Crypt Lake - Waterton - Hiking Alberta

 

Crypt Lake is a challenging Triple Crown classic hike in Waterton Lakes National Park.

 

 

This moderately difficult hike has something for everyone; hikers, scramblers, spelunkers, trapeze artists. 

Crypt Lake, nestled between Vimy Ridge and 2,439 meter (8,002 ft) Mount Boswell, is a unique experience and world-class hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada. 

The hike begins with an early morning, 20-minute boat ride from the Waterton Village Marina to Crypt Landing on the opposite side of Upper Waterton Lake. The cruise on the Miss Waterton, with 50+ other excited passengers, passes the prominent and historic Prince of Wales Hotel, perched on the bluff above the north side of Emerald Bay.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The Prince of Wales Hotel dominates the horizon on the bluff above the north shore of Emerald Bay

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada About 50 passengers of varying ages fill the seats of 'Miss Waterton' on the lower and upper decks.

 

The boat drops us off at Crypt Landing on the east shore of Upper Waterton Lake about a quarter of the distance down the lake, south of Waterton Village.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The Crypt Lake Trailhead Sign is clearly visible from the boat dock.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada 'Miss Waterton' returns to the Waterton Townsite Marina in Emerald Bay as the hike to Crypt Lake begins.

 

The hike to Crypt Lake hike is 8.7 KM (5⅜ miles) one way with an elevation gain of 695 meters (2,300 ft) to a maximum elevation of 1,981 meters (6,500 ft).  Values are approximate: No two references agree.  There is elevation loss as well, so gross elevation is higher.  

After the initial crowd moves on hike begins on good, flat trail along and above the shoreline of Upper Waterton Lake.  Soon the trail begins climbing on well-graded switchbacks over good, forest trail.  The clean, fresh smell of the forest is overwhelming as we pass the left fork trail to Hellroaring Falls

The Hellroaring Falls trail may be considered as an alternative descent route but this trail is not a wise choice for the ascent hike.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The trail is lush and aromatic on initial switchbacks through forest. Vistas gradually unfold.

 

Excellent views of Upper Waterton Lake unfold as switchbacks climb and periodically leave the forest onto open ground.  As the trail straightens and levels following the initial set of switchbacks, a welcome pause is taken to enjoy the short detour to Twin Falls at the 3.5 KM (2¼ mile) mark of the hike to Crypt Lake.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Twin Falls roar towards the Hellroaring Creek Valley is a beautiful and sensory place.

 

As the trail leaves the forest and becomes more rocky, impressive Burnt Rock Falls appears and occupies the attention on the steeper and rocky trail approach.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Burnt Rock Falls of white water free-falling over rust-coloured rock creates a stunning image and amplified sound.

 

The steepness of the trail increases substantially for the next 2 KM (1¹⁄₃ miles) on rocky and uneven surface but primary attention is constantly consumed by the beauty unfolding around the journey. 

Snow bridges beside our trail contrast with the sheer walls towering above us on the opposite side of Hellroaring Creek Valley within a visual and audible cornucopia.  In the distance, Crypt Falls creates white water lace on a 152 meter (500 ft) drop from the forested precipice between Vimy Ridge and Mount Boswell

A shallow, emerald, alpine pond fed by Crypt Falls, so stunningly beautiful it takes the breath away, appears beneath.

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Crypt Falls makes tumbling lace threads of white water between Vimy Ridge and Mount Boswell.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The emerald lake at the base of Crypt Falls rests majestically below Mount Boswell

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The emerald lake below Crypt Falls reflects the snow remaining against the walls of Mount Boswell

 

Next, the adventure component of the hike begins with a creek crossing.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Crossing the Creek with pounding white water on either side above and below us.

 

Very soon a short forested section wraps around towards another rocky section.  A narrow rock ledge, tapered nicely away from the free fall to the right, leads to a metal ladder, firmly bolted to the rock wall, which will provide entry into the 20 meter (65 foot) long tunnel through the rock.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The view from the narrow rock ledge back to Hellroaring Creek Valley is incredible. The Crypt Lake Trail is visible to photo right.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Climbing the ladder to enter the tunnel is not a good place to fall.

