New this spring, The National Parks Coast to Coast:100 Best Hikes by Backpacker Magazine is a guidebook to some of the most stunning hikes around the country. Here are five of the best.
HIKE #1 — Mount Scott, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Distance: 5.2 miles / Time Required: 1 day / Difficulty: Intermediate
Mount Scott rises up just east of Crater Lake, 90 miles northeast of Medford.
Travel into the fiery past of Mount Mazama on this 5.2-mile out-and-back to the park’s highest peak, where sprawling views of the deepest lake in the United States await.
At 8,929 feet, Mount Scott is Crater Lake’s highest point—and perhaps the best place to see the collapsed volcano of Mount Mazama cupping one of the clearest lakes in the world like a mirror to the sky.
Route: From the trail head parking lot, begin hiking on well-marked trail that begins with heavy log signage. The first 0.25 mile winds up broken pumice with broad views of Mount Scott’s north face. About 1 mile down the trail, breaks in the hemlocks and whitebark pines offer views of Mounts McLoughlin and (on the clearest days) Shasta, 160 miles to the south.
Continue past mixed pumice and forest before beginning to switchback up the peak’s north face; here, Mount Thielsen, an old volcanic neck, dominates the north horizon. You’ll hit the saddle to see western vistas of Crater Lake and Wizard Island, the exposed, spiky relic of Mount Mazama’s mighty lava flows.
The final summit ridge slopes upward for a gentle 0.2 mile to a fire lookout overlooking the Klamath Lake basin (Oregon’s largest freshwater lake) and the surrounding high Cascade Mountains. Atop, you’ll see Crater Lake, a solitary blue caldera formed 7,700 years ago by an eruption 42 times stronger than that of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Brave the wind and admire Crater Lake at a lunch spot beyond the fire lookout before turning back to retrace your steps.