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Car-free at Crater Lake

When Crater Lake National Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman, Travel Oregon leaders and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden came up with the idea of vehicle-free days at Crater Lake a few years ago, they hoped it might prove successful.

Now, park officials are challenged with keeping the two Vehicle Free Day and Ride the Rim events from being too successful.

"We're definitely going to look at that," Ackerman said of possibly capping the number of bicyclists, walkers and runners in future years.

More than 5,000 bicyclists, walkers and runners have registered for either Saturday, Sept. 17, and/or Saturday, Sept. 24. Both days Rim Drive will be closed to motor vehicles from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. between the North Junction and park headquarters in Munson Valley. The event is free, but park admission fees apply.

"We never thought it would turn out to be one of the largest bicycling events in Oregon," Ackerman said. "The issues for us are logistics for parking and moving people."

Tonia Ulbricht, marketing project manager for Discover Klamath, said based on last year's turnout, another 1,000 people could join those already registered.

"They're coming from all over," she said. "The word is getting out. We're OK with it being successful."

Ulbricht said last year's vehicle-free days, also held on two Saturdays in September, had 1,700 registered participants and another 600 who showed up the two days. Preregistration is not required but is requested. People who register will receive commemorative lapel pins.

While most registrants are from Oregon and California, where the event has been heavily promoted, others are coming from Canada, Arizona, Wisconsin and Montana. The vast majority — Ulbricht estimates up to 95 percent — plan to bike along Rim Drive.

People who participated last year will see changes. Instead of using the 24-passenger Crater Lake Trolleys to move people between park headquarters and the North Entrance, 50-passenger buses will handle the shuttles. Unlike last year, however, bicycles will not be transported.

Ackerman and Ulbricht urge people to carpool. Parking is extremely limited at the North Junction parking area. Extra parking is being provided near park headquarters.

"We've got good support. We have lots of volunteers, and we have staff on board," Ackerman said, noting there will be five aid stations, improved logistics for providing water, and more people will be available to handle emergency medical services. Sag wagons, however, will not be offered.

He and Ulbricht recommend people drive to the North Junction, drop off bicycles at bike racks, then drive to Munson Valley to park their vehicles and take a shuttle bus back to the North Junction to ride clockwise back to Munson Valley. The North Junction bicycle racks will open at 7:30 a.m.

Bicyclists, walkers and runners also have the option of starting from park headquarters and going counter-clockwise along East Rim Drive.

"Hopefully it will be as successful as it was last year," Ackerman said. "People were genuinely happy last year. It was a very festive atmosphere both days last year, and we're hoping to replicate those feelings."

— Freelance writer Lee Juillerat can be reached at 337lee337@charter.net.

A cyclist enjoys a trip around the rim during a car-free day at Crater Lake National Park. - Photo courtesy of Tonia Ulbricht
More than 5,000 cyclists, runners and walkers are expected to take advantage of vehicle-free days at Crater Lake National Park the next two weekends. Photo courtesy Tonia Ulbricht