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

hiking
7 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.