In the past, we’ve always just driven through or around Crater Lake National Park, so this year we decided to stay for a few days and really explore the area. Going just after Labor Day meant that the weather was still good but the summer crowds were largely gone (from the trails but not the gift store). There were a few clouds at dusk every day but otherwise the weather was excellent.
Today’s goal was Union Peak, located in the southwest corner of the park. We took the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) south from the trailhead on Highway 62,
to a well-signed junction with the Union Peak Trail. We did notice that the trail as mapped and the trail as walked didn’t exactly line-up for the first mile or so past this junction.
After a casual stroll through an open forest with practically no undergrowth,
we were suddenly confronted by the east face of Union Peak.
Fortunately, there’s a good trail all the way to the top – it comes in from the left and goes up through the trees on switchbacks that get smaller and smaller.
Looking down from the trail high on the side of the peak, we could see where the Union Peak Trail came up the ridge from its junction with the PCT.
From the summit, we had a good view of Mount Scott, the park’s high point,
and, despite smoke from a large fire near Klamath Falls, of several other peaks to the north.
We could vaguely make-out Mount McLoughlin to the south but,
while the guidebook suggested we should be able to see Mount Shasta some 100+ miles away, the smoke pretty much ruled that out. After a snack, we headed back the way we’d come (9.5 miles roundtrip; 1,700 feet of elevation gain),
and spent the rest of the day sightseeing around the lake.