For years, I had passed the Cathedral Provincial Park and Cathedral Lakes Lodge signs on the Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3) in southern British Columbia, Canada and wondered what it was like in the remote area close to the United States border. I had seen photos and heard so much about the unique rock formations, rugged mountains, peaceful lakes, and vibrant meadows. Cathedral Provincial Park is a true wilderness experience and was on my list of top places to explore. This year, I had an opportunity courtesy of the Cathedral Lakes Lodge and looked forward to my visit on a sunny weekend in late June. Well, my anticipation was more than met by the beauty and ruggedness of this remarkable part of the World!
Cathedral Provincial Park is located at the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountain Range in British Columbia. Unlike Manning Provincial Park to the west, Cathedral is influenced by the semi-arid Similkameen Valley that is evident along Highway 3 as you travel east from Princeton. It provides for an interesting and unique ecosystem in this small area of the province. The dryness is certainly evident, but as you increase elevation, there is a lushness under the canopy and in the meadows, due to the snowpack that normally lingers into June.
Now, let me take you on an overview of my visit to Cathedral Provincial Park. Imagine waking up to this! Just outside the Cathedral Lakes Lodge, the reflection of Quiniscoe Mountain on Quiniscoe Lake early on a Sunday morning. Later, the fisherman in the canoe arrived to the lodge with trout. Not everyone is here to hike!
The turn-off to Cathedral Provincial Park is located about four kilometers west of Keremeos and 62 kilometers east of Princeton. Access to the main or core area of the park is limited to either a 4×4 service provided by the Cathedral Lakes Lodge or a steep, gruelling climb that will take many most of a day to hike. The fee charged by the lodge is well worth-it and your vehicle is parked in an enclosed area while you’re away. The lodge has rooms and cabins available or you may choose to camp at Quiniscoe Lake or Lake of the Woods (Pyramid Lake campsite was closed at the time of writing). Make sure to book your transportation up and down the mountain ahead of time.
Although, the base camp is only 22 kilometers from the highway, give yourself enough time for this stretch. The pavement soon turns to a good gravel road but is slower than the highway.
First, lets stop at this covered bridge over the Ashnola River that I had visited a few times in the past. I would look up the valley in the distance and think about Cathedral Provincial Park. This time, I would soon be there!
After the drive to the Cathedral Lakes Lodge base camp, our group was taken on a scenic 4×4 ride up a very steep road. About one hour from the base camp, we arrived to the lodge, just above the shores of Quiniscoe Lake. The main lodge is on the left and the lakeview cabins on the right. If you’re up early, you may be fortunate for this memorable experience…
This was the view from my cabin. Please excuse the tree as this Mountain Goat took off when he saw me. There were plenty of more opportunities for viewing because…
three more were awaiting only a minute walk away in the campsite. These ones were less shy and one even walked toward me, as if I had a pocket full of lichen and was going to feed him. I’ll have a blog post featuring the mountain goats of Cathedral very soon. This wasn’t the only wildlife that frequented the grounds of the lodge…
one of the many deer sightings in the park. This young deer was enjoying her evening right outside the lodge.
In Cathedral Provincial Park, you can choose between walks, easy to difficult hikes, and rock climbing. Here, I’m on the Diamond Trail above and south of Scout Lake.
Looking toward the jagged peaks of Denture Ridge and Grimface Mountain with The Boxcar on the left. Lucky to be exploring under beautiful skies.
The well-marked trail leads to Red Mountain with vast views of mountains, lakes, and valleys.
Speaking of views… Here I’m above Scout Lake. What an amazing feeling!
The view from Scout Lake to that overhang on the very next day.
The view from Red Mountain with Quiniscoe Lake in the center. Across the way is Lakeview Mountain and The Boxcar is at the center/right. Yes, you can hike along that ridge, although between The Boxcar and The Giant Cleft is very exposed in places from what I have read and should be undertaken only by experienced hikers / climbers seeking an added challenge!
Quiniscoe Mountain from Red Mountain. A drop and a good climb awaits…
At the Quiniscoe Mountain / Red Mountain col, a trail steeply drops to Quiniscoe Lake. Our group, now numbering just two, follows the trail to Quiniscoe Mountain. It’s an easy hike but tiring after the earlier climb and descent from Red Mountain.
Looking back to Red Mountain, that, with it’s false peaks and ups and downs, is a good hike in itself.
The view from Quiniscoe Mountain. Pyramid Mountain is in the center with Glacier Lake below. The summit of Grimface Mountain is behind the ridge in the center.
I really loved the cumulus clouds. Here, blogger and life coach, Mimi Luk, is descending Quiniscoe Mountain. Another amazing experience awaits in the col between Quiniscoe Mountain and Devil’s Woodpile…
this herd of Mountain Goats, including three babies or kids, in their natural environment. I have never seen anything like it!
Soon after, many of the herd went to rest on the snowfield during the warm afternoon.
I could have watched these beautiful creatures for hours!
We had missed the Northern Lights by a few days but I still loved these skies on a late evening walk between Quiniscoe Lake, Lake of the Woods, and Pyramid Lake.
If you enjoy flowers, there are plenty of different viewing opportunities in the early Summer at Cathedral Provincial Park. While the Rim Trail has shorter flowers and plants such as alpine phlox and heather, meadows along the Lakeview Trail north of Scout Lake, were vibrant with daisies, Indian paintbrush, lupins, and Sitka valerian. Let’s take a closer look…
One of my favourites is the Indian Paintbrush along with another flower that I’m not sure of. If you know, please leave a comment below 🙂
Can’t forget the lupins. There were thousands starting at the lodge, and through the meadows along the Lakeview and Diamond Trails.
An entire meadow of flowers. And this wasn’t even the peak blooming period!
Another beautiful morning reflection on Quiniscoe Lake! So peaceful and serene!
Here, I’m on the summit of Red Mountain. I had such an amazing weekend at Cathedral Provincial Park. But it’s not over yet…
Just before our group was about to leave the lodge on the Sunday afternoon, we were very lucky to witness missing hikers, Lynne Carmody and Rick Moynan, walking unaided out from the Lakeview Trail to the Cathedral Lakes Lodge. They had spent six days lost in the wilderness and some people were starting to give up hope that they would be found. Lynne and Rick were constantly in the thoughts of the staff at the lodge and many of the guests that I talked with. During all of my hikes, I kept a lookout for any sign of the couple. Needless to say, Search & Rescue personal, and guests and staff of the lodge were elated when they arrived back safely. What a story of survival!
Although it was in my plans, I didn’t make it this far to Macabre Tower. Surely, the next time I visit Cathedral Provincial Park, I want to be standing on this very spot and visit the Giant Cleft, Smokey the Bear, and Stone City as well. Thanks to Erin Trainer of ET2Media for allowing me to use her photo in this blog post.
I must thank Richard and all the staff at the Cathedral Lakes Lodge for having me as a guest. My cabin was very comfortable and the meals were delicious. They really care for their guests and made me feel at home. At home in nature! For more information on packages and transportation, please visit their website: Cathedral Lakes Lodge and social media Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks for joining me on my first visit to Cathedral Provincial Park. I can’t wait to return to hike more of the Rim Trail and enjoy a leisurely canoe on Quiniscoe Lake. Please share this post, and thanks for your time.