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Crater Lake official: Make carfree Rim Drive an annual event – UPDATED

Posted by on June 25th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Carl Larson drove down from Portland
to take advantage of a carfree Rim Drive.
(Photo: Emily Wilson)

The legendary Rim Drive around Crater Lake was officially carfree for the first time ever this past weekend. And even though the official announcement gave folks just a few days notice, it appears many people showed up to ride one of the most scenic roads in America in total silence and comfort.

Yesterday we got an email from Crater Lake National Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman. He shared that “a large number of cyclists” took advantage of this rare opportunity. Ackerman also said he’d like to expand the carfree designation in future years.

“We are very much interested in making this an annual event,” Ackerman wrote, “and will contemplate making it a longer opportunity if possible.”

According to Ackerman, his ability to allow bicycles only on Rim Drive is up to Mother Nature. That being said, he sounds very positive about bicycling and I won’t be surprised if Travel Oregon, Cycle Oregon and the National Parks Service announce more robust carfree riding opportunities in the future.

I leave you with a final paragraph from Ackerman’s email:

“Bicycle use fits well into our sustainability and emission reduction goals for the park. We support bicyclists as park and environment friendly users. We try to accommodate their needs in any way possible while providing for their safety and that of other roadway users. I hope that we can continue to work together to provide a variety of ways for bikers to enjoy and experience Crater Lake.”

Were you able to do the ride? How was it?

UPDATE: As you can read via her comment below, Kristin Dahl with Travel Oregon says carfree Saturday was Crater Lake’s busiest day of the year so far.

UPDATE #2, 6/26: Readers have send in photos and notes from their ride…

Reader Gretchin Lair sent in the photos below and said she plans to also send them to Travel Oregon, Cycle Oregon, Congressman Peter DeFazio and Craig Ackerman to thank them for the opportunity…

Reader Sally Hunt sent in the photos below and wrote:

“I heard about the East Rim Dr. being open from your website and scrambled to get over there with my husband on Saturday. I ended up riding the whole rim (hills & more hills!) at age 53 (and with no spandex). It was fantastic to be riding most of that without cars. While on the ride I saw a “fire rainbow” over Mt Scott (attached photo)–something I’d never seen before.

I hope this becomes an annual event–there were a LOT of cyclists there Saturday, many that biked only on the car-free road. Just awesome.”

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  • Kristin Dahl June 25, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Jonathan – thanks. We’re holding an event debrief call with the Superintendent and Cycle Oregon tomorrow morning. We’ll keep you posted!

    Also, we received word from the Crater Lake National Park fee supervisor that they had their single best day of the season on Saturday June 22! Biking means business!

    By the way, can you please help me find the family who had their two year old out on a pink bike enjoying the Crater rim road last weekend? I’d love to find a photo of her!!!


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  • Tom Moore June 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Awesome! My wife and I visited Bend for the weekend this spring expressly for the purpose of riding McKenzie Pass car-free. We spent hundreds of dollars at local businesses. We’ll do the same next spring down at Crater Lake if NPS provides adequate advance notice.

    PLEASE make this an annual event National Park Service!!!

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  • Burk June 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm


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    • Craig Harlow June 26, 2013 at 9:28 am

      Or better: MONTHLY, May through October :^)

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  • Alain June 25, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    How did I miss this…? This event should be better publicized. Hope to ride it next year. Imagine the day that the rim is car-free everyday, or at least once a week.

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    • Brian E June 26, 2013 at 8:31 am

      Technically, it’s carfree for almost 3/4 of the year already. It’s accessible in early spring and late fall to exploration by bikes that have the ability to be hoisted over downed trees or pushed across patches of crusted-over snow banks.

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  • Dave June 25, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    That sounds fabulous, certainly worth burning some dinosaurs for or perhaps making the turnaround of a bike tour.

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  • Lynn June 25, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    I rode the loop starting at the North Junction where the East Rim Road begins. I had a great time and met several riders who were having a great time. Several commented that this ride had been a goal for many years. By starting at the North Junction I had to finish the last 9 miles on the West Rim Road which was not car free, not nearly as enjoyable. I recommend starting at the Park Headquarters so the West Rim Road is traversed in the morning when traffic is lighter. Please pass on my appreciation to the Parks Service.

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  • Amy June 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    My partner and I read about the opportunity on your website and immediately scrambled to make reservations at a hotel. The ride was absolutely spectacular. The weather on Saturday was ideal: sunny and crisp. Everyone we saw was grinning ear to ear. I think we all understood the rare and important opportunity: to essentially have the park to ourselves without crowds, car noise and with the freedom to let ones guard down a little and really soak in the view.

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  • Sunny June 25, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    They should do this at Hagg Lake one of these days.

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    • henrik June 26, 2013 at 9:34 am

      You can already do this… well on the trail that goes around the lake that is. Just throw on some cross tires, and you’re good to go! It’s all very rolling’ish. They are also making new/improved sections of the trail as I type this!

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  • Sally Hunt June 25, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    We scrambled, too, to make it to the lake and ride. It was absolutely fantastic to have most of the ride car free. The west rim portion was much more stressful although drivers seemed courteous. The hills weren’t as hard as I anticipated and I was able to ride the whole rim (average, older cyclist; no spandex). There were a lot of people there who, like my husband, rode just a portion of the East Rim Drive. It was an awesome ride.

