Crystal Lake Trail

HARD 53 reviews
#13 of 196 trails in

Crystal Lake Trail is a 8.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Breckenridge, Colorado that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
8.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2568 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

birding

fishing

hiking

off road driving

walking

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

Take Spruce Creek Rd., south of Breckenridge, off Hwy. 9, next to the Goose Pasture Tarn, and follow it to Crystal Creek, off ti the right. Follow the $ wheel drive road to the lower lake.

hiking
5 days ago

I hiked this with two others five days ago; we started around 11:00 and brought no poles or spikes. We parked at the main trailhead so the majority of our hike to Lower Crystal Lake was on a high-clearance 4x4 route through some trees. Luckily, we never had to share the road with a vehicle. Once out of the forest, the scenery opened up to beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the lush basin between them.

Some of the stream/runoff crossings seemed inundated and we had to search for alternate routes, which were present and seemingly established. The lower lake turned out to be a great place to recharge a bit and assess the route ahead.

The weather seemed ever in our favor and we even saw a few groups of hikers descending the Crystal Lake trail, so we pushed on. The trail up the mountainside was mostly straightforward. There were some spots containing scree and a few snow drifts to cross. Only two or three smaller segments of the trail had steeper drop-offs down the mountain, but nothing alarming.

The snow was soft but not terribly slushy on the ascent. Except for the last one, the snow crossings did not alarm me due to the gradual incline of the mountainside, the short length of snow heading down it, and the many footprints etching out a route. The final snow drift, closest to the talus field before Crystal Lake, was dangerous, however. It was not well traveled and the snow ran steeply down the entire mountain. It did not seem to be a good place to slip and sinking feet immediately raised hairs on the back of necks. We noted this and decided not to linger long at the upper lakes to not have to cross slushy snow at this spot on the descent.

After this crossing, it was evident that few had recently pushed passed it. Closer to the lake the westerly trail was covered in deeper snow so we took to traversing the exposed talus down and across a shallow valley towards the south-westerly trail to the lake.

Crystal Lake was serene but the show belonged to the views over the cliffs to the east. We took in the entire valley, including much of the trail, and mountain vistas far beyond. Absolutely breathtaking and calm, it was almost as if we were part of a landscape painting up there.

Besides the sketchy snow drift, which had had become slushier around 15:00 during our return, the descent was easy and safe. I was happy to have that crossing behind me early on and upon reflection, I wished that we had a safety rope with us for it.

Overall there was little mud on the entire trail and even higher water to cross after Lower Crystal Lake. Gorgeous hike and a lot of fun, but be weary of the highest snow drift and prepare accordingly if you decide to go sometime soon.

17 days ago

Amazing views. Made it to Lower Lake with only a few difficult knee deep drifts of snow to get through. Lake was still half-iced over. Made to 1/2 mile of Upper Lake before turning back due to too difficult to pass snow drifts on the side of the mountain. Over the next few weeks it looks like mud on the trail will be bad based on the amount of running water and snow still on the trail. Still worth the trip. Made it as far as we did without poles or spikes

hiking
6 months ago

Accidentally went too far up Spruce Creek Road and missed the turn off to Crystal Creek Road. Cut back over on the Wheeler trail, which proved to be a gentler incline overall (for anyone looking for a less steep ascent). Made it about a half mile from lower crystal lake, at which point snow shoes were probably necessary (post-holing at least a couple of feet), and then promptly turned around when a bull moose entered the trail. The snow was too deep for bushwhacking around him, but views of the mountain ranges were pretty on the way back down. I know it’s tempting to allow your dogs off leash, but be careful out there with wildlife!

7 months ago

Great hike. I would recommend wearing snow shoes past the lake. Snow was somewhat compacted but some spots not so much and the snow was past my knees at some points

hiking
8 months ago

Hiked up today with surprise blue skies. We took the steeper road off to the right toward cabin. It's a good climb at that elevation, esp for us folks from sea level Seattle but well worth it !! Beautiful peaks right in front of you!! Pretty lake. Fantastic. Snow at the top and probably near the end of the season for this hike! Thanks beautiful Colorado ❤️

backpacking
9 months ago

We combined Crystal Lakes with Mohawk Lakes for a nice overnight hike; staying the night near Lower Crystal. Although "busy" for the holiday weekend Lower Crystal was still very serene. Great sunrise/sunset. We didn't make it to Crystal Peak as planned, but the trail looked like a good challenge.

hiking
9 months ago

My 11 year old son and I did this trail in combination with Burro Trail and Warriors Mark trail from Warriors Mark neighborhood in Breckenridge. Long, but a lot of fun. didn't make it to the second Lake as it started snowing and sleeting.

backpacking
11 months ago

Came up for an overnight trip. Hiked from the trail head to the first lake which is beautiful and perfect camping spot by itself. The journey to the upper lake is a very tough but rewarding 2 extra miles of uphill rocks. Poles are very helpful here. Once at the top the views are staggering. We had the whole upper lake to ourselves for the evening. Plenty of flat areas but very rocky. I wouldn't recommend camping out up here without some serious ground pads. All and all the hike was difficult but very rewarding. The views from the top are incredible. Would have given it 5 stars if I could have found a suitable place to camp without a ton of rocks. Lots of fun though!

