Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Crystal Lake Trailhead

Crystal Lake - 1/4 mile from trailhead parking lot
One of the most popular trailheads on the Mirror Lake Highway is just two-tenths of a mile from the entrance to our campground.  The Crystal Lake Trailhead provides access to more than a dozen small lakes including Crystal Lake, Wall Lake, Long Lake, Island Lake and Marjorie Lake.  Hikers, scout troops, backpackers and fishermen flock to the trailhead each weekend to take advantage of the varied hikes into the high Uinta backcountry.

There are actually three trails that begin in the trailhead parking lot.  The trail on the west side takes you above Crystal Lake toward Long Lake and Island Lake.  From this trail you can also access Cliff Lake, Marjorie Lake, Weir Lake, Pot Lake, and Duck Lake. 

The trail on the east side takes you past Lily Lakes to Wall Lake.  This trail continues on to the Notch Mountain Trail, where it passes Hope Lake, Twin Lake, Clyde Lake and Ibantik Lake.  This trail goes on to the Notch and finishes at the Bald Mountain trailhead.

And how, you might ask, do you get to Crystal Lake?  That trail is not well marked, but it starts at the restroom on the east side of the parking lot.  From there it’s less than a quarter mile to Crystal Lake. 

Did I mention that this is a very popular trailhead? 
Wall Lake - 1 mile from trailhead parking lot
One of the reasons may be that there’s something for everyone.  Inexperienced hikers and parents who want to introduce their children to the joy of hiking can go short distances and still reach a beautiful destination.  Back country enthusiasts can start out here and hike throughout the Uinta Mountain trail system – going as many miles as they want and camping along the way. 

Because it’s so popular, the main parking lot is full by 9:30 AM on Friday morning and stays pretty full throughout the weekend.  The overflow parking is ½ mile south of the main lot.  I’m always surprised when people complain that they’re going to have to hike an additional ½ mile.  Really?  You’re hiking anyway, and the trail up from the overflow parking takes you along the shoreline of Washington Lake.  So I really appreciated one of the hikers we directed to the overflow parking who replied, “Cool!  We get a bonus lake!” 

If you’re coming up to the Crystal Lake trailhead, here are a few pointers. 
1.  There is no water at the trailhead, and no water in the campground.  Bring your own.
2.  There are restrooms at the trailhead but on busy weekends they run out of toilet paper early.  Bring your own, or you’ll find yourself walking back into the campground.  (Of course, the campground restrooms are always clean and well-stocked.)
3.  You will need the Mirror Lake Highway Recreation Pass to park in the trailhead parking lot.  The nearest self-pay station is just half a mile down the Mirror Lake Highway from the turnoff to Trial, Washington and Crystal Lakes.  It’s on the left side of the highway as you’re coming up.
4.  Don’t forget that bonus lake.  If you enjoy hiking and don’t mind an added half mile, the Washington Lake shoreline trail is a beautiful addition to your hike.  Park in the overflow lot.

Happy Trails!

No comments:

Post a Comment