From Bog to Bald (Crater Lake NP) 05-Jun-2015

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon

Crater Lake National Park is not generally considered a hiker’s park. True, there are some excellent hikes there: Mount Garfield, Mount Scott, and The Watchman provide great views of the lake, Union Peak has extensive 360º views, and Crater Peak provides nice local views and has a charming flower meadow in its crater. However, other than the main Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which moves through a green tunnel, and its alternative route that runs along the west side of the lake, the only other established hiking trails in the park are in its northwest corner. Sullivan (Hike #122 in his Southern Oregon hiking guide (Third Edition, 2014)) describes visiting the Sphagnum Bog on the park’s west side. He has you coming at it via the PCT, which makes for a mostly green tunnel experience. However, there’s a shorter way in from the west – via the Bert Creek Trail – which allows you to visit the bog and also get some views from a climb of Bald Crater.

The Bert Creek Trailhead is readily accessible off Highway 230 via paved and good gravel roads and sits at the end of Forest Road (FR) 6535-660. There are no amenities at this trailhead.

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
The trailhead for the Bert Creek Trail

The trail starts on forest land, but quickly reaches the park boundary.  The trail did not seem heavily used but was otherwise obvious and easy to follow,

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
Along the Bert Creek Trail

and soon brought me to a junction with the Bald Crater Loop Trail, which I followed south to a sign pointing to a “trail” leading down toward the bog. I say “trail” because, despite the sign, the tread disappeared into brush and blowdown about 300 feet beyond the sign. So I just went cross-country southward until I hit the edge of one of the bogs,

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
One piece of the Sphagnum Bog

and then went a little further to emerge from the forest on the edge of a really big bog,

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
The main Sphagnum Bog

squishing and undulating underfoot.

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
The Sphagnum Bog is fragile and too wet to walk on anyway

What also suprised me at this point was a huge bull elk munching its way along the edge of the bog. While I was fumbling with my camera, it slipped back into the forest and disappeared. Common sense suggested I not try to chase it through the forest, so, sigh, another National Geographic moment lost. So, regaining my composure, I worked my way back to the Bald Crater Loop Trail and headed north toward Bald Crater – which, thanks to Peakbagger, I knew had views.

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
Heading north on the Bald Crater Loop Trail

On the way, I passed Oasis Spring, one of the few water sources on the park’s northwest side,

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
Oasis Spring

and a flower with four beetles on it (but a closer look will jeopardize this site’s “G” rating).

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
Beetles cavorting on a flower

After going a little further north on the trail, I left it to go cross-country up the southwest side of the Bald Crater – an uneventful climb except for the manzanita thickets covering the last 200 feet to the summit. {UPDATE: The Bald Crater Loop Trail north of Oasis Spring and Bald Crater itself were burned over in 2015 by the National Creek Complex Fire. Parts of this area were impacted again in 2017 by the Spruce Lake Fire (part of the High Cascades Complex Fire).}

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
The benchmark on top of Bald Crater

As promised, the summit provided views in all directions.

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
Mount Thielsen to the northeast
Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
Mount Bailey to the north
Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
Union Peak (center) and Mount McLoughlin to the south
Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
The rim of Crater Lake to the southeast; Mount Scott is on the far left

Descending through manzanita didn’t appeal at all, so I went down the loose dirt – but brush-free – northwest side of the crater and retraced my steps to the trailhead. The weather was staggeringly perfect which helped make this a fun exploration of parts of the park that not many folks know about or bother to visit (14 miles roundtrip; 2,000 feet of elevation gain).

Sphagnum Bog Crater Lake National Park Oregon
My track to Sphagnum Bog and Bald Crater

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