Though it is only one-mile long, this hike off of Crater Lake's rim provides a lot of insight into the park's geology and ecosystem.
Starting just up the road from Mazama Village Campground, this trail loops through an old-growth forest consisting primarily of giant Shasta red firs* with intermittent viewpoints that overlook the dramatic Munson Creek Canyon (Godfrey Glen) and Annie Creek Canyon. Like The Pinnacles, Godfrey Glen is lined with iconic columnar ash formations that were formed when trapped gases emerged through volcanic ash deposits, creating hollow vents. As the gases passed through, they turned the ash into a cement-like paste, binding aggregates into a rigid, concrete-like chimney cast.
As you pass through the forest, keep your eyes open for pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea), a curious and bizzare plant in this mountain ecosystem. Ranging from roughly 8 to 40 inches tall, these reddish, asparagus-looking plants are a unique species often found on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Unlike most plants, they have no leaves... they don't photosythesize. According to the Deschutes Land Trust,
It is a mycrotrophic plant, which means it has a symbiotic relationship with a fungus associated with pine trees. It's a second-tier root parasite, feeding on fungi that steels [sic] nutrients from conifer roots.
The plant's flowers may appear familiar, however. The plant is a part of the heather (Ericaceae) family, with little yellowish bell-form flowers that resemble the family's other flowering plants such as green manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula) or salal (Gaultheria shallon). Western prince's pines (see photo) are also in the heather family.
* Shasta red firs (Abies magnifica var. shastensis) are another unique species found at Crater Lake National Park. The trees are actually a hybrid species between noble firs (Abies procera) and California red firs (Abies magnifica).
Note: The Godfrey Glen Loop Trail is a broad, well-packed trail that is classified by the National Park as ADA accessible, however it is not paved.