If you only have a morning or day, this is a perfect hike. The trail to Crystal Lake starts with dusty, switchbacks through the trees, but within moments, each new turn reveals another stunning view of the lake from remarkable heights. Go early and you will see nary another soul. While it is a relatively steep hike, you will see all types making their way up… from grandmothers in plaid shirts, hiking boots and walking poles, to 20-somethings in short shorts, on their cell phones carrying their dachshunds (yup, really). Crystal Lake is a short hike easily done in the morning and clearly a favorite of fishermen of all shapes and sizes. You will be rewarded with crystal waters (surprise!), with woodpeckers & a view of some stunning portions of the Mammoth range.
However, if you have the time and energy, or have to choose between the two available routes up this mountain, my vote is for the Mammoth Crest. The top half of the hike is steep, but you are rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of the 14ers, the lakes and the Mammoth ski area. For geology buffs, underfoot, on the top half of the crest, is maroon lava rock that sounds as if you are walking on crushed glass.