Rugged hike above treeline between two high-elevation lakes near Breckenridge.


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Of the many high-elevation basins in the Tenmile Range, Crystal Lakes are an especially rugged and beautiful set of tiered lakes among huge mountainsides.

Nestled in between the east ridgelines of Crystal Peak and Peak 10 just south of Breckenridge, Upper Crystal Lake sits perched several hundred feet above Lower Crystal Lake, along the tumbling Crystal Creek. A 4WD drive road that’s open in summer leads to Lower Crystal Lake, and from there a trail climbs to the upper lake.

Near the parking area sit the remains of an old cabin.

This starting point is already above treeline, at nearly 12,000 feet elevation, and from there the trail climbs even higher.

It traverses above the north side of the lake then makes a few broad switchbacks across alpine tundra meadows and talus to continue upward.

It then resumes a westward traverse, staying mostly level, until reaching Upper Crystal Lake after about 2 miles.

This beautiful blue pool of meltwater sits below the 13,852-foot crown of Crystal Peak. This trail is rewarding in all seasons.

In summer you are likely to see mountain goats and an abundance of wildflowers.

When the snow settles in, the road to Lower Crystal Lakes closes and this approach becomes part of the journey on snowshoes or skis.

You can hike a loop around either lake, then backtrack the rest of the trail to your car. Sources: