August 31, 2018 by Deborah W. Trotter
In the southeastern portion of Lassen Park is a short, steep trail that you can follow up to a gem of a lake. Surprisingly, in all of my visits to Lassen over the past decades, I had never taken the hike to Crystal Lake until earlier this month.
Although the trail is demanding – a climb of 400 feet in .4 miles from about 6,800 feet up to 7,200 feet elevation, and jumbly-rocky in spots – the outing was possibly harder on our car than it was on our bodies. The fourteen miles of mostly unpaved road from the small town of Chester was rough and dusty, teeth- and chassis-rattling, so it was a pleasure to find the trailhead and get out of the car.
We climbed steadily up through pine and fir forest, which thinned as we went higher, giving way to smooth stretches of rock partially covered with manzanita surrounding Crystal Lake.
If you like to swim in cold, clear mountain lakes, this is definitely one to seek out, and you will likely have company.
If, like me, you prefer to enjoy the views, you will not be disappointed. Crystal Lake is a lovely green jewel, and if you turn your back to the water and walk a few steps away, deep, blue Juniper Lake expands below, while the sky (a little dulled by smoke that day) embraces the fire lookout atop nearby Mt. Harkness, as well as more distant Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain.
Our visit to the Park that day was short, but because I spent so much of my early life in and around Lassen, taking that hike, even though I had never been on that trail before, was going home. Being there suffused me with positivity. Good memories are gold.