4 to 6 hours / 18K return
Elevation Gain: 710m
on the east side of Waterton Lake in Waterton National Park. Boat shuttles
depart from the boat dock in the town of Waterton.
The hike to Crypt Lake may be
considered the most unique hike in
the world. It has been rated by
several outdoor organizations as the
best hike in Canada and in the top
10 internationally. It starts with a
15 minute scenic boat ride across Upper
Waterton Lake. Once on the trail you
pass by 4 classic waterfalls before
reaching Crypt Lake headwall
where you climb a bolted 8 rung
steel ladder, crouch & crawl through
natural tunnel, traverse
along an exposed narrow cliff ledge
protected by a steel cable
then arrive at a beautiful tarn lake
that is located in both Canada and
the United States. However, with all that said
there is a major down side. Expect hoards of people and no solitude.
Within minutes one
boat can off load as many as 100
hikers at the trailhead.
You may want to skip this
hike if you're afraid of heights or
you don't have the stamina to hike 18km
return with a total elevation gain
within a 6-7 hour window. Allow 3
hours to the lake. The boat arrives
at the trailhead around 9:30am and
picks up twice, 4pm and 5:30pm. Check with the boat operator before
heading out. If you're in
reasonable shape with a few recent
hikes behind you, you should be
fine. I was amazed at the number of
tourists on our boat that had never
hiked before. Several individuals were
overwhelmed and turned back
to wait for the return boat.
A few words of advice,
collapse your poles and place them in your day pack when you arrive at the
ladder going up
and again at the cable when
you're in the tunnel remove your
day pack and carry it in front of you. If the
ladder or cliff ledge looks busy wait for the crowds to dissipate. On hot days
carry at least two liters of water. Early season travelers should be aware that
there is a wide avalanche
slope with a fatal run out just past the cliff ledges. Hike elsewhere if snow lies above tree line. On the return trip it's worth the
effort to hike past Hell Roaring Falls. This short extension loops back to the main trail so there
is very little added distance. Crypt Lake offers good Cutthroat Trout fishing.
You'll need a
to try your luck, check regulations for closures. Ice is usually off the first week of July.
Local campgrounds include
Bertha Lake back country campground shown in photos below,
Alderson Lake back country campground,
Canyon, Rowe Lakes and
Wall Lake are
also located in this area.
You are in bear country.