The historic Rim Drive includes 33-miles (53-km) of lake views, panoramic vistas, forests and meadows. The contours of the road were designed to compliment the natural landscape, and disappear from view as you look across the lake from any point.
Along the way there are 30 overlooks with ample car parking, which provide opportunities to stop for views of the lake and caldera. Rim Drive also provides access to five picnic areas, hikes of various difficulty, geologic formations and several waterfalls.
The full loop of Rim Drive (East and West) is typically open from July through October. Partial closures may occur throughout the summer depending on snow removal, rock fall, and special events such as Ride the Rim.
Rim Drive by Trolley
Another way to experience Rim Drive and avoid navigating traffic on your own, is to board a trolley at Rim Village. An experienced trolley captain drives the 33 winding miles around the lake with a minimum of five stops along the way. Each trolley tour lasts two hours. A park ranger is on board each tour narrating stories about park history and the landscape.
To Tow or Not to TowLarge recreational vehicles, buses, and vehicles with a tow, are permitted on Rim Drive, but could have difficulty navigating the drive due to these circumstances, especially during high visitation.
Rim Drive is a narrow and winding historic road.
There are tight curves and no shoulders.
Abrupt changes in pavement may be present.
Turnabouts are not available.
Fallen rocks sometimes obstruct the road.
Most historic overlooks only accommodate a few car-sized vehicles.
From Rim Road to Rim DriveRim Road, the earliest route around the lake, and other park roads were graded with no additional surface added. In 1913 men and horses plowed part of the roadway, crews with hand tools graded other segments, and steam shovels removed boulders. By 1919 park visitors were driving around the lake on a rough, dusty and sometimes-dangerous twelve-foot wide road.
During the 1920’s cars got bigger and faster, meanwhile park visitation increased. It became difficult to pass oncoming vehicles without pulling over, or to drive at a steady speed along tight curves and steep grades. Without road barriers, drivers pulled over wherever they could, unintentionally damaging native plants.
In 1931, “designing with nature” was the motivating motto for creating a safer and scenic road circling the lake. The creation of Rim Drive, even with road widening and modern-day pavement, continues to protect the landscape and preserve the natural integrity of the lake view for visitors.
Last updated: November 17, 2019