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Crack in the Ground Oregon: Explore the Enigmatic Volcanic Fissure

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Venture into the mysterious depths of the Crack in the Ground in Oregon, a breathtaking ancient volcanic fissure that captivates the imagination. This natural wonder, with its unique rock formations and intriguing geological features, promises an unforgettable adventure for those who dare to explore the depths of its secrets.


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Discovering Crack in the Ground

Located in northern Lake County, near the town of Christmas Valley, Oregon, Crack in the Ground stands as a testament to the region’s volcanic past and geologic turmoil. As you traverse the trail through this enigmatic fissure, you’ll be captivated by the awe-inspiring scenery, seemingly limitless in its beauty and mystery.


Each bend in the trail reveals:

  • intriguing crevices

  • caves

  • formations

  • unique rock surfaces that bear witness to their tumultuous origin.

Within this ancient volcanic fissure, the temperature can plunge up to 30 degrees compared to the surface, making it a welcome respite from the desert heat. The cool depths of Crack in the Ground offer a rare opportunity to escape the ordinary and immerse yourself in a world of geological wonders that have remained unchanged for thousands of years.


Formation and History

Crack in the Ground is believed to have been formed tens of thousands of years ago due to a tension fracture resulting from a volcanic eruption in the vicinity. The fissure has remained open due to the arid climate and lack of erosion.


Crack in the ground is situated in the High Lava Plains geologic province, with minimal filling, which allows visitors to explore its depths. This remarkable geological feature offers a unique opportunity for exploration and geological study.


The lava flows from the nearby Green Mountain and Four Craters lava field are indicative of the age of Crack in the Ground. Stepping into this fissure is like walking back in time, offering a window into the earth’s fiery past and the forces that shaped the landscape.


Unique Features

The canyon’s width along the floor inside the crack varies, reaching a maximum depth of 70 feet in 2021. The sheer walls and cool temperatures within the fissure create a striking contrast with the arid desert above. The unique geological features and depth of the fissure insulate it from the surface heat, resulting in a refreshingly cool environment for exploration.


Within the depths of Crack in the Ground, you’ll encounter distinctive rock formations composed of volcanic fissures, tuff rings, and intriguing structures formed from cooling magma. These otherworldly formations transport you to a realm shaped by powerful forces, a testament to the dynamic nature of our planet and its ever-changing rock surface.


Getting to Crack in the Ground


A smooth and enjoyable experience at Crack in the Ground begins with a well-planned journey. The route from Christmas Valley to Crack in the Ground takes you through scenic landscapes, with detailed directions and turn-by-turn guidance to help you reach your destination with ease.


Although no permit is needed for hiking Crack in the Ground, a thorough understanding of the area and adequate preparation for the journey are critical. The closest town to Crack in the Ground is Christmas Valley, Oregon located 7 miles away, which provides amenities such as gas, restaurants, and a grocery store.


From Christmas Valley

Starting from Christmas Valley, travel east on the Christmas Valley Highway for about a mile, then take a left onto Crack-in-the-Ground Road to reach Crack in the Ground.


Continue for approximately seven miles, following the signs for Crack in the Ground, and take a left turn onto Lava Craters Road. The fissure is situated on the gently sloping upland north of Christmas Lake Valley, in an arid region.


At the trailhead, you’ll find a parking area and a vault toilet, but no other amenities are available. Be sure to pack everything you’ll need for your hike and exploration, as resources within the area are limited.


Turn-by-Turn Directions

From Christmas Valley, head east on Christmas Valley Highway for approximately 1 mile, then turn north onto Crack-in-the-Ground Road. Continue for about 7.5 miles until you reach the main parking area for Crack in the Ground, keeping an eye out for distinct ground marks that indicate the volcanic history of the area.


The drive from Christmas Valley to Crack in the Ground takes approximately 6 minutes, with alternative routes available, such as a 1.7-mile loop trail near Christmas Valley or following Christmas Valley Highway east from the town. Be prepared for a journey through a unique landscape that showcases the power and beauty of nature.



