Friday, October 11, 2013

Crystal Lake Trailhead, Wasatch Cache NF, Utah

Crystal Lake

Updated: July 5, 2016. The scenery here is spectacular. (WARNING:  The trails have some extremely rocky portions.  A barefoot horse in superb condition might be able to handle it without boots, but I would highly recommend boots or shoes for these trails.)  This trailhead is right by Washington Lake Campground.  Horses are not allowed IN that campground.  Primitive camping is allowed in the National Forest except where noted.  A Horse Campground is located abut 15 minutes away at Mirror Lake.  We have camped there and it is nice for a base camp for these trails.  However, now we do these as day rides.  This works well for us because it is only a 2 hour drive.  These amazing rides are only available from about July 1 to sometime in September.  The rest of the year, the roads are closed due to snow.  The elevations are over 10,000 ft.
Signs will tell you to stop and pay a $6 fee (as of 2016, the signs have been removed), which you are welcome to do, but the ranger we talked last time said they aren't checking for parking passes because the legality of collecting it hasn't been determined. At any rate, a Senior citizen Golden Age or National Park pass will also suffice. Just put it in your window.

(Click on any photo to open a slide show of enlarged images.)

Take State Road 150 out of Kamas. (You can google map Washington Lake for better directions).  Take the Trial Lake/Washington Lake turn off.  There is horse parking as shown on the map below. There is a one mile ride to get to the Trailhead.  The forest service would prefer that horse trailers NOT park at the Crystal lake trailhead.  There is very little room there and would have to arrive by 8 am to get a spot and then run the risk of being hemmed in by cars. So, better just to park at the Horse parking area where there is plenty of room.

Total Distance for the Island Lake-Long Lake ride: 11.15 miles; Maximum altitude: 10,344 ft.; Ascent: 1,443 ft; Trail conditions: 70% rocky, 20% dirt/gravel, 10% slick rock and really rocky;  There are a few "dicey" rock stairs, one by Long Lake that required us to get off and lead the horses down.
Here is a link to GPS tracks to Island Lake via Long Lake and other helpful descriptions:

Approaching the "dicey" stairs.

Some more of the "dicey" stairs.

No Name Pond

On the switchbacks up to Island Lake

Just about to Island Lake

Beautiful Island Lake

Island Lake...our lunch spot had this view.

Rain clouds moved in as we rode out.  You can expect afternoon showers 50% of the time.

Much of the trail was this rocky or WAY more.  Rocks of every different size and shape, plus a lot of sharp gravel.
Weir Lake-Duck Lake Trail: total distance: 11.38 miles; Maximum Altitude: 10,310 ft.; Ascent/Descent: around 1,700 ft. Trail conditions:  65% Rocky, 35% gravel/dirt.
For the first few miles, this trail is the same as the Island Lake, then a turn off is made to Duck-Marjorie-Weir Lakes.  I actually preferred this trail. Less rocky, more scenic.  It is MUCH less traveled and had more of a wilderness feel.  Horse packing-camping is allowed. There are somewhat established campsites at each of the major lakes.

We turned in this little side trail to an un-named pond.  There was someone camping in this great spot.  I named this pond "Hobbit Pond" cuz it's so precious and tiny.

We circled around Hobbit Pond.  Mount Watson in the background.

Lovely grove of trees by Hobbit Pond.

There was a lot of "slick" rock, but it wasn't as slick as sandstone.

View of Weir Lake.  This one has a dam at the end.

Weir Lake

We also passed Pot Lake (short for Teapot)
Interesting rock just before Duck Lake

Gorgeous Duck Lake
Perfect lunch spot at Duck Lake, July 4, 2016, not another soul in sight, empty wilderness campground

Duck Lake...the cliffs behind are the ones we went up to Island Lake 2 weeks before.

"Hobbit Pond", July 4, 2016

Typical of much of the trail

Washington Lake, right next to the campground, August, 2013

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