Crater Lake is, in my opinion, one of the best trails in Cordova. At a little less than 5 miles round trip to the lake, it starts off with a beautiful section of easy hiking under a low canopy with some pretty awesome trees.
Next, you pass over several small bridges with creeks running underfoot and water cascading down the rock wall right next to you. If you’re like me, your dog will want to stop at each one to lap up a mouthful of the crisp, clean stuff.
But watch your step, because that’s not the only place the water flows. Although the bridges and some of the boardwalks are covered in re-purposed retired fishing nets for traction, quite a bit of the trail at this point is made of sectioned logs. And when these get wet, they can be pretty slick. I found that out the hard way. 🙂
At about the half-way point of the hike, you’ll see a branch of the trail leading off to the right. If you take it, you’ll find an amazing vista. Take a mental picture (or a real one) because this view is too good to miss. Chug some water, gobble some gorp and have a seat on the hand-made bench, there for you courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service. But don’t dally too long, because there’s plenty ahead of you.
Some time after this, you’ll see the trail branch off again, this time to the left. Don’t take this branch, unless you want to tack several hours onto your day and be hitch-hiking back to your vehicle from Mt. Eyak.
Now the trail gets a little steeper, but you perspiration will earn you all the more. As the switch-backs take you upward, wild flowers fill the sides of the trail and the views just get better and better. It does start to get a bit overgrown at this point, however. And you should watch your step here, because many clumsy hikers like me have tread too close to the steep edge before you. The walkway gets pretty narrow at these places and the drop-off is abrupt and significant. So be careful. The trail becomes a bit sparse now, as well, but don’t be concerned. That just means you’re getting close to the end.
In fact, right before the finish, the trail all but disappears into the landscape. You’ll come up on a small pond. If it’s a foggy day (as it often is here) you might think this is Crater Lake. But don’t be fooled, keep walking up over the hill and you’ll see a much bigger lake with a rocky shore and a beautiful hilly muskeg surrounding it.
Given, I’ve never done this hike on a sunny day, but if there was a trail made for Cordova’s classic misty weather, it’s this one. It feels a bit like Narnia (Lucy and the Lamp-post Narnia, that is). Just beautiful.
Now, take a load off and enjoy this beautiful place! Sometimes I can’t believe I actually get to LIVE here!