Crystal Lake Wilderness Study Area
Guide

Introduction

Crystal Lake Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is a 14 square mile Bureau of Land Management park valued by vacationers for its scenic, cultural, and recreational features. This BLM property, located about 10 miles of St. Maries in Idaho, is a prime destination for campers who want to get a true taste of primitive adventures. The journey to the wilderness from St. Maries takes visitors through steep, narrow, rough and winding roads, making high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles the recommended vehicles to easily negotiate the access routes.

When you’re coming to this BLM wilderness, be ready to hike along exciting designated trails, like the Crystal Lake Trail, and some other undesignated paths within the park that lead to scenic points that call for photographs. Moreover, the flora that decorates the park’s corridors makes nature lovers and guests seeking solitude enjoy their stay. Wildlife such as moose, deer, elk, waterfowl, and bear are also hunted by appropriately licensed vacationers.

More opportunities for recreation are available in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests for guests that wish to take their adventures up a notch. Activities like motorized boating, whitewater paddling, fishing, picnicking, and auto touring are open to such enthusiasts.

Only primitive camping units are available in this BLM property. Modern campgrounds are provided in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.

RV Rentals in Crystal Lake Wilderness Study Area

Transportation

Driving

Crystal Lake Wilderness Study Area lies about 10 miles northeast of St. Maries, Idaho. This Bureau of Land Management park is located in the northeast corner of Benewah County and can be accessed via a series of unpaved and winding roads.

If you’re coming in from St. Maries, drive along the paved and maintained St. Joe River Road until you get to the junction at Phillips Draw where you’ll take a left on to Baldy Road (F R 551). This road is not maintained and has a lot of sharp bends and twists, so drive slowly and carefully along the route. F R 613 also connects to some parts of the WSA from Baldy Road.

Due to the nature of the local routes that lead to the park, it is recommended that you come to the park in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. If you require travel or camping equipment, you can rent RVs/trailers in St. Maries and Coeur d’Alene.

Parking

Parking areas are available around the wilderness boundaries for guests to park their vehicles before venturing into the wilderness. No vehicles are allowed within the WSA.

Public Transportation

There are no direct public transportation services to this BLM park.

Campgrounds and parking in Crystal Lake Wilderness Study Area

Campsites in Crystal Lake Wilderness Study Area

First-come first-served

Sheep Springs Campground

Sheep Springs Campground is a primitive backcountry campground located just south of Crystal Lake WSA at the trailhead of the Crystal Lake Trail. This campground features three campsites equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, and a vault toilet.

The campground is open from June to September and offers the opportunity for guests to enjoy hiking, hunting, photography and wildlife viewing nearby.

The access road to Sheep Springs is an aggregated surface but steep, rough and narrow.

Alternate camping

Tingley Spring Campground

Tingley Spring Campground is a primitive backcountry campground just south of Crystal Lake WSA with six campsites. The campground is open from June to September and accommodates tents only. No services or facilities are available besides a vault toilet.

The access road to the campground is also narrow, steep and rough.

Seasonal activities in Crystal Lake Wilderness Study Area

In-Season

Trails

There are a number of good places to enjoy hiking adventures within and around Crystal Lake WSA. One of the more popular sites for this sport is the Crystal Lake Trail, which extends for about three miles, and is considered a moderately difficult hiking trail. Guests strolling along this trail will get to see the lake and can also bring their pets along, as long as they’re on leash.

Cycling and mountain biking trails are also available at Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests for interested visitors to get their grooves on.

Flora and Fauna

A wide range of wildlife species can be spotted by avid wildlife watchers within and around Crystal Lake WSA. If you’re a keen observer, you’ll get to see big game like moose, deer, elk, waterfowl, and bear here. What this means for wildlife enthusiasts is that they not only get the chance to watch these fauna roam the park, but can, with the appropriate license, hunt game in the area.

Majority of the BLM park’s area is covered with thick mixed coniferous stands of trees that serve as home to some birds.

Fishing

Coeur d’Alene Lake, Crystal Lake and St. Joe River are the places to visit if you fancy some angling adventures while you’re on holiday in Crystal Lake WSA.

Cutthroat trout and rainbow trout are the most commonly caught fish in Crystal Lake. Anglers that venture to the upper reaches of St. Joe River also catch cutthroat trout and rainbow trout, as well as other fish species like mountain whitefish, brook trout, and bull trout. Coeur d’Alene is characterized by largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch and northern pike.

Off-Season

Water Recreation

Good opportunities to have fun in and around water bodies like St. Joe River, Medicine Lake, and Crystal Lake make vacationing at Crystal Lake WSA absolutely worth it.

Coeur d’Alene Lake is one of the popular destinations for water-based recreation enthusiasts who wish to pursue motorized boating adventures. Whitewater paddlers enjoy spring season here and get the chance to venture across Class II to IV rapids – reserved for visitors and campers that have advanced skills.

Picnicking

There are very spots to enjoy meals with family and friends at Crystal Lake WSA and the nearby areas. It’s quite easy for you to find a good place where you can sit and picnic in the remote wilderness area that features spectacular backdrops with resplendent fauna.

Additional picnic spots are available in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. If you require amenities, you can visit any of the campgrounds in the Forest, but for undeveloped picnic sites, you can hang out in any of the provided spots there.

Auto Touring

Motorized vehicles are not allowed in the WSA but there are a number of scenic drives provided in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. Some of the popular scenic drives and highways where you can enjoy auto touring and sightseeing adventures include Elk River Backcountry Byway, Idaho State Highway 95, Magruder Corridor and Southern Nez Perce Trail and Elk City Wagon Road. One of the rare scenic drives here is the Gospel Hump Wilderness Corridor with its outstanding views and wilderness that bound it on either side.