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Scenic Mill Creek Falls and Mysterious Cold Boiling Lake
The hike starts at about 6,700' above sea level at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center near the southwest entrance station. The visitor center itself is worth checking out for its gift shop, nature-gift shop, small cafe, museum, auditorium programs and back patio. The Mill Creek Falls Trail starts at the northeast corner of the large parking lot near a restroom building then switchbacks down to South Sulphur Creek. The west side of the creek is an open forest of red fir, lodgepole pine and manzanita while the eastern side is a carpet of mule ears. The trail goes up and down for the first 2.3 miles until reaching scenic Mill Creek Falls. There is a nice viewing area high above the falls across the creek that is easily seen from the trail. Don't be surprised to see hippy California people swimming, bathing and hanging out above the falls. Bumpass Creek flows down from Bumpass Hell and joins Mill Creek just above the falls. I'm not sure I'd go swimming below the falls after seeing Bumpass Hell.
The trail becomes the Crumbaugh Lake Trail at the falls even though there is no junction, and quickly begins a steep ascent of about 800' over a mile through a dense forest. You'll hit Conard Meadow and great views of 8,204' Mount Conard near the top of this climb. Descend a little bit down to Crumbaugh Lake and enjoy the great view of this small lake from the west shore, particularly in the afternoon. There are numerous rocks on the side of the trail that are perfect for a break with the blue lake shimmering below.
The trail continues another mile or so and a few hundred feet up to Cold Boiling Lake. It isn't the most spectacular geothermal feature in the park by a long shot, but it is interesting nonetheless. The forest is thick around the lake, and only about 1,000-square-feet of the 10-acre (guesstimate) lake is "boiling." This is the volcanic heart of the park as most of the visible geothermal features like Bumpass Hell, Sulphur Works, Little Hot Springs and Cold Boiling Lake in the southeastern corner of the park. The Crumbaugh Lake Trail continues 0.7 miles up to the Kings Creek Picnic Area off of Hwy. 36, and the Bumpass Hell Trail heads 1.9 miles up to Bumpass Hell itself from Cold Boiling Lake.
This hike would be great as a shuttle with the end point at the Kings Creek Picnic Area or 3.2 miles to the Bumpass Creek trailhead.
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