Crystal Lakes, Crystal Lakes Trailhead, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Crystal Lakes - 5.7 miles

Crystal Lakes Trailhead

Upper Crystal Lake (5,805')

Upper Crystal Lake (5,805')

Round-Trip Length: 5.7 miles (includes both lakes)
Start-End Elevation: 3,570' - 5,805' (5,805' @ Upper Crystal Lake)
Elevation Change: +2,235' net elevation gain (+2,317' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Crystal Lakes - 5.7 Miles Round-Trip

The Crystal Lakes are located 2.25 and 2.85 miles from Crystal Lakes Trailhead on Highway 410 in Mount Rainier National Park. Upper Crystal Lake (5,805') lies in a spacious subalpine basin with rolling meadows under Crystal Peak and Sourdough Gap. Lower Crystal Lake (5,445') is tucked in a smaller, marshy setting ringed by trees.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The trail passes through diverse mid-elevation forests to the lower lake, past which subalpine meadows open to the upper lake. Meadows around the lake hold abundant flowers, and higher slopes draw elk and goat.

There are good campsites at each, though the upper lake is preferable for its idyllic setting. The Crystal Lakes Trail continues on to Sourdough Gap and joins the Pacific Crest Trail along the Park's NE boundary:

The trail rises steadily through a mixed forest to the Crystal Peak Trail split (1.2 miles : 4,650'). A few large trees stand out among tightly packed younger ones on this nondescript climb.

Variously steep switchbacks wind through a transitional forest to the Lower Crystal Lake spur (2.25 miles : 5,480'), which drops to the tree-bound shore and campsites. The main trail continues up the north side of the valley under big, open slopes to Upper Crystal Lake (2.85 miles : 5,805').

Campsites are located on the south side, and the trail continues through level meadows on the north side before veering away at an unmarked point (2.95 miles) for a steep climb to Sourdough Gap. These meadows are fragile and have a short growing season - remain on designated trails at all times to minimize erosion.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N46 55.350 W121 32.033 — 0.0 miles : Crystal Lakes Trailhead
  • N46 55.224 W121 31.647 — .6 miles : Steady climb through dark timber to view
  • N46 55.149 W121 31.315 — 1.2 miles : Crystal Lakes - Crystal Peak Trail split
  • N46 55.243 W121 31.272 — 1.35 miles : Begin steep switchbacks
  • N46 54.689 W121 30.810 — 2.2 miles : Lower Crystal Lake split
  • N46 54.371 W121 30.513 — 2.85 miles : Upper Crystal Lake (5,805')
  • N46 54.340 W121 30.366 — 2.95 miles : Trail veers up toward Sourdough Gap

Worth Noting

  • Consistent, duff-covered grades make the Crystal Lakes Trail a good choice for runners.
  • Mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Bug spray and long sleeves are recommended.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Wilderness Permits are required year-round for overnight camping in the backcountry. Wilderness Camping Permits are free (*see notes for climbers below).

  • Permits and current trail conditions are available at all wilderness information centers, visitor centers and ranger stations (360.569.2211).
  • Camp only in sites designated on your itinerary. Fires are not permitted anywhere in the backcountry.
  • All trail-side camps have primitive toilets, marked sites, poles for hanging food and a nearby water source.
  • Cross-Country Zone Camping: there are no maintained trails, campsites or amenities in cross-country zones. Camp at least 1/4 mile away from any road or established trail, and 100' from water sources. Cross-country camping is not permitted for those hiking the complete Wonderland Trail.
  • Summer Party Size Limit (May 15th - September 30th): 5 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation. Families are an exception to this rule (parents + children).
  • Winter Party Size Limit (October 1 - May 14th): 12 people per individual site or cross-country zone designation.
  • Groups (defined as 6 - 12 people) are permitted in 25 designated sites throughout the park, and when camping on snow in Alpine Zones.
  • Climbing Permits are required year-round for any day or overnight travel on glaciers or above 10,000', including Little Tahoma. The Climbing Permit also serves as the wilderness camping permit for overnight trips. Wilderness Camping Permits are free while a Climbing Permit requires the purchase of an annual Climbing Pass for each member of the party.

Fishing Information

A Washington State Fishing License is not required to fish in Mount Rainier National Park. The Crystal Lakes are open to fishing:

  • A Washington State catch record card is required to fish for salmon or steelhead and they must be accounted for as if caught in state waters.
  • Fishing regulations are specific to site, species, and season. Always contact the Park before setting out for the latest guidelines.
  • Fishing for Bull Trout, Dolly Varden, Coastal Cutthroat and Chinook (King) Salmon is strictly prohibited in Park waters.

Park Lakes:

  • There is no catch limit in Park lakes.

Streams and Rivers:

  • Daily catch: Six pounds of fish plus one additional fish, not to exceed 12 fish.
  • Possession: 1 day's limit
  • Minimum size: none
  • The Ohanapecosh River and its tributaries are open to fly fishing only. The use of bait or other lures (except artificial flies) is not permitted.

The following areas are closed to fishing:

  • Klickitat Creek above the White River Entrance water supply intake
  • Ipsut Creek above the Ipsut Creek Campground water supply intake
  • Laughingwater Creek above the Ohanapecosh water supply intake
  • Edith Creek basin above the Paradise water supply intake
  • Frozen Lake
  • Reflection Lakes
  • Shadow Lake
  • Tipsoo Lake

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $25 entrance fee to Mount Rainier National Park (good for 7 days). Annual Passes are $50.
  • Pets and Bikes are not permitted on hiking trails or climbing routes in Mount Rainier National Park.
  • Fires are not permitted in the backcountry in Mount Rainier National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

The Crystal Lakes - Crystal Peak Trailhead is located on Highway 410, 4.0 miles south of the entrance sign to Mount Rainier National Park. The trailhead is located in the Sunrise Area (northeast corner) of the park.

Parking is available in two large pull-outs on either side of the road. The trailhead is marked only by a 'Hiker' symbol that's fairly easy to miss - anticipate this turnoff. The trail begins on the east side of the road.

Contact Information

Mount Rainier National Park
55210 238th Avenue East
Ashford, WA 98304

General Information

Lost and Found

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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