Scenic Rim Drive

marmot on boulder, road, parking area, Hillman Peak
Before West Rim Drive opened for the summer season, a marmot inspected the Watchman Overlook.  Photo by Linda Powell
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.
  • Traffic goes both directions on Rim Drive.
  • Speed limit is 35mph or less
  • Rim Drive is often shared with bicyclists.
  • It is narrow, winding, and does not have shoulders.
Access Rim Drive from the north at North Junction, and from Rim Village or Steel Visitor Center. Allow two-hours (including sight-seeing stops) to circumnavigate the lake by car or motorcycle, and longer if you are driving a larger vehicle or towing—see below.

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.
 
Trolley stopped at an overlook, ranger talking
This trolley made a stop at an overlook where visitors had an opportunity to learn more about the lake and take photos.  Photo by Steve Sorensen

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.

Details about trolley tours are available on the web under Boat and Trolley Tours, and in the park newspaper that is given to visitors upon entering the park.

 

To Tow or Not to Tow

Large 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.


Where to Unhitch or Park

  • There are RV parking lanes at Rim Village but these are occupied early in the day.
  • There are only two large vehicle parking spaces at Steel Visitor Center and unhitching is not permitted.
  • In the Cleetwood Cove parking lot, there are no designated parking spaces for large vehicles. There is room to park a few larger vehicles alongside the road and walk the road to the trailhead.
  • Vehicles with tows should consider unhitching before driving to the rim. Coming from the west (Medford, OR) or south (Klamath Falls, OR) unhitch outside the park at one of the Oregon Sno-parks. Inside the park, there is a large parking area at Mazama Village. If this lot is full, there are several long pullouts on the drive between the entrance station and Rim Village where vehicles may be unhitched, locked, and left while visiting the park.
  • If entering the park from the north (Bend or Roseburg, OR), there is an Oregon Sno-park at the intersection of OR Hwy 230 and OR Hwy138. There is no fee to leave your vehicle at any of the Sno-parks.
 

From Rim Road to Rim Drive

Rim 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

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Crater Lake National Park
PO Box 7

Crater Lake , OR 97604

Phone:

(541) 594-3000

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