Note (this page still under construction especially uploading of images)
Crystal Peak (not to be confused with Crystal Mountain (the ski area)) is a hike that starts from Highway 410 just before the turnoff to Sunrise if you are coming from Seattle. A just under 4 mile hike from the highway with about 3100 feet of elevation gain to a grand summit with 360 degree views. On a clear day a 5 volcano view as you can see Rainier, Baker, Adams, Hood and St. Helens. This trail should be snow free by sometime in early July in normal snow years. It was 100% snow free on July 11, 2009.
Drive Highway 410 about 35 miles from the outskirts of Enumclaw heading east. Drive 4.2 miles past the turnoff to Crystal Mountain Blvd and you will find a parking area just off to the right on the highway. If you are coming from the south, the trail head parking area is about .5 miles north of the turnoff to Sunrise.
The trailhead parking is free but the hike is entirely inside of Mt. Rainier National park so dogs are not permitted, and any overnight camping will require a permit. Plus of course all of the usual National Park rules.
Crystal Peak/Lake trail area map.
Start right from the highway crossing a creek on a footbridge.
You are mostly in the trees which on a hot day will be welcome. There are a few sneak peaks of Rainier through the trees on this lower trail.
The trail climbs 1025 feet in 1.25 miles to a junction.
If you continue straight ahead for an additional 1 3/4 miles or so you will arrive first at the lower then at upper Crystal Lake. There are a few campsites at the lakes.
Crystal peak lies on the right fork.In about 2 3/4 miles and just over 2000 feet of elevation gain this will take you to the summit of Crystal Peak. This trail is not included on most trail maps interestingly enough but it is a good/easy to follow trail.
After the junction you cross Crystal Creek in short order over a foot log. This may be your last chance for water.
Continue on shortly past the creek crossing crossing a more open area before ducking back into the trees for a while.
After a bit it starts opening up and you have views galore over towards Rainier and out to the north. The east is blocked by the peak you are about to summit. If you hike early though this will provide shade through just about all of the hike up as a bonus.
The trail now angles/contours up the west slopes of Crystal Peak. It is a steady but not overly steep climb. Pause at any time to admire the views. After heading south and passing the peak in a sense the trail angles back sharply to the north and continues to climb. After a couple more long switchbacks you reach the site of the old lookout. No structure left. All you can see is the old concrete blocks.
This is where they say the trail ends. A very good/easy to follow boot path continues off to the right (east) up to the actual summit.
While a little steeper than the main trail, this is not exposed or very long, and on this hike to stop short of the summit would be a crime.
This is purely a hike. No scrambling/use of hands required to get to the summit.
Arrive at the rocky summit with 360 degree views,
Go early to beat the crowds and heat and have the best lighting off of Rainier.
Summiting at about 9AM on a Saturday in mid July I had a good hour or more of summit time before anyone else would have arrived.
There don't appear to be any official campsites on route to the peak or on the peak, but there are a few campsites over by lower and upper Crystal Lakes which all require permits.