The Cathedral Lakes provincial park is riddled with exciting and breathtaking
views of nature as you don't typically witness it. Most hikes from the rim
are well above the tree line making for an almost "Mars" look.
An inital hike is up to the Cathedral Rim itself. This is a very strenuous hike
which will take a good day. Keep in mind you'll be packing gear with you as well.
Also keep in mind that the temperature drops below zero at night... even in August!
I chose not to do the initial climb as I only had a single weekend set aside for
the entire adventure (besides I don't aspire to be a masochist.) Instead there is
an option of taking a 4x4 or Jeep to the Rim. This is along a private Jeep road
maintained by the people who offer the service.
The Jeep ride takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour to reach the Rim.
If you should want to torture yourself and make the climb yourself, you can expect
quite a climb. There are actually three routes you can take to get to the rim:
|Ewart Creek Trail
||28km (17.4 mi)
||1740m (5700 ft)
|Lakeview (High) Trail
||16km (9.9 mi)
||1357m (4550 ft)
||1110m (3650 ft)
||20km (12.5 mi)
Once at the Rim, you can choose to either camp at the campground or you can opt
to stay at the lodge. Guess which I picked?!?! : ) Once I heard there was a hot
tub and that the temperature at night wasn't all that nice, the choice was clear.
After settling in at the lodge I explored the surrounding area and tried a couple
of the local hikes. The first hike took me north of the lodge and then west near
Scout Lake. This hike took me along some interesting terrain including along
shale like rock fields. On the way back I crossed what could be considered an
alpine meadow. This was really neat. There were blooming flowers which made the
meadow look alive. (Picture to right.) This hike was a little challenging, especially
since it was the first day and I was still getting used to the atmosphere.
I was told that there was 25% less oxygen in the air at that elevation. In order
to get used to the elevation, I stuck to tamer hikes like this one to get used
to it. This proved to be a good idea as hikes that normally would have been nature
walks left me out of breath. The hike was like a loop which took you out to the
North-East or North-West and ended in the opposite direction. One interesting
thing that did happen was while coming down the mountain (above the tree line),
a freak hail storm arose. It was quite painful to say the least. Made me run
like hell down the mountain to the tree line where I could hug a tree.
: ) It took around 2 hours to finish that hike. I think the recommended time
was 3. I beat it as I spent about the latter 1/3 of it running back to the lodge
as the storm was chasing me.
One interesting thing I observed on the hike on the first day was the use of
stone markers to mark the trail. This was because the trail was above the tree
line for many of the hikes. (Picture to left.)
I tried a few smaller walks after the storm let up. Walked around Quiniscoe
lake and checked out a waterfall on the west side of the lake. Those were
quite nice and were a good diversion before dinner.
The lodge I stayed in is on the east side of Quiniscoe lake.
This lodge did not have all the ammenities of some lodges, but it was
nice just the same. The lodge had a series of small rooms upstairs for the
guests. Downstairs was the dining room, lounge, and kitchen. The meals served
there were fantastic! The chef apparently was a chef in Las Vegas for one of
the big hotels. Breakfast, lunch, and dinners were quite hearty and very good.
They provided essentials for making bag lunches should you want to be out on the
trail near lunchtime.
The second day I decided to do the longer hike which showed off many of the
landmarks I went there to see. Started out shortly after breakfast (around
8:30am). Had to make it a fast trip with very little time for breaks. This was
because the last jeep to go back down to base camp left at 2pm. I was told
the average hiker takes 5 to 6 hrs. Based on the previous days hike I figured
I would be ok for time. I actually did the hike in a little over 4 hours. Back
in time for a quick lunch and shower before the journey back.
The hike started by rounding the eastern tip of Quinsicoe Lake. It then took a
uphill rise through the trees until it leveled off at a clearing. Following the
trail (flat at this time) led us to Glacier Lake. (Picture to left.) By this
time most trees and foliage was far behind us. Going from Glacier Lake to the
top of Quinsicoe Mountain was the remainder of steep uphill climbs.
This particular area of the hike consisted of a lot of broken rock. Once atop of
Quinsicoe mountain, I could see the west side of the mountain. At this elevation,
there was little lush scenery. Most of the surrounding moutains looked like large
rocks and rolling hills that had been burned out.
After a short rest, the trail led further up the mountain along the rim. This
was the first time I caught a glimpse of Ladyslipper Lake down below. After
following the trail for a while longer I came to one of the first unique rock
formations, Devil's Woodpile (Picture to right.) The Devil's Woodpile is a large
outcropping of columnar basalt.
A short while later following the trail took me to the Stone City. Stone City
is a number of very large rocks piled and stacked near one another, almost forming
a city look (Picture to left.) Also nearby is an odd formation that I
discovered. I found a very large rock perched on the top of another larger rock
formation. Obviously left there by glaciers. But still a very cool thing to see
(Picture to right.)
The only sign of life up there was a single sign which marked Stone City,
pointed the way to the cleft, and pointed the way to LadySlipper Lake-the route
I was to take to get back (left).
Of course, I could not head down to Ladyslipper
lake yet, I had to first explore the remainder of the formations. So off I headed to
the next one, Smokey the Bear. Heading to Smokey the Bear was more of a walk than
a hike. Although at this time the weather was starting to take a turn for the
worse-clouds were setting in. Upon reaching Smokey the clouds had set in pretty
good and it was difficult to see in places. Made the view of Smokey difficult as
well. (Picture lower right.)
The next stretch of the hike was a little more challenging. This involved a little
bit of scrambling over loose rock. Heading down a little way until reaching a
point where the trail appears to end. Walking around the cliff like area led me to
the continuation of the trail which took me down a little further to the next
unique formation: the Giant Cleft. Once at the foot of what was to be the small
climb to the cleft I realized that it wasn't going to be that quick to get up. Much
of the climb was very sand like. Every step I took, I would loose at least half a
step. Hiking fast made it less of an impact. Once at the cleft I was amazed at how
high it is. As you can see, I needed two photos put together in order to get the
whole thing in a picture.
After hanging out at the cleft for a few minutes, it was time to head back.
Going back down the sand was extremely fun. Almost like snowboarding or something.
: ) Retracing the steps back to the intersection at Stone City was a bit of a
bear. Already being tired from the rigors of the hike made it a little difficult.
Once I arrived at the marker I began my descent. Although the trail was easy to
follow, the first part of the descent was tricky. A good chunk of elevation loss
was going down slate like broken rocks. These rocks were quite loose and I had to
be careful not to loose balance. Working my way down a little further I saw the
other side of the cleft. You are supposedly able to see Smokey the Bear too, but
the clouds were pretty thick at that particular elevation.
Once I hit the treeline, the trail seemed to straddle across a mountain with
minimal elevation loss. This is where I eventually arrived at LadySlipper Lake.
This lake was really neat as it was inset around all the mountains. Working my way
around the east side of the lake led me to the next climb! I thought it was all
downhill, but I was wrong. I worked my way up again before cresting and then
working my way back down again. It was a little while before I could see a glimpse
of Pyramid Lake to my left. Due to the shortness of time, I didn't head over to the
lake for a closer view.
I pressed on for a while longer descending more again until I arrived at
the Lake of the Woods. This was a neat little lake, quite small compared to the
others I had seen that day. Beyond the lake was a steeper descent achieved by
switchbacks which eventually led to "fairly" level ground towards the campsite
near Quiniscoe lake.
If you're interested in the hike at the rim, here are some stats:
||11 km (7 mi)
||540m (1770 ft)
||2614m (8570 ft)
||16km (9.9 mi)
||480m (1570 ft)
||1357m (4550 ft)