It you're staying in Lake City, Colorado and want to do a good run without driving, this is a wonderful option. It will take you through aspen forests, open meadows, boulder fields, and finally to Crystal Lake. Views of the surrounding valley and mountains are impressive and frequent due to the openness of this route.
Features: Fall Colors — Lake — Views — Wildlife
The first mile and a half or so of this route passes through private property, so please stay on the trail.
We chose this route because we were tired of being in the car during a road trip through Colorado. You can park near the actual Crystal Larsen trailhead if you want to cut it down by a mile (one way). But being able to run from wherever you're staying in Lake City and stop right in a pub on the way back were bonuses for us!
Regardless of if you run or drive from Lake City, start north along Colorado 149 - there is a very wide shoulder so no need to be on the road. Just past the Country Store, take a left on Ocean Wave Drive to Black Bear Hill and left to Rocky Springs Drive. These are dirt roads through a small neighborhood so they have very light traffic. There is a small parking area next to a small cemetery on Rocky Springs Road - if you drove, park here. Find the 4x4, Crystal Larsen TH Road that starts just next to this parking area.
After just a few strides, be sure to stay left/west. The road winds through some forest for maybe a quarter of a mile before reaching another split. Continue west/south - not north, which is the Larsen Lakes Trail #236. The road here passes through aspen and can be steep/muddy at times. It soon will turn into a singletrack that is very clear to follow. The trail leaves the aspens to enter a large meadow with some views, but you're still at a relatively low elevation.
The trail will head into a very dense aspen forest which may have debris on the trail after a storm. Continue along the clear trail. The forest will abruptly turn to pines before opening up to a large boulder field. The trail skirts around the field so it is easy going here. There should be some good views to the south as well. At just under 11,000 feet in the boulder field, you'll pass Hay Lake which makes a good resting spot.
You'll pass through another spot of pine forest and another boulder field. After this field, there is a somewhat steep spot, but no scrambling is required. The trail then levels out along what might have been a very old forest road. The trail splits - you can stay on the wider road-like section or take the trail slightly higher up on the ridge. They will come back together in a short distance. Just after this, the forest begins to open up into a very large and flat meadow. Keep an eye for the Crystal Lake Spur
on your left to the lake.
There are nice views at the lake and an old cabin. Crystal Peak towers over the lake. Spend some time enjoying this peaceful area before returning the way you came.