If you only do one hike in Crater Lake National Park, I really recommend the Garfield Peak trail! It’s one of the most amazing hikes, with stunning views of the entire lake at the top. It starts in the forest, opening up to views of the blue water below and the mountain peaks all around as you climb up.
This guide will tell you everything you need to hike this trail – the best time to do it, how to get there, what you need to bring, and more!
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Table of Contents
About the Garfield Peak Trail
Before we get into the details, here’s what you need to know about the Garfield Peak!
Garfield Peak Hike Stats
Length: 3.4 miles (5.47 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 1069 feet (326 meters)
Hike Time: I consider myself to be an average hiker, and this trail took me an hour and 43 minutes, including taking a snack break at the top. You can check out my hike on Strava!
The Best Time to Hike the Garfield Peak Trail
Though you can visit Crater Lake anytime, it’s definitely a much different experience in the winter than in the summer. The Rim Drive (the main road through the park and along the lake) closes due to snow, so the Garfield Peak trail isn’t be accessible for most of the year.
You can typically get there starting in June, and snow starts accumulating again in October, but this can vary by season! The best bet for a snow-free trail is July and August, but this is also the busiest time in Crater Lake National Park. I hiked this trail in early July, and there were a few patches of snow at the top.
Leave No Trace on the Garfield Peak Trail
Anytime you’re outdoors, whether you’re a beginner hiker or an experienced adventurer, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the landscape that will take the earth years, even decades to repair.
Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you hike the Garfield Peak trail!
- Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, and make sure you have good shoes and plenty of water.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces – stay on the trail. You can climb and explore boulders, but don’t trample plant life or walk off the established paths!
- Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash, or anything else, behind. There are no trash cans, so pack it out!
- Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock or plant, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the trail won’t be as pretty.
- Minimize campfire impacts – no campfires are allowed on the trail.
- Respect wildlife – keep your distance from all wildlife, and never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors – yield to uphill hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music.
Getting to the Garfield Peak Trail
The best way to get to Garfield Peak, and to get around the park, is with a car.
I you need to hop on a flight first, the closest airport to this trail is the Rogue Valley International Medford Airport, located in Medford, Oregon. From there, it’s a 1.5 hour drive into the park.
Expedia is a good way to find flights and rental cars, I also super recommend signing up for Going – they send you amazing deals, so you can find cheap flights to Crater Lake, and to destinations all over the world. The free account is great and totally worth the few minutes it takes to sign up, and I do recommend the premium account too!
But, a great alternative to a rental car is a tiny home on wheels! With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option for vans is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb for campers – you can rent a van, RV, or trailer from a person in the area!
Garfield Peak Trailhead
Getting to the Garfield trailhead is easy. You can come into Crater Lake National park through one of the three entrances – the west entrance is closest to the Medford Airport, while the south entrance is closest to the trailhead of Garfield Peak. Make sure that you check road conditions first, as sometimes parts of the Rim Drive, and certain entrances, are closed due to weather.
Once you’re in the park, you’ll take Rim Drive to the Garfield Peak trailhead, which is located next to the Crater Lake Lodge.
Garfield Peak Trailhead Coordinates: 42.9098554,-122.1410156
Because the Garfield Peak trail is located in Crater Lake National Park, you will need a pass to hike this trail. It costs $30 per car, but if you visit national parks often (or at least more than twice a year), I recommend getting an America the Beautiful Pass! It’s an annual pass that will get you into every national park in the country for an entire year, for just $80.
You can purchase either pass on your way into the park, or get an America the Beautiful pass online ahead of time!
What to Bring to Hike the Garfield Peak Trail
When you’re hiking, it’s important to be prepared! Here’s what you need when you hike the Garfield Peak Trail.
Shoes with good traction are important for this one, since it’s steep and there can be snow sticking around late in the season. My favorite hiking boots are my Danner boots – they’re cute, comfortable, and waterproof!
I usually prefer sandals over big hiking boots. My Chacos are my favorite hiking sandals, but I also love the Luna Barefoot Sandals, which offer a thinner sole – this is great for building foot strength!
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No matter when you hike this trail, I recommend bringing some layers. It gets a lot colder as you go up the mountain, and once you sit down for a snack break at the top, it can get pretty chilly.
The Marmot Minimalist Jacket is a great lightweight option for rainy days. For the cold, I love my Columbia puffy jacket – it’s lightweight, but keeps me warm. It’s also water resistant! For added warmth and layering, a Patagonia fleece is always a good addition.
When I’m bringing my camera gear, my favorite backpack is the Alex Strohl Mountain Light. It’s definitely the best camera bag out there for hiking with photo gear. If you don’t need storage for camera stuff, I recommend an Osprey Hikelite. If you aren’t bringing very much and just want a day bag, I love my Topo Designs Y-Pack for carrying everyday essentials!
Water is important no matter where you’re hiking, but single use water bottles are, of course, terrible for the environment, so avoid that and bring a reusable one!
For hiking, the CamelBak water reservoirs are convenient and easy – they can fit in your hiking backpack for water on the go. Nalgene water bottles are great for day to day, and if you want an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold and refreshing, Hydro Flasks are the best!
Hiking the Garfield Peak Trail
Park your car at the Crater Lake Lodge, and once you’re ready to start hiking, you’ll see the paved path. You have amazing views of Crater Lake already, but there are even more incredible vistas waiting! Take the paved trail towards the back of the lodge, and keep walking towards the woods. You can see the mountains behind the trees, and the path transitions to dirt.
You’ll walk through an open field, where you can see wildflowers, before entering into the Hemlock forest. The climb starts pretty quickly, and you’ll find yourself ascending to incredible views – after just half a mile, you’ll have views of the lake again, and a view of the valley below you on the other side of the trail.
But the views only get better – keep climbing! The orange and red rocky walls surrounding the blue water are stunning.
Soon, you’ll be at the top – this is where I ran into some snow fields, but they ware hard packed and easy to walk across, even in my hiking sandals (I did have to slide down on my butt for a few feet on my way down, but no worries – I got warm quickly afterwards). From the top, you can see amazing views of the lake and the cliffs surrounding it, so take some time to enjoy and have a snack before heading back down the way you came!
Where to Stay When You Hike Garfield Peak
When you hike this trail and explore the park, you’ll need a place to stay! Here are a few places to stay near the Garfield Peak trail.
Camping Near Garfield Peak
For camping near the park, I recommend using The Dyrt – it’s the best way to find campsites. You can use the free version to find campsites, but with The Dyrt Pro you’ll also be able to see the boundaries of national forest land all around the national park. On national forest land, you can camp anywhere for free! You can try The Dyrt before you commit, and click here for a free trial.
There are also plenty of options for free camping near the park – so check out this guide to learn how to find free campsites!
Hotels Near Crater Lake National Park
For more places to stay near the park, check out this map! Be sure to zoom out and change the dates to see all of the options.
Cabins, Glamping, & Yurts
You can even get $10 off your first booking here!
A Camper Van
With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb – you can rent vans, RVs, and trailers from people who live nearby!
More Hikes Near the Garfield Peak Trail
Have you hiked this trail, or explored any trails nearby? Let me know in the comments below! Once you’re done with this one, the Cleetwood Cove trail is another amazing hike, and the only one where you can go down to the lake and swim in the blue water. And make sure to check out this guide to the best hikes in Crater Lake National Park!
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