Canyon Creek Trail to Boulder Creek Lake: June 10-12, 2013
The Canyon Creek trail in the Trinities leads you to Canyon Creek Lake (5637 ft) and Boulder Creek Lake (5753 ft). BIG hiked the trail in July 2011 to Canyon Creek Lake. This time, our end point was Boulder Creek Lake. In 2011, the group camped the night before the hike at Ripstein Campground, which is a good idea. This year, we weren’t able to leave the day before, and with the 3-1/2 hour drive from Ashland and a stop for lunch in Weaverville, we didn’t get on the trail until 2 pm.
Boulder Creek Lake is at one end of a large area rimmed with high sawtooth ridges all around. The setting is awe inspiring. Here is a 360 degree movie (external link since our free version of WordPress does not support embedded videos). The lake itself is created by shallow depressions in the white granite, so rather than being one contiguous body of water, it is a series of different sized pools. The landscape is stark, with a very few trees and wildflowers making their living from the cracks in the rock, again very beautiful. Camping is not allowed here.
From the parking lot (3180 ft), we hiked 5 fairly gradual miles to our campsite (4534 ft), passing Lower Canyon Creek Falls. Our campsite was the first in a series of flat, comfortable sites built along the creek, at a point where the trail first becomes level with the creek. Before that, the creek was mainly below the trail or fairly far away and inaccessible, although we could hear it all the way and sometimes see rapids and very blue, clear water. The forest we walked through is full of beautiful old-growth trees. We arrived at our campsite at 5 pm.
The next day we walked to Boulder Creek Lake. From our campsite, it was about 2 miles to the Boulder Creek Lake turn-off, which is .4 miles past Middle Canyon Creek Falls. From the turn-off, it was 1.5 miles to the lake. The trail to the lake was gradual at first, but then gained altitude. Before the lake we pushed our way up a series of switchbacks on a very narrow, shrubby trail. Then we followed cairns over white granite to the lake. We began hiking at 9 am and arrived at the lake at 1 pm.
There were not a lot of wildflowers, although certainly some. The dogwood would have been in its prime a week or two earlier. However, earlier means lots more water. We crossed Canyon Creek without boots to go to Boulder Creek Lake. There are other creek crossings in the area that are more problematic in May when the creeks are high, but we had no problem in June. We were thrilled to see striped coral root, which never grows in abundance. Mary K. pointed out to us *Brewer spruce in the high country on our way to the lake. There was lots of primo stone crop at the lake.
We enjoyed seeing and talking with a crew of young CCC (California Conservation Corps) men and women, who were doing trail work. They were camped close to Middle Canyon Creek Falls, which was their daily shower. They will be living and working in these woods and other places for 4 months. They were strong and seemed knowledgable and committed to their goals.
We would like to do this hike again next year early in the season as a 4 day venture, plus camp the night before at Ripstein Campground. This way we could day hike to both Canyon Creek Lake and Boulder Creek Lake.
*Brewer spruce is an uncommon conifer endemic to the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion which means they are native to and confined to this whole region. It’s range is about 140 miles from Iron Mountain, Oregon to East Weaver Lake, CA. They like the warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters of the Klamath area. These trees are remnants of larger populations that existed thousands of years ago. Climate change has reduced their habitat to pockets within this area. — from Conifer Country, by Michael Kauffman.
(click on a photo to start slideshow; 360 degree movie near Boulder Creek Lake