The Pinnacles and Godfrey-Glen trails would be the star attractions most anywhere else, but because these two picturesque canyons are located below the famous Rim Drive in southern Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, most people miss them on their way up to the lake. But both trails are short and easy…and jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Check the Weather: Even though Crater Lake is open year-round, much of the park becomes inaccessible when the first significant snowfall occurs. This usually doesn’t occur until mid-October to early November, but every year is different, so before you go, Google “Current Conditions” at Crater Lake National Park. Check the forecast as well, even if it’s warm and sunny in Ashland, snow could be falling on Crater Lake. But if it’s a nice day up there, set out early so you can hike both trails and drive around the entire lake.
Godfrey Glen: Directions to both trails will be handed to you when you pay the entrance fee ($10 per car). If there’s no one in the booth, here are simple directions: The trail head for Godfrey Glen is just over a mile past the south entrance from Highway 62. The one-mile loop trail is accessible until late in the year, but a deep snow can make it tough to hike. It’s mostly level, but be careful along the edges of the high cliffs. (And this dirt trail is wheelchair accessible, with assistance.)
The Pinnacles: This trail usually closes sometime in October, but if the snows are late, then early November. After hiking Godfrey Glen, you can either drive directly up to Rim Drive, go all the way around the lake and see the Pinnacles on your way back down. Or you can take a shortcut by going right on Rim Drive East about a mile past the Godfrey Glen trail head. If Rim Drive East is closed, so is the Pinnacles trail. If not, drive about eight miles until you reach the Pinnacles Spur Road, then go right and drive six more miles to the road’s end. There’s a viewing platform and a short trail (0.7 miles) that offers several spectacular views of these odd formations.
The Geology: Both canyons formed 7,700 years ago when the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Mazama created Crater Lake. After the mountain exploded, raging rivers of hot ash and lava sliced their way through the landscape. Over time, the lava closest to the surface of these rivers began to cool and harden. As it did, the boiling magma flowing underneath created hot, gassy vents called fumaroles. Minerals in the ash gradually hardened into chimneys around the fumaroles. Rivers of water eventually replaced the lava and eroded the softer ash from the canyon walls, leaving these fossilized fumaroles behind. They sure are a sight to see! (And the lake is quite pretty, too.)
About NewmanImages: We are Jay and Sue Newman, two seasoned weekend wanderers who know where to find beauty in any direction from Ashland. You can find prints and greeting cards of Crater Lake in our booth at the Ashland Artisan Emporium in the Ashland Shopping Center on Highway 66. (Walk in, take a right, go to the 2nd row from the end, we’re the first booth on the right.) Like us on Facebook. Prints available at SmugMug.