Hiking and Exploring

The exhilaration of hiking and exploring Crack in the Ground offers a unique experience. As you navigate the trail, you’ll encounter a world of fascinating geological features, each offering a glimpse into the Earth’s tumultuous past. Hikers can choose between descending into the canyon or traversing the upper trail along the canyon rim, each offering a different perspective of this extraordinary landscape.


Regardless of your preference for the canyon’s cool depths or the rim’s breathtaking views, Crack in the Ground provides a memorable adventure amid Earth’s geological wonders. So, lace up your hiking boots and prepare to embark on a journey through time and space.


Descending into the Canyon

Descending into the canyon at Crack in the Ground is not particularly challenging, but it offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the fissure’s unique rock formations, small caves, and intriguing geological features up close. The canyon walls reach up to 70 feet in some areas, providing a sense of scale and grandeur that will leave you in awe.


Within the canyon’s diminutive caverns, you’ll find a selection of distinct rock formations, as well as moss and grass that have managed to thrive in the fissure’s cool and sheltered environment. As you navigate the twists and turns of the canyon floor, you’ll be immersed in a world shaped by the powerful forces of nature.


The Upper Trail

The Upper Trail along the canyon rim offers a different perspective of Crack in the Ground, showcasing the dramatic terrain and panoramic views of the surrounding area. The trail is approximately 2 miles in length and of moderate complexity, providing a suitable challenge for hikers of various skill levels.


As you traverse the Upper Trail, you’ll encounter juniper trees and moss-covered igneous cliffs, as well as a variety of wildlife such as birds, small mammals, and reptiles. The trail offers an opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the landscape from a bird’s-eye view.


Camping Near Crack in the Ground

It's important to note that Crack in the Ground does not offer any camping amenities. If you're looking for a campground with additional facilities, the nearest option is the Bureau of Land Management-managed Green Mountain Campground.


Green Mountain Campground

The nearby Green Mountain Campground, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is a popular camping site for those exploring Crack in the Ground. It offers:

  • Six designated campsites

  • Vault toilets

  • Picnic tables

  • Fire grates

Green Mountain Campground provides a comfortable camping experience with easy access to nearby attractions.


A variety of activities are available near Green Mountain Campground, including:

  • Tent camping

  • Hiking

  • Fishing

  • Mountain biking

  • Horseback riding

  • Picnicking

Whether you choose to relax by the campfire or embark on an exciting outdoor adventure, Green Mountain Campground offers an ideal base for exploring the wonders of central Oregon.


Amenities and Facilities

At Crack in the Ground, the amenities and facilities are limited, ensuring a remote and rugged camping experience. A restroom is available at the trailhead, but no other facilities are provided on site. It’s important to come prepared with all the necessary supplies for your visit, including drinking water, as none is available at the site.


While emergency services and medical facilities are not available at Crack in the Ground, it’s essential to be self-sufficient and prepared for any unexpected situations that may arise during your visit. This remote and unspoiled location offers a truly unique camping experience for those seeking solace in nature.


Tips for Visiting


Maximize your visit to Crack in the Ground by preparing with suitable attire, footwear, and equipment for the desert environment. Lightweight and breathable fabrics, such as polyester or merino wool, are recommended, as well as hiking boots or approach shoes for traversing the rocky terrain.


Crack in the Ground can be visited throughout the year. However, accessing it during winter season may require a four-wheel-drive vehicle. If visiting in spring, fall, or winter, it’s advised to dress in layers, as the temperature inside the crack can decrease nearly 20 degrees compared to the surface.


What to Bring

Packing for your visit to Crack in the Ground should include:

  • Navigation tools

  • Sun protection

  • First aid kit

  • Suitable footwear, such as hiking boots or approach shoes

These items are essential for outdoor safety and navigating the fissure’s unique terrain.

Additional items to consider include:

  • A backpack

  • A sufficient amount of food

  • Water bottles

  • Hand protection, such as crack climbing gloves and tape

Being well-prepared will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience as you explore the captivating depths of Crack in the Ground.


Best Times to Visit

Crack in the Ground is accessible year-round, but the most pleasant times for hiking and exploration are during the cooler spring and fall seasons. During these seasons, you’ll also experience the unique temperature difference within the fissure, as the bottom can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the surface.


