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Crater Lake’s Rim Drive will be carfree for first time this weekend only

Posted by on June 19th, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Cycle Oregon Day 3 - Crater Lake!-18.JPG

In a nod to bicycling and walking, this weekend cars, trucks, buses, RVs and all motorized transportation will be prohibited from Crater Lake’s Rim Drive.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Travel Oregon has negotiated a historic breakthrough for bicycling and walking: An agreement with the National Parks Service to prohibit cars and all motorized vehicles on Crater Lake’s Rim Drive for an entire weekend.

“… a nationally unique opportunity to walk, run or ride a bike around the lake and, essentially, have it all to yourself.”
— Craig Ackerman, Crater Lake National Park Superintendent

The deal has been percolating for years among high profile bicycle advocates like State Parks Commissioner and former owner of Bike Gallery stores Jay Graves and the non-profit Cycle Oregon. This year, given the early snowmelt, Travel Oregon seized on a window of opportunity to finally propose the idea and NPS has accepted. Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio was also instrumental in making this happen.

Crater Lake National Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman announced the agreement late today. The plan is to open East Rim Drive to bicycling and walking only this weekend (June 22nd and 23rd). Here’s more from Ackerman:

“The early snowmelt at Crater Lake gives us a window to create a nationally unique opportunity to walk, run or ride a bike around the lake and, essentially, have it all to yourself.”

Congressman DeFazio says, “I have encouraged the National Park Service to provide this kind of opportunity at Crater Lake for several years. I applaud their willingness to allow this kind of use this weekend, giving Oregonians a great chance to experience the park in a different way.”

Here’s a map (courtesy of Silas Beebe/The Beebe Company) of the portion of the road that will be open only to biking and walking (and rollerblading, scootering, and so on):

And here are more official details:

Under the plan, East Rim Drive Road will be open to non-motorized vehicles only (except for administrative and emergency vehicles) from North Junction around the East Rim of Crater Lake all the way to the intersection at Crater Lake National Park Headquarters and the Steel Visitors Center. Hwy 62 through the south end of the park, West Rim Drive and the North Entrance Road will be open to vehicles. Regular parking areas will be open, but generally fill up quickly.

Rim Drive is a legendary, 33-mile loop that circumnavigates the lake. The road was designated as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

I had the pleasure of riding Rim Drive on Cycle Oregon 2007 and managed to snap a few photos…

Cycle Oregon Day 3 - Crater Lake!-21.JPG

Cycle Oregon Day 3 - Crater Lake!-29.JPG

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Cycle Oregon Day 3 - Crater Lake!-45.JPG

Cycle Oregon Day 3 - Crater Lake!-44.JPG

Cycle Oregon Day 3 - Crater Lake!-26.JPG

Cycle Oregon Day 3 - Crater Lake!-19.JPG

Cycle Oregon Day 3 - Crater Lake!-38.JPG

This is a big deal! Too bad it’s such late notice but I hope many people take advantage of this opportunity. I also hope this becomes a regular occurrence.

UPDATE: 6/20 at 10:30 am: Here’s the official announcement just posted by the National Park Service: East Rim Road Opens for Non-Motorized Recreation

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson June 19, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    is it for one day or for both saturday and sunday?

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  • Jay June 19, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Based on those details, only 24 of the 33 miles are car-free. Is that correct? Only the section marked “closed winters” on Google Maps?

    After having done Mckenzie pass a couple weeks ago, I really hope that there are more of these car-free opportunities. The pass was beautiful and was packed with bikes.

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  • MadKnowledge June 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    I am thrilled to see this happen.

    And ditto what Jay said about the car-free McKenzie Pass opportunity. I rode it last week with my almost-2-year-old in tow/trailer and it was a great experience that we shared which would not have been nearly as enjoyable (if done at all) having to share space with fast-moving cars on the narrow road.

    The more opportunities we can have for this kind of auto-free use the better. I know that cars need to have access to and have rights to the roads most of the time as well, but short-term closures such as these are something fairly unique that the state can start to promote more heavily to bring more tourism dollars to local economies.

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  • Erik June 19, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Wish there was more advance notice. I hope they do this annually. I would plan to be there.

    I’m curious if this has been done in any other national park?

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    • Andrea Poppleton June 20, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      Every spring Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP’s open for about a week for bicycles with no cars.

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    • David Blair June 21, 2013 at 10:08 am

      Shenandoah NP used to do it for a weekday in the fall, northern section of Skyline Drive. thousands of folks turned out for it.

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  • annefi June 20, 2013 at 7:39 am

    I also would have liked advance notice so I could have planned for this rare opportunity.

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  • Ben Grimm June 20, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Very cool. Gonna miss it by like a week with a trip already planned.

    Kudos to the parks dept!

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  • Robert Ping June 20, 2013 at 8:28 am

    What a great idea! Out of state this week and next, but with advance notice I would plan a family weekend trip from Portland for it.

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  • Nathan June 20, 2013 at 9:08 am

    I was there last weekend and the East Rim road had its gates closed. I unfortunately was without bike due to injury. Hopefully, lots of people can go!!

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  • A-Dub June 20, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Oh how I wish they left it closed through Monday! Can’t make it Saturday or Sunday.

