Crater Lake west shore looking toward Wizard Island.
If you’re in the area with bike, don’t miss a ride around Crater Lake in the mountains of central Oregon for a welcome change of pace from the nearby forested roads.
It’s one of the more spectacular rides in the Western U.S., which has a lot to offer from the Sierra to the Pacific Coast and Bay Area roads.
I rode there on Sunday, Sept. 14, which turned out to be a beautiful day for a bike ride, with the exception of the morning smoke from forest fires burning to the west and north. The smoke wasn’t bad and it cleared out by mid-morning.
My ride started at Crater Lake Lodge, altitude 7,100 feet, about 9:30 a.m. The only hotel with a view of the lake, it’s pricey and reservations need to be made months in advance.
We stayed in Klamath Falls about 1:15 away and, yes, there are no falls in Klamath. It would be more aptly named Raptorville. We saw dozens of hawks looking for a morning meal, perched on irrigation wheels in meadows by the roadside.
But I digress. My ride took a clockwise route, the obvious direction as you’re closest to the lake. There’s some huffing and puffing in the early going for someone used to sea-level riding, but soon enough I adjusted and the altitude didn’t bother me.
With 3,700 feet of climbing ahead, it came as no surprise that I had a long climb early on. Grades average 4-6 percent, so it’s nothing serious.
Because it’s late in the season, traffic was almost non-existent. If you’re really intent of avoiding cars, the road is closed for bikes only later in September.
With so many great views, the temptation to stop and take pics can add minutes to the ride, so count on at least three hours for the round-trip.
In the alpine setting, memories of past Sierra Rides rattled around. It’s easy to make the comparison, although the lake reminded me that this was Oregon and I didn’t have to worry about any 16 percent grades.
It’s almost impossible to get lost on this ride. I didn’t even bring a map. Just keep right at all the junctions. Over on the east side there’s a right turn to the Cloudcap Bay overlook, which adds two miles to the ride, for a total of 35 miles.
The east side is also where you’ll find the steepest descent where speeds of 40 mph can be reached if you’re willing to put up with the rough road.
While it’s all paved, there’s constant roadwork. Don’t be surprised to see short sections of dirt and construction. I’m sure lots of cyclists visit here, but I saw only two on my ride.
After driving on some of the approach roads, I can envision some long two-rides for hard-core riders. The roads are relatively free of traffic or have good shoulders. Hwy 97 out of Klamath Falls would be the lone exception. It has a narrow stretch bordered by lake and a cliff.
There’s a lot to see and do at the lake, including a boat ride, so plan on a day-long stay at minimum.
It’s a nice view from the lodge.