Easy (to Sun Notch)
115 feet elevation gain
Open July to early November
Moderate (to Crater Peak)
6.8 miles round-trip
1010 feet elevation gain
Left: Cloudcap from Sun Notch.
These two uncrowded hikes on the south side of Crater Lake reveal the difference between a crater and a caldera. The 0.2-mile Sun Notch Trail climbs to a spectacular Crater Lake viewpoint above Phantom Ship’s craggy little island. But the astonishingly blue, 6-mile-wide lake you see here is not in a crater at all—it fills a caldera, a giant pit created by a mountain’s collapse. To see a true volcanic crater, take the nearby 3.2-mile path to Crater Peak, a cinder cone with a wildflower meadow in a cute little summit bowl. Pets are not allowed on either trail.
Start at the...
Much of Crater Lake’s geologic story is exposed at Sun Notch’s viewpoint. When eruptions started building Mt. Mazama 400,000 years ago, they began near here. Phantom Ship is a fragment of the volcanic plug from those early eruptions. As Mt. Mazama grew to an estimated height of 12,000 feet, the volcanic vents moved farther north, finally pouring out a thick dacite flow to create Llao Rock, the largest cliff visible across the lake. By then, glaciers were scouring deep U-shaped valleys into the mountain’s flanks. Sun Notch is a remnant of one of the largest of these glacial troughs, amputated when the mountain exploded 7700 years ago.
If you’d like to see a genuine crater after visiting Sun Notch, drive ...
This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon.