Top Ten National Parks for Biking

Crater Lake National Park
  |  Gorp.com
About 7,700 years ago, Oregon's Mount Mazama erupted, collapsing in on itself. The result? A six-mile-wide bowl-shaped caldera. Sealed at the bottom by lava and filled by rain and snow, the caldera became a spectacular, sapphire-blue lake—the deepest lake in the U.S. and the seventh-deepest in the world.

Crater Lake National Park is often called the"Gem of the Cascades," and the entirety of its blue waters can be seen from almost any point on its rim—a 20-mile circle of cliffs trimmed with mountain hemlock, Shasta red fir, and whitebark pine. Whether you choose to cycle the rim or bike among the park's other odd volcanic formations, this is a place no two-wheel traveler should miss.

If you come to Crater Lake, you have to do the rim. The 33-mile Rim Drive is tough—a narrow road with long, steep hills at high elevation (the route peaks at Cloudcap, 7,700 feet). The hardest part of the ride, however, may be keeping your eyes on the road. Make sure you spend time in the overlooks and pullouts, taking in the bluest water you've ever seen. Most cyclists start from the park headquarters area and pedal clockwise around the lake—putting one of the steepest and longest climbs at the beginning of the ride.

Sun Notch is one of the best spots to see Crater Lake's Phantom Ship. From a distance, this vertical slab of hardened lava resembles a ship under full sail, especially at twilight or by moonlight. Sometimes, when the light is right, the island simply disappears from sight.

Hit the Trail

In contrast to the placid, seemingly bottomless beauty of Crater Lake, the park's pinnacles are volcanic formations of a very eerie sort. During the Mount Mazama eruption, hot gasses bubbled up through lava-flow vents and cemented loose pumice into hundreds of bizarre, 200-foot stone trees. Pinnacles Panorama offers the best view of these strange spires. The biking part of all this is a 9.4-mile out-and-back trail—winding single-track and a wide dirt road—that connects the panorama with nearby Winema National Forest. The trail dives into a thick Pacific Northwest forest of lodgepole pine and fir, but you can get closer views of the pinnacles by hopping off your bike and making your way through the trees. A lookout at mile marker 2 offers a view of another set of spires.

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