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Crystal Peak

Difficulty: strenuous

8.2 miles

Elevation gain: 3110'

Max elevation: 6570'

Camps: none

First hiked by me: 2021

One spot, views of six volcanoes! This is definitely a hike to save for a clear day.

It's also a good choice for, if not quite early in the season, at least earlier than most at this elevation, thanks to a fortuitous coincidence of slope and aspect that often has it melted while other trails above 5000' are still buried in deep snow.

Not to be confused with Crystal Mountain, which lies a mile to the northeast and overlooks its eponymous ski resort just outside the National Park boundary.

The first 1.2 miles doubles as the start of the Crystal Lakes and Sourdough Gap trail, switchbacking steeply upward through forest. After turning right at the signpost for Crystal Peak you will descend slightly to cross Crystal Creek on a sturdy log bridge, then resume climbing while heading south as views open up over the White River valley to Rainier. After turning sharply left you'll ascend a couple of broad switchbacks up an open slope, followed by a final steep (but nontechnical) section of ridge to the summit.

From here you can see not 'just' six volcanoes, but also fantastic detail of the east side of Rainier: Dege Peak, Old Desolate, Burroughs, the White River valley, Goat Island Mountain, the Cowlitz Chimneys, and all the way across to Unicorn Peak at the east of the Tatoosh Range. Or turn around for equally dramatic views over Upper Crystal Lake.

This peak was home to a fire lookout between 1934 and the 1960s.

The only patch of snow left along the trail when I hiked it

Final approach to the summit

The summit has spectacular views in all directions

Looking down on still-frozen Upper Crystal Lake

Volcanoes #1 and #2: Mount Adams and Mount Hood (50 and 100 miles south respectively)

Volcano #3: Mount St. Helens (60 miles southwest)

Volcano #4: Mount Baker (130 miles north)

Volcano #5: Glacier Peak (85 miles north-northeast)

Volcano #6: Rainier!