Crypt lake hike views in Waterton
Crypt lake hike views in Waterton

Crypt Lake Hike

Waterton Lakes National Park
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Approaching the tunnel on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaTalus slope and tunnel approach on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaTunnel and ladder on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaCrypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park goes near beautiful Crypt FallsView over the valley on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaValley views on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaCrypt Falls on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaCrypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park has amazing viewsView of the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaCables on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaTalus slope on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaValley views and the trail on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaValley on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaBeautiful views on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaTrail of the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaHell Roaring Falls on the Crypt Lake Hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, CanadaOne of several waterfalls seen along the Crypt Lake trailSteep part of the trail to the Crypt LakeHiker approaching the cave on Crypt Lake HikeMountain views along the Crypt lake trailHikers on a chain part of the trail to Crypt Lake

Crypt Lake Hike

Distance: 10.8mi
Elevation: 2,264ft
Time: 5-7h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
9.7 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty

Waterton’s Crypt Lake hike is a spectacular trail that has it all. It begins with a boat ride to the trailhead, passing four waterfalls en route. There is a ladder, a tunnel, and a chain you cling to as you traverse a cliff, you may want to hold off on the chains if you aren’t comfortable with heights though. For experienced hikers, this is a must-do adventure route and one of the Triple Crown hikes in Waterton.

Crypt Lake Trail Map

Getting there

Crypt Lake requires a ferry crossing to reach the trailhead which departs from the Waterton Marina in Waterton townsite. See “Insider Tips” for booking details.

I’ve done this 31 people have done this
I want to do this 19 want to do this route

About

When to do

July to late September

Backcountry Campsites

No (closed)

Toilets

Yes, at closed backcountry campground

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

High

Route Type

Out and back


Crypt Lake Hike
Elevation Graph


Crypt Lake Trail Description

Start the Crypt Lake Hike by taking a 20-minute ferry ride across Upper Waterton Lake from the marina to Crypt Landing. Although the trailhead is also approachable by hiking – a level trail on the eastern shoreline – save yourself the added 9.3mi trek and take the ferry. You won’t regret it.

Taking a ferry with 40 or so other passengers means you won’t be alone on this hike. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When travelling through a park with a large grizzly population, there’s safety in numbers.

After being dropped off at Crypt Landing, look for the signed trailhead on your right. The trail initially travels through forests of pine and fir on moderately graded switchbacks. In just 1312ft from the trailhead, you’ll reach a junction with Hell Roaring Falls. Stay left at the Hell Roaring Falls junction to stay on the main trail.

To get to the falls, take a side trip through the gorge on a narrow, rustic trail. It is less than 1.2mi, but it is best done on the return from Crypt Lake (if time allows), as it is a strenuous grind re-joining the main trail. If you do take the side trip now, at 1.9mi the Hell Roaring Falls trail merges back on the main trail; continue to stay left for the main trail.

At 2.3mi, you’ll reach a junction for Twin Falls. Take the short detour to gaze at the falls before returning to the junction and staying left for the main trail. Continue through the forest on a pleasant path, crossing several creeks. Eventually the path will become rockier until you emerge from the trees at 3.4mi. From here you’ll have impressive views of Burnt Rock Falls ahead.

The rocky trail gains elevation rapidly for the next 1.2mi as you climb above the falls to views of the striking Crypt Falls, that drops 499ft to the basin below. In the basin above Crypt Falls lies Crypt Lake – the destination – and above the basin towers Wilson Range in Glacier National Park. To the left of the trail is Vimy Ridge, and to the right Mount Boswell dominates the view.

The trail switchbacks up rocky talus slopes, gaining elevation fairly rapidly; we find soaking in the atmosphere helps alleviate the challenge of the ascent. The view astounds and confuses; how does one reach the basin above the falls? As you get closer, you can see the trail crossing a talus slope in the distance, then disappearing. But first, you’ll re-enter the forest and pass the now-closed Crypt Lake campground where a pit toilet is still functional on the left side of the trail.

Exiting the trees, you will cross a stream on large rocks before turning South across the gray talus slope spied from a distance. Although the trail is narrow and crosses a long, steep slope, it is angled towards the mountain, giving a sense of safety. The path continues to a small flat landing area with a metal ladder, bolted to the rock. This leads you into a tunnel blasted into the cliff wall. The 66ft tunnel is wide but not tall, maxing out at 1m, requiring an awkward crouch to travel through.

Airy views and another challenge awaits on the other side of the tunnel. After crawling through, drop down several feet to the rocky ledge clinging to the side of the cliff wall with a 656ft drop-off. The 39ft long path is fairly wide and has a steel cable along its length, reducing the risk. However, those with a fear of heights may struggle at this point and are advised to turn back.

