A lesser-known Crater Lake sits high in an alpine basin, guarded by craggy peaks. Unlike the Crater Lake located in Oregon's only national park, the only way into this place is by climbing up a relentless series of switchbacks that enter the Wallowa high country. Hikers who take on this heart-pounding adventure are rewarded with a sense of remoteness not easily found in this popular backpacking destination.
Along the way the trail crosses lovely meadows, pockets of forest, and a rocky streambed. In spring and early summer the trail becomes impassable with slow-to-melt snow. But well-prepared travelers with some navigation experience can snowshoe cross-country to find this treasure in the wilderness.
Be alert for wildlife on this trip. Deer and elk frequent the forest. Mountain goats roam in the high, rocky peaks. Songbirds flit from tree to tree, and raptors soar through the air. Wildflowers bloom in a stunning variety of colors throughout the summer.
There is ample opportunity for camping near the lake. To truly enjoy a backcountry experience, consider making it an overnight trip. Remember to camp at least 100 feet from the lake and practice Leave No Trace.