I’m not going to mince words; as of May 2016, Crystal Lake is definitely in a woefully sad condition. Although never a large lake, it’s once pristine waters are now a dark and sickly green and barely cover the bottom of the lake. It looks more like an acid pit or an industrial waste collection pond than a lake. That said, it’s still a Point of Interest due to the well maintained Crystal Lake Recreation Area campground located around the lake.
Me and a couple friends checked out the lake after completing a hike to Mt Islip from the Crystal Lake Recreation Area. We were a little tired from the hike, but determined to see this lake that inspired such a massive and tidy campground.
Driving down the road from the Windy Gap parking lot, we expected to see some kind of sign indicating where the lake was. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any and circled around aimlessly on various campground loops before a Sheriff’s deputy told us how to find the lake.
Turns out we had driven right through the parking lot without realizing that you couldn’t see the lake from the parking lot. We returned to the parking lot and this time, I busted out my Avenza smartphone hiking map app which used my phone’s GPS to mark my location in relation to the lake. This time we noticed the nondescript dirt path leading to the lake. The path is loosely chained off and marked by a little brown sign featuring a symbol, an arrow and nothing else. May I suggest a sign that reads: Crystal Lake?
Me and Kim finally find the Crystal Lake trailhead
Anyway, we walked up the dirt path from the parking lot wondering where the actual lake would be. It was a pleasant walk much like the shady sections of the Claremont Loop. But there were definitely a lot of mosquitoes. After walking around a bend, we saw a use trail leading downward, but still couldn’t see the lake.
A short stroll down the use trail and the lake finally popped into viewed. As mentioned above, it was a sad sight. But at least we had found the lake. With the ongoing drought we’re having in California, it may be quite a while before Crystal Lake returns to its once pristine condition. I look forward to that day.
What Crystal Lake looks like in May 2016
By the way, the access road to the Crystal Lake parking lot is located off of N. Crystal Lake Rd about 1.2 miles past Hwy 39 and about 0.75 mile before the Crystal Lake Cafe. The approximate GPS of the turnoff is: 34.320930, -117.842787.
From the turnoff, it’s about a quarter mile to the Crystal Lake parking lot (34.319101, -117.844674) and then about a 500 foot walk to the lake. The reality is, you probably don’t want to see the lake in this condition. It’s pretty sad. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the Crystal Lake campground or nearby hiking opportunities. It’s a nice place.