The Crypt Lake Hike
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
The Crypt Lake hike, one of Canada's premiere hikes, is located in the south west corner of the province of Alberta in Waterton Lakes National Park. On this hike you'll see multiple waterfalls, gaze at incredible vistas, and climb through a tunnel in a mountain. Since it was not affected by the 2017 Kenow Wildfire that tore through the park, it's there to do for those visiting Waterton. Before you even start the hike though, there are some things to be aware of. To get to the trail head, you have to book a ticket on a boat shuttle that takes you to the dock at Crypt Landing on the Upper Waterton Lake. I highly recommend booking your ticket in advance by going to the office at the Waterton Marina. Prices and departure times can be found by clicking HERE.
The dock at Crypt Landing, where your journey will begin.
Once you arrive at Crypt Landing, you'll follow the well marked trail up into the forest most likely with a lot of other hikers. I always found it best to take the earliest available boat shuttle, so that way I don't feel rushed on the hike. The initial trail climbs into the forest at a moderate pace with some switchbacks. The forest in the early morning has a sort of magical glow about it, and can actually be a little chilly. There is the option shortly into the trail to do a detour to Hell Roaring Falls, but I recommend doing that on the way back to ensure you have enough time to make it back to the boat shuttle.
The first waterfall you'll come to is Twin Falls, which is generally a bit hard to see because of the trees. It makes for a good spot to take your first break of the day as well. Continuing on from there the elevation gain is much easier. The trees will begin to thin out soon though and you'll find yourself exposed and out in the open. A good reminder is to make sure that you have lots of water, have a hat, and are wearing sunscreen, because in the summer this section is hot. From there you'll also come to the next highlight of the hike, Burnt Rock Falls.
The views of Burnt Rock Falls are impressive, and pictures don't do it justice.
Like Twin Falls earlier in the hike, Burnt Rock Falls is also a great place to stop for a break. By this point the heat of the day might just be starting to get intense. The next section of the trail heading towards the tunnel is the hardest part of the hike. You're pretty much completely exposed and into the steepest part of the hike. Switchbacks built into the rock makes for a tougher trek and I found can be a bit hard on the feet. In the distance you'll see Crypt Falls, taunting you with how far away the lake seems to be.
So close but yet so far, am I right?
After what might feel like forever, you'll begin your approach to the famous ladder and tunnel section of the hike.
The lead up to the ladder and tunnel section.
A slightly younger more fit version of myself ready to enter the tunnel.
Climb up the ladder, which is securely bolted into the rock, and you'll be at the entrance to the tunnel. It's only about 4 feet tall and is about 30 meters (or 100 feet), if confined spaces make you uncomfortable. I do make it sound worse than it is. Realistically you're through the tunnel in a matter of a couple minutes maximum. The next part of the hike can also be troublesome especially if you're afraid of heights. Once you get through the tunnel you'll find yourself on a rock face that requires you to hold onto a steel cable to skirt the edge of the mountain. This will lead up towards the next part of the trail.
While doing this part I couldn't help but admire the views of the valley looking back from where I came.
I'd say the "edge" that you're on is about as wide as a sidewalk and a half. So really there's a decent amount of space between you and the cliff edge. Once you're off the ledge and cable section, Crypt Lake is near. You can also make a very short detour near here to go to the top of Crypt Falls. The falls are large and impressive, just be extremely careful to not get close to the edge.
You'll probably feel relief once you get to Crypt Lake finally, and definitely take that well earned break!
Well at this point, you'll have made it to Crypt Lake! I find it's a great place to sit down, relax, and eat some lunch if you brought something. I know Pearls Cafe in the town of Waterton has a bunch of options for snacks and lunches for hikers, so check them out.
A fun fact about Crypt Lake is that the far end of the lake is actually in the USA!
Once you're done at the lake, head back down the trail the way you came. Going down the cable section can be a little freaky, so take your time if you aren't comfortable going quickly. After that though it's pretty much smooth sailing all the way back to the dock at Crypt Landing. On the way down you can also to decide to the optional detour to see Hell Roaring Falls. Sadly I never have due to the time I've spend at Crypt Lake. Wait for the boat shuttle to pick you up, and once you're back at the Waterton Marina you're adventure will be over!
Hopefully you enjoyed reading about the Crypt Lake Hike, for more Waterton hikes click HERE!