Crystal Lakes, Spruce Creek Trailhead, Summit County - Eagle County - Clear Creek County, Colorado
Crystal Lakes - 8.6 miles
Spruce Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||8.6 miles (includes both lakes)|
|Start-End Elevation:||10,390' - 12,874' (12,927' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,482' net elevation gain (+2,714' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Crystal Lakes - 8.6 Miles Round-Trip
The Crystal Lakes are located just south of Breckenridge at the head of a broad glacial valley in the Ten Mile Range. Lower Crystal Lake occupies a shallow basin in a wide berth midway up the Crystal Creek drainage, and Upper Crystal Lake is located 1.9 miles and 900' up in a high-walled cirque carved from the slopes of Father Dyer Peak (13,615') and Crystal Peak (13,852').
Though Lower Crystal Lake is accessible by 4WD car, many visitors opt to walk up from the Spruce Creek Trailhead to fully experience this idyllic alpine landscape.
Upper Crystal Lake is open only to foot travel, a more challenging trek into the high country with exceptional views and wildlife that includes marmot, ptarmigan, mountain goat and bighorn sheep:
From Spruce Creek Trailhead, continue up the dirt road to Crystal Creek Road - #803 and bear right (.25 miles : 10,495'). Crystal Creek Road steepens considerably through mixed pine to a forest road intersection and keeps straight (1.25 miles : 11,229').
Grades moderate in a thinning forest with emerging views of Mount Helen's east ridge to the Wheeler National Recreational Trail junction (1.45 miles : 11,382'). Keep straight.
The road-trail passes through treeline into an expansive alpine valley with stunning views of Mount Helen (13,164'), Father Dyer Peak and Crystal Peak (1.75 miles : 11,481').
Crystal Creek cuts through the wide valley floor, a good place to find moose and bedded down elk. Adjacent meadows support an array of flowers and thick mats of willow.
The grade relaxes up-valley to Lower Crystal Lake (2.4 miles : 11,959') and remains of an old cabin. A mining road branches left up the flank of Mount Helen, a social trail leads up the lake's open south shore, and the main trail continues north over the outlet.
Once over the outlet, the dirt road quickly fades into a wide, grassy track on a winding course over the Crystal Lake basin. Lingering snow may conceal the path, but patient eyes should find the way.
The trail gradually bends NE and climbs steadily up the north valley wall. At 3.0 miles (12,284') it banks west, east, then west again as it narrows on a rocky path on a direct line into the tapering upper valley.
The ramp-like trail rises steadily with big views down-valley, and great vantages for seeing mountain goat and bighorn sheep. Be mindful of loose rock and steep drop-offs around you.
The trail passes through a slot and crests over the rocky cirque holding Upper Crystal Lake (4.2 miles : 12,927'). The main trail continues west around the cirque, while a social trail can be seen down around the lake's east shore. The latter is where you want to be, but there's no clear way to reach it; simply find a convenient place to drop through the talus - roughly 80 yards - to the north shore of Upper Crystal Lake (4.3 miles : 12,874').
Upper Crystal Lake is tightly bound by steep rock walls, but the east shore is open and easily explored. Improvise your way east through open tundra to two large ponds and commanding views down the Crystal Creek drainage.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N39 26.221 W106 03.034 — Spruce Creek Trailhead
- N39 26.158 W106 03.245 — .25 miles : Crystal Creek Road split - bear right
- N39 26.133 W106 03.800 — .75 miles : Steady, steep climb up Crystal Creek Road
- N39 26.255 W106 04.303 — 1.25 miles : Keep straight thru forest road intersection
- N39 26.261 W106 04.467 — 1.45 miles : Wheeler Trail junction - keep straight
- N39 26.270 W106 04.704 — 1.75 miles : Mild climb up alpine valley
- N39 26.167 W106 05.349 — 2.4 miles : Lower Crystal Lake
- N39 26.199 W106 05.644 — 2.75 miles : Trail winds into open tundra above lake
- N39 26.452 W106 05.392 — 3.25 miles : Steady rise up north side of valley
- N39 26.408 W106 05.888 — 3.75 miles : Trail grows rocky on final approach
- N39 26.164 W106 06.327 — 4.3 miles : Upper Crystal Lake
- 4WD vehicles are permitted on Crystal Creek Road up to Lower Crystal Lake. Experienced drivers with vehicles in good condition should have little trouble reaching the lake. Honor private property lines in the area and remain on designated roads at all times.
- The 4WD road-trail leading to Lower Crystal Lake is well-suited for winter travel. Contact the Dillon Ranger District for winter trail conditions and routing information leading to Upper Crystal Lake.
- Francie's Cabin, a winter ski hut, is located just north of the Crystal Creek Road - forest service road intersection, 1.25 miles from the Spruce Creek Trailhead.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Dispersed backcountry camping is permitted in the White River National Forest. No permit is necessary. Camping is prohibited within 100' of any lake or stream. Group size is limited to 15 individuals.
- Campfires are permitted for dispersed camping in the backcountry, with potential seasonal restrictions. Campfires are not permitted above or within .25 miles of treeline, or within 100' of any lake or stream.
- Contact the Dillon Ranger District (970.468.5400) for the latest on weather, trail conditions and trail-specific usage guidelines when planning your trip. The office is open M - F from 8am - 4pm.
- Fishing is permitted at both Crystal Lakes and along Crystal Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs, Horses and Bikes are permitted on Crystal Creek Road and the Crystal Trail.
- 4WD vehicles are permitted on Crystal Creek Road up to Lower Crystal Lake, but no further.
- Snowmobiles and ATVs are not permitted on Crystal Creek Road.
- Do not enter or remove items from structures at Lower and Upper Crystal Lake.
Directions to Trailhead
The Spruce Creek Trailhead is located 3.3 miles south of Breckenridge, Colorado in the Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest.
From I-70, take Exit #203 for Breckenridge and travel south on Highway 9 through the town of Breckenridge. From the last traffic light on South Main Street in Breckenridge (the Boreas Pass - Broken Lance Road intersection), continue south for 2.1 miles to Spruce Creek Road (County Road #800). Turn right on Spruce Creek Road and drive 1.2 miles to the Spruce Creek Trailhead.
Dillon Ranger District
680 Blue River Parkway
Silverthorne, CO 80498
M - F from 8am - 4pm
White River National Forest
900 Grand Ave.
P.O. Box 948
Glenwood Springs CO 81602