Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
2,900.00 ft (883.92 m)
Trail type
17.00 mi (27.36 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

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.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)





Stunning views. Abundant wildlife. Many backcountry sites. Great swimming spots.


High temperatures in the summer. Very popular location for large groups.

Trailhead Elevation

3,100.00 ft (944.88 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Suitable for


Permit required



Nearby Adventures

Trinity Alps + Marble Mountain Wilderness, California


Fantastic hike with a lot of different options to branch off to other areas/waterfalls/swimming holes. Was lucky enough to catch a full moon while camping at the Lakes, and with how clear it was, I imagine it's a great place to look at the stars during a new moon.
This is a truly amazing hike with stunning views and impressive waterfalls. Current trail conditions: Very little visible water in both of the lakes. A lot of snow around the lakes. Stream crossings can be challenging due to snow melt.
odd that a beaver is mentioned so much but I guess a high elevations it probably is an oddity. They will travel overland but not like an otter or raccoon does.
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