The primary reason for taking this trail is that it is the shortest, easiest way to get to Elizabeth and Crown Lakes or to several other trails in the area: Blue Canyon Trail
, Hoffman Mountain (Duck Lake), Chain Lakes, and Tehipite.
From Crown Lake, you could make a loop by returning via the Woodchuck Trail. I used the Crown Valley Trail as the start of a long loop where, from the end of the Blue Canyon Trail
, I went off-trail over Blue Canyon Pass and Reinstein Pass, down the Goddard Canyon Trail
to the Hell for Sure 29E52
trail and then over Hell for Sure Pass to the Blackcap Trail, which I took to Courtright Reservoir.
Based on the descriptions in Winnett and Roberts' Blackcap Mtn High Sierra Hiking Guide, a much prettier alternative to the first part of the Crown Valley Trail would be to take the Three Springs Trail and then the Statham Trail until it connects to the Crown Valley Trail. But, that approach starts 1,000 feet lower.
The Crown Valley Trail starts from a large dirt parking lot at 7,700 feet. After about 7.5 miles, you reach the Blue Canyon Trail
junction at 7,900 feet. In between, there are some moderate ups and downs as you make your way into the wilderness.
The first part of the trail is under the trees, so there is not much in the way of views. The ground is covered with a thick layer of duff and there are fewer wildflowers than many other areas.
After about four miles, the scenery improves. There are a few open meadows with views toward Crown Ridge, Castle Peak, and back toward Hoffman Mountain and Finger Rock. At about that point, I heard repeated bellowing in the distance, which became louder the farther I went. Given that Bigfoot and moose don't frequent this area, I decided it had to be cows. Surprisingly, within the John Muir Wilderness, the Johnson and Statham Cattle Ranches are still active.
About a half mile before the junction with the Blue Canyon Trail
, you pass near the Johnson Cow Camp in Crown Valley. This is well worth a visit. The camp was first built in 1916. It is still used occasionally, but it is boarded up most of the time. If you want, you can walk around the cabins and see some very old equipment. The meadow is a truly beautiful spot. Camping is not allowed until you are a mile or two away from the ranch.
From here, the trail turns north to tackle a steady climb (reaching over 20% grades in sections) for over 2,000 feet of climbing before reaching the junction with Chuck Pass, the shores of Crown Lake, and lastly the trail's end in a junction with the Woodchuck Trail. Along the way, take time to stop, rest, and enjoy the fantastic views on all sides.