Canyon Creek Lakes

Trinity Alps + Marble Mountain Wilderness, California

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Canyon Creek Lakes


  • Taking the first few steps into the wilderness.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Lost in the foliage.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Canyon Creek Falls roaring after a rain.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • The lowest cascade of Canyon Creek Falls.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Relaxing below one of the many falls along the trail.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • One of the first great views looking back down the watershed.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • The trail is easily followed in most places.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • The Stonehouse Site built in years past by miners.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Upper Canyon Creek Lake from the trail.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Reflections of camp at the upper lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Clouds and mountains reflect in the lower lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Last light of the day strikes the ridge above El Lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Be very careful not to disturb the wildlife at the lakes.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • A young deer drinks from the lake at dusk.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • The Milky Way rises to the south.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • View from the tent next to the upper lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Fresh raspberries can be found near the upper lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Viewing the upper lake through the fog.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Hiking further up the canyon.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • The roots of an old tree cling to granite boulders.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • A hidden waterfall and pool past the lakes.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • In a valley topped with clouds.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • One of the many falls behind the upper lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • A hiker traverses the slippery rock.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Scrambling to get a better view.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • The fog rolls over the peaks as a hiker takes a rest.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Little Granite Peak (8031 ft) receives the last light of day.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Resting after a tough scramble to El Lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • El Lake is tucked against a bowl of granite ridges.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Looking back on El Lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Canyon Creek valley and lakes seen from the scramble to Kalmia Lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Scrambling above the lakes.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Complete view of Emerald and Sapphire Lakes from the ridge.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Looking down the Canyon Creek watershed. - Canyon Creek Lakes
  • On the trail headed out.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • - Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Sunset from Upper Canyon Creek Lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Sunset from Upper Canyon Creek Lake.- Canyon Creek Lakes
  • Upper Canyon Creek Lake in late June.- Canyon Creek Lakes
Overview + Weather
Stunning views. Abundant wildlife. Many backcountry sites. Great swimming spots.
High temperatures in the summer. Very popular location for large groups.
Trinity Alps + Marble Mountain Wilderness, CA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
3,500.00 ft (1,066.80 m)
Permit required: 
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
17.00 mi (27.36 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
3,100.00 ft (944.88 m)
Typically multi-day: 
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description


The Canyon Creek watershed is the most popular destination for hiking and backpacking in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Once you have witnessed this canyon's beauty it is very easy to see why. During the summer months more than five waterfalls can be seen or heard from the trail to the Canyon Creek Lakes. During late spring and early summer over 50 waterfalls can be found in this watershed, some of which require backcountry travel to observe. On calm days the lakes in this area become near perfect mirrors and reflect the surrounding peaks and clouds.

From the Canyon Creek Trailhead there are two main destinations: Upper and Lower Canyon Creek Lakes, and Boulder Creek Lakes. Both of these lake sets are approximately the same distance from the trailhead (8 to 9 miles) and offer their own unique beauty. A common plan for backpackers is to set up camp shortly after the junction toward Boulder Creek Lakes. Here there are many backcountry sites in a perfect position for day hikes to the two lake sets.

A couple of other smaller lakes exist beyond Upper Canyon Creek Lake, most notably Kalmia and El Lake. In order to find these lakes one must adventure off trail without any guidance other than the occasional cairn. This sometimes means scrambling up steep granite mountainsides and through sharp brush. To reach Kalmia or El Lake from Upper Canyon Creek Lake, the best way to start is by traveling around the eastern side of the lake. From here a topographic map is highly recommended. For anyone wanting a less rigorous day hike, the valley behind Upper Canyon Creek Lake is sometimes full of waterfalls, wildlife, and solitude. 

The Trinity Alps Wilderness is a bastion of many wildlife species, and Canyon Creek is no exception. The largest of animals in the area are black bear, mountain lions, and black tailed deer. At night many visitors can hear and see deer walk into their camp searching for any source of salt they can find. These deer are known for licking and tearing clothes that have been exposed to sweat. Osprey are also frequently observed in Canyon Creek and throughout the rest of the Trinity Alps. Nearly every night at dusk, when conditions are clear, an osprey can be seen and heard fishing at the lakes. A pair of binoculars can make this a very cool show.

Though some of the animals in alps may seem friendly, they are easily impacted by visitors, so please be mindful of your presence and practice Leave No Trace principles. Perhaps the most sensitive animal in the Canyon Creek watershed is a beaver which has recently taken residence at one of the lakes. This mammal is very shy and flees whenever he sees any humans. With too much continual disturbance he is likely to abandon the area and his home. If you see any dam at the outflow of a lake, please do not destroy it and help preserve the beaver's home.

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(16 within a 30 mile radius)

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