Nestled in an alpine bowl between Mammoth Crest and the 10,364 foot Crystal Crag, Crystal Lake treats visitors to backcountry solitude, lakeside camping, and backcountry fishing.
- Anglers enjoy pristine backcountry fishing.
- Primitive backcountry campsites are available around the lakeshore.
- Explore the area on a horseback riding tour.
Visitors hike to Crystal Lake for spectacular views of Crystal Crag as well as pristine backcountry camping, and abundant backcountry fishing.
Crystal Lake is part of the Upper Lake’s basin along with T.J. Lake, Barrett Lake, Skeleton Lake, McLeod Lake. All of these lakes are in relatively close proximity to each other, and many lakes can be seen on the same visit. These lakes are not accessible by vehicle and can only be reached on foot.
Location & Information
Access this hike from the Lake George parking lot. The trailhead begins at the north end of the parking area.
From Lake Mary Road outside Mammoth Lakes, continue southwest, until you cross the bridge over Twin Lakes. At approximately four miles, find a store where you’ll turn left, across the Lake Mary Outlet. Find the junction of Lake George Road where you’ll turn right. The parking lot if 0.3 miles down the road. The road to Lake George closes seasonally, so access to the Upper Lakes Basin is best attempted from May to mid October.
Website: Inyo National Forest
The Crystal Lake Trail
The Crystal Lake trail is approximately 2.5 miles (round trip) beginning from the Lake George parking lot. The trail begins at an elevation of 9,050 feet and continues through the pine forest for about a mile, where you’ll meet a signed junction. Turn left, and continue into Crystal Lake Basin where you’ll enjoy spectacular views of this pristine lake.
For the adventurous, primitive backcountry camping is available around the lakeshore. Make sure to practice leave no trace ethics, pack out what you pack in, and camp at least 100 feet from the shore line. Also take note, bears are active in this area, so make sure you pack your food and scented items in bear proof containers. Wilderness permits are required, and can be obtained from the Inyo National Forest.
Crystal Lake boasts abundant backcountry fishing. Expect rainbow trout, as well as possibility for some brown and brook trout. Backcountry fishing can be more variable than typical lake fishing. Hire a guide for expert advice on the best locations and gear selections.
Horses are allowed on the trails to the Upper Lakes Basin. Consider hiring an outfitter for a truly unique backcountry experience.