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 when hiking to Crypt Lake in Waterton.
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.
An Easy 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 best part of the hike- 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.
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.
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!
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!
And back down we go
After a peaceful lunch by the lake we headed back 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.
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.