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Exploring the Newly-Opened Crystal Lake

This week's hike explores the Ridge Trail in Crystal Lake, newly-opened after years of closure due to fire damage.

The Crystal Lake area has been closed for years, due to fire damage. However, my friend Jason recently told me that the area reopened to day hiking and invited me to go on a hike with him to this area. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity.

We met up at the parking lot across from the road marked “3N07” and began hiking up that road. After a quarter mile, we arrived at Crystal Lake. At 7 a.m. on this fair weather day, the glassy lake was incredibly beautiful and mirrored its surrounding landscape.

We met up with the Ridge Trail (also known as the Wawona Trail on some maps) on the southwest end of the lake. After 100 feet of class 3 scrambling, the trail mellowed out and we began our ascent toward Mount Islip. The damage from the Curve Fire is still evident, even after many years, but recent trail building projects have restores the Ridge Trail to respectability. We passed through an alternating landscape of chaparral and pine trees, and, after about two miles, arrived onto a plateau with an outstanding overlook of the valley below. 

This plateau marked the end of the well-marked trail.  For the final two and a half miles, much of our trek was spent bushwhacking and trail-finding through deadfall. We found ourselves very thankful for our GPS devices. Nonetheless, the trail was not impossible and we eventually reached our goal: the snow-covered and picturesque summit of Mount Islip.

Hike At A Glance:

Difficulty (1-10):  6
Distance 10 miles roundtrip (in and back) Scenery The view changes throughout the hike. Close up views of burn areas are breathtaking.    
Best time to go:

Year-round, but this area does get significant snow after winter storms.

Trail condition: The first half of the trail is well marked; the latter half is a bit tricky to navigate at times. Other considerations: This trail will get hot during the summer, due to its open exposure to the sun. Also, there are no dependable water sources, so be sure to pack in all of your water.
Getting there:

Take the 210 to route 39 in Azusa.  Travel north on 39 for about 30 minutes to the Crystal Lake region.  Park across from the road 3N07 in the roadside lot and hike up 3N07 to get to the trailhead.  If you use a trail map, the trail may be referred to as the Wawona Trail.  Also, be sure to display your Adventure Pass in your parked car ($5 for a day or $30 for a year at REI).

B Ulm May 02, 2011 at 08:17 AM
I second Suz request! I stumbled on this page from a banner on the Monrovia page as well. If your hiking info will cover this area and the San Gabriels seems like a great fit for the Monrovia section too.
Amy McLean May 02, 2011 at 02:16 PM
HI Matthew, thanks for reminding me that we wanted to drive up and check out Crystal Lake. We have been waiting since it closed for it to reopen. The picnic area is beautiful, as always, and the campground seems to have been renovated completely, almost unrecognizable to my husband who had been a long-time camper there for 20 some years before I even met him. We were glad to see the amphitheater in good shape and the picturesque ruins of the old hotel (whose name we do not know) with its stone fireplace and flagstone dance floor and magnificent view of the valley still intact. For people not up to the trails that leave from the campground areas, there is still plenty of moseying and poking around that makes the winding road up the mountain worth every turn. Can't wait for the campground to open later this spring!
Dan Abendschein May 02, 2011 at 03:29 PM
I went up there two weeks ago and it is quite a nice little area. The water is warm enough to swim in, though there is a lot of algae in there.
Matthew Cavanaugh May 02, 2011 at 03:58 PM
I agree Amy! I'm glad you appreciate Crystal Lake, too. Can't wait to hear about more people heading out that way.
Matthew Cavanaugh May 02, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Hi Suz, thanks! I'm going to pass that along to John, the editor of Sierra Madre's Patch, and will let him take care of that. I appreciate your affirmation!

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