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    • Brian E. June 20, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Go anyways! It’s awesome. From my experience, I would expect that you will have the place practically to yourself on a Monday. Ride in a clockwise direction and morning time is best, less wind to raise waves on the lake surface.

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      • longgone June 20, 2013 at 8:19 pm

        …thanks for the tip!

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  • John June 20, 2013 at 10:52 am

    It’s just the Eastern part of Rim Drive that will be car free.
    Typically that doesn’t open to cars until mid-July anyway.
    I was there the 2nd week of July last year and the North entry to the park had just opened the previous week. Talking with a ranger about the East Rim drive (which was still closed), they said the snow had melted but they weren’t finished clearing the road of debris and completing any needed repairs yet.

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  • Craig Harlow June 20, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Agree with you, Jonathan, too bad it’s such short notice.

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  • Burk June 20, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Holy cow! That is so cool!

    Looks dry & 77 degrees on Saturday, 20%-40% chance rain Sunday… oh man that is tempting.

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  • Sam June 20, 2013 at 11:19 am

    My brother just posted a map of the section of road that is open: https://twitter.com/TheBeebeCo/status/347771759363235841

    See you there!

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  • FetaD June 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks for the heads up. My girlfriend and I are going to do this on Saturday.

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  • PorterStout June 20, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I agree what a great idea, it’s the only way to ride a road like this without having to dodge distracted RV drivers (or ride it via Cycle Oregon, which I couldn’t make last year either). This and a ride down 101 are on my bucket list, but I don’t want either ending with me in a bucket. Let’s hope for more notice next year. Kudos to whoever pushed it through this time.

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  • Evan June 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I’m gonna be in Ashland Saturday for the Enduro race…what a great excuse to stay down there Saturday night and do this on the way home! Thanks so much for posting this.

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  • Kristin Dahl June 20, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    SAM – thank you for creating that map – that is so helpful! Are you going?

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  • Sam June 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    @Kristin and @Jonathan Maus,
    The image was created by my brother, Silas Beebe of The Beebe Company. Please correct the credit when you have a moment.
    And yes, see you there this weekend!


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  • Ted Buehler June 20, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Very cool. Bummer I can’t go due to Pedalpalooza/Sunday Parkways conflicts. But I hope lots of other folks take advantage of it.

    Envision a car-free world, folks, and tell your leaders you want it, and make sure you go out and ride when the opportunity presents itself.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Andrea Poppleton June 20, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Yellowstone and GTNP open to bicycles for about a week before cars come in. Usually Mid April.

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  • dp June 21, 2013 at 6:58 am

    Bring some money!
    OPB is reporting $10 for access (normal fee for car). The Crater Lake NP site says $5/bicycle. There is no mention of a fee in the official announcement, but it sounds like it will cost something.

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  • Judiaann Woo June 21, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Hi there. I work for Travel Oregon and we confirmed with Crater Lake the following: “The entrance fee into the park is $10/car and that is good for 7 days. If you come into the park on a bike or on foot, the entrance fee is $5/person. These are the normal park fees. There are no additional fees to hike and bike on East Rim Drive.” Hope the info helps. Enjoy the ride!

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  • gl. June 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    it was incredible. i have only ever driven around crater lake, and being able to explore crater lake on a bicycle was a completely different and extraordinary adventure. i always thought crater lake was nice, but it is even more over-the-top ridiculously beautiful when you have a chance to explore and appreciate it at your leisure w/o feeling rushed by traffic or enclosed in a car. and the silence was stupendous.

    i would never in a million year ride a bike on that road w/ cars, so i am very grateful i got a chance to experience crater lake this way. i definitely hope this becomes a yearly opportunity (w/ plenty of notice!). i am going to send everyone involved some nice photos and a thank you letter.

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  • GlowBoy June 24, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    That is completely awesome. I have ridden around CL twice and it is a fantastic ride, but I would never, EVER do the full ride on a weekend due to the rental-RV traffic. I would probably take advantage of the East Rim Drive closure to motor vehicles, though IMO the diciest section of the entire loop is the twisty climb up from park HQ to Rim Village, and that was still open to motors.

    Didn’t have the chance to get down there this weekend, but I did ride McKenzie Pass last month, and it was absolutely fantastic. We need more such opportunities: some years, Chinook Pass and the North Cascades Highway in WA are rideable before they’re opened to motor vehicle traffic, but I don’t think it happened this year.

    I sure hope that this opportunity can come up again future years. From the text above, it sounds like this was done only because of early snowmelt? I’d love it if we could get NPS to just agree to limit East Rim to nonmotorized travel for the first weekend it’s clear (whenEVER that is) every year.

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  • Simon May 9, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Has the date for 2014 been determined yet?

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  • Nastassja Pace
    Nastassja Pace May 14, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Hi there,

    Yes! There are going to be two Vehicle-Free Saturdays at Crater Lake this year… Sept 20th and 27th. Info here: http://rideoregonride.com/events/crater-lake-vehicle-free-saturday-on-east-rim-drive/.

    There may also be one Saturday Vehicle-Free in late May or June once the snow melts, but there likely will not be much lead-time as to when that date is announced. You can always email inquires to: CRLA_Information_Requests@nps.gov.


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