Little Crater Lake
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
A very small, deep lake in Mount Hood National Forest.
Lake Name: Little Crater Lake Lake Coordinates: 45.1482, -121.7508 Lake Elevation: 3238′ Access: Trail Distance: 0.34 miles (round trip) Elevation Range: 3238′ to 3238′ Ascent/Descent: +0 ft / -0 ft Trail: Little Crater Lake Trail #500 Trail Type: In and out Note: The quickest and easiest way to access Little Crater Lake is from the trailhead that starts at Little Crater Lake Campground. If hiking the Timothy Lake Loop Trail, a little detour to Little Crater Lake is a nice add on. Date hike was done: November 2019 (Done multiple different times)
I’ve done the short hike to Little Crater Lake many times. It’s such a beautiful, unique, and easy lake to access. With how easy it is to get too, I’m always surprised there aren’t more people there. I’ve gone many times where I’m the only one there. Whenever there has been other people it’s only one or two other groups.
Little Crater Lake is unique because of it’s depth, coloring, and temperature. The forest service website states, “Little Crater Lake is 45’ ft. deep and spring-fed from the bottom, and from Little Crater Creek. The lake was formed by dissolving limestone and is not of volcanic origin. It remains near 34 degrees Fahrenheit year round because of the properties of the aquifer that feed it.”
The easiest way to access the lake is from the trailhead at Little Crater Lake Campground. There’s a gravel parking area on the right side of the road that can accommodate multiple cars. Most of the trail is actually paved. There is a boardwalk type trail that runs from the lake to where the trail connects with the PCT. There is a viewing deck at the lake’s edge. Note that this lake is a NO SWIMMING zone. But it is the perfect place to filter some nice cold water.
The alternative and much longer/harder way of reaching Little Crater Lake is from the PCT. I’ve hiked the Timothy Lake Trail and did a little add on half way through to Little Crater Lake. It was a 13 mile loop hike in total. It only added on 1 mile (round trip) on to the Timothy Lake Loop Trail (12 miles).
For more info on how the Timothy Lake route check out my post.
Little Crater Lake Campground Trailhead: 45.1478, -121.7477
Little Crater Lake: 45.1482, -121.7509
PCT and Little Crater Lake Trail #500 Junction: 45.1479, -121.7535
How to get there (from Sandy, OR)
Take Hwy 26 out of Sandy for 40 miles. Turn right on FS 42 (Skyline Rd) and continue for 3.9 miles. Turn right on FS 58 and proceed for 2.4 miles. Turn left into Little Crater Lake Campground (FS 230) and continue for 0.2 miles into campground to trailhead parking area.
Lake Coordinates: 45.1482, -121.7508
Zigzag Ranger District map location: T5S R9E S11
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