About the Site
Crater Lake National Park  


Park History

The Lake

The Boat

Wizard Island

The Phantom Ship

North Rim

East Rim

South Rim

West Rim

Llao Rock

Sun Notch

Mt. Scott

Park Mountains

Mt. Thielsen

Peripheral Views

Pumice Desert

The Pinnacles

Godfrey Glen

Crater Lake Lodge

Visitor Facilities


Rim Drive



Birds & Animals

Evening & Sunset


Rim Drive and Park Roads

Of course, the centerpiece of Crater Lake National Park is the set of spectacular natural wonders, especially the great caldera and the lake which is located within it. But the network of roads within the park provide an essential function, providing access to these natural resources. And the effort which went into the development of these roads and their maintenance is spectacular as well.

Rim Drive Crater Lake's Rim Drive provides spectacular views of the lake and lands surrounding the caldera for almost any visitor to the park. This road circles the lake for 33.4 miles. For much of its route it runs right along the rim, although it drops below the rim behind Garfield Peak on the south side of the lake. Note that the masonry guardrails seen along the route of Rim Drive were carefully planned and constructed.

Rim Drive is probably the best, and certainly the easiest, way to see Crater Lake from a variety of perspectives. The road has about 50 turnouts where the motorist may pull over safely, park, and view various features of the rim, the lake, and the caldera. The turnout below provides a view of the caldera and the lake from the northwest side of the rim.

As is described elsewhere in these pages, the rim of Crater Lake receives an enormous amount of snow in the winter, and the snow persists late into the summer. Rim Drive is typically not cleared of snow and opened to the public until July. Pictures of Rim Drive in the winter are shown in the previous section.

The view below shows Rim Drive as it snakes around the rim near Discovery Point on its way to Rim Village.

The picture below shows a sweep of Rim Drive from the highest overlook along the Rim, Cloudcap, toward Sentinel Rock. Sun Notch, Dutton Cliff, The Phantom Ship, and Applegate Peak can be seen in the background.

The story of creating a road around the rim of the crater is very interesting. In 1912, money was first appropriated to commence construction of a road around the rim of the lake. By 1919, the initial phase of the construction of Rim Drive was completed.

The old road, which was quite rough and about 12 feet wide, was known as "Rim Road." A section of the modern road is seen below, with Mt. Scott in the background.

The current Rim Drive was built over about a decade, beginning in 1931. The construction project was truly impressive. From 1931 to 1932 the route was graded. Surfacing was accomplished in 1933 and 1934. Paving of the route was accomplished in 1935.

Here, Rim Drive runs south with Llao Rock visible in the background.

The total cost of the completed project at that time was 2 million dollars. The engineering effort to build such a road in difficult topographical conditions is truly impressive.

Rim Drive can be seen below as it runs across the slopes of Hillman Peak.

Further improvements to Rim Drive were made in 1978. Below the road can be seen as it loops away from the rim. South of the lake, the road runs behind Dutton Cliff and Dutton Ridge and also Garfield and Applegate Peaks and Vidae Ridge.

Other Roads The roads which exist in Crater Lake can be classified into three categories: circuits, approach roads, and service roads. Obviously, Rim Drive (discussed above) is a circuit, running completely around the lake. There are also several roads which lead from entrances to the park to Rim Drive itself. One such road is the north entrance road, seen below along with the north entrance station.

The roads in Crater Lake National Park are quite special. They provide access to spectacular views and make many of the park's natural wonders accessible to a wide variety of users. All seem to be well designed to provide this access but also to blend with the natural surroundings. Below, the north entrance road can be seen as it creeps through a forested area, approaching the Pumice Desert.

In constructing the park's roads, particular attention has been paid to preserving the natural beauty of the park. Here, the north entrance road is seen as it climbs from the northern area of the park, including the Pumice Desert, to the rim and its junction with Rim Drive.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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