Regardless of when you choose to visit, the awe-inspiring beauty and geological wonders of Crack in the Ground, a natural wonder, are sure to leave a lasting impression.


Embrace the adventure and immerse yourself in the extraordinary landscape of this enigmatic volcanic fissure.


Nearby Attractions

Enhance your Crack in the Ground adventure by exploring the many nearby attractions. In Christmas Valley, there's surely something for everyone.


Christmas Valley Sand Dunes

The Christmas Valley Sand Dunes, situated east of Christmas Valley, are a thrilling attraction for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. Formed from ash and pumice deposits during the eruption of Mount Mazama, which created Crater Lake around 7,000 years ago, the sand dunes showcase the powerful forces that have shaped the region’s landscape.


Spanning 11,000 acres in such an arid region, the Christmas Valley Sand Dunes offer off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, hiking, and camping, with designated trails and a primitive campground known as Juniper Camp for convenient access.


The dunes are also home to a variety of majestic bird species, including Golden Eagles, Swainson’s Hawks, and Rough-legged Hawks, making them a must-see destination for wildlife enthusiasts.


Derrick Cave

Make sure you include Derrick Cave in your list of must-visit destinations. This expansive lava tube, stretching over 1,200 feet in length, stands as a testament to ancient volcanic eruptions. Whether you're an avid spelunker or just an admirer of nature's extraordinary might, Derrick Cave is a fascinating place to explore.


Be sure to equip yourself with a flashlight and sturdy footwear if you intend to venture inside the cave, as it promises an unforgettable journey through the depths of geological history.


Fort Rock and Fort Rock Valley Homestead Museum

Fort Rock and the Fort Rock Valley Homestead Museum bring together the beauty of nature and the allure of history. The ageless Fort Rock formation showcases the Earth's majesty, while the nearby museum shares the stories of pioneering souls who thrived in this rugged land. Explore both the geological wonder and the area's rich history for a unique and unforgettable experience.


The Lost Forest

The Lost Forest in Oregon is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Here, amidst lush greenery and pristine landscapes, nature's grandeur takes center stage. The forest's enchanting beauty and serene atmosphere create a captivating wilderness experience. As you venture into the heart of The Lost Forest in Oregon, prepare to uncover a hidden treasure where every step reveals the wonders of the Pacific Northwest's natural beauty.



Summary

Crack in the Ground offers an unparalleled adventure through a world of geological wonders that have remained unchanged for millennia. From exploring the fissure’s captivating depths to traversing the scenic upper trail, this enigmatic volcanic fissure promises an unforgettable experience for those who dare to step off the beaten path.


With nearby campsites, attractions and local lodging such as Green Mountain Campground, Christmas Valley Sand Dunes or the Lakeside Motel & RV Park your Crack in the Ground adventure can be as diverse and thrilling as the landscape itself. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your sense of adventure, and prepare to be amazed by the extraordinary beauty of Crack in the Ground.


Frequently Asked Questions


What caused the crack in the ground in Oregon?

Crack in the Ground is a 2-mile long volcanic fissure in south central Oregon, near Christmas Valley which was formed thousands of years ago by a tension fracture from a nearby volcanic eruption. It was caused by lava flows fracturing the Fort Rock Basin and the draping of Green Mountain lava flows over the edge of the upturned side of the concealed fault zone.


How long does it take to hike crack in the ground?

You can hike Crack in the Ground in Oregon in about 33 minutes, with an easy 1.7-mile loop trail. The dirt road to get there is 7.5 miles long and bumpy, but once you arrive, you'll find plenty of opportunities for birding, hiking, and walking without running into too many other people.


How did crack in the ground form?

Crack in the Ground is a result of tension fracture caused by lava flows coming over a concealed fault zone in the Fort Rock Basin. This process fractured the earth, forming cracks which later intersected to release pieces of rock and downsizing boulders. The feature is over 2 miles long and approximately 70 feet deep, and was formed about a thousand years ago.


How difficult is the hike at Crack in the Ground?

The hike at Crack in the Ground is not difficult, offering both a descent into the canyon or a traversal along the canyon rim. Please keep an eye on smaller children as there are certain crevices that drop-off below into inaccessible areas.

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