Lower Crystal Lake

September 22, 2018 · White River National Forest

The hike to Lower Crystal Lake was a quick and relatively short hike. This hike came in just over 6.5 miles roundtrip, which for me at this point in time is a very short hike. However, the weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky and a mild breeze from time to time, but when the wind did pickup it was a bit chilly. I got an early start, which as it turns out was a very good thing. The trailhead for Lower Crystal Lake is the same as for Mohawk Lake, which is a very popular destination. By the time I returned and stepped off the trail, which was still relatively early in the day, there were still people coming up to the trailhead looking for parking.

The trail to Lower Crystal Lake is a dual-use trail, primarily hiking and 4WD vehicles. On the way up, I got lucky, no 4WD vehicles and I only saw two groups of two people before I got to Lower Crystal Lake. Even though this is a short trail, it is fairly steep, namely because it is a 4WD recreational trail. As such, 4WD recreation off-road trails tend to be very steep and slippery - which makes for great 4WD fun but somewhat rough hiking it.

Lower Crystal Lake sits in a wide bowl rimmed by Crystal Peak and Peak 10. This trail is just outside of Breckinridge, so there is skiing on the other side of Peak 10, and I would assume backcountry skiing on this side of Peak 10 as well. It must be amazing skiing and boarding.

The original plan was to go to both Lower and Upper Crystal Lakes. However, after reaching Lower Crystal Lake, it was so peaceful there and the trail to Upper Crystal Lake was hung along Peak 10, navigating its way through talus and then there was an additional talus field to summit to get to Upper Crystal Lake. This is above 12,000 feet, and there was not a cloud in the sky. So, it's just you and the sun. Given the route to Upper Crystal Lake, I opted for taking in the amazing views at Lower Crystal Lake.

I had the lake to myself for quite some time before the first group of hikers started to show up. By then I had finished lunch as was ready to head back. It was that this time that the Jeeps started to show up as well. It's a classic Jeep trail, it's steep, slippery and very narrow, just enough for one vehicle to pass at a time; so, everybody must know off-road single-track road rules. Glad I wasn't in a vehicle for this one. By the time I stepped off the trail I had counted seven Jeeps on their way up to Lower Crystal Lake.

The colors in this glacial valley are amazing, though most of the vibrant Fall colors have faded, the valley does change color from the morning to the afternoon. In the morning there are hints of gold in the shrubs, but by mid-day the shrubs in the valley have changed to a deeper golden color. Just beautiful colors for this time of year above 12,000 feet. It seems like this would be a very lush and vibrant green valley in July and August. There are many trails in this area and most do not allow 4WD vehicles, so that would make for a great day in this area of White River National Forest.


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AREAS HIKED

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness10
Eagles Nest Wilderness10
Fossil Ridge Wilderness1
Fraser Experimental Forest1
Gunnison National Forest1
Holy Cross Wilderness12
Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness3
Indian Peaks Wilderness17
James Peak Wilderness1
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness2
Mount Evans Wilderness2
Mount Massive Wilderness2
Pike National Forest1
Raggeds Wilderness1
Rocky Mountain National Park41
San Isabel National Forest6
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness2
White River National Forest10
Zirkel Wilderness1

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SEASONS ON THE TRAIL

2021

The 2021 Season has started. Though the pandemic created a challenging 2020 season, I am looking forward to building on the 2020 season to create an incredible 2021 season. The pandemic has taught me a few things about when and where to go hiking. As such planning for the 2021 se...

2020

The 2020 hiking season has been incredible, even in the face of adversity. The pandemic has made for a logistically challenging season. Somehow, I was still able to piece together an incredible 230+ miles on the trail this season and able to see some truly spectacular places. Enj...

2019

The 2019 hiking season was an interesting season, this was the first season that I started and ended the season snowshoeing and a full summer of hiking for a total of just under 225 miles on the trail. What this season has taught me is that it's winter in the mountains for a long...

2018

The 2018 Summer Hiking Season has come to an end. What a season, incredible views and just over 230 miles on the trail. Even with 230 miles, this season seems short to me, perhaps I'll add something to it during the winter season - snowshoeing perhaps. In the meantime, I hope you...

2017

The 2017 hiking season was interesting, I was able to explorer more of Colorado's National Forests and get in some camping, not as much camping as I would have liked, but hopefully next year I'll able to get in more multi-day hikes. This season came in just under 129 miles roundt...

2016

The 2016 hiking season was about spreading out and exploring more of Eagles Nest Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness and touching on White River National Forest - and of course a few trips into Rocky Mountain National Park. These are amazing National treasures. This season came i...

2015

The 2015 hiking season was a big hiking season, I decided to do a fundraiser for The Red Cross (I learned a lot about fundraising - it was very interesting) with my pledge to hike over 200 miles for this season, I came in at 217 miles for the season; what a great time out on the ...

2014

The 2014 hiking season was almost all about exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, it really is a beautiful park. What I learned during the course of this hiking season is, although people may roll their eyes when you say you're going on a hike in RMNP, it really is spectacular ...

2013

2013 is the year this all started. The hike to Pitkin Lake started it all. Although it was a difficult trail, I was hooked immediately. However, I didn't have the right gear and the seasons were changing quickly. So, even though this season only brought two hikes, I new this was ...