I have wanted to hike to Crypt Lake since I moved to Waterton. It is rated one of the best hikes in Canada and so I had to do it. Yesterday I finally got my chance with my little cousin Quinton. Guides say that this hike is about 8.7 km each way and takes about 6 hours round trip. It took Quinton and I 6.25 hours to complete it and we ran down for 20 minutes so I would suggest you schedule at least 7 hours for it.

To get to the trail head you need to take a shuttle or get yourself over via some sort of water vessel. The shuttle is through Waterton Cruise Line and is $20 for a round trip shuttle. This year their shuttle times are at 9 am and 10 am and return shuttles are at 4pm and 5:30 pm.

The shuttle left at the same time as the Scenic Cruise, which I got to take on my Goat Haunt hike last year.

At the trailhead

Scenic views from the start

The first part of the hike is very easy, it is flat and through an alpine forest. There is a sign about 1km in to go to Hell Roaring Falls which is 1km off trail. The guide on our shuttle suggested doing that on the way back and I can see why, I was too beat on the way down to add another 2km onto my hike.

Flat path for the first little bit

Quinton opted to hike in his wrestling singlet

I was stoked to see my first  bear grass at the beginning of this hike. I usually hike later in the year (Late July- September) and miss it.

Bear grass

After a slow, meandering, and flat walk through the trees the trail started to climb and we came upon a cave underneath a large snow pack.  Of course we had to go under it and explore.

This is what we saw from the trail

So of course we crawled under to check it out

It was pretty cool. I peed in it because it gave me complete privacy.

After this ice cave we started to ascend out of the tree line and into rocky terrain. There were a number of switch backs, I didn’t even notice how many until the way back down.

The climb begins

Bye trees! hello rocks and snow!

This was the point where we also started to encounter snow on the trail. The boat guide said there was some snow but we weren’t aware of how much snow we would be walking through on this hike. One older couple couldn’t continue on because they didn’t feel safe trying to walk across the slick snow pack on such a steep incline.

All this was just the beginning of all the snow we would encounter

Luckily my hiking shoes have great traction. Quinton was in running shoes so he had a harder time

After a lot of switchbacks and snow covered areas the falls came into view and we were getting closer to the ledge and the cave.

We kept getting closer and closer to the falls

We passed through what used to be a back country campground, complete with hitching post for horses.  I wish Parks Canada still allowed camping there because that would be an amazing overnight trip.

As we approached the ledge and cave we looked down into the valley and saw this spectacular view.

The gorgeous view down the valley


Quinton walking along the ledge toward the cave

Then we got to the cave! Yeah! This was what I had been waiting for. You climb a metal ladder and then have to crouch and crawl through a short cave to get to the other side.

Up the ladder he goes

That’s a pretty small space to crawl through. You feel like a hiking rock star in there

Quinton crawling through

Coming out of the cave

The view on the way out

After the cave you get to walk along a narrow rock ledge past Crypt Falls. A steel cable has been installed for safety as it’s a long drop down. I felt like the most hard core hiker ever walking along that ledge.

  • Along the narrow ledge

    An amazing view of the falls from here

After the ledge it is a short uphill walk to the lake. However,  it was anything but easy because the trail was completely covered in snow from this point on!

Up to my thigh in snow

Here is a short video of us slipping and sliding through all the snow.

But then we finally made it to the lake. It was still almost completely covered in snow!

By the lake. My cheap camera could not get the whole scope of the lake and mountains in one shot

After a peaceful lunch by the lake we headed back down the mountain.

Down the ladder

Walking down the mountain

Here is where our hike gets a little funny. When we hit tree level again and the path flattened out Quinton told me it was 3:40 and if we ran we might make the 4 p.m. shuttle and not have to wait until 5:30 p.m. I thought we were pretty close to the landing so off we went running down this trail. After a long uphill climb, and manoeuvring through the snow my legs were dead and I was huffing and puffing. Quinton is training for a marathon so he was gone. I was able to push through it by imagining there were zombies chasing me and I had to run or die. But when he yelled we had four minutes and we hadn’t passed the sign for Hell Roaring Falls I knew we had miscalculated and were definitely not going to make it. I started walking and told Quinton to go ahead and jog on for the work out.  We were still about a half hour walk away from the landing! All that running for nothing!! Tsk! Tsk!

I made back to the dock by 4:45 and had 45 minutes to sit by the water and relax and stretch.

Looking from the dock to the town site

The shore

All in all it was an amazing day and accomplishment. Of course I went to Pearls to sign up for the Triple Crown Challenge. This will finally be my year I accomplish it!

However, I will say that I found the scenery even prettier on Goat Haunt and that was a super easy hike, no climbing. So if you are a beginner hiker or have bad news but want a beautiful hike, give it a shot.


  • walktassie July 3, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Looks like a great day out.

  • Rod July 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I’m not sure what ended up leading me to your blog, but … I’m in the Lethbridge area and still kind of new to the area and I’d enjoy joining up with you and your friends for hikes or other adventures!

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    […]  summer I was told I was missing out on life by not partying with my friends. But the next day I hiked to Crypt Lake in Waterton and it was one of the most incredible hikes of my life. I feel that while I was out in […]

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    […] 3. Crypt Lake Hike This is one of Canada’s top rated hikes for a good reason! No other hike makes you feel like a maverick hiker better than this one. You have to take a shuttle (or kayak) across the lake from the town site to the trail head. Guide books say that this hike is about 8.7 km each way and takes about 6 hours round trip. It took my cousin and I a total of 6 hours and 15 minutes to complete it and we ran down for 20 minutes so I would suggest you schedule at least 7 hours for it. The climb itself is moderate but it’s a long distance. The best part is when you are almost to the lake and you have to walk through the small cave and then walk along the rock ledge hanging on to an iron cable.  Most people who visit the park make the time to do this hike because it is such an incredible experience.  Read more here. […]

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