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Crystal Lakes

Estimated time-frame for today: 7:30a-5p

[later for post-hike dining or other activities]

Meetup at 512 P&R: 7:30 [depart 7:45]

ETA at Crystal Lakes TH: 9:15

Current forecast [Crystal Mountain|Chinook Pass]: High of 64. 10% chance of rain.  [updated 7/9]

RT Mileage: 6 Elevation Gain: 2,300' Highest Point: 5,828' Trail ID: #270 Strain Level: Moderate-Difficult+ Pass: National Parks Pass|Senior Pass {America the Beautiful pass also fine}

[NOTE: the Discover Pass CANNOT be used for this hike!]

Features: Old-growth, mountain views, wildflowers/meadows, lakes


Please bring: water (2+Qts), lunch/energy snacks, 10 Essentials, emergency contact number(s), sturdy/comfortable footwear + bag for soiled/wet pairs + spare pair of shoes for post-hike activities, sun preventatives, bug repellent, hat w/ brim, trekking poles, clothing according to the forecast [layers!]National Parks Pass [if driving], $10 for fuel [if passenger], your camera and your smiles and laughter! :-)

THE 10 ESSENTIALS [and then some..] Go here:

Hike Description: [WTA]

These beautiful lakes are nestled in a green bowl beneath high, craggy peaks. You might encounter a few elk, maybe a mountain goat or two, and possibly even a black bear. The latter is especially likely in late summer when the plethora of purple fruit--succulent huckleberries!--ripens up. That's all you'll find here. If you need more natural beauty, you're out of luck. You won't find many trails that offer wilderness like this.

The trail climbs steeply away from the highway, piercing dense old forest as it climbs. That's a good thing, since the tight forest canopy provides welcome shade as you sweat up a long series of switchbacks in the first 1.5 miles. At that point, the trail splits; the right fork leads to Crystal Peak. 

Go left on a trail that sweeps out across a broad avalanche slope before switching back to recross the slide zone, then angling up into the Crystal Creek valley. At 2.5 miles, after another short series of switchbacks, you find yourself at Lower Crystal Lake Camp (5400). The small tarn here is pretty but not spectacular. Better to keep on moving.

A short 0.5 mile gets you to the upper lake (5828 feet) and its bigger backcountry camp. Here, you have a broad, clear-watered lake and stunning views. Mount Rainier is blocked by Crystal Peak, but that's okay. The ring of rock surrounding the lake basin is plenty impressive. Stands of trees dot the heather and huckleberry meadows flanking the lake, and high above the basin stands The Throne, Crystal Mountain, Threeway Peak, Sourdough Gap, and Crystal Peak. The trail ends at the lake, so stop to swim or at least to soak your feet while enjoying lunch before heading back down the trail.

[above photo taken 5-23-13]

Driving Directions:

From Enumclaw, drive east 42 miles on State Route 410 to the trailhead parking lot on the right, just 4.5 miles after passing through the park's entryway arch.



Dogs allowed? NO

Drivers: Please have a FULL tank of gas for this trip [You also must have a National Parks Pass to park at the TH]. You can fill up your tank at our meet-up location.

Carpooling encouraged

Passengers: Be sure to give your driver $10 to help cover fuel

[we'll be making a refreshment stop for ice cream at Wapiti Woolies in Greenwater after our hike!]


Mike's cell: [masked]


Disclaimer: Trailside is not a professional guide service.  Our leaders function, as facilitators only, to enhance your outdoor experience.  Reports of trail and weather conditions are based on best available information, are subject to change, and are no guarantee of fitness for any particular purpose or appropriate for a certain fitness level. You may join us on this hike at your own risk.  Keep in mind that hiking involves risks and weather changes quickly in the mountains.  You are responsible for your own safety and the more prepared you are, the better the chance you will remain safe.

Signing up for any Trailside organized event indicates that you have read, understand, and agree to the terms of this disclaimer and hold harmless all Trailside Organizers and Leaders in the event of injury or loss.

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  • Bryan R. M.

    Open for good views. Poles not needed most of the way. Postcard mountain lake wade.

    July 27, 2013

  • Mike T.

    GREAT photos everyone!!!!

    July 13, 2013

  • Canossa

    It was a nice workout hike and the Upper Lake was a sight to behold!

    July 12, 2013

  • Mike T.

    Beautiful queens cup, bunchberry, lupine & phlox..crystal-clear lake was GREAT for wading and dipping! Weather cooperated and the cool forest glades were SPLENDID! Nice group of folks to hike with! Thank you Jen for driving! Thank you Bill for lending your pass! Ice cream was the grande finale and a fine finale it was!

    July 10, 2013

  • Bill V

    Good hike, snow free, and two lakes right out of the picture books. And the popularity contest was won by . . . huckleberry ice cream!!!

    2 · July 10, 2013

9 went

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