Have a Car-Free Weekend with Amtrak to Crater Lake’s Ride the Rim Event

Have a Car-Free Weekend with Amtrak to Crater Lake’s Ride the Rim Event


Photo by Parker Knight

Each year, more than a half-million visitors descend upon Crater Lake National Park to admire the remote lake’s deep blue hue and stunning geography in the heart of southern Oregon’s Cascade Range. The vast majority of those visitors arrive in a car or RV, speed between viewpoints, and only stop to admire its scenic beauty from the front seat.

While that’s a fine way to experience Crater Lake, there’s no better introduction to the lake’s rich tapestry of natural beauty than from the saddle of a bike or on your own two feet. Leave the car behind to breathe in the fresh mountain air, relax in pine and hemlock forests, and appreciate the sheer enormity before you—six miles across at its widest point, Crater Lake holds nearly 5 trillion gallons of water, most of it from rain.

Ride the Rim kicks out the cars and gives cyclists, runners, and walkers free reign to most of the road circling Crater Lake’s scenic caldera. This year’s free event, taking place on September 16, once again closes the 25-mile East Rim Drive to automobiles in favor of human-powered traffic.

You can start or end at either North Junction near the northwestern corner of the lake, or at the Park Headquarters, a few miles from Crater Lake’s southern shore. Sandwiched in between, you’ll experience 3,500 feet of elevation gain and enjoy five rest stops with shade, snacks, restrooms, bike repair tools, water, and friendly encouragement—and that’s to say nothing of the dozens of unimpeded viewpoints that overlook Phantom Ship, Cleetwood Cove, and more. While the elevation gain may sound daunting for some riders, just take your time to enjoy the views, and you’ll be fine!

If you’re considering the Ride the Rim challenge, why not take the car-free ethos all the way? This year, Ride the Rim has partnered with Amtrak to offer a completely car-free experience. With comfortable sleeper cars, bike storage, and a shuttle to and from the event, there’s no better—or more environmentally-friendly—way to experience Crater Lake National Park in all its natural glory.

Plan Your Amtrak Trip to Crater Lake

First thing’s first: You have to actually arrive at Crater Lake. Fortunately, Amtrak makes it a smooth, painless process, and everything you need to know can be found on the Amtrak website.

Amtrak takes all the anxiety out of meal-planning, refueling, and finding the nearest rest stop. For a seamless, stress-free experience, here’s how to make the most of your Amtrak trip:

  • Accommodations: Amtrak offers comfortable overnight rooms to meet a variety of needs, including the Superliner Roomette (which includes two beds, a fold-down table, and a large picture window), the Superliner Bedroom (which also includes an armchair and recliner sofa), and the Superliner Family Bedroom (which includes beds for two adults and two children, as well as two scenic picture windows). Check out the options and take a 360-degree tour of the train here.
  • Sightseeing: Whenever possible, try to snag a seat in the Sightseer Lounge (also known as the Observation Car). You’ll enjoy expansive scenic views out picture windows positioned in front of—and above—your comfortable plush chair.
  • Bike Storage: The Coast Starlight train offers roll-on bike service and has space for six bicycles. If those spaces run out, you can also check your bike as checked baggage in a bike box (most larger stations offer bike boxes, but there is an additional fee). Note that bike reservations are required.

Enjoy the Sights Along the Way

Whether you’re coming from the north or south, it’s hard to go wrong on Amtrak. Here are a couple ideas for arriving at Crater Lake in comfort and style:

  • From the north: Start your trip at Portland’s historic Union Station, not far from the heart of downtown. Over the next three hours, you’ll enjoy views of the Willamette Valley’s lush farmland before heading east at Eugene. From there, you’ll trade wide-open views for an immersive look at the rugged Cascade Range—all while passing rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and thick forests along the way.
  • From the south: We’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest starting in Los Angeles. The Coast Starlight route* *hugs the Pacific Coast en route to San Luis Obispo in Southern California for over 350 miles of coastal views. Keep your eyes peeled and you might even see a whale out in the water—right from your seat! From San Luis Obispo, the route turns inland east of the Bay Area, cuts through the Cascade Range’s thick forests, and offers views of Mount Shasta—one of California’s tallest, most well-known peaks.

Riding around Crater Lake is one of the more unique experiences you can have on two wheels, and riding the train in makes the experience that much more special. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip and we’ll see you in September! (Just don’t forget your helmet!)