When I began loosely planning our Waterton-Glacier getaway, one of our tentative plans was to complete the Triple Crown in Waterton: three specific hikes within three days: Akamina Ridge (20km), Alderson-Carthew (18km) and Crypt Lake (17.2km). After successful completion, you get your name on the wall of fame in Pearl’s Cafe. We figured if Going-to-the-Sun road hadn’t opened in Glacier, we’d stick around a little longer in Waterton before heading south. As luck would have it, the incredibly scenic GTS road opened a few days before departure so it was back to the drawing board to select one premiere hike for Nick to experience on his first trip.
He gravitates towards leisurely hikes through valleys to a lake destination, rather than heart pounding, strenuous summits (like me!). There are plenty of valley-lake hikes in Waterton to choose from that I had a hard time narrowing down my options. In the end, I chose Crypt Lake because it’s a really fun hike with great views, minimal elevation gain (2300 ft) – on switchbacks, a tunnel to climb through a mountain and more.
We stopped at the townsite campground to shower before parking at the marina to catch our boat shuttle. Tip: if you camp at Crandell, you can still use the townsite campground’s showers for free. I’m telling ya… there’s nothing like the fresh, clean feeling of a shower while camping. Isn’t it the best?
Boat shuttle tickets are $25 per person via Waterton Shoreline Cruises and at 10am, we departed the marina and took a 15 minute ride across the lake to Crypt Landing. The pick up times are 4pm & 5:30pm and we planned to be back by 4 for the earlier shuttle. If you want plenty of time to enjoy a lunch break at Crypt Lake, I suggest taking the later boat back.
Along the hike, you can detour to Hell Roaring Canyon, which will add a few kilometers and approximately 45-60 minutes onto the journey. It’s much easier to take the Hell Roaring on the way back from Crypt Lake as you’ll continue to lose elevation. I forgot about this little tidbit and ended up cursing myself, haha.
Along the journey we encountered crystal clear copper creeks, cascading waterfalls, mountain meadows erupting in wildflowers and stunning panoramic views of the Rockies. This hike truly has a little bit of everything.
As we approached the tunnel, I recommended Nick take a few moments to take in the spectacular view and soak it all in. Can you see why National Geographic has rated this one of the world’s most thrilling hikes?
After quickly maneuvering through the tunnel, we ascended up a ledge and made our final push to Crypt Lake. Make sure you take note of the ‘garden walls’ along this last section. Lush ferns, flowers, trickling waterfalls outpour from the sides of the rock wall. So pretty!
We enjoyed a brief rest at Crypt Lake and observed a group of hikers taking dips into the lake. Once one jumped in, they all did. We laughed watching everyone’s reactions to the icy plunge. There was still quite a bit of snow around the backside of the lake and people were using them as toboggan hills INTO the lake.
I was content to simply observe and enjoy a birthday beer instead. I wanted to save my ice bath for the end of the hike when we got back to the beach at Crypt Landing.
When the terrain allows, Nick and I LOVE trail running on the way back from our hikes. Aside from a few slightly more technical sections (like the tunnel), we ran the entire way back to the dock. We had enough time to jump into the lake a couple times and mostly dry off before the boat arrived. The water temperature is about 6C/42F – it’s quite a shock to the system!
When we got back to to the village, we met up with my long-lost friend Jimi at Lakeside Chophouse for dinner on their patio. (I would love to have a small, casual wedding at the Bayshore Inn + Lakeside Chophouse 😉 )
We were so busy chatting the evening away, I forgot to take pictures BUT I did capture this moment of Jimi and Nick at Cameron Lake later on in the evening. I like to think of this place of the ‘Lake Louise of Waterton’.
We all headed back to our campsite and spent another hour or so catching up before we put ourselves to bed.
My favourite birthday tradition is to spend the day in the mountains, hiking, drinking beer and eating. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day! 😀
Over to you:
Do you have any birthday traditions? How did you celebrate your last one?