The trail to Crystal Lakes begins at the end of Mineral King Road at Sawtooth Trailhead. The route follows the Monarch Lake Trail as it winds and climbs through the Monarch Creek drainage. It begins with a steep climb leading northeast up the valley wall. At a quarter mile the trail forks. Take the right side of the fork to reach Crystal Lake. The left side leads to Timber Gap.
The trail continues climbing and turns slightly southward to cross Monarch Creek. It dips slightly to cross the creek then ascends again reaching 9,000 feet. At this point it levels for a short distance making a sharp turn to the south and leading through an alpine meadow. Turning eastward again the trail begins to switchback to 10,000 feet.
At 10,000 feet the Crystal Lake Trail diverges from the Monarch Lakes Trail. The trail breaks leading southward and climbing into Chihuahua Bowl, passing the remnants of the old Chihuahua Mine near the south rim.
This last one and a half miles to Crystal Lakes is steep and rugged. Despite the difficult terrain hikers will enjoy panoramic views of the southern part of the Mineral King Valley, including White Chief Peak and Farewell Gap. The trail reaches 10,000 feet then descends slightly and levels for a short distance. Then it begins the final ascent to Crystal Lakes.
The switchbacks to the lake last for a half mile. Once at the top of them you'll see the dam that enlarged the lake. The trail and small dam on were built by the Mt. Whitney Power Company between 1903 and 1905. The Southern California Edison Co. still operates the facility. There is no maintained trail beyond Crystal Lake. It is best to carry water, as the purity of the lakes and streams along the trails cannot be guaranteed.
Directions: From Lookout Point Entrance, Follow Mineral King Road eastward to its end. Find the Sawtooth Trailhead and follow the Monarch Lakes Trail northeastward to reach the Crystal Lakes turnoff.
Elevation: 7,800 feet
Ending Elevation: 10,800 feet
Distance: 4.9 miles
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