Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Little Crater Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

At Little Crater Lake (bobcat)
Propertius duskywing (Erynnis propertius) on groundsel, Little Crater Lake (bobcat)
Little Crater Lake in the fall (bobcat)
Meadow and Mt. Hood, Pacific Crest Trail, Timothy Lake (bobcat)
The short hike to Timothy Lake via Little Crater Lake (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Little Crater Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Timothy Lake
  • Hike type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 1.4 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 10 feet
  • High point: 3,245 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes



Little Crater Lake, a lovely sapphire-hued artesian spring formed in a dissolving layer of siltstone, is only 250 yards from a trailhead via a universal access path. Those who are able to go farther can hike out through a lush meadow to the Pacific Crest Trail and then walk south for about a quarter of a mile to view more lush marshes where Crater Creek forms an arm of Timothy Lake, a reservoir created in 1956 to regulate water flow on the Oak Grove Fork of the Clackamas River. This is a popular walk for families with young children.

Walk along the paved Little Crater Lake Trail #500, which passes through a wet meadow studded with lodgepole pine and then enters a grove of Engelmann spruce. Reach the viewing platform at Little Crater Lake, where a sign explains the spring’s formation on a fault line. The lake is very still and, on a sunny day, the reflections of the surrounding conifers are mirrored perfectly on the still sapphire pool. In late spring, look for false hellebore, lupine, marsh cinquefoil, and arrow-leaf groundsel blooming in the area. Continue on a boardwalk over a low stile and then cross a footbridge over a narrow skunk-cabbage wetland. Enter woods of Douglas-fir, mountain hemlock and yew to pass through a livestock fence and join the Pacific Crest Trail #2000 at the Pacific Crest-Little Crater Lake Trail Junction.

Turn left here on this wide path. Rhododendrons, bear-grass and Oregon grape form a sparse cover under large, old growth Douglas-firs. Come to the Pacific Crest-Timothy Lake Trail North Junction, and keep left over a boardwalk into a forest of Engelmann spruce, Douglas-fir and western hemlock.You'll cross a large footbridge over Crater Creek and tread a boardwalk to the Pacific Crest-Old 1916 Trail Junction. (The latter is now labelled the Timothy Lake Bike Trail #537.) Keep right in a young forest of Douglas-fir and hemlock with western white pine, hiking along an arm of Timothy Lake and passing a couple of gushing springs on the right. At a boggy inlet, get a glimpse of the top of Mount Hood to the right above the trees. This is a good spot to turn around if you're with little ones.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Restrooms and picnic tables at the Little Crater Lake Campground
  • Dogs on leash


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Best Hikes with Children: Western & Central Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • 100 Hikes: Northwest Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Day Hiking Mount Hood: A Year-Round Guide by Eli Boschetto
  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.