Crystal Lake Trail Review – Easy Alpine Lake Close to Breckenridge

By: Derek Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023

Just south of Breckenridge is Hoosier Pass, one of the tallest continental divides in the country at 11,542 feet above sea level. This area offers unparalleled views of the 10 Mile Range, especially Red Mountain, and is a busy area in both summer and winter conditions. There are multiple trails that leave from the parking lot at the top of the pass, such as Hoosier Ridge, Hoosier Pass Loop, North Star Mountain. One of our favorites is Crystal Lake trail – it’s an easier hike, with a shorter, more manageable length that takes you to an alpine lake and multiple collapsed mine ruins. Within minimal elevation gain, this hike is a great option for an easier hike that still offers great views and lots of things to see. 

Getting There

From Breckenridge, head south on Hwy 9 for about 11 miles. Coming out of Breck, the road will wind through Blue River before heading up towards the pass. At this point, the elevation will begin to significantly increase and the switchbacks will be more common. After quite a few curvy sections of road, it will open up to the top of the pass, where there will be a large Continental Divide sign and dirt parking area on the right. Park there. 

Trail Stats

  • Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 3-4 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 300 ft to first lake
  • Difficult: easy to easy-moderate
  • Features: alpine lake, mountain views, mining remnants
hoosier pass hikes
Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake Hike

Start near the large posted sign with map and area information. To the right of the sign, there will be a path that intersects with a dirt road. Follow this road to the split/T, then take a right. Just before the split, the road is quite steep but this is the steepest/hardest part of the hike. You can do it! From there, there’s a 4×4 road that you will follow, but it’s usually closed to vehicles so you won’t encounter any Jeeps. This hike offers some of the most easily accessible views of the entire valley and beyond, which you will see on the right hand side during your walk. 

Continue on this dirt road until you reach the lake. From here, you can continue down the right side of the lake and start your first switchback. If you follow these switchbacks up, it takes you to another smaller lake and some really cool mine tailings. You can see where the multiple mine shafts used to enter into the side of the mountain and they were collapsed at some point in the 1900’s. 

crystal lake trail

You can still see sites like this near the lower lake, but there’s more and larger opportunities for viewing if you continue up. The trail is about 3 miles roundtrip to the lower lake, and you add about another one mile round trip if you continue up farther. Most of the trail stays relatively flat (or as flat as flat gets when you’re in the mountains) until the switchbacks, making it an easy option for those who can’t hike some of the other more difficult trails in the area. 

The Verdict

This trail offers a high elevation starting point, which means there are more easily accessible views down valley without having to hike upward much. Because there’s not as much elevation gain, this hike will seem easier than a lot of the other hikes you’ll encounter in the area. Overall, this trail offers a great opportunity for a shorter hike, great views, an alpine lake, and multiple collapsed mines with tailings – all of which are sure to be a crowd pleaser. 

Please note:

This trail is not to be confused with Crystal Lakes, which is off Spruce Creek Road, closer to Mohawk Lakes, just south of Breckenridge and is a more moderate-difficult level of hiking and is a longer distance.

While this trail is considered easy to easy-moderate, it starts at over 11,500 feet above sea level. Those who live at a lower elevation should acclimate to the area before hiking at this height (Breckenridge is at 9,600 and Denver is mid-5,000’s – these areas are great starting points to spend a few days to acclimate before hiking at elevation). 

The trail skirts along tree line most of the way, so keep an eye on weather and always cancel the hike if there’s thunder/lightning in the area.

Check out other favorite hikes near Breckenridge, such as the nearby Blue Lakes, Wheeler Lake, Sapphire Point, and more. If you enjoyed the scenic drive to get to Crystal Lake, you should also consider driving Boreas Pass.

Share on Social Media

Why Trust Know Nothing Nomads?

Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

We USE the gear we talk about. We’ve hiked 1000’s of miles. We have camped 1000’s of nights in the wilderness. We have sent hundreds of boulders and projects.

We don’t just know a few things about the outdoors — WE EAT, SLEEP, AND BREATHE IT.

We are not journalists from a magazine telling someone else’s stories from behind a computer. We are the ACTUAL outdoorsmen that those people write about. 

We are not a “gear lab” that runs tests on gear in life-like conditions. We are the seasoned, “trial-by-fire” experts who have taken the gear into the wilderness and USED IT. Read about our gear testing process here

We started Know Nothing Nomads to share our passion and expertise with our readers to inspire, educate, and enable you to explore the outdoors in the way that we have. And you will be more equipped and capable than ever before with the knowledge you gain here guiding you along the way.

And the best part? We are real people that LOVE our readers and this community. If you need anything or have a question about any of the things we have to write about, just reach out. Normally, one of us can respond within 24 hours, sometimes within minutes. THAT is the approachable expert.

You should also know that advertising does not influence our gear reviews in any way, shape, or form, and it never will.

While we always focus our attention on gear that stands out to us—sometimes we discover that things aren’t up to our standards. This is exactly why we will always talk about the downfalls and compromises that we find while we are testing anything (If we find any).

About The Author

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers.

Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me.

When I'm not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

Related Posts

Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while. Feel free to contact us with any questions or get in touch with us on social media!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Know Nothing Nomads