We began our day in Crater Lake National Park at Rim Village, setting out along historic Rim Drive to checkout several of the more than 30 scenic viewpoints overlooking Crater Lake like Discovery Point, Merriam Point, Wineglass, and Cloudcap. After stopping at the Kerr Notch Phantom Ship Viewpoint, we left Rim Drive for a side trip down Pinnacles Road to hike the Pinnacles Trail and the Plaikni Falls Trail. After that we were back on the scenic Rim Drive, bound for the Sun Notch Trail.
Sitting on the southeast end of the Crater Lake caldera, Sun Notch is a lush green meadow that has a short trail to a amazing overlook of Phantom Ship Island.
Like Kerr Notch, Sun Notch was a valley on the slopes of Mount Mazama that was carved into a u-shape by massive glacier sliding down the side of the volcano. After Mount Mazama collapsed, the valley was left hanging on the edge of the caldera rim.
Sun Notch Trail is an easy, 0.9 mile loop trail. It only took us about 30 minutes or so to walk the trail, take in the views, and snap a bunch of photos — and it was well worth the stop.
Our walk began with a short uphill jaunt through a mountain hemlock forest and around a gorgeous green meadow flanked by rocky mountains: Dutton Cliff to the east and the rocky base of Applegate Peak to the west. Once we reached the rim of the caldera, the trail continued for a little bit before reaching the Phantom Ship Overlook.
This is one of the best views of Phantom Ship in the national park.
Phantom Ship Island
Phantom Ship in Crater Lake’s Chaski Bay is formed from 400,000 year old volcanic andesite rock; the oldest lava formation in the caldera. Resembling a pirate ship or ghost ship, the island rises 170 feet above the water and measures 200 feet wide and 500 feet long.
Know Before You Go
- Crater Lake National Park, Oregon’s only national park, does not have a physical street address, so it can be hard to locate us using GPS. We made the historic Crater Lake Lodge our first stop, which is located at 565 Rim Drive, Klamath Falls, Oregon 97604.
- The trailhead for Sun Notch Trail is located at an unmarked parking area, on East Rim Drive, 4.4 miles east of the Crater Lake National Park Headquarters. It is often closed and covered in snow from October to early July.
- At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the principal feature of Crater Lake National Park.
- The 33 mile Rim Drive that travels around Crater Lake’s caldera features spectacular views of the lake and interpretive signage at all of the main vista points.
- Good for seven days, admissions fees are $30.00/vehicle, $25.00/motorcycle in the summer and $15.00/motorcycle in the winter, and $15.00/pedestrian or bicycle.
- The national park is open year-round, 24 hours a day but many of the park’s roads, trails, and facilities are closed seasonally.
- During periods of rain and snow, Crater Lake is often hidden by clouds — it is completely invisible about 50% of the time in the winter!
- Summers at Crater Lake are short but typically sunny. July, August, and September are your best bets for warm, dry weather. However, it can snow any day of the year.
- The park’s North Entrance is closed for about seven months each year. It closes at the first snowfall or on November 1, whichever comes first and reopens in early to mid-summer. The park’s South Entrance and West Entrance are open year-round. We visited the park in late July and the roads had only been open for a week!
- Dogs on-leash are permitted in developed park areas and in Mazama Village and Lost Creek Campground. Dogs are not permitted on any trails or in undeveloped areas.