Crystal Lake is the ONLY Naturally Occurring Lake in all the San Gabriel Mountains. It is fed solely from ground water and ice/snow melt. It has been shrunken and choked from ashes of recent fires but it is making a come-back. And there are still fish. No watercrafts allowed.
I think it is a better overnight family destination than my usual choice of Angels Crest. While it cant compare to the variety of trails and feeling of being really deep into the wilderness, the advantage is it does not get as freezing cold as it does in the Crest. So the nights are much more pleasant.
The campgrounds just reopened two years ago. And is well worth the drive. There are two closer campgrounds on the way there, but unfortunately like many other camping destinations, Scumbags stay at the closer sites so they can get drunk, loud and throw trash someplace other than the city for a night or two. So just keep driving, it is well worth it. We still had a bit of trash to clean up from our site before pitching our tents, but nothing close to the piles of trash seen along the road and grounds at the closer sites.
The location is poorly marked. There is a sign for the "Crystal Lake Store" but not for the campgrounds. So one could easily assume, that road leads to the store but the campsite is further up. It is not. The Campground is at the store. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.
The campground is divided into three sites, all close together and diverse. The restrooms and water sources are near all the sites and the Wheelchair sites are very accessible. Complete with concrete around the fire rings/grills and parking right at the site.
The hike to the Lake is easy, that trailhead and the one to Cedar Canyon is right there and the Cedar Canyon trail looked completely unused. Sweet! It was steep in parts but so what and it trails along the creek and the fact that it seems unused is all the better.
Check the store hours and expect to pay a premium for supplies or food. Dont expect perishables like milk, because there are none. Not even dehydrated or non dairy. Always best to pack everything you think you'll need and use the store as a back up, not as your only source of food. The owner is very nice and has helpful information, but the store is not open every day. So be prepared.
I was concerned about the mosquitoes but I had just discovered "Kids Herbal Armor" Natural Insect Repellent and it worked very well. I did not get a single bite.
I looked at the cabins. Not a very good deal for the prices but they are the only ones around. All over $100 and the one advertised as "Wheelchair Accessible" was not. Maybe a chair could get through the front door, but no way one gets into the bathroom, so it simply is not accessible.
Any resemblance to the lake of the same name from the movie "Friday the 13th" is purely coincidental... or is it?
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