Mirror and Crater lakes are found deep in the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Cascade Falls, found along the trail and a popular destination, is about 4.5 miles in and comprises of multiple waterfalls. The destination, Crater Lake, sits in a large bowl under Mount Achonee (12,469′), Lone Eagle Peak (11,920′) and several unnamed 12,000′ peaks. Peck Glacier and several perennial snowfields can be seen clinging to the steep terrain west of Lone Eagle Peak. This trail is rated as moderate, but if done in a single day the mileage would make this a difficult hike.
Trailhead: Monarch Lake Trailhead
Round trip: Crater Lake 15 miles/ 24.1 km
Elevation: 8,365′-10,400′ (+2,035′) / 2,550 m – 3,170 m (+620m)
The trail begins along the west shore of Monarch Lake. The trail is level as it follows the northern shore of the lake. There are occasional switchbacks as the trail follows Buchanan Creek through pine, aspen, and spruce forests. There are several waterfalls along Buchanan Creek and later along Cascade Creek, including Cascade Falls.
There are two trail junctions, both of which are clearly marked. At ~3.5 miles stay right on the Cascade Trail at the junction for Buchanan Pass Trail. At the junction ~6.5 miles, stay right to head toward Crater Lake. The trail to the left continues to Pawnee Pass Trail. After a short climb you’ll come to an open meadow with a large boulder field on the left-hand side. The trail crosses a large flat rock bed and is marked by 5-6 cairns. After following the cairns back onto the clearly defined trail, several steep switchbacks take you up to the basin.
The trail appears to end at Mirror Lake as you walk around the side (right) of the lake, but the trail picks up on the west side of Mirror Lake and takes you to Crater Lake, a very short distance.
Back-country campsites are available around Crater Lake
There is a $5.00 day fee.