Sunday, September 5, 2010

Crypt Lake hike, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

Hurrying to make the 9am water taxi with 11 other people on a chilly August morning was almost enough to make anyone want to crawl back into their warm sleeping bag!

In fact, only the thought of the reward ahead was enough to keep away the craving for a second cup of coffee!

I had hiked Crypt Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park two years prior and remembered being awed and amazed, despite hiking it at breakneck speed (my fellow hiker was very adamant about hiking fast!).

This time around, I was accompanied by 11 other hiking enthusiasts, many of whom were seeing the National Park and this exceptional hike for the first time.

Crypt Lake Trail is considered one of Canada’s top rated hiking trails and has numerous exciting surprises for the outdoors fanatic.

Perhaps the most rewarding is the constant change of scenery. After a 15 minute water taxi across Upper Waterton Lake, you are greeted with a series of switchbacks, numerous beautiful waterfalls, expansive open valleys and a delightful array of wildflowers, berries and plant life.

The trail gains a respectable elevation (675m) and culminates in a narrow trail adjacent to a sheer drop, ending at a steep wall with an iron ladder. Climbing the ladder is an easy feet for two legs, but if you are carrying a dog (as did one of our group) it’s a lot more challenging!

Upon reaching the top of the ladder, there is a 20m tunnel that cuts through the mountain and leads out to a trail that runs across an exposed precipice. Whilst not really for the fainthearted, the ledge does have a cable to help in some of the narrowest parts.

Luckily once past this hair-raising part of the hike, the trail ends at Crypt Lake, which is well worth the obstacle course it took to get there.

Surrounded by 600m cliffs, the lake is glacial carved, has stunningly deep green water and is ice-cold!

Sitting precisely on the Canada-US border (the east shore is in the US!), the lake is the perfect spot to lunch, cool down the toes or even cast out a line and fish.

Hiking back down the 8.7km trail only highlights the beautiful scenery even further and it’s with aching feet and a full camera that you arrive back into the town of Waterton. My second experience of hiking this trail only surpassed the first and is still definitely one of my top 5 hikes to date!