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Crypt Lake Trail

An exciting and beautiful trail, which is just as much about the journey as it is the destination.

Hiking Severe

19 km
937 m
934 m
5-6 hrs
Low Point
1.3 km
High Point
2 km
Crypt Lake Trail Map

The Crypt Lake trail in Waterton Lakes National Park should be on every hiker's bucket list. If you are in Waterton and only have time for 1 trail, make sure it's this one.


In 2014 National Geographic rated this as one of the most Thrilling trails in the world, an accolade which is well deserved.

To get to the trailhead most people take the water taxi from Waterton Townsite. This is a short 10 minute journey to the trailhead, where they will also pick you from later in the day. If you are looking to try and beat the crowds here, or just like some extra adventure, you could kayak over to the trailhead from the townsite.

The trail starts by meandering through the colourful forest, which is full of wildflowers if you visit at the right time of year. After a short climb the elevation becomes more gradual and you will start to get your first views of the surrounding valley.

After taking in a number of beautiful waterfalls, the trail starts to climb again as you head above the treeline - this is where the breath-taking views really begin.

As you traverse the valley walls you will be in awe at spectacular scenery. This is a trail where the journey to the lake is just as amazing as the lake itself. From here you can start to get your first look at the ledge and cave that make this such a thrilling and unique trail.

If you are scared of heights, have a fear of confined spaces or are not able to comfortably climb a ladder, then you may not want to continue all the way up to the lake. The ledge is exposed with a severe drop below, however; it's reasonably wide and there are chains to hold onto in the narrowest places.

As for the cave, this unique feature is really fun to go through, but it does require climbing a ladder and a little bit of scrambling to make it to the other side. These features are one of the many things that make this hike so memorable and is the reason it's won so many accolades over the years.

Once you have made it past the cave, it's a short hike up to the picturesque Crypt Lake. This is a beautiful alpine lake and a great place to relax after the difficult hike to get here.

On the way back to the trailhead, you can go via the Hell Roaring Falls trail, which offers fantastic views of the canyon, waterfalls and of Waterton Lake. This is a slightly longer route back, so make sure you have time to complete it before the last water taxi leaves for the day.

Grizzly bears are very common in this area, so carry bear spray and make plenty of noise. Also, the lake doesn't thaw out till late June, so July- Sept is the best time to visit.



Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

between July and September


  • Alpine
  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area