At an elevation of just under 13,000 feet, the Crystal Lake Trail offers many of the rewards of high altitude hiking (spectacular views and solitude) with only a portion of the effort. Turn around at the Lower Lake, or continue on and accept the challenge of switchbacking up the mountain to Upper Crystal Lake—either way, you’ll get to enjoy the rugged scenery of the Tenmile Range.
What Makes It Great
Crystal Lakes trail is a non-summit hike that is well worth the time for its views and potential wildlife sightings. While twisting up the switchbacks to the Upper Crystal Lake, be sure to keep an eye out for animals such as moose, elk, pika, marmot, ptarmigan, porcupine, big horn sheep, or mountain goats.
Winding through wildflower dotted alpine meadows, the first half of the trail is a 4x4 road that can be hiked or driven up to the Lower Crystal Lake. The basin is fed by tributaries of Crystal Creek and rivulets pass across the road, sometimes swelling enough to add some true adventure to the day. Once you get to Lower Lake, stop and drop a line in the water, explore the remains of the mining cabin, or continue on for two more miles up the switchbacks to the Upper Crystal Lake.
If the trailhead at Spruce Creek looks busy don’t worry—the hike to Crystal Lakes often gets overlooked by hikers and backpackers who are heading to the nearby Mohawk Lakes Trail. This means that you’ll likely have an alpine lake (and all of its fish) mostly to yourself. The Crystal Lakes is perfect for folks looking for a bit more solitude and since dogs are allowe
Who is Going to Love It
Daytrippers looking for a nice hike close to Breckenridge without the crowds can’t beat the Crystal Lakes. It’s also great for backpackers and fisherman interested in an easy weekend trip to escape the the summer heat of lower elevations.
Dog lovers can bring their furry friends along on this trail and will have a blast in the water crossings and romping in the meadows. During the hot summer months there is still plenty of water access for canine companions.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From I-70 take Exit 203, Frisco/Breckenridge, and travel south on HWY 9 through Frisco and to Breckenridge. Continue 2.3 miles south on HWY 9 past Breckenridge and turn right onto Spruce Creek Rd (County Rd 800). Take left turns at the forks for approximately 1.8 miles until you come to the Spruce Creek Trailhead.
Park at the trailhead and walk up the road or if, 4x4 equipped, continue driving and at the first junction turn right onto Crystal Creek Road (FDR 803) that will take you to Lower Crystal Lake. Motorized travel is prohibited beyond Lower Crystal Lake.