Amazing Views at Cathedral Lakes
Cathedral Lakes provincial park offers some of the most magnificent panoramic views of alpine meadows, formidable ancient rock formations, and snow capped mountain ranges.
Tucked about 30 km southwest of Keremeos in the Similkamean region on southern British Columbia, Cathedral Lakes provincial park consists of a wide variety of hiking trails, lakes for fishing, boating (Quinsicoe Lake) and viewing, alpine meadows, and mountain ranges.
Cathedral Lakes base camp is approximately 8 km from the entrance of the provincial park at one of the park’s larger lakes, Quiniscoe Lake. The base camp, consisting of campgrounds and a privately maintained guest lodge with full amenities, can be accessed two ways: by a strenuous 5 hour plus hike through a forested trail that runs from the entrance of the park to the base camp, or by a 4x4 Jeep service that drives you and your gear up a very rough road in approximately 45 minutes.
When you arrive at the base camp, out of the cool gloom of the ponderosa pine forest, you will be struck by the glorious glacier-feed, azure Quiniscoe Lake. Once checked in at the lodge, or campground, you can set off on any one of the many hiking trails that cover the park. As you begin exploring the park you will be overwhelmed by the clean, clear, aqua-green, glacier-feed lakes that help give Cathedral Lakes its apt name. The brilliance of the lakes is given strong competition by the peaceful magnificence of the alpine meadows banked by the menacing mountain tops and icy glaciers that surround the provincial park.
If you are lucky enough to visit the park when the alpine meadows are in bloom, you will see a glorious array of abundant colour. If you are really lucky, you might sight, beyond the many species of birds, wildlife such as California Bighorn sheep, marmots (indigenous only to British Columbia), and mountain goats in the meadows, or drinking at the lakes.
One of the most popular trails to hike is the Cathedral Rim Trail (2500 meters about sea level). This trail shows off many spectacular views of the North Cascade and Coast Range Mountains and includes many of the ancient rock formations unique to Cathedral Lakes Park.
As you meander your way through the alpine meadows, and by the many lakes, you begin to climb up a glacier to the rim of Cathedral Lakes Park. As you work your way around the rim, one of the first sites that you see is the Devil's Woodpile. The Devil's Woodpile is a large outcropping of columnar basalt.
Further on, the trail leads you to Stone City, a quartz monozonite formation, untouched by the ice-age glaciers, and eroded by the action of the wind. Stone City appears as a number of very large rocks piled and stacked near one another, forming a rock skyscrapers and buildings. Also at the city, there are giant boulders delicately balanced on one another that look like large hamburgers.
As you climb higher along the rim, in the distance you can see, in the side of the Giant Cleft, the rock formation known as Smokey the Bear- given the name because of the resemblance to the famous forest fire fighter. When you eventually work your way to the Giant Cleft you will be at the last and most popular rock formation at the park. The Giant Cleft is a split in the mountain formed when softer basalt rocks eroded leaving a cleft in the harder granite. The easiest way to describe the cleft is that it looks like someone took a giant chainsaw and attempted to cut the mountain in half. While at the foot of the cleft, you can look through the mountain to the valley and mountain ranges on the other side of the mountain- a breathtaking sight!
Note: As the park is fairly popular during its open season from May to October, it is recommended that you make reservations at either the campground, or lodge before arriving. While hiking at the park, be wary of the weather as it can change at a moment's notice. Most of the trails are marked with stone markers as hikes rise above the tree line. Bring ample supplies such as water, food, and warm clothing, as there is no forest to protect you.