Going the Distance in Klamath County

Joseph Gallivan, Guest Author
August 5, 2016 (Updated June 28, 2018)

You could easily spend all day gazing at the blue waters around Wizard Island at Crater Lake National Park, but that would be missing out on all the fun — both at the rest of the park and around Southern Oregon.

At 6,100 square miles (13 times the size of Multnomah County), Klamath County is a majestic and wildly diverse landscape east of the Cascade Range with lush forests, bountiful agriculture, high desert and rolling hills. There’s a lot of ground to explore both at Crater Lake and across the region’s rugged terrain. Here’s your guide to a multi-day epic lake and bike adventure in Southern Oregon.

Lesser-known Crater Lake adventures

More than just a photo opp, Crater Lake offers plenty of ways to gain a spectacular perspective. Here are a few:

  • Take a hike — With 90 miles of trails, the park offers more than a dozen trails to explore. Or, take a ranger-led tour; the park leads three afternoon hikes: to Sun Notch (with views of the Phantom Ship), Plaikni Falls (a hidden waterfall) and Garfield Peak (1,000-foot elevation gain, with incredible views). A sunset hike takes visitors along the Watchman Peak Trail, which ascends to the 8,000-foot summit.
  • Hop on a Crater Lake Trolley tour — At $27 per adult, visitors can enjoy a two-hour interpretive ride around all 33 miles of Rim Drive, stopping to see unique features along the way.
  • Pack a picnic — There are 12 official picnic areas throughout the park, most of them just off the rim or Highway 62. With visibility up to 140 feet into the 1,943-foot crystal-clear lake, the view is unmatched. See the park map for locations.
  • Look to the skies — Clean air and unobstructed views make the park an ideal spot to stargaze, or catch a sunset. Rangers lead a narrated evening program each night, or head to Discovery Point for a sunrise. Watchman Overlook is a favorite spot for sunsets and moonrises.

The Cleetwood Cove Trail, which leads to the lake, reopens in summer 2017 after a three-year, $18 million rehabilitation of 10.7 miles of the park’s historic Rim Drive. Be sure and check the park’s Visitor Guide for updates. Visitors this summer can access the lake for boat tours, hiking, swimming or fishing only by taking a paid shuttle ($15 roundtrip) from Rim Village.

Adrenaline on two wheels

Klamath County is quickly becoming a global destination for cyclists, who don’t have to go far to hit gravel, red dirt or shimmering blacktop.

  • For road bikers: Several loop rides throughout the county — ranging from the easy 9-mile Lake of the Woods to the brutal Keno Access Loop (with 4,495 feet of elevation gain) take riders across gorgeous, varied terrain. The 47-mile Westside Loop is a popular one with locals, favored for its low traffic, wide shoulders, long sight distance and shady scenery.
  • For mountain bikers: Great for family outings or a day of serious punishment, the singletrack and doubletrack here can’t be beat. The 9-mile High Lakes Trail is perfect for families, winding through forests before skirting the north shore of Lake of the Woods and rolling through lava flows with mountain views. The more difficult Brown Mountain Trail, 15-23 miles offers trails through old-growth forests, with views of Mt. McLoughlin from the High Lakes.
  • For gravel grinders: Oregon’s longest linear park, the 109-mile, rail-to-trail conversion called the OC&E Woods Line State Trail starts in Klamath Falls and runs northeast for 64 miles, ending at Silver Lake. Serious gravel trail lovers should check out the Oregon Outback, the 364 miles of car-free bike trails starting here and winding northward to The Dalles. Anyone at Hutch’s Bicycles in Klamath Falls can help with gear and directions.

For detailed notes on area bike trails and maps, visit RideKlamathRide or the Klamath Trails Alliance.

One last must-do in Klamath County for cyclists is Ride the Rim, the free 25-mile bike ride held each fall (Sept. 8 & 15, 2018) at Crater Lake National Park. For this fully supported ride, the park’s east rim is closed to cars, snacks are provided every five miles, and the Crater Lake Trolley provides the shuttle that can haul you and your bike to the start line.

When it’s time to tuck in, there are dozens of lodging options in Klamath County; we love the Klamath Falls KOA, Crystal Wood Lodge and Rocky Mountain Cabin at Lakewoods Village. And don’t forget to fuel up with a Double Defiance IPA at Klamath Basin Brewing, waffles at the Waffle Hut, or a bison burger and glass of wine at the kid-friendly Ruddy Duck Restaurant at the Running Y Ranch Resort in Klamath Falls. Visit Discover Klamath for more details.

Trip Ideas

  • The Creation of Crater Lake
    The cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Mazama created what we now call Crater Lake —and accounts of the dramatic event live on in both the geologic record and in Native American legends. More
  • Summer Weekend at Crater Lake
    Some of America’s greatest authors have waxed rhapsodic over the sight of Crater Lake’s blue waters. It’s the same view that compels people from all over the world to visit Oregon’s most popular national park... More
    Megan Monson, Guest Author
  • 3 Days of Family Play in Klamath Falls
    You may have seen Southern Oregon’s rolling hills and valleys, snow-capped mountains, roaring rivers and a piercing blue, famous body of water by the name of Crater Lake. You may not have known how easy... More