Elevation Gain: 180ft
There is a nice and easy walk from the top of Hoosier Pass to a mine and a small lake with the unusual name of .... Crystal Lake. This is different from the Crystal Lakes on the other side of Mowhawk Lakes and is probably one of twenty such named lakes in Colorado. About five years ago, I had tried to hike this trail after work one day in Summit County but was turned around by a large bog full of mud and snow. That attempt was about 2 weeks earlier than in the season than this trip. The bog was still there this time but more passable. By mid-July, the route should be very clear.
The trail starts right on Hoosier Pass and heads up a wide dirt road. Within a half-mile, the road splits with the route to Crystal Lake following the sharp fork to the right. By the time you reach this point most of the elevation gain has been reached and the rest of the hike is on relatively level ground. It still is above 11K feet, however, so some folks may find the altitude challenging.
As the roads heads north and winds around the hill, views of Quandary Peak begin to dominate the scene. This is a fantastic place to view this unusual stepped mountain. The actual route to the summit of Quandary is on south side of mountain and this route is in complete view from the West Hoosier Pass Trail.
Quandary Peak (14,265ft)
Crystal lake and its mine sit on a nice shelf at the base of a tall ridge. There is plenty of space around the lake to sit and since we were the only ones there one could even risk serious sun burn by going au naturale.
What seemed very interesting is an unmapped trail up the ridge to the south. This was a short trail that seemed to provide access to the entire ridge line. Since it was already 4pm, on rare non-rainy day, we decided leaving exploring that route to another day.
I rather like this short trail. If you are not in the mood for exercise or only have a couple of hours, this is a great option. Be advised that most of the route has views of Highway 9 and homes, so it is not a pristine wilderness experience. The destination, however, does feel very isolated. The road noise is gone and the sounds of water pouring down rocks and into the lake is very soothing. On this trip the wildflowers were just starting to appear. They will undoubtedly be better later in the season. We combined this hike with another short hike to the other Crystal Lakes. Hiking two or three short hikes in sequence is a great way to experience some of these easy destinations and still feel like you deserve that apres hike burger and beer.