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Cross-country skiing from the Annie Creek Sno-Park

Photo by Lee JuilleratSnowshoers make their way alongside Annie Creek Thursday.

Looking for a place to cross-country ski?

Recent snows have made the region’s most alluring place to ski or snowshoe along and near Crater Lake National Park’s Rim Drive, inaccessible for the past week.

On Thursday, nearly seven feet of packed snow was measured at park headquarters, an elevation of 6,450 feet, while even more is reported at Rim Village, where the elevation is 7,100 feet. So far this season, the park has received 164 inches of snow.

It’s uncertain when crews will clear the road from the park headquarters area to the rim. Making things more complicated is the closure of the visitor center, normally open year-round, which is closed for major construction.

A good alternative near the park is the Annie Creek Sno-Park, located just south of Crater Lake’s south boundary near the community of Fort Klamath, 43 miles from Klamath Falls. Sno-park permits are required.

Along with cross-country skiing, Annie Creek is popular for sledding at the large, bowl-shaped hill near the warming shelter and parking area. It’s also frequently used by snowmobilers. While there are no managed cross-country ski trails, friends and I have often followed snowmobile tracks on the mish-mash of summertime dirt roads or made our own, especially for sights along Annie Creek, which begins in the park at Annie Springs and works its way to Agency and Upper Klamath lakes.

By following the road and snowmobile tracks, there are miles of mostly gentle terrain for skiers and snowshoers, with the various trails passing through stands of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir.

For skiers, oftentimes the most challenging section is from the parking area to a bridge that crosses Annie Creek. Depending on how often it’s been used by snowmobiles, other skiers and walkers, and temperature changes, the short downhill can be slippery fast and icy. Once there, however, the terrain eases and offers excellent skiing for beginners along with seasoned skiers wanting to kick and glide.

On a recent outing our group followed the snowmobile grooved tracks and, after about two miles, crossed Sun Creek. Although the Annie Creek Sno-Park is in the Fremont-Winema National Forest’s Chiloquin Ranger District, the lands immediately east are part of the Sun Pass State Forest. Others times friends and I have continued east and south to Jackson Kimball State Park, or carved our own tracks alongside and above Annie Creek north into Crater Lake National Park, where the terrain becomes more challenging.

According to “Oregon Geographic Names,” the spring and creek were named for Annie Gaines in 1865. She and Mrs. O.T. Brown were the first white women to hike to the waters of Crater Lake. For several years Annie was spelled as “Anna,” but was later corrected by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

By any spelling, the cross-country skiing — along with snowmobiling and sledding — from the Annie Creek Sno-Park offers a variety of possibilities, whether for beginners to cruisers.

From Medford, take Highway 62 about 80 miles to Crater Lake’s South Entrance and continue south about 10 miles to the Annie Creek Sno-Park.