 

The light can be seen at the other end of the tunnel.  Navigating the tunnel requires a variety of movements to squeeze the body plus backpack through the narrow, irregularly shaped but relatively straight channel.  Sometimes easy; sometimes a squeeze.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada 

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Waiting at the exit.  Conversation is easy.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Nearing the exit of the Crypt Lake Tunnel.

 

The exit from the tunnel is an interesting experience.  First, there is a brief scramble down to a rock ledge with a 200 meter (656 ft) drop-off.  Next comes a slanted rock scramble up a ledge to a cable assist anchored into the stone but it is still a bit of a rush with fatal exposure adjacent.  Risk is minimal but focus is important.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Working the way up the ledge with a cable assist.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Photo of ascent from the top provides a better perspective of the exposure on the Crypt Lake hike.

 

The final segment of the trail to Crypt Lake is a flat, fair-quality trail through forest and welcome relief from the adventure zone.  There is substantial snow remaining in the forest and there are a few wet spots along the trail.  Many rock formations are uniquely shaped and the hike continues up over ridges of pure white stone with very interesting glacial wear patterns.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Final trail segment to Crypt Lake - Forest, snow, mud and uniquely fascinating rock formations.

 

Crypt Lake fills the entire bowl and a few lingering icebergs float on the surface of crystal clear, emerald water.  Large, lingering, banks of snow cling to the cliffs around the shoreline.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Crypt Lake is a very beautiful and pristine alpine lake with floating ice and crystal clear cold water.

 

At least two hikers have chosen to do the hike around the shoreline of Crypt Lake.  It is an international walk because the mountains on the south are actually on the other side of the border in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

Most adventurers are content to sit in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada to enjoy lunch in beautiful surroundings beside the lake while feet and legs enjoy well-earned rest.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Two hikers make their way across a field of snow on the other side of Crypt Lake.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Crypt Lake is the epitome of beauty and calm on this sunny day with a gentle, cool breeze.

 

The reverse hike is a different but equally spectacular experience.  The down scramble with the cable assist is more exciting because the exposure enters the field of vision.  It is always easier to scramble up than down.  The tunnel is relatively the same but the ladder is a bit more challenging and it is good to get feet back on terra firma.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada The down scramble into the tunnel raises the excitement a notch due to more obvious vertical exposure.

 

The view from the rock ridge, of the expanse of Hellroaring Creek Valley, is equally spectacular.  The sun has come around and the valley has warmed up substantially.  The pace will be kept as quick as possible to reduce exposure to hypothermia. 

On a similar, subsequent mission it would be wise to carry a filtered water bottle. 

After passing Crypt Falls and the emerald lake at its base, Burnt Rock Falls and Twin Falls the junction to Hellroaring Falls requires a decision.  This route past Hellroaring Falls will be used for the return but is not recommended.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada Hellroaring Creek Valley is equally spectacular on the return hike to Crypt Landing

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada A final look back at Crypt Falls with visions of Crypt Lake tucked in behind

 

Back on the main trail, arrival at Crypt Landing occurs with 20 minutes to spare prior to departure on the final 5:30 PM return trip to Waterton Village.  The day has been an amazing experience which deliberately and successfully attempted to avoid the crowd, to spend quality time together and to take the time to thoroughly enjoy the special hiking experience.  The nine-hour round trip can be done more quickly.  This hike has been a rugged physical day. 

Collectively, over 250 photos were taken and it has been a challenge to reduce them to the few shown here to be representative of the experience.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada At Crypt Landing, waiting for the boat, after a fabulous hiking experience.

 

The Prince of Wales Hotel landmark on the boat ride home represents a welcoming beacon at the end of o log physical day.  The boat crew is doing a brisk business selling bottles of water and cold treats.  The price is of no consequence.

 

Crypt Lake - Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada In a very short span of time this landmark has become the symbol for 'coming home'

 

 

 

 

 

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