Canyon Creek Lakes
May 22, 2020 - May 25, 2020
This trip report covers a 4 day backpacking trip I took in the Trinity Alps over Memorial Day weekend in 2020. I chose the Canyon Creek area of the alps because many of the other alpine areas of California were either closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or still snow-covered from the previous winter. The Alps were open for business and I could see on the satellite images that the lakes had melted out a few weeks early. So, I drove up on Thursday night and camped at the quiet Ripstein Campground just below the Canyon Creek trailhead and headed out the next morning.
This trip report won’t be too long, I’ll mention a few things I noticed about the area, provide some recommendations, and (as always) share some pictures I took.
Day 1: Trailhead to Upper Canyon Creek Lake
8 miles, +2,900’
New growth tips on the pines (I think).
Canyon Creek Falls, just off the trail.
After a lovely walk through Upper Canyon Creek Meadow and then up a steeper section, snowy Wedding Cake and Thompson Peak appeared on the ridge high above.
I walked past the lower lake and found a nice campsite on the isthmus between the two lakes. This is a very popular area for camping, so there are plenty of spaces.
Sunset over Lower Canyon Creek Lake.
Day 2: Dayhike to L Lake
3 miles, +1,200’
Sunrise over Thompson Peak and Wedding Cake.
Another camper pointed out this bear who was wandering around the lakes.
Morning light over Lower Canyon Creek Lake.
Mid-morning, I set out to hike up to L Lake, in the cirque above Canyon Creek Lakes. There’s a vague way around the lake and then up some slabs towards L Lake, but it’s mostly cross country travel with some nice views.
L Lake was still covered in several feet of snow. Grassy areas were pretty marshy.
A south-facing meadow near L Lake.
Nice view of the creek coming out of L Lake.
I didn’t hang out too long before making my way back down, partly because it was so snowy there was no place to sit down without getting wet.
Sunset over Lower Canyon Creek Lake.
Today was Saturday and it was getting busy. With the crowds came a few people breaking the rules, campfires aren’t allowed in the Canyon Creek Lakes area (above the trail junction to Boulder Creek Lakes), but as you can see that didn’t stop some groups from having a fire just a few feet from the lakeshore. I also saw a few very ineffective bear hangs (food tied to a tree trunk 5 feet off the ground). A good reminder to please respect these rules as they exist for a reason.
Day 3: Upper Canyon Creek Lake to Boulder Creek Lakes
4 miles, +1,100’
I packed up and headed back down the trail, today I’d try and get up to Boulder Creek Lakes.
Crossing Canyon Creek on the Boulder Creek Trail.
Good views of Sawtooth Peak on the climb to Boulder Creek Lakes. The trail up to these lakes was a lot more overgrown than the one to Canyon Creek Lakes.
Sawtooth Peak from Boulder Creek Lakes. These lakes were a lot smaller and shallower than the Canyon Creek ones.
I found a nice spot to set up camp and hiked up to Forbidden Lake to get a look. It was quite snowy once I got into the little cirque that the lake sits in.
Boulder Creek Lakes from above.
Afternoon views from the bench above Canyon Creek.
Day 4: Boulder Creek Lakes to Trailhead
8 miles, +300’
Sunrise scenes on Sawtooth Peak.
I found this cool waterfall the night before, where Boulder Creek runs out of the small lake and over cliffs bands.
After breakfast and coffee I packed up, hiked back to the car, and headed home.