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Crystal Lakes

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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.
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.

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 119 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Crystal Lakes — Nov 09, 2013 — trailblzr
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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Headed out to Crystal lakes early to beat the afternoon rain that was forecasted. Trail is in great ...
Headed out to Crystal lakes early to beat the afternoon rain that was forecasted. Trail is in great shape with 3 to 4 inches of snow last half mile to the lower lake. Lower lake allready ice covered and beautiful.
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Crystal Lakes, Crystal Peak — Oct 15, 2013 — Christy
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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It was my 40th birthday and I was not going to be stopped from reaching a peak for a grand view...th...
It was my 40th birthday and I was not going to be stopped from reaching a peak for a grand view...this trail did not disappoint in that regard. The views were absolutely amazing. The skies were clear and we were able to see Mt Adams, Mt Saint Helens and off to the Olympics. Also wonderful views of Crystal Lakes. We also heard many calls of Elk nearby. We did not see any but signs they have been close to the trail. It was truly a beautiful birthday treat.

The trail up started out a bit creepy, yes, creepy. There was NO ONE out there and since we got a pretty early start, about 10 am, there was very little light coming into the dense forest. I was not a big fan of the sub alpine section of the hike for that reason. It felt quite claustrophobic. The way down felt much better but still its a bit dark in sections.

The trail was pretty clear, minimal water, and easy to follow up until you get to the snow. The snow we encountered, at about the last mile, did require the use of micro spikes for safe crossing.

Most of the fall color had passed, there are a few spots but by now I'd say its been missed.

With the snow we encountered and stopping for lunch at the top the roundtrip took us about 5 hours.

The views were absolutely amazing and I would definitely say hit this trail on a clear day!
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Crystal Lakes — Sep 22, 2013 — Karen Daubert
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage | Ripe berries
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Crystal Peak was my destination on this cool September day. Never did I cream that I would witness ...
Crystal Peak was my destination on this cool September day. Never did I cream that I would witness blizzards of snowflakes, fields of huckleberries, torrents of raindrops, windows of sunshine, and beds of mushrooms - culminating in one of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen - all on this morning's hike up to an old lookout site!

This hike was a first for me although I had passed the busy parking lot dozens of times over the recent years and it finally beckoned. I left the car at 8:30 in the clouds and as the trail climbed, the weather became more dramatic. The trail is in excellent shape and I soon found myself switchbacking on the open slopes that were bathed in the red of the berry bushes - still loaded with their berries!

When I reached the top, the wind was ferocious, it was very cold, and I could not see a thing. I imagined the view down into Chrystal Lakes and over to Mt. Rainier, Sunrise, and Palisades Lakes were I had been just a couple weekends before on a hot summer day! I stayed at the top for maybe five seconds and headed back down - returning to my car by 12:30.

I warmed up with a perfect hot chocolate at Wapiti Woolies where I studied the map contemplating next summer's adventures - which would include a return to Crystal Lakes - and maybe on to Naches Pass - so many adventures ahead!
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Crystal Lakes — Sep 15, 2013 — Rob Lewis
Day hike
Features: Ripe berries
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We ignored the reports of possible thunderstorms and set out up the trail about 11:15AM. Beautiful b...
We ignored the reports of possible thunderstorms and set out up the trail about 11:15AM. Beautiful blue sky with scattered clouds, perfect temperature. Trail in good shape, few other hikers. Lunched at upper Crystal Lake while a patch of clouds blew through. (The prettiest—and easiest—part of the hike was the last leg from the lower lake to the upper one.)

The largest animals we saw were a couple of chipmunks at the top who were interested in our lunch. There were a few large and colorful mushrooms along the trail at the higher elevations.

As we headed down, the sky started to cloud over, and we felt the first raindrops just as we reached our car. Plenty of rain and lightning later!
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Crystal Lakes — Aug 13, 2013 — Big Barefoot B
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
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Morning hike/trail run. Made it from Seattle and back in time for lunch. Beautiful hike with easy ...
Morning hike/trail run. Made it from Seattle and back in time for lunch. Beautiful hike with easy trailhead access, don't even need to pay a for park entrance fee.

The hike is short but steep. Trail is in excellent condition.
Saw a few hikers on the way back down all with big smiles on their faces.

Check out a short video of the hike:
http://www.youtube.com/watc[…]h2ZjyI&feature=youtu.be

Suunto GPS Data:
http://www.movescount.com/moves/move17151318
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Crystal.jpg
Upper Crystal Lake, by Kevin Vocht.
Location
Mt. Rainier -- NE - Sunrise / White River
Mount Rainier National Park, Sunrise Ranger Station
Statistics
Roundtrip 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain 2300 ft
Highest Point 5828 ft
Features
Lakes
Old growth
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Established campsites
User info
Dogs not allowed
National Park/Refuge entry fee required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails (Nelson & Bauer - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Mount Rainier East
No. 270

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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