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  • Adam June 25, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    My partner and I considered trying to make it down to Crater Lake to ride our bikes this weekend, but there was just not enough time to plan.

    I wish the publicity for this car-free weekend had been rolled out earlier. Letting people know about this kind of thing only a few days before is really not helpful 🙁

    Hopefully next year!

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  • grumpcyclist June 26, 2013 at 12:00 am

    I talked to a park official when I went down last weekend. They said that as they plow and clear the road cyclists can ride sections of the road that are closed off to cars. When they can get the roads plowed depends largely on the weather. They said last weekend was the first weekend where the road was almost entirely free of debris, but a big chunk of the road was clear in early June, so you actually could have ridden your bike then as well. The park ranger’s recommendation was to call them in early June and ask how clear the rim road is, and how much of it can be ridden by bike. They also suggested that we fill out a comment form to suggest the publicize car-free access, so hopefully our comments (and those of other cyclists) will help to make this an annual (and publicized) event.

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  • Ssm June 26, 2013 at 12:45 am

    Four of us rallied to ride Crater Lake car-free. Saturday’s weather was excellent. The ride was serene, and of course, the Lake itself was spectacular. We stayed in the kind town of Glide.
    Big thanks to BikePortland, Travel Oregon, and Crater Lake National Park for the amazing opportunity.
    With more planning time, this could be one of next year’s best adventures.

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  • Scott Kocher June 26, 2013 at 8:26 am

    If it meant more opportunities, how would it work to have motorized traffic counter-clockwise while people ride bicycles etc clockwise?

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    • q`Tzal June 26, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Only if you set up hard physical barriers to impatient tourists trying to dodge through the carfree lane, pass in the lane, park in the lane or set up picnic tables and chairs in the lane.
      I’ve observed absent minded RV’ers who have decided to set up their recreational fun right in the only entrance to a public rest area; I’d expect no less here without strict controls.

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  • Scott Kocher June 26, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Also, don’t forget to send your great comments to the decision-makers here:

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  • drew June 26, 2013 at 8:53 am

    You can have an almost carfree experience at crater lake if you start the ride REALLY early, like as dawn just starts to break. My early ride was awesome. I felt quite alone in a spectacular landscape, and only began to have a bit of traffic at the west side near the end of my loop.

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  • BikeFunFinder June 26, 2013 at 9:01 am

    This is great Bike Fun News!

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  • jason walton June 26, 2013 at 9:25 am

    This is a great idea that I’m sure would pay off for them if they make even a modest effort to promote it in advance next time.

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  • FetaD June 26, 2013 at 10:41 am

    My GF and I jumped at the opportunity to ride Saturday. I couldn’t help but stop and gawk at the views. The west rim wasn’t nearly as nice due to traffic. Drivers were courteous, but having to suck exhaust while climbing always stinks and I didn’t get to ride side by side and chat like the first 24 miles. Next time I would start off heading south on the west rim since it’s all downhill (after the initial short climb) to the east rim entrance. One of my favorite rides of all time.

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  • gl. June 26, 2013 at 11:06 am

    this is the email i sent to all parties:

    Thank you so much for your efforts to make Crater Lake available to bikers and hikers only on June 22-23. It was an incredible experience. As someone who has only ever driven around Crater Lake twice, being able to explore it via bicycle was a completely different and extraordinary adventure.

    I could not believe how over-the-top, ridiculously beautiful Crater Lake was when I had a chance to explore and appreciate it at my leisure. Without feeling rushed by other traffic or enclosed in a car, I could really enjoy all the details: the color of the water and sky, the landscape shaped by volcanic force and flow, the smell of pines warming in the sun, birds and chipmunks and tiny lizards, the snowy fields, the stupendous silence.

    I would never in a million year ride a bike on that road with cars. I am not a strong, fearless cyclist; I didn’t even ride the whole rim. But what I did see makes me value Crater Lake as a sapphire gem Oregon is lucky to add to her crown. I definitely hope this becomes a regular opportunity (with plenty of notice!) so that others may enjoy its unhurried beauty and serenity.

    Please enjoy these three of the many, many photos I took while I was there as a small token of my gratitude.



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  • gl. June 26, 2013 at 11:09 am

    (also: super glad to see someone captured that fire rainbow!)

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  • GlowBoy June 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    This is fantastic. I will try to do this next year. I’ve ridden CL a couple of times, but sharing with all the rental-RV traffic there is really sucky, even on weekdays. This would be a lot more pleasant.

    I do like the suggestion to make the traffic one-way around the lake (or at least on the East Rim Road) – a LOT. Most people go clockwise anyway, because then you make right turns instead of left turns in and out of all the pullouts and overlooks.

    I’d say the optimal design would be to to just make it clockwise for ALL traffic — though there might be enough pavement to make it one-way for motor vehicles but have bike lanes going both directions.

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  • SilkySlim June 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I am one of the lucky few that have ever biked the western rim car free – but it was a bit of fluke. While on a bike tour a few years back, I got waved through as the very last vehicle in a one-way construction zone. I took my sweet time covering those miles, and was proud to see that the flaggers on the other end held all the approaching cars until I arrived.

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