A Klamath Falls, Oregon, company going by the name Crater Lake Trolley earlier this month started offering two-hour trolley tours along the park's Rim Drive, a 33-mile wiggly road that circles the lake. Eight times a day the company offers departures from Rim Village. Each natural gas-powered trolley can carry 25 passengers, and a National Park Service interpreter rides shotgun to explain the sights to be seen.
While some mentions of these tours have referred to "historic" trolleys, don't think that trolleys in years long passed used to navigate the Rim Drive. "The trolleys themselves are not historic, they’re historic in appearance," notes Crater Lake Superintendent Craig Ackerman.
Unfortunately, Crater Lake has no colorful transportation system in its past, such as the Red Jammers at Glacier, to replicate these days. So while the trolleys can't duplicate a ride from days gone by, they still provide some benefits for the park. Since they're powered by natural gas, they're a more sustainable form of transportation than gasoline-powered vehicles. The trolley's emissions, said Superintendent Ackerman, "are supposed to be as close to zero emission as you can get. The emissions are as clean or cleaner coming out of the tailpipe than air on an average Los Angeles day.”
The trolleys also allow park visitors to relax while circling Crater Lake and listen to an interpretive ranger pointing out the highlights, rather than tightly gripping their steering wheels and trying to keep their eyes on the twisting road and not straying too long on the picturesque lake. And, notes Superintendent Ackerman, they're taking vehicles off Rim Drive.
“For each shuttle that runs, we probably have been 12 and 15 vehicles that aren’t running that route," said the superintendent Over the course of a summer season at Crater Lake, that could add up to 7,500 cars, he said.
The trolley rides are not free, as are shuttle buses at Zion, Bryce Canyon, Acadia, or Yosemite national parks. Indeed, pricing for the two-hour rides has been eye-popping for some, with adult ticket prices at $27.50 (and adults are anyone 13 years and older.) Tickets for those 12 and younger are $20.
However, Superintendent Ackerman said Monday, when the trolley tours started this summer the entire Rim Drive was not open -- "There are still 12-foot high snowbanks along some sides of the road," he said. -- and the concessionaire dropped, at least temporarily, the price to $20 for adults, $10 for kids.
Whether the trolleys will continue to roll after their current two-year trial remains to be seen, park visitors seem to appreciate them so far. One of the interpretive rangers who has been riding along told the superintendent that "some of the very early morning tours are sparse, but every other tour that he’s taken, every seat has been occupied.”