Crystal Lake─With a rehabilitated access road and trail, it’s time you once again hiked to this serene lake

Expect a little snow at Crystal Lake, but the trail is smooth sailing!

Expect a little snow at Crystal Lake, but the trail is smooth sailing!

Quick Facts

Location: White Chuck River Valley, Mountain Loop Highway

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: 9.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,150 feet

Green Trails Map: Sloan Peak, WA- No. 111

Access: Take Exit 208 off of I-5 following SR 530 east for 32 miles to Darrington. Then head south on the Mountain Loop Highway proceeding 9.0 miles turning left onto FR 23. Drive 5.8 miles turning left onto FR 2700. Continue for another 2.4 miles to trailhead.

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest (360) 436-1155; www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs

A tranquil lake at the edge of the Glacier Peak Wilderness, chances are you’ll have this place to yourself. Long inaccessible due to washed out access roads and a lack of maintenance that allowed choking alders to take over the trail — all that has recently changed! And the word is slowly getting out that you can once again hike with relative ease to this backcountry lake. The steep climb up the fire line is still there, however, so pace yourself on the first half of this hike!

Begin by following an old road bed, climbing a couple of hundred feet then losing most of it. Much of this hike as well as the adjacent trail to Meadow Lake utilize logging roads that were decommissioned in the 1970s and 1980s. At 1.6 miles, reach a junction. The trail right heads towards Meadow Lake and Meadow Mountain, destinations worthy of a return trip to this area. For Crystal Lake, take the trail left. The grade is fairly easy for two miles on old road bed to an old cut. Then with Crystal Creek cascading alongside the trail, the way heads insanely steeply up an old fire line.

The grunt thankfully is short lived. Once above the old cut, the trail resumes on a saner grade and enters beautiful old growth forest and soon afterward, the Glacier Peak Wilderness. A quarter mile farther, Crystal Lake with its meadowy shores greets you. Good camps and lunch spots grace the lake’s outlet. A fisherman’s path climbs steeply to the basin housing Meadow Lake. And if you want views and are feeling energetic, from the lake’s outlet you can follow the Circle Peak Trail through forest and meadow to just below the 5,983-foot peak.

From the old lookout site enjoy sweeping views of peaks near and far. Especially striking are Washington’s “three Matterhorns;” White Chuck, Pugh, and Sloan. But don’t feel too badly if you want to do is just lounge around the lake. It’s been a long time since you’ve had that option.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Crystal Lake visit www.snohomish.org.

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