Updated: Feb 17
The Trinity Alps - easily my favorite hike of the trip - and also the hardest.
We woke up early in the morning, grabbed some snacks and coffee from the hotel lounge and got a head start for the 2 hour drive northwest. The drive itself was pretty, I could tell we were in no man’s land because a good 45 minutes of the drive was in the middle of the mountains. I was already starting to like this. Today was the big day, our first big hike taking Canyon Creek Lakes Trail, advertised at about 8 miles and 3,000 feet elevation gain but by the time we were done it was more like 9 miles....but who’s counting.
The trail itself is incredible, and takes you through lush forests, snow-packed cliff sides, alpine lakes and has a beautiful waterfall at the midway point. Also, a postcard worthy overlook about a quarter way in.
The trail starts off fairly mellow, not too much elevation gain, but you do cross a river almost immediately into the hike. There isn't a possible method to cross it dry so if you plan on camping or just want dry feet for the remainder of the day I would either bring some hiking sandals or cross it barefoot and carry your shoes. The water is pretty deep but not treacherous at all, just cold; I crossed it without trekking poles, but if you have them it’s easier. In fact this entire hike is probably easier with trekking poles. I kinda wish I bought some because I was having a tough time the further we went and the more technical the trail became.
There’s a few things you need to keep in mind when hiking a trail like this, the weather will change on you. It was pretty hot in the morning and throughout the day while we were hiking (June) but by night time is was freezing cold - we were also 3,000 feet higher in elevation. Pack accordingly.
You’ll spend most of the hike in the forest and halfway through come across a waterfall; this is the best resting spot for sure. Very peaceful and relaxing to eat lunch, refuel, and stare off into trees listening to the waterfall. We broke for “lunch” here (some trail mix and beef jerky). I believe there was another river or stream we crossed right before this too and I filled up my water jug there.
Speaking of water, you’ll need/want lots of water on the hike but there are plenty of spots to fill up again if you go this time of year so bring a water filter. My girlfriend bought me a Sawyer water filter squeeze bag which came in handy so many times, especially on this hike. It weighs almost nothing and is portable; just stick the open end of the bag into the stream, let it fill up, and then screw on the purifier and pour into your water bottle. Boom, done.
You’ll really have to pay attention to where you are going because there are multiple places in the latter part of the hike that do not have clear trail paths. We probably spent some extra time and hiked extra distances figuring out which way we were supposed to go. Mostly towards the top when you reach an open flat area of the forest. I say open, because it’s still tree covered but no longer a narrow trail if that makes sense. It’s very muddy and wet from all the snow melt and there’s a massive stream that looks like you’re not supposed to cross but you do. All the previous streams are easy but I wouldn’t recommend going through the water in the one at the top though because it’s pretty treacherous. In fact it will definitely take you away. We all did our best balancing act on fallen trees and makeshift bridges to get across and none of us fell! I took some pictures and video but put my camera away before crossing on this one.
When you feel like you can’t go any further, and you’re no longer in the forest, and the climb becomes steeper, that’s how you know you’re getting close. Seriously, the last portion of this hike is brutal. It’s like going through a really tough workout and then the strength coach puts you through a “finisher” to see how mentally tough his team is. That’s the best comparison I can make because it will challenge you.
I was exhausted, physically and mentally, but we made it to the top and when we got to the top - every step instantly became worth it. I took my last step to reach the top and looked out on a beautiful, pristine lake, wide open for the taking. I literally put my arms up like in one of those cheesy commercials filled with joy. One because the hike was over and two, this view was immaculate.
Tristan insisted we found a better camping spot, Ian, Wyatt and I contemplated just sleeping without a tent that night and lying down where we were. Reluctantly following Tristan through snow, traversing the side of the mountain through some rough terrain, and even falling into the snow knee deep a couple times. But when we got to the other side, there was a method to his madness.
That beautiful view I just told you about? Ha, I was wrong. THIS was a beautiful view.
Okay Tristan and Charlie, you guys were right. The extra mile was worth it. This was THE spot.
We found ourselves a nice little cliffside spot between two lakes! Yes, there was another lake and massive granite cliff sides. This place can’t be real. I could stay up here for days and hike around the area to explore or just relax by the lake.
This hike right here, is why I came on this trip. Everyone always asks me; why would you go backpacking for 10 days? Why are you going to do a 18 mile hike in two days? That’s how you’re going to spend your vacation time...etc. This is why. I didn’t know it at the time, but this hike is why.
We hung out for a while, and just soaked in the view while we set up our tents before it got dark. A huge storm system came rolling in and we watched the lightning off in the distance and the clouds rolling around us. It never rained on us thankfully, but we watched the storm go by and then something incredible happened; a rainbow. As if this view wasn’t already perfect enough, we were blessed with not one, but 2 rainbows.
And for a brief moment there was part of a third rainbow, although I wasn't able to pick it up on the camera.
Yeah, how’s that to end your day? A delicious dehydrated pasta dinner (not being sarcastic it was awesome) and a view unmatched anywhere else.
As I lied in the tent that night and rested, I was happy but also thinking….what did I just get myself into? There’s no way I can keep up that pace for an entire week. I shared a tent with Ian and nonchalantly asked him,
“So is that about normal for the hikes y’all have done?”
“No that might’ve been the most difficult hike we’ve done outside of one other.”
I was relieved because if that difficulty was the average I was going to be screwed. We packed up and made our way back down the mountain, this time the 9 miles went by much quicker and much easier since it was 95% downhill now. Tristan had a bum knee that he re-injured on the hike up and was a little slow but that dude is tough as nails and powered through it. I was hiking lightyears faster than him (a very experienced backpacker) so we all knew he was hurting pretty bad. Oh yeah, I also woke up the next morning itchy as hell with this disgusting rash all over my body. It was hideous. I think Ian has a pretty gnarly picture of it somewhere. I’ll have to get him to send that to me and include it in here.
We thought it was poison Ivy but the behavior of the rash eventually proved it wasn’t. We thought maybe at the waterfall I sat in some poison oak. But now that I know it wasn’t poison ivy I’m thinking maybe I was bit by something? But that’s for another story, more on the hives later. Just know the next 24 hours were miserable.
Between Tristan’s knee, my hives and I believe Wyatt had something too? Can’t remember. Point being this hike took a piece of us with it.
We got back to car just as a thunderstorm was beginning to roll in and started our 4 