“A lovely hike around the blue waters of Crater Lake and through the ridge-top forest to Hemlock Pond.”
— Kristen Arendt
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · Swimming · Views · Wildlife
A manageable distance with some rolling hills and beautiful lakes to explore.
This hike gives visitors a glimpse into the history of the landscape as well as the opportunity to explore some of the park's most beautiful lakes.
Need to Know
Restrooms located at the trailhead. Due to the remnants of old road traces in the area, the route can be a bit confusing so stop and pick up a trail map or use the Hiking Project mobile app
to make sure you stay on track.
Start your hike from the Crater Lake parking area and head southwest on the Crater Lake Trail
where you'll see the beautiful handiwork of the prehistoric Wisconsin Glacier. Formed during the Pleistocene over 22,000 years ago, Crater Lake is impressive for its cool, clear waters. Also, fantastic vistas of the surrounding hemlock forests can be seen from its prominent, ice-scoured, rocky shore.
At just over half a mile, the trail will intersect the Appalachian Trail, where hikers will turn right and continue on this section of the AT for about half a mile before rejoining with the Crater Lake Trail
. Take a left on the Crater Lake Trail
and begin a steady descent from Crater Lake northwest toward your second destination, Hemlock Pond.
At about 1.5 miles, the Crater Lake Trail
will reach a junction with the Hemlock Pond Trail
. Take a left to start the loop around Hemlock Pond. After a short jaunt through the lush eastern hemlock forests for which this trail was named, you'll hike along a short segment of the Blue Mountain Lake Trail (Outer Loop)
which is used to complete the loop of the Hemlock Pond Trail
. This section of doubletrack lasts for about a quarter mile before hikers turn right to rejoin the Hemlock Pond Trail
Hikers will enjoy pristine blue waters and a lush, eastern hemlock forest as you relax in solitude along the Hemlock Pond Trail
. If you have time, maybe even dip your toes in the pond's cool, clear waters. Along the way, the trail surface is a mixture of easily-navigable roots, small rocks, and smooth-treaded dirt.
After completing the loop around the Hemlock Pond, visitors can either return via the Crater Lake Trail
, taking a left at the junction with the AT to stay on the northern portion of the Crater Lake Trail
to complete the loop of the lake before returning to the trailhead. There is also a great picnic area located here so pack some snacks or a lunch to enjoy after you finish your hike.
Flora & Fauna
This area is rich with tall, majestic eastern hemlock. White oak, red maple, shagbark hickory, chestnut, and northern red oak can also be seen along the trail.
History & Background
Crater Lake is a glacial lake that was formed nearly twenty-two thousand years ago after the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier. This area originally attracted developers in the mid-1900s, when this was a budding vacation community. This community is now defunct and the area is now more reminiscent of it's glacial past than a resort community.