Crystal Lakes, Lawn Lake Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Crystal Lakes - 16.1 Miles
Lawn Lake Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||16.1 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,540' - 11,511' (11,546' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,971' net elevation gain (+3,108' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
The Crystal Lakes are located 8 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park's lightly traveled Mummy Range. The lakes, separated only by rocky outcrops and sedge, occupy an immense tundra cirque directly beneath Fairchild Mountain (13,502'). Big Crystal Lake is thought to be the deepest in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Visitors will enjoy diverse forests, miles of river access, a stop at Lawn Lake, and spectacular alpine scenery on the hike to Crystal Lakes:
The Lawn Lake Trail climbs 534' to the level east bank of Roaring River with good views over Horseshoe Park on the ascent (1.0 mile : 9,074'). The trail turns north upstream to the Ypsilon Lake Trail split (1.45 miles : 9,190'), a shorter but comparably challenging alternative to Lawn and Crystal Lakes.
The trail rises steadily through intervals of lodgepole, fir, and aspen to the split for a trio of backcountry campsites on the west bank of Roaring River (2.9 miles : 9,632'). This designated crossing provides safe river access for anglers.
The trail keeps a moderate pace through heavy timber before emerging in a wide flat (5.35 miles : 10,700') with good views north of Mummy Mountain (13,425'). It passes the Black Canyon Trail split (5.8 miles : 10,827') and climbs into a band of old-growth spruce (6.0 miles).
The trail emerges from the forest and traces the flower-riddled outlet stream to the open south shore of Lawn Lake (6.45 miles : 10,987'). No horses are permitted beyond this point.
Lawn Lake is one of Rocky Mountain National Park's largest subalpine lakes. Its perimeter is long, flat and easy to explore. Mummy Mountain looms east, while Fairchild Mountain (13,502') and Hagues Peak (13,560') stand north of an unnamed 12,541' peak directly over Lawn Lake's west shore.
The trail undulates up the east shore of Lawn Lake, clearing treeline at 7.25 miles (11,125'). This gorgeous area is highlighted by an array of wildflowers, braided streams, and striking views of Fairchild Mountain, Hagues Peak, and Mummy Mountain.
The trail reaches 'The Saddle' - Crystal Lakes Trail split at 7.85 miles (11,400') and bears left toward the center of the valley. It crests at 11,546', then drops from the east to west side of the valley. The trail nadirs at the base of a waterfall and begins a steep climb up the valley's west side.
The trail is generally easy to follow but may be obscured by overgrowth, runoff, or lingering snow. If unable to follow the precise route, use the waterfall and Fairchild Mountain for guidance (Crystal Lakes sit just beneath Fairchild Mountain; do not follow the waterfall, as it leads away from the lakes).
You'll pass a large pond just before reaching Little Crystal Lake (7.95 miles : 11,511'), and thread a series of immense boulders to Big Crystal Lake (8.05 miles : 11,511').
Large boulders around each encumber exploration, but creative maneuvering will lead to favorable vantages of this vast alpine area.
- Autumn travelers will enjoy terrific colors, and stand a good chance of seeing elk in the Horseshoe Park area. Winter visitors may see bighorn sheep that come down for salt licks in the vicinity.
- The Roaring River's high banks are unstable and prone to slides and collapse; steer clear of its edges.
- Exercise caution when maneuvering about Crystal Lakes' shore, as some boulders are precariously shaped and positioned.
- 'The Saddle' is a 12,398' pass between Fairchild Mountain and Hagues Peak.
- Be mindful of changing weather and leave ample time to get below treeline.
- There's a Ranger Patrol Cabin at Lawn Lake.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Permits are required for all overnight stays. Fires are not permitted within Rocky Mountain National Park. Camp safely away from dead trees, as close as possible to the silver metal arrowhead posted at each site. Red arrowheads on trees provide additional guidance to each campsite from the main trail:
The Ypsilon Creek, Cutbank and Golden Banner sites are located on the west bank of Roaring River. A spur from the Lawn Lake Trail (2.9 miles, +1,092') crosses the river and forks with access to each:
- Cutbank Backcountry Camspite
- The Cutbank site is located 2.6 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 9,620'. There's one individual site with access to a privy. The site is located in a lodgepole forest on the west side of Roaring River. Water is available from Roaring River.
- The Ypsilon Creek site is located 2.9 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 9,560'. There's one individual site with access to a privy. The site is located in a lodgepole forest above the confluence of Ypsilon Creek and Roaring River on the west side of Roaring River. Water is available from both sources.
- The Golden Banner site is located 2.9 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 9,600'. There's one individual site with access to a privy. The site is located in a lodgepole forest on the west side of Roaring River (.3 miles north of the river crossing). Water is available from Roaring River.
- The Lawn Lake site is located 6.2 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 10,987'. There are 4 individual sites and a llama-stock site, each with access to a privy. The sites are located in a spruce-fir forest on the north side of the lake, west of the Patrol Cabin. Water is available from the lake, but ideally taken from the inlet. Lawn Lake was once a man-enlarged lake, but the dam broke in 1982 causing considerable flooding downstream and forming the Alluvial Fan and Fan Lake. The lake now exists at its original level.
- The Upper Chipmunk site is located 4.2 miles from the Lawn Lake Trailhead at 10,640'. There are two individual sites and a privy. The sites are located northeast of the Ypsilon Lake trail between Chipmunk Lake and Ypsilon Lake in a dense pine forest. Water is available from the outlet of the pond or from Ypsilon Lake. The water is slow moving and a filter would be helpful in addition to your purification measures.
Ypsilon Creek Backcountry Campsite
Golden Banner Backcountry Campsite
Lawn Lake Backcountry Campsite
Ypsilon Lake - Upper Chipmunk Backcountry Campsite
- Only catch and release fishing is permitted along the Roaring River, Lawn Lake, Crystal Lakes and Ypsilon Lake drainages.
The Crystal Lakes are reached from the Lawn Lake Trailhead in the north-central section of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Lawn Lake Trailhead is located 5.0 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station.
The Lawn Lake Trailhead is located 2 miles north of Highway 36 along Fall River Road.
From the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, continue west on Highway 36 past Bear Lake Road to Deer Ridge Junction (3 miles). Turn Right at Deer Ridge Junction onto highway 34 and drive 1.9 miles to Fall River Road. Turn left onto Fall River Road and the Lawn Lake Trailhead will be immediately on your right-hand side.
Rocky Mountain National Park