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.
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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