Thursday, July 17, 2008

Crypt Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park

This hike was named the best hike in the Canadian Rockies in 1981. The trailhead is across the lake from the townsite which requires taking the boat shuttle which costs $16 CA for each person. The shuttle departure times at 9:00am and 10:00am with pickups being 4:00pm and 5:30pm. When you purchase your tickets, you need to decide which return trip you want, however if you choose the 4:00 pm and miss it, don’t worry they must take you back on the 5:30 shuttle. This hike is 10.7 miles round trip (not including hiking around the lake) with a 2214 ft elevation gain. The hike has 3 distinctive parts. The first third of the hike starts from the boat dock and immediately has some steep switch backs that go through dense forest. Eventually the hike levels off and follows the creek up into the canyon past two waterfalls. The second third of the hike is mainly thru forest and takes a gradual elevation increase thru forest. The last third of the hike begins in an area with lots of loose rock and steep switchbacks which makes the hiking difficult. These switchbacks on all in the open so this section can be very hot with the sun. The views of two dramatic waterfalls in this area makes it worth the work. The last half-mile of this section bring you to a natural tunnel which requires you to climb a 10’ ladder then crawl thru a 60’ tunnel kneeling down. Once you emerge from the opposite side of the tunnel you will have amazing views of the next canyon and other mountains of Waterton. The trail continues by climbing along a shear cliff where you need to hold onto a climbing steel cable secured to the rocks. The hike continues you through alpine forest until you reach this spectacular lake. When we were there, there was lost of snow remaining around the lake a also a few small icebergs in the lake. Very nice. Summary: the hike is nice but there are better views in the park for a lot less work. We would rate this hike as strenuous. If you want to experience the ladder, tunnel and cable parts for this experience then we would recommend this hike. This hike took us 3 hours to hike to the lake move at steady pace and slightly less than 2 hours to hike back down. During the boat ride the captain and mate provided information and when we left the boat they played Hit the road Jack to send us on our way – which was fun. We took the 9:00 am boat out and had 30-40 minutes to spare to make the 4:00 boat after spending 20 minutes at the lake eating lunch.
Tip: when you buy your ticket(s) they will ask what boat you want to return on – so choose the 4:00 return but if you miss it they have to take you on the 5:30 versus if you choose the 5:30 boat but got to the dock in time for the 4:00. The “4:00 people” have priority based on boat room so they might not let you on then you’ll have to wait until 5:30 anyway.

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