The Crystal Lake Trail begins near the Juniper Lake Campground in the eastern reaches of Lassen Volcanic National Park and makes an excellent addition for anyone camping here. The trail rises at a rate of 1,125 feet per mile, which is mighty steep. However, since it’s only 0.4 mile, you’ll gladly accept the challenge to gain the good graces of Crystal Lake, one of the most precious jewels of Lassen Volcanic National Park. You can swim the inviting waters, picnic near the shores, explore nearby ridges, or just sit and absorb the beauty and magnificence of this special spot.
Crystal Lake Trail Key Data
Distance: 0.8 mile round trip
Type: Day hike
Elevation gain: 450 feet
High point: 7250 feet
Season: late June through mid-October
Contact: Lassen Volcanic National Park
Maps: USGS 7.5′ Mount Harkness, Lassen Volcanic National Park brochure
Nearest campground: Juniper Lake Campground
Crystal Lake Trailhead GPS coordinates: N 40 27.258 W 121 17.768
Notes: dogs prohibited
Crystal Lake Trailhead Directions
Drive Highway 36 to Chester, go 100 feet east of the North Fork Feather River Bridge, then head north on Feather River Drive. Bear right after 0.7 mile. Travel on pavement for another 5.5 miles; then the road surface turns to rough dirt (too rough for trailers). Continue 12.3 miles to the parking area on the right (0.3 mile past the turnoff to Juniper Lake Campground).
Hiking the Crystal Lake Trail
Start the brisk climb with the pleasant company of red fir, lodgepole pine, bush chinquapin, and pinemat manzanita as you travel near Crystal Lake’s usually dry outlet creek. Continue up the rock-studded trail, noting the appearance of Jeffrey pine at 0.2 mile, along with a few greenleaf manzanita. Stop to gather energy and look west for impressive vistas, then push on with the certain knowledge that the views will be even better when you reach you destination. As you approach the last switchback before reaching Crystal Lake, look up to the right for a glimpse of a few western juniper trees, the namesake for Juniper Lake.
Let your pounding heart and bellowing lungs calm to normal rates as you take in the glacially formed lake and its near surroundings. The Crystal Cliffs and other ridges to the east rise 300 feet above the water’s surface. To see these ridges reflected in the water, take a stroll along the 0.2-mile trail that circumnavigates the lake.
Climb the rocky knob on the south side of the outlet creek and park yourself near one of the western juniper trees. From here, you have an exquisite view: The broad expanse of Juniper Lake spreads out below, with the chain of prominent volcanoes from Brokeoff Peak to Lassen Peak and Chaos Crags jutting up farther to the west. Look south at the summit of Mount Harkness, then beyond to Lake Almanor and the broad spine of the northern Sierra Nevada.
More Lassen Volcanic National Park Hiking Trails
I’ve written two books that have all the best trails in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions has 16 hikes in the park, while 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California, fourth edition, has 10 hikes. Both are available at many bookstores in Northern California, always from Amazon here and here, and frequently at the two visitor centers in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Also see the nearby Inspiration Point Trail.
Have you hiked the trail? What did you think? Any questions or comments? Share below!