Some of the claims about the Crypt Lake hike:

  • Voted Canada’s best hike
  • One of the top 10 day hikes in the world by National Geographic
  • One of the most thrilling trails in the world by National Geographic

We better go check this one out!

Quick Stats

Might as well start at the beginning, Waterton lakes. That is the famous Prince of Wales Hotel in the morning. The first obstacle is that the trailhead to Crypt Lake is on the other side of the Upper Waterton Lake. You are either going for a very long walk around the lake, a very lengthy icy cold swim, or probably the best option, a 15-minute boat ride.
I’m on a boat! The town of Waterton and dock we just departed from is on the right. The Crypt Lake trail head is on the left and down the lake a way. The boat only sails 3 times each way during high season and only once a day during low season when we are visiting. You can only book up to 3 days before your trip and only in-person. We just bought our tickets the morning of. I’m told in high season this may not be possible. Prices and details here:
After a 15-minute ride with an entertaining guide telling stories along the way, the boat drops you off. It doesn’t hang around to make sure you are okay; you are on your own from here on.
The trail starts off in a nice cool forest setting. The problem with taking a boat becomes apparent. Everybody starts on the trail at the same time. The cluster of hikers slowly starts to spread out but if you are a fast hiker looking for solitude, you’re going to get stuck behind slower, potentially oblivious hikers.
In short time you gain elevation, and the views start to open up. Upper Waterton Lake here. The scars from the devastating 2017 wildfires are still apparent. The area around the Crypt Lake hiking trail was not affected by the fires.
As the forest starts to thin out, the trail starts heading up the valley toward the headwall below Crypt Lake. Along the way there are many waterfalls to check out. I’m sure in the spring they are even more spectacular.
As you head up, the terrain changes from forest to rocky. The going is not difficult, and the trail is obvious.
As we climb up the valley, the scale of Crypt Falls is impressive. It is about 150m tall and the lake we are heading to is somewhere above the top of this waterfall.
And that means more switchbacks. But it does keep the slope of the trail reasonable as you quickly gain height.
Now we can see the interesting part of the hike. The trail crosses the scree slope and then disappears into the cave on the right. We will head through the cave, over some exposed ledges and then up to Crypt Lake which is just out of sight on the right-hand side of this photo.
After finishing the switchbacks, we head up and angle across the large scree slope. It looks like the trail will just end due to the large rockface blocking the route.
Sian crosses the first narrow ledge. It is about 50cm wide so completely manageable, but you wouldn’t want to slip and fall here.
As the ledges end, you get to the bottom of the cave. It is just under 7Km to this point and will take about 2 hours at a leisurely pace. If you’re as grossed out by the ladder as Sian is, you could scramble up on the right I suppose.
And into the cave. It is about 30 meters long.
Light at the end of the tunnel.
View of the Crypt Falls as you exit the tunnel. Crypt Lake is right above the falls. We just need to get around this rocky outcrop next.
Which means traversing another narrow ledge. This one has a steel cable bolted to the rock you can hang on to. You wouldn’t want to slip off here.
From the ledge, a look back down the valley we hiked up. From here, it is just a short jaunt to the lake. Click here for part 2:

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