Perhaps the finest viewpoint of Crater Lake, and certainly the best of Wizard Island
, is from the top of 8,013 foot Watchman Peak
, an isolated mountain right on the west rim of the crater. The peak forces the Rim Drive
to veer away from the lake for a couple of miles, but it does approach closely at Watchman Overlook
, on the north side of the summit; from here the views are good enough but better 420 feet up on the peak, reached by a short (0.8 miles) but quite steep trail that crosses a scree slope and climbs through sparse hemlock and pine woodland, ending by one of the park's two fire lookout towers, built in 1932 (the other is atop Mount Scott
, on the opposite side of the crater). An added attraction of the Watchman Trail, in late summer, is the profusion of differently colored wildflowers on the upper slopes of the mountain.
MapCrater Lake location map
The Watchman receives heavy snowfall in winter and spring, and its slopes may not fully clear until mid August, though the route is usually accessible to hikers a month or so earlier. The path starts at the south side of the parking area by Watchman Overlook and heads southwest, across a slope of loose dacite blocks, ascending fairly gently to a junction with the Rim Trail. The main route curves back eastwards, up a lightly wooded ridge and becomes steeper, passing some large boulders and rocky outcrops. The last section has a few short zig-zags, leading to a small flat area beneath the fire watchtower (staffed in summer), an often windy location with fantastic views of Wizard Island directly below, surrounded by the turquoise blue waters of the lake. The vantage point is high enough to see the small crater on the island's summit, a feature not properly visible from the roadside overlook. On the other (west) side of the peak, the scree slopes steeply down towards the road, descendible with care and so offering a potential shortcut route back to the trailhead of only about 0.2 miles. Some people ski or slide down in early summer, when the land is still completely snow-covered. To the north and west, the views are less spectacular, over extensive, wooded, low relief hills, though as ever there are several prominent, permanently snow-capped summits of the Cascades visible in the distance, including the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson and Mount Shasta.