The Watchman Snowshoe

Crater Lake National Park

Southern Oregon Cascades, Oregon

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The Watchman Snowshoe


  • Views of Crater Lake begin right from the lodge.- The Watchman Snowshoe
  • The Rim Road is not plowed in the winter, making it a perfect snowshoe or ski trail.- The Watchman Snowshoe
  • Water frozen in time clings to the rocks on the side of Rim Road.- The Watchman Snowshoe
  • Looking ahead, the Watchman appears.- The Watchman Snowshoe
  • Snowshoers must head off the road to climb to the high point.- The Watchman Snowshoe
  • The southeast ridge of the Watchman makes for a straightforward and easy route.- The Watchman Snowshoe
  • Trees bow under ice and snow in winter.- The Watchman Snowshoe
  • The Watchman lookout tower.- The Watchman Snowshoe
  • Views from the Watchman lookout tower are unbeatable.- The Watchman Snowshoe
  • Along the walk back, there is scenery in every direction.- The Watchman Snowshoe
  • The sun sets over Crater Lake.- The Watchman Snowshoe
Overview + Weather
Quiet. Excellent viewpoints.
Difficult in inclement weather. Some routefinding necessary.
Southern Oregon Cascades, OR
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,360.00 ft (414.53 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring
Total Distance: 
7.25 mi (11.67 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
7,125.00 ft (2,171.70 m)
Current Local Weather:
Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

The hike to the Watchman in the summertime is less than a mile up a dry, dusty, trail. But in the winter, this trip becomes a snow-covered adventure. The Watchman, a lookout tower built in 1931, stands on a prominent bump along the west rim of Crater Lake, just a few miles from the upper  parking lot. On a clear day, visitors to the tower can see several volcanoes, notably Scott Mountain, Mount Thielsen and Mount Shasta.

Perhaps the most spectacular view is the one of the lake itself. Perched atop the platform at the base of the Watchman, one can see the entire expanse of the lake and look down at the top of Wizard Island. In the right conditions, it is easy to climb the snowy ramp that forms on top of the stone stairs that lead to the platform. Note that in deep snow or on slippery ice, it may not be a wise idea. Be mindful of snow cornices and other winter hazards while visiting the Watchman.

To get there, follow the West Rim Road from the upper parking lot just over 3 miles. You'll catch plenty of views of your objective along the way. Once you reach the big bend in the road, turn east (toward the lake) into the trees. Here, the going will be slow as you will most likely break trail through fresh snow. Continue heading up, making switchbacks as necessary, until you reach the base of the tower. Proceed with caution to the viewing platforms above.


Backcountry Safety

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.

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Field Guide + Map

Field Guide + Map

Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(6 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(30 within a 30 mile radius)

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