock before winding its way around the slopes of the island and up to the summit. At the top, the trail continues all the way around the rim, with ancient whitebark pines along the sides of the crater. Side trails from the top lead into the center of the caldera, known as the Witches Cauldron. Be on time for the return boat ride, or face a hefty fine from the national park.

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