Little Crater Lake is a tiny little lake of unreal clarity with a beautiful blue hue. While not located in a Crater like its better known sibling, Little Crater Lake got its name because of its similarity in color with Oregon’s most famous lake. Little Crater Lake was formed when a fault cracked through a layer of soft siltstone that sits on top of a water filled gravel layer that is under pressure. This fault allowed the water the shoot to the surface and erode away the soft siltstone overhead, creating the crystal clear lake.
The “hike” to Little Crater Lake begins from the Little Crater Campground near Timothy Lake. There is a parking area and trailhead located along the campground loop. You will find a nice trail heading through a meadow of tall grass and a signing letting you know that Little Crater Late is a whopping 250 yards ahead. The trail simply heads straight through the meadow, through a small island of trees, and then boom, you will find yourself at a small viewing platform overhanging the lake.
The trail continues on past the lake, so you can get a few additional vantage points if you wish. If you still feel like walking, you can continue on until the junction with the PCT a couple hundred yards further down. If you make a left, you can reach the north arm of Timothy Lake in about half a mile and see where Crater Creek enters the lake. You could also march the 12 miles around the lake, but that seems like a whole different hike to me.
The easiest way to reach the Little Crater Lake trailhead is to hop on Highway 26 and heads towards the northern border of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. If you are coming from the south, make a left onto Skyline Road 5 miles past the junction with Highway 216 towards Maupin. From the north, Skyline Road will be on your right 15 miles after the junction with Highway 35. Head down Skyline Road for 4 miles and then right onto Abbot Road. There will be a sign with some binoculars pointing you in that direction. Continue down Abbott Road for 1.5 miles and then make a left into the Little Crater Lake Campground. Head around the campground loop until you see the trailhead.
Passes: A Northwest Forest Pass is required at this trailhead.
Dogs: Allowed and must be on leash or under voice command at all times.
Usage: Moderate - Heavy
Open Season: Skyline Road is usually open from April 1st through Decmeber 1st.
Bugs: Mosquitos are known in inhabit the area, primarily in the evennings of early summer.