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The Pinnacles Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View of some of The Pinnacles in Wheeler Creek Canyon (bobcat)
Looking west up Wheeler Creek (bobcat)
Single pinnacle, Wheeler Creek (bobcat)
The trail long the rim of the Wheeler Creek Canyon to view The Pinnacles (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: The Pinnacles Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Crater Lake East Entrance
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 60 feet
  • High Point: 5,475 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

While Crater Lake is the most obvious result of Mount Mazama's massive blast 7,700 years ago, the country around exhibits a multitude of geologic features that appeared after that terrible explosion. Searing pyroclastic flows poured down from high vents before the mountain's collapse into the caldera and filled creek valleys. On the mountain's southeast slopes, the canyons of Wheeler and Sand Creeks became submerged in such flows. Gases from the superheated rock below were released to the surface via narrow vents, welding the pyroclastic deposits in their immediate vicinity. Immediately after the eruption, these valleys were a moonscape of hissing fumaroles. Over thousands of years, the creeks have reclaimed their former canyon-like profile and these welded vents protude in a colorful array along the south wall of Wheeler Creek. Other pinnacle formations, not accessible by trail, are in the Sand Creek valley, just to the north of Wheeler Creek.

From the overlook at the parking area, you can walk a short way west along the canyon rim on a poorly defined user trail, and then start working your way east past the railed overlook. You'll be hiking along a wide trail that parallels a former access road. Lodgepoles pines form this sparse forest and spur trails lead to viewpoints over more pinnacles. Most of these colorful spires are 30 - 60 feet high. Mount Scott is the prominent peak to the north. Half a mile from the trailhead, reach the former access road and an old boundary sign marking this as the East Entrance to Crater Lake National Park. It's another half-mile to the turnaround at the end of FR 2304 above the Sand Creek Canyon. Thus, you can visit The Pinnacles by driving in from the east and parking here if you want to avoid paying the national park entrance fee.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $15 entrance fee to Crater Lake National Park - good for 7 days - or America the Beautiful Pass
  • No pets


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Southern Oregon & Northern California by William L. Sullivan
  • Trails of Crater Lake National Park & Oregon Caves National Monument by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon's Geology by Ellen Morris Bishop

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.