The summit of Garfield Peak is a winter prize for skiers and snowshoers. The summer trail cuts across steep terrain that holds avalanche potential in the winter, so one must be a little more industrious to find a safe winter route.
Garfield is one of several highpoints along the approximately 30-mile long rim that encircles Crater Lake. Rocky cliffs guard its western flanks, but broad, sprawling meadows form a moderately sloping ramp on its east side. A variety of evergreen trees make up the forested bits, including pines, firs and hemlocks. The meadows, however, are dominated by sparkling snow. It is easy to find a pleasant snowshoeing route that links together the many meadows on the mountain.
As you climb higher and the terrain becomes steeper, you'll see views of the rim of the crater, including the nearby highpoints Dyar Rock and Applegate Peak. For a longer exploratory trip, venture to one or both of these features. From Dyar Rock, there is an excellent view of the Phantom Ship.
For the easiest path to the top of Garfield, amble over to the south ridge and proceed uphill. The upper parts of the ridge are rather exposed to the weather, so be prepared for cold wind and blowing snow. Notice the character of the gnarled and twisted trees that live a harsh life on this high elevation ridge. Rime ice coats the trees, turning them into artistic winter sculptures.
To make a loop out of the return trip, use a map or your GPS to navigate to one of the drainages that lead more directly back to the road. Or, follow your tracks through the meadows to take the long and scenic route.
As with any winter off-trail travel, be aware of avalanche conditions and choose your route wisely.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.