11 months ago

Tough climb but absolutely worth the effort!

off road driving
11 months ago

Great trips. Drove up twice over the 4th week in my slightly lifted FJ Cruiser without any difficulty. Can only off-Road to the lower lake and up into the lose rocks to the south now. The hiking trail all the way up to the top is clear enough to make it on foot, but the off-road access is blocked. It doesn't look like a truck has been past the lower lake in years. This is a great hiking and off-road trail. Good to share the road.

backpacking
11 months ago

Great trail still some snow at the upper lake but you can still get up there. Also the hike up to crystal peak was great and so were the views. Only saw one other group at the lower lake. Would bring hiking poles and waterproof boots there are so street crossings where you could get wet. Overall great hike and a hidden gem.

hiking
Saturday, June 17, 2017

We live close about a mile away..Had not yet gone all the way up to Crystal Lake..Still Lots of snow on way up near the end..We made it up in 2 hours and down in one with just a bottle of water and a couple sandwiches...no spikes, just regular hiking boots and I have my 8 year old with me...Ended up home just now with soaking wet feet..you lose the path on way up where all the snow is and we decided to just walk though the river on the way back as a short cut..we were already soaked...not a hike this time of the year for the squirmish...

hiking
Saturday, June 17, 2017

Beautiful, and way less busy than Mohawk lakes. The steep 4x4 road turned me off a bit at the beginning but it was well worth pushing through that

Monday, June 12, 2017

Very fun hike, lots of wildlife and wildflowers, and pretty challenging in parts. Having microspikes made our lives easier towards the higher elevations, but not a necessity. We found a really nice campsite near the falls about 3/4 the way up and set up shop. It was very peaceful up there, and would definitely recommend it to backpackers of all skill levels.

hiking
Monday, June 12, 2017

Difficult trail but beautiful view at the top, even saw some mountain goats!!

hiking
Monday, June 12, 2017

Nice hike! It took the group I was in about three hours to ascend, and about an hour to descend. There was still a lot of snow at the higher elevations. Some of it was packed, and much of it was deceptively soft so you would walk a few steps on packed snow, then sink sometimes very deep into slush. That will take your energy very quickly. The sun was out and I only needed a light jacket at the beginning and for a half an hour at the top where the temp dropped quickly (to me) when wind rushed down from the close peaks.

The lake was still mostly frozen, and no hiker the group encountered was going to bother with the upper lake since it would be even more frozen. I rated it as 4 stars because of the lake still being frozen. Just my preference.
Instagram; sirenamusic for photos.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Don't miss the turn up to the peak. If u make it to the upper lake you've gone too far.

Very pretty hike. Did it solo. Took 2hr 45 up and 1hr down.

hiking
Wednesday, October 05, 2016

It was uphill the entire hike in and the last half mile is pretty much straight up the side of a mountain but it was totally worth it. We stopped at the falls which is right before you have to go up the mountain and they were gorgeous. The lake at the end of the trail is so worth the trek. The views are amazing!

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Very nice alpine hike. At the beginning passes through a pretty spruce forest, so no beetle killed trees around. Hiked this from Francies Cabin October 1st and you quickly move into alpine meadows. If not going all the way to the upper lake then just go a few switchbacks above the first lake for outstanding views, including a classic and very impressive rock glacier.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Really quite stunning once you get above the tree line. Second lake is VERY high and the trail flirts with 13,000ft. Among the best non-summit hikes I've ever done- it's a 4x4 road much of the way that might turn off some but, the reward 1st and 2nd lakes are soooooooooo worth it

hiking
Sunday, September 18, 2016

Very steep first mile or so but don't be put off because after that it's a steadier climb to superb views across the valley and lovely lake settings. Very quiet even on a beautiful Fall Saturday - we saw just 10 people and 2 vehicles on the whole route.

hiking
Friday, September 16, 2016

Good trail, fairly steep the whole way but pretty short. Great lake once you get up there. A lot less crowded than Mohawk Lakes out of same trailhead.

off road driving
Wednesday, August 03, 2016

8/3/16- Scenery and the lake are beautiful. The trail itself is difficult and narrow for a moderate 4x4 trail. There were several other vehicles and hikers even on a Monday and Tuesday but some open camping areas at the top and along the road leading up to the lake.

I drive a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a 3" lift and 32" tires and this trail definitely maxed that out in some parts.

Fishing was okay, nothing over 9".

off road driving
Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Such a blast! I took up my Jeep Wrangler and could not have had a better experience. 4WD is definitely needed. I did not have any issues with clearance with my vehicle but be weary of it. Have fun!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Hard but the most incredible views I've ever seen. Take mosquito repellant for when you get up to the lake

hiking
Saturday, July 09, 2016

Great scenic trail, very steep but worth it, bring your dog!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Great hike!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lovely! great alternative to Mohawk Lakes!

hiking
Friday, June 24, 2016

beautiful, but very muddy and snowy still

hiking
Saturday, June 04, 2016

Awesome trail, I literally saw NO ONE else on this trail today besides at the extremely crowded parking lot. I sun bathed (European style) and ate lunch at the top for an hour. It was extremely quiet for a hike on a June Saturday, besides the marmots and birds shouting their alarms at me with the random crashing of rocks falling off the cliffs. Bring stabilizers/snowshoes, I post-holed over half the way up the trail, my legs are bloody and feet were soaked but the view and serenity at the top were totally worth it.

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