Hike Crystal Falls Trail to Crystal Creek Reservoir

Rate this Adventure 5.25 miles 1750 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Connor Bruson

Gain 1750 feet in 2.5 miles, pass by waterfalls, and top out at Crystal Creek Reservoir with views of Pikes Peak. End back down in Green Mountain Falls to enjoy the tiny town's rich history and good eats.

The Basics:

The little town of Green Mountain Falls often gets overlooked as motorists speed up Highway 24 to Woodland Park and beyond. However, big hiking opportunities abound here. The town probably has as many miles of hiking trails as it has miles of paved roads! Being on the base of Pikes Peak and at the bottom of the Ute Pass valley, all the hikes start in town and pretty much go straight up. Such is the case with the Crystal Trail.

To get to the least-crowded and most-convenient parking lot, go to the map marker and park there in a dirt lot just off the main road through town. Zoom in to the map marker and you’ll find the actual Crystal Trailhead at the corner of Mountain and Grant Avenues. There is no parking in the neighborhood or the trailhead. You can alternatively park in downtown Green Mountain Falls by the lake and the gazebo and walk through the neighborhoods to the trailhead from there, but it is crowded and further away.

The Hike:

After admiring the eclectic mix of cabins and houses as you walk through the neighborhood to the trailhead, the Crystal Trail immediately starts its relentless ascent. The trail is marked with blue circles, so it is easy to follow. This trail has the most amount of switchbacks in the shortest distance that I’ve ever hiked. A few switchbacks into the trail, you’ll run across the Kirkpatrick Trail (green markers). Go right on the Kirkpatrick Trail for a few hundred feet to get to Crystal Falls (or save this part for the way down like we did). Continuing up Crystal Trail, the switchbacks continue for about 1500 vertical feet as you ascend up out of the valley. The trail eventually spits you out onto a dirt service road for the Pikes Peak Highway. Turn left and follow the road towards a large green building. This road parallels a trail that you can optionally take to summit Mt. Esther. After passing the green building and coming upon the Pikes Peak Highway, cross the road and cross the dam to access Crystal Creek Reservoir. Have a snack/lunch break here and enjoy the views of Pikes Peak over the water, knowing that you earned these views rather than everyone else who paid to drive there. Follow the same route back down to Green Mountain Falls, stopping at Crystal Falls if you didn’t on the way up. Be sure to see both falls (there’s more further down). We opted to view the falls on our way down, and then we exited the hike near the falls rather than the trailhead.

The Area:

Like I mentioned, Green Mountain Falls has a whole network of trails that start in town. The Kirkpatrick Trail that crosses paths with the Crystal Trail traverses the mountainside. Going southeast (toward COS) on it takes you to the H.B. Wallace Reserve, with another great hike to Castle Rock. The yellow trail markers of the Thomas Trail can be found at Crystal Falls. This trail traverses the mountainside to the northeast (toward Woodland Park) and eventually gets to Catamount Falls and the Catamount Trail to North and South Catamount Reservoirs. The entire area’s trail map can be found here. It is useful to print this out to bring with you while hiking in the area. At the end of a hike, refuel and relax at The Pantry (breakfast, brunch) or the Blue Moose Tavern (lunch, drinks) and take a stroll around the lake and out to the gazebo island. 

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