Rim Drive (and the North Entrance) in Crater Lake National Park close for the season if it snows enough or when November 1st rolls around. There hasn’t been any meaningful snow yet (or much rain for that matter). Regardless, the clock is still ticking and we wanted to get in one more hike in the park’s interior before the Rim closes. For that we picked a climb of Red Cone, another of the 40 cinder cones and shield volcanoes in the vicinity of the Crater Lake caldera. The Cone rises just northwest of the lake on the southern edge of the Pumice Desert. It’s easily reached via a ramble on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and a bit of steep cross-country up one of its sides (we went with the southeast side).
We’re well past tourist season in a year that has not been kind to tourism in general. But, while traffic on the park’s roads seemed light, there were a lot of cars parked at the various overlooks for the lake. It appears that the desire for a roadtrip, or at least a view, cannot be quenched, even by the Big V. But we were the only ones at the parking lot (no amenities) where the PCT crosses the North Entrance Road.
After going a mile west on the PCT we went southwest into a forest with remarkably little undergrowth for one that hasn’t been burned. That may have something to do with the exceptionally well-drained soils in this area. It may not have snowed (yet) but it’s been cold enough up here to force ice crystals out of the ground in several places.
The climb up the Cone’s southeast side started after a brief stint in the forest. The climb was steep (1,000 feet in under a mile / 300 m in 1.5 km) but, if we were careful with route selection, not the scree-fest it looked like from a distance.
We reached the edge of the crater, circled around it, and did a little more climbing to reach the summit. The views to the east and southeast were encumbered by the sun but the views elsewhere were great. We enjoy climbing these cones because, weather permitting, each gives us a different perspective on the park.
After a snack on the summit, we descended essentially the way we’d come up but veered more to the south to pass through some meadows on the Cone’s lower southeast ridge.
Despite some pesky high clouds that came and went, it was otherwise a crisp, clear day for a hike. A good breeze across the summit kept the fleece in play. It finally felt like Fall. This is a steep but otherwise easy hike (4.4 miles (7.1 km), with 1,100 feet (335 m) of gain, half on-trail and half off. This makes Red Cone one of the most accessible backcountry cones in the park and one well worth climbing for the views! 😀RETURN TO FRONT PAGE