Backpack to the Canyon Creek Lakes

California Canyon Creek Lakes Trailhead

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Trinity Alps is home to some of the most wild & spectacular terrain in the Western US. With over 55 alpine lakes, the Wild & Scenic Salmon river, Wild & Scenic Trinity river and countless other rivers, streams and creeks, you are bound to find a beautiful swimming hole, fishing spot, or unreal camp spot. Be sure to check out Grizzly Lake with its 100' waterfall cascading off granite slabs.

Numerous starting points with over 550 miles of trail and easily 50+ different featured trails depending on length and what type of activity you are are looking for. One of the more popular trails, and rightfully so, is Canyon Creek Lakes Trail. This 16 mile roundtrip hike has an overall elevation gain of 2,600 feet but is still quite popular on the summer weekends. It can be done as a long day hike, but I would recommend turning it into a 2-3 night backpacking trip. The trail is well maintained and weaves its way through a deep granite canyon with an occasional switchback providing some elevation gain. Along the way you will pass beautiful waterfalls, turquoise swim pools, lush colorful meadows and dense cedar and fir forests. After 7 miles you will reach Lower Canyon Creek Lake, an absolutely stunning alpine lake surrounded by granite peaks sitting at the base of Sawtooth Peak. This is great place to camp, and if you pick the day right, you will have it all to yourself. About a mile past Lower Canyon Creek Lake you will find Upper Canyon Creek Lake that sits at the base of Thompson Peak and Wedding Cake. Finding this lake can be tricky as it is not visible from Lower Canyon Creek Lake and you must follow cairns to find the lake. For the more adventurous, you may opt to scramble from Upper Canyon Creek Lake through drainages to El Lake and Kalmia Lake. Words cannot explain how beautiful these two small and hidden lakes are.

Camping: There are various areas to camp at along the way to the lakes next to Canyon Creek, as well as either of the Canyon Creek Lakes, but please remember to leave no trace. Campfires are allowed seasonally in designated areas below the lakes (be sure to find out current regulations)

Wilderness Permits are required but are FREE and available without reservation & can be obtained at any one of the ranger stations.

This trail is dog friendly, though please be aware that many portions of the trail consist of sharp and slick granite, and may pose a risk of tearing your dog's pads.

Numerous options are available for scrambling to the summit of many of the surrounding jagged peaks.

Getting There: For the Canyon Creek Lakes Trail drive 8 miles west on California Highway 299 from Weaverville to Junction City. Turn right (north) on paved Canyon Creek Road (County Road 401) just before the bridge over Canyon Creek. There IS NO SIGN, but the road easy to find and is directly across from a general store. Drive 13.5 miles from Junction City on Canyon Creek Road to the trailhead on a narrow and winding road. There is an outhouse and ample parking at trailhead.

Pack List

  • Backpacking tent or tarp & sleeping bag to sleep under the stars
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camelback
  • Water filter if camping overnight
  • Trekking poles
  • Camp stove, lighter, food, etc
  • Hiking shoes
  • Fishing pole & gear
  • Bear canister or appropriate storage of food (black bears frequent this area)
  • Camera
  • Appropriate backpacking clothing to be prepared for water recreation, cool nights, hot summer days
  • Map and compass or GPS
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Rock Climbing

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



16 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2600 Feet



Dog Friendly

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How to Get There

9 months ago

Big Bang for your buck

This hike is amazing considering that in 8 miles you can feel that you are in an alpine, "alps-like" setting. The fact that it's at a lower elevation makes it easier than some High Sierra hikes which is beneficial for anyone who has greater sensitivity to higher elevations. Be warned though, this trail is crowded so go midweek or on the shoulder seasons for more solitude. I also recommend taking the time to explore the Boulder Creek Lakes which are a short 5-mile round trip scramble from this trail.

9 months ago

9 months ago

Awesome Day Hike

Did this as a day hike, but will definitely be back for an overnight. Also highly recommend a night at the nearby Weaverville Hotel, a historic gem in the quaint town just 40 minutes from the trailhead.

9 months ago

11 months ago

Camp Fires at Canyon Creek Lakes are a Federal Offense

Please, no campfires at Canyon Creek Lakes. The fine now exceeds $700 and there are no warnings and the fine is non-negotiable. You have a photo on this page that clearly shows a tent looking across at a wall of granite that is well known as "The Stonehouse." From the vantage point of this photo, this fire is clearly in the no-campfire zone. A copy of this photo and link to this page are being sent to the wilderness supervisor at the Weaverville Ranger Station. Please be responsible. Please remove this photo from your site.

11 months ago

over 1 year ago

Great easy hike

Did it as an overnight with some friends the day before a big snow storm was predicted to hit. We geared up and sure enough, 3-5 inches of snow was on the ground in the morning. This hike is awesome with the fall colours and winter snows!!

over 1 year ago

Added by Dan Loch

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