The final push to the lake is fairly level. At the junction, stay left for Crypt Lake – right is a short jaunt to view Crypt Falls as it plunges down to the lake below. The main trail has one last little climb over some rocks before the lake comes into view and the trail drops to meet the lake. The lake is surrounded by headwalls and is a beautiful place to sit and enjoy some well-earned rest. If you still have some energy, there is an international path around the lake – the south end of the lake crosses the border into Montana.

After some refreshment and water refills, return the way you came. Count on half an hour less than the time it took to arrive at the lake to return to Crypt Landing.

Hiking trail highlights

Crypt Lake

Crypt Lake is a stunning emerald green lake that houses one of the most thrilling trails in the world according to National Geographic.

Crypt Falls

Crypt Falls is found along Crypt Lake Trail and pours down from Crypt Lake into smaller pools below.

Hell-Roaring Falls

Follow the Crypt Lake Trail on a steep ascent to get a glimpse of Hell Roaring Falls that cascades through the trees and down rock formations.

Other amazing walks in Waterton Lakes National Park

Check out our guides to Bertha LakeCameron Lake or Red Rock Canyon. Or see all our hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park on 10Adventures.

Insider Hints

  • The ferry price is $25 for adults and boats depart daily in the summer months at 8:30, 9:00 and 10:00AM. Return rides depart from the Crypt Landing at 4:00 and 5:30PM. Check out the schedule and pricing at Waterton Shoreline Cruise Company

  • Focus on the time on this hike, because if you miss the last ferry back to Waterton townsite from Crypt Landing, you’ll be spending the night huddled on the shoreline. Remember you’re on a schedule and give yourself plenty of time to make the return from Crypt Lake to the landing.

  • If you have a strong fear of heights, you may prefer to end the hike before the tunnel and ladder section; the chain traverse is not the time to conquer acrophobia. However, many folks with a mild fear of heights have no difficulty with this at all. Get advice from someone who knows you and the trail.

  • After hiking to Crypt Lake, rehydrate with an adult beverage at the Thirsty Bear Socialhouse in Waterton townsite.

Comments

SnivyVixel 1 year ago

Absolutely Stunning Hike!!! 100% Worth the Length and Time! I wanted to do this hike again immediately after we were done! But don't be fooled either, it definitely isn't an easy hike. It was hard on my knees, even my husband said something about his and he usually never does. (However we should have worn better shoes, we didn't actually have proper hiking shoes on.) We also missed the Ferry back to town by 15 minutes... but thank god the awesome guys from Blakiston & Co. in Waterton gave us a lift back to shore or we would have been stuck walking another 10km or staying the night on the dock.... The terrain here changes often, but its quite rocky the entire way, so again make sure you have good shoes. The Technical aspect of this hike isn't very hard, but it is a little intimidating. Make sure you have gloves for the cables as some parts are frayed, and may cut your hands. There is a total of 4 Waterfalls on this hike, not to mention all the extra little creeks along the way, and they are all absolutely gorgeous! And Crypt Lake itself is magnificent, but make sure you leave yourself enough time to stay a bit, as I am sure you will want it. You could even have a lovely swim if you wanted! By far one of the best hikes I have done yet! Totally worth it! Will be doing this one again ASAP!

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
8h 15m Time Taken
ddelaloye 2 years ago

A must do hike!!

10.0 Overall Rating
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Physical Difficulty
6h 15m Time Taken
ddelaloye 2 years ago

One of our favourite Waterton hikes. Busy day given the great early autumn weather. A must do, especially if you enjoy majestic waterfalls.

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
6h 15m Time Taken
ddelaloye 2 years ago

One of our favourite hikes in Waterton! Busy day on the trail given the great early autumn weather. Must do if you like majestic waterfalls.

10.0 Overall Rating
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Physical Difficulty
6h 15m Time Taken
hikertom12 2 years ago

One of the most memorable hikes I've done. Truly a bit of everything, but the chain might be a bit scary to newbies. Loved every second.

LyleM 2 years ago

A must do when visiting Waterton. Don't let any difficult reviews stop you from doing this hike, it's easy as long as you dont have a voice in your head telling you to quit.

10.0 Overall Rating
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Christopher Trujillo 2 years ago

Nice hike through the forest and then on to the alpine. A short narrow traverse and crawl through a cave, another death-defying traverse and you are almost there. Your reward is a breathtaking view!

10.0 Overall Rating
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Sammy Rickson 2 years ago

Fantastic hike with superb scenery. Enjoyed traversing the cliff. A bit dangerous but exciting.

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Agfa P. 2 years ago

The trail initially travels through forests of pine and fir. Great place to explore. A must-do hike for experienced hikers.

10.0 Overall Rating
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Aaron P. 2 years ago

One of the most beautiful hikes I have done so far. Definitely recommended for all ages. Be careful if you're afraid of heights, expect to be scared just a little bit.

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
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21 Comments Show all

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