Crater Lake National Park
Educational; Currently standing
Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.
July 31, 2021
National Historic Lookout Register.
Our alarms were set for 5:30AM in an attempt to get an early start. We were both pretty grumbly this morning and hit snooze until a little past 6AM. I let my partner get up first to start making breakfast while I sleepily packed our tent. We weren’t moving very fast this morning. By the time we were done eating, packed up, and on the road to the Northern entrance of Crater Lake NP it was already 8AM. The kiosk was not opened yet, but we already have a National Parks pass for the season and let ourselves in to the park. We kept right once we reached the rim road to stay on the western side of the crater. It didn’t take very long for us to reach the parking area for The Watchman. It is painfully obvious where you need to park. Not only is it well signed, but the lookout is visible from the road. It is one of the busiest trails in the park and we assumed we would see a lot of people here. There were only a few spots left in the main parking area which has enough room for at least 20 to 30 cars. We parked and headed up the well graded trail. It’s a short 0.8 miles with 400′ in elevation gain to the summit. There were these neat blooms along the beginning of the trail that resembled something out of a Dr. Seuss novel. I know I over-use that reference, but these truly do look like miniature Truffula Trees from The Lorax. I later found out they are known as the Western Pasqueflower, or Anemone Occidentalis. I want to try and get better at identifying wildflowers in Oregon. I always ask my partner if he knows what the flowers are called, but he’s better at identifying the types of trees and birds. We passed a large group and a few other people on our way up that were heading down to the parking lot. The trail was still mostly shaded this morning which made for a really nice temperature. My partner reached the summit before me, per usual, as the last few people were leaving. We were shocked to have the summit briefly to ourselves. The lookout was blocked to public use but you still get a great view from the base. A couple joined us shortly after, but they didn’t stay long. We soaked in our time at the summit waiting to see when the next person would arrive. We stayed up there for at least 15 to 20 minutes without anyone else before deciding to head back down. We were up there fairly early, but it was still shocking to have it to ourselves. As we leisurely hiked down, we realized we were just slightly ahead of the crowds and had come at the perfect time. There were roughly 45 people heading up the trail on our way back down. The parking lot was full when got back to our car and people were starting to park in the overflow area. It seemed that a good amount of them were just stopping to check out the view point before moving on than actually hiking the trail. The flow of cars seemed to be pretty even on those coming in versus those leaving. The next time we’re in the Crater Lake NP we hope to hike to its highest point on Mount Scott.
The first trail to the summit was established in 1916. It was shortly followed by the construction of a cupola-style lookout in 1917. The site was always intended for dual use of a Fire Lookout and an educational interpretive site. The existing two-story observation station was built from native materials with the intention of blending in with its surroundings. It was designed by Francis Lange as part of the 1920s Crater Lake Master Plan. Construction on the station started in 1931 and was completed in 1933. It was recently restored in 1999 and re-opened for public access. The mountain top museum had been previously closed since 1975. It is still occasionally staffed by a National Park Ranger in extreme emergencies.