Crater Lake is a beautiful and easy destination with much smaller crowds than the nearby Maroon Lake. In the fall, the trail goes through a beautiful Aspen grove that ends at the Lake, which is at the bottom of the famous and awe-inspiring Maroon Bells.

The crater lake trail begins at Maroon Lake and quickly breaks off from the scenic trail at .3 miles. Be sure to follow the signs to crater lake, which will be heading higher into the valley. The trail passes through a beautiful Aspen grove most of the way with wonderful views of 14ers, the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak that dominate the skyline.

Just before you reach the lake you will descend a little bit from the crest of the trail at mile 1.7. Once you start dropping you will be very close to the lake, which will be on the left at 1.8 miles. The shore is open and can be explored, but please be careful as some of the shoreline is wet meadow that can be damaged easily. This is a great spot for a snack if this is you final destination or if you have higher aspirations.

Pack List

For day hikes the standard gear including:

  • Proper Clothes/Shoes
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Map
  • Camera

During the summer/fall you can camp in the area, but it is often closed for a variety of reasons (including bear/moose activity) so please call the national forest ranger station for current regulations. Also, this is in a wilderness area, so please research the restrictions and follow them. If you do camp:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Bear Canister
  • Cooking Tools
  • Water Filter and/or Purifier
Show More
RT Distance 3.6 Miles
Elevation Gain 500 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Still Busy

Such a great way to avoid the masses at Maroon Lake - there's still going to be people, but significantly less than the Scenic Loop or Maroon Lake. Make sure to look back towards Maroon Lake, though, as those were some of my favorite views the whole hike.

Beautiful but Crowded

I started this trail immediately after sunrise at Maroon Bells and it was very crowded. Maybe sunrise at Crater Lake would have been a better alternative! Regardless, it's a beautiful, short hike.

This is an easy hike, but there are some parts that are rocky, make sure you're wearing the appropriate shoes!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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