“Follow Crystal Lakes Trail as it ascends from forest to alpine meadows en route to beautiful lakes.”
— Brian Smith
Birding · Lake · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Fires are prohibited. No pets on trails. Treat water before drinking.
This is a great way to experience some of the plentiful beauty on offer at Mount Rainier National Park. A lush, forested setting gives way to a subalpine meadow and lake over the course of this run.
Need to Know
The trailhead is located on SR 410 approximately 4 miles north of Cayuse Pass toward the park's northern boundary. It's on the eastern side of the road near Crystal Creek.
The first 1.5 miles of trail climbs through dense forest on a series of switchbacks. Along this portion of the run, you'll have the opportunity for good views of Mount Rainier until it's eclipsed by Crystal Peak. The next mile of trail leads to the forested Lower Crystal Lake, the smaller of the two lakes. This is a serene setting for a break before continuing to Upper Crystal Lake.
The lovely open basin containing Upper Crystal Lake lies just 0.5 mile beyond the lower lake. During the summer, wildflowers abound in the meadows around the lake. From this point, Crystal Peak and its craggy ridges dominate the skyline around the lake.
A side trip to Crystal Peak (five miles round-trip) is well worth the effort. On a clear day five volcanoes can be seen from this 6615' former fire lookout site. Start early in the day if you plan on venturing to the peak as the trail traverses a shadeless south-facing slope which can be very hot and dry during summer.
There are wilderness camps both at Lower and Upper Crystal Lakes. Be sure to camp in designated sites only. Permits are required for camping. Permits and current trail conditions are available park-wide from Wilderness Information Centers, Ranger Stations, Visitor Centers and on our web site.
Flora & Fauna
By late July and early August the meadows explode with a wide variety of colorful subalpine wildflowers. Watch for elk and mountain goats grazing on the surrounding slopes and ridges anytime throughout the summer and early fall.