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Crater Lake

The route to Crater Lake was originally constructed by miners and fishermen, and is NOT a well-maintained trail. However, the tread is well defined and generally easy to follow.

It begins by contouring the hillside for a few hundred yards, and then begins to climb through the woods, roughly on a route parallel with the outlet stream from Crater Lake. In fact, if you lose the trail (which is easy to do because of frequent blow-downs) reaching the outlet stream will tell you that you have traveled too far west.

At times, views allow you to look out over the Upper Tolt River valley, where the outlet from Crater Lake drains. The climb up the hillside is steep but short, and soon the route begins to flatten out, as it travels through wet meadows. Prepare for some mud here too. The outlet stream is near now, and some small waterfalls provide a distraction from the mud. After about 1 mile, the trail finally reaches the lake at the outlet, where a large campsite exists in a wooded area. This lake occupies a subalpine basin, and affords views up to the cliffs and ridges of the surrounding peaks.

The lakeshore is easy to navigate, and provides many nice rocks and rest areas.
Driving Directions:

Drive US 2 from Monroe to the Money Creek Campground turnoff just before the town of Skykomish. Turn right onto the Miller River road and drive a short distance to the town of Miller River. Take a right on the Money Creek road, and drive approximately 7.3 miles to the road's end and a small parking area. The unofficial trailhead is here.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 12 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Crater Lake — Oct 19, 2013 — Karen Daubert
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Overgrown | Mudholes
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What an adventure! Finding the way to Crater Lake is filled with twists and turns - but the challen...
What an adventure! Finding the way to Crater Lake is filled with twists and turns - but the challenge is worth it - the lake is a gem surrounded by peace and quiet with no signs of recent human visitation!

Getting to the trailhead is easy: simply drive to the end of the well-maintained Money Creek Road, past the lovely Lake Elizabeth, to the road end. There are no signs to mark the trail so hikers should be on the constant lookout for boot tracks.

I hiked the trail for around ten minutes when I came to a large stick stuck vertically in the ground in the middle of the trail. "Odd," I thought as I passed it. Then I decided it was more than odd - it was a sign. Indeed, it was the sign to head straight up on a smaller boot track that meandered diagonally up and west for maybe 30 minutes.

At one point, there is another important trail junction that is easy to miss. Keep looking up and head up to follow boot tracks when you start to hear the outlet stream. If you arrive at the stream, you will have gone too far. However, you will witness one of the most beautiful hidden waterfalls I have ever come across. It spills from the lake above into a little circular pond that would be ideal for swimming were it not a cold October day!

Back to the boot track, just keep going up, staying well east of the stream and eventually (within an hour of the trailhead) you will arrive at Crater Lake. What a treasure - especially so since it was a sunny fall day and the leaves above the lake were just beginning to turn. There was not a breath of wind and the silence was heavenly.

I walked along the lakeshore clockwise and found a perfect picnic spot in the sun on its opposite shore. Instead of pursuing my actual destination for the day which was Red Mountain 2000 feet above, I turned around after some miserable bush-wacking, decided to save that for another day, and enjoyed a startlingly cold swim in the lake.

Despite some route-finding challenges, I think this would be a fun hike for older children - how often does one explore a spectacular lake with no signs of people? (And as a special bonus, the oyster mushrooms were out in abundance!)

On my way home, I stopped in Baring at Der Baring Store - one of my favorite after-hike destinations for cookies, a cold drink, and a chat with the friendly owners. I enjoyed an excellent piece of homemade berry pie as I talked with Kathy about their breakfast and lunch menu - a treat for another day!
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Crater Lake — Sep 15, 2012 — vongoebel
Day hike
Features: Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Mudholes
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I would have to concur with some of the other reports I've read about this trail, in that basic rout...
I would have to concur with some of the other reports I've read about this trail, in that basic routefinding, a good sense of direction and being comfortable and confident in an "off-trail" setting are helpful attributes to take to Crater Lake. That being said, if you've spent some time in the woods before, you shouldn't have too much trouble finding this place. The hike itself is fairly short and not too difficult, if you stay on the correct trail that is, otherwise you may find yourself plowing through brush following toilet paper flags to even more brush. The general rule of thumb is when faced with a crossroads take the trail heading uphill. The lake itself is nice and has some fish, but for being a little known destination and something less than a straight forward hike there is a significant amount of garbage along the "trail" to the lake and around the lake and vicinity in general. Hey, I mean I like swilling beer in the great outdoors as much as the next guy, but c'mon ya backcountry boozers, if you can pack in a full case of beer, you can pack out an empty one.
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Crater Lake — Sep 15, 2012 — Medusa La Stone
Day hike
Features: Ripe berries
Issues: Mud/Rockslide | Mudholes | Bugs
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When one thinks of Crater Lake, they imagine the deep, blue caldera located in Southern Oregon. But ...
When one thinks of Crater Lake, they imagine the deep, blue caldera located in Southern Oregon. But here in the Central Cascades of Washington, there is a little-known, fishing lake with the same name. The trek to Crater Lake can be confusing because the maintenance on this trail is sub-par. One can also assume that the many "washouts" on Money Creek Road would hinder the maintenance of this area.

We found two different paths leading to the trout-filled fishing waters, but I'm not sure which one was paved by recent trailblazers and which one was historic. One can expect garbage on this trail, which is unfortunate, since this area is so close to the South Fork Tolt Reservoir. There is also a lot of mining history in this area. If one is so brave, they can attempt to view the Morning Star Mine in a gully a few hundred feet above the lake. Please be aware, all mines in this area can be unstable and could collapse. Please use good judgement and a flashlight!
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Crater Lake — Aug 02, 2012 — akdean
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Bugs
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Thanks for the great info and for the report from Muledeer. We were unclear on where the trail actu...
Thanks for the great info and for the report from Muledeer. We were unclear on where the trail actually started from because there were four different openings in the brush but we found it quickly. It's the one that's west of the fire pit.
We got a really late start, not till about 6:00 P.M. so we only made it about half way because searching out the trail along the way took a lot of time but it was a lot of fun too. Definitely had to keep a sharp eye out for tape markers, broken brush, bush wacking,and the occasional foot prints.
We're hoping to make it back next week and get there much earlier in the day. Excited to try again and actually see the lake.
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Crater Lake — Jul 29, 2012 — Muledeer
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Mud/Rockslide | Mudholes | Washouts
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A map, a compass... and a key fob? How we "misplaced" the trail and found our way back. First of all...
A map, a compass... and a key fob? How we "misplaced" the trail and found our way back. First of all Do Not Attempt this 'trail' if you have not route finding skills! My friend Liz had hiked this trail many times to fish at the lake, but had not been up there is several years. She warned me it was a 'goat trail and a bushwack.' This starts at the end of the Elizabeth lake road with 2 target shot beer cans and a fire pit. She knew where she was going so we started bushwhacking thru the brush on remnants of a trail. I took a compass bearing about 20' away towards the truck(this proves significant). We bushwhacked up to the lake following flagging tape, broken brush and bits of trail. The lake is beautiful and there were lots of flowers I hadn't seen before. We walked, bushwhacked, and waded around the lake. Liz assured me the trail is a lot easier to see going down (fameous last words!) At some point we missed the turn N and found ourselves in a gully of devils club and slimy rocks. We were "off trail". We took a bearing to find the direction of the truck. We hit a stream, got out the map and found out we were too far S and down, took another bearing to find NW and truck and worked our way up. After an hour of this Liz got out the key fob... a faint beep! Now we followed key fob until we saw beer can target glimmer. YAY! After changing into dry clothes we were ready to go BUT she couldn't find the ignition key Oh no a 10 mile road walk! We did find they key, however. Couldn't even stop at Zekes traffic was too bad. Sorry about the long trip report, but I think there are some good lessons here. There are reasons for the 10 E's and we are not some SAR case and the subject of snarky comments on hiker websites!
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Location
Crater Lake (#1018)
Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, Skykomish Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 2.0 miles
Elevation Gain 550 ft
Highest Point 3500 ft
Features
Lakes
Guidebooks & Maps
USGS Mt Phelps

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Red MarkerCrater Lake
47.6995957927 -121.533508301
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