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Crystal Lake

On July 21st, 2020, Skip, Bandit, Ezra, and I made our way from Colorado Springs, where we were visiting, up through Wyoming and Montana into Northern Idaho to visit family before heading back to Southern Idaho for work and school.

We searched for alpine lakes to hike to in the area and came across Crystal Lake in Saint Marie's, Idaho. It looked like a decent hike that led to such a clean and beautiful lake that Skip could attempt to fish in.

Bonus, it looked to have campsites at the trailhead when we were researching the lake and surroundings. We had just driven 17 plus hours, and we decided it would be perfect to camp next to the trailhead. We generally like boon-docking "Camping in the non-designated campsite," but we decided not to search due to our circumstances. These campsites were clean, maintained very well with a fire pit and vault toilet, and FREE, so we decided the spot would suffice.

With being out in the wilderness, always make sure you pay attention to your surroundings and be alert for dangerous animals that you may encounter. So, ditch your headphones and listen to nature. We always recommend carrying bear spray while hiking, especially in Idaho, where bears are prone to stumble onto trails and into campgrounds depending on the season.

Directions to the trailhead

  • From Coeur D' Alene take US-90 east from Coeur d'Alene for 25 miles to the Cataldo exit (exit 40).

  • Then south on Latour Cr./Rochat Divide Road for 29 miles.

  • Once you get on the dirt road heading up, it becomes very rocky and bumpy, so hold onto your drinks and use the restroom before getting on the road.

  • From Coeur D' Alene to the trailhead, it is about 54 miles but looks longer than an hour to get there.

At the lake, there are 4 or 5 campsites. Remember to ALWAYS camp 200 feet or further from any body of water to preserve the lake and the fish that live within and always pack it out. The lake was full of Bass and Perch. Unfortunately, Skip did not catch anything. Please click HERE to read about the Leave no Trace Project.

Alltrails notes this is a child-friendly trail; however, I would not take anyone on this trail that did not have a good pair of hiking shoes with good grip or hike correctly when the ground is unstable. There were multiple builders we had to climb up, and over that, we had trouble finding our footing. Plus, seven or eight rockslides we had to cross.

The trail was a four-mile hike round trip and gained 656 feet in elevation. The path is on dirt and well-marked. However, portions of the course were on loose slabs of rock that wiped out the trail in a landslide. The stones are slippery, unstable, and could potentially be very dangerous. It would be easy to step wrong and fall off the trail. There was a mixture of inclines and declines the entire way to the lake, plus streams periodically, making it an enjoyable hike for Bandit and us.

Remember to enjoy the scenery while exploring the area. There are so many vivid views with a variety of colors and textures with every footstep. You walk within the green forest and on the edge of the mountain where you can see out in the valley. The views were breathtaking and worth stopping and taking it all in, plus we never saw another person on the trail.

Click HERE to view our youtube video of this adventure.

Overall, this was such a beautiful hike and relatively easy if you have the proper hiking equipment and know-how to walk on unstable surfaces. We highly recommend.

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