Waterton National Park
Time: 6 hours
Distance: 18 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 700 m
How to Get There: To access the Crypt Lake trail you must first cross Waterton Lake, either on your own, or by taking the commercial ferry ride ($22 round trip in 2015 (adult)). It's an enjoyable 20 minute trip. You could save the $22 and walk or bike in from the Chief Mountain Hwy, but that would add about 15km to your day. At Crypt Landing just follow the crowd, or be the first and follow the trail to your right, past the sign.
In order to clear my head before a big interview I had on the 28th, Kim and I decided to go down to Waterton to take advantage of the beautiful weekend weather. Though the weather didn't end up being quite as nice as we hoped, we still were able to complete the hike and it was by far one of my favorites so far! The day was overcast and a tad windy. In order to do this hike, you first have to ride the boat ($22 round trip) to the trailhead which is across Waterton Lakes. We got to the trail head at around 10:30 am and then set off. Right away, the hike starts off into a bunch of switchbacks. It was beautiful because we were able to hike through a lot of golden foliage. After about ten minutes, you can see the turn off to the right that indicates the trail to stop by Hell Roaring Falls.
Kim and I decided that we would do this part of the hike another day as we already had a bit of a time limit since we had to be back at the boat at 5:30 pm. One of the downfalls of this hike is its popularity. There were over 30 other people hiking it at the same time so it was a bit crowded at the beginning. However, after about 45 minutes, the crowd started to lengthen out. This is also when the first switchbacks come to an end (around this point is also where you can see where the Hell Roaring Falls trail comes back around and meets with the original trail). After walking for a few more minutes, you eventually find yourself at Twin Falls.
Kim and I stopped for a snack here (as did a few other people), took a few pictures and then headed off again. The next portion of the hike is fairly easy as it is mostly flat since you are making your way through the valley. It follows along a river until you find yourself close to the treeline. This is where the second (and more difficult) series of switch backs begin. As you make your way up the first couple of switchbacks, you are greeted with a view of Burnt Rock Falls. It is a very impressive waterfall.
Then you continue up a never ending series of switchbacks until you get to an old abandoned campsite where there is still a working outhouse. From off in the distance, you can see where you will have to climb up a ladder that will lead to the infamous caves and cables. After hopping across a small creek, Kim and I made our way across the trail that was getting smaller and smaller (and the cliff beside it was getting sharper and sharper!). I went up the ladder first and then she followed.
The cave itself was a bit uncomfortable and you definitely have to bend down in order not to hit your head.
That's when we got to the spookiest part. The cables are there to make sure you don't fall of the side of the three foot wide trail. There is a nerve-wracking part where you have to pull yourself up the cable but luckily the whole thing only lasted a few minutes and then we were back on solid ground. After that, the trail loops around through some thick but tiny cedar trees and then you are at Crypt Lake!
The lake itself was a bit dull looking because the sun wasn't out but we still enjoyed sitting by the shoreline and eating our lunch. We were even greeted by an adorable and human-friendly chipmunk (note: this chipmunk was probably so human-friendly because people keep feeding it food. This is not okay!)
Sitting by the lake proved to be a bit chilly so Kim put on a ridiculous blue sweater before we started back the way we came. We took a small detour to take a few pictures by the giant Crypt Waterfall and then continued on our way.
I found the way back to be a bit easier when I was on the cables, most likely because I knew what to expect.
Making our way back down provided us with a good chance to enjoy the scenery a bit more (because we weren't fighting our way uphill). Kim got some really good pictures of all of the fall colors!
We made it back with a few minutes to spare and then were picked up by the boat and whisked back to Waterton. I definitely plan to do the hike again next year!