Crystal Peak A - Northeast Ridge
From the south end of Breckenridge, drive 2 miles south on Colorado 9. Turn right on Spruce Creek Road. Stay right up a small hill and turn left at an intersection. Stay on the main road and drive 1.2 miles (from Highway 9) to the Spruce Creek trailhead at 10,400’. There is a large parking area here.
To continue to either of the upper, 4WD trailheads, pass through the parking area and continue up the rough road:
Crystal Creek: After 0.2 mile, turn right and follow a narrow, rough road approx. 2 miles to reach Lower Crystal Lake, near 12,000’.
Spruce Creek: From the lower TH, drive nearly 2 miles on the easy 4WD road to reach the upper Spruce Creek trailhead, near 11,100’.
Photo #1 shows the route from a distance. From the 10,400-foot trailhead, follow the 4WD road up a short distance to a road junction. Going straight will take you into Spruce Creek. Turn right and take another road up toward Crystal Creek. Follow the steep road for over a mile and eventually leave the heavy forest. Near 1.3 miles, from the trailhead, cross the Wheeler trail. Photo #2 (taken in winter) shows the view ahead. Continue on the road through Crystal Creek basin to Lower Crystal Lake near 12,000’. The lake is approximately 2.25 miles from the trailhead.
Near an old mine building, turn right and walk down to the creek - Photo #3. Taken from Mt. Helen, Photo #4 and Photo #5 show the route as it ascends part of Peak 10 and then heads west toward Crystal Peak. Follow an old road west past the lake to the end of the basin. The road reaches the south side of Peak 10, turns right, and begins climbing the slope - Photo #5. Switchback up the slope as the road turns into a trail. The solid trail heads left (south) near 12,400’ and climbs to 12,800’ before leveling out and heading toward Upper Crystal Lake. The traverse across this slope crosses some steep terrain. Snow makes portions of this slope slightly dangerous. Follow the trail toward the lake - Photo #6.
Before reaching the lake, near 12,900’, turn right and hike directly up to the Crystal-Peak 10 saddle. Photo #7 was taken below the slope leading to the saddle. The slope is covered with grass and stable talus. Upon reaching the saddle, turn left (southwest) and ascend Crystal’s Northeast Ridge - Photo #8 and Photo #9 are different views of this easy ridge. There are a couple of narrow some spots but nothing that exceeds a difficulty of Class 2. Photo #10 and Photo #11 were taken on top.
A ski from the Crystal summit to the trailhead can usually be continuous with good spring conditions. But, be careful, this ski route can be dangerous. The route is shaded on the topo map. From the top, ski down the broad East Slope to the skier-left (north) side of Upper Crystal Lake. This area is on the left of Photo #6. Follow the lake drainage east to reach the more difficult terrain. There is a steep gully that drops toward Lower Crystal Lake - Photo #12 and Photo #13. Pick your line and hit this advanced terrain. This area can be dangerous and is prone to avalanche - only ski it with optimal spring snowpack.
High-clearance 4WD vehicles can drive all the way to Lower Crystal Lake. It’s a rough, narrow road with few pull-offs along the way. Remember - this is the road that starts on the right a short distance up from the main trailhead.
It is also possible to start this hike on the south end of the Aqueduct road that runs between Spruce Creek and Crystal Creek. This involves leaving the main trailhead, driving over 1 mile up the main Spruce Creek road (4WD but not too difficult), and turning right to the start of the Aqueduct road. The road is gated on both ends but parking here shaves some time and elevation off of your hike. Hike north on the Aqueduct road to intersect the main route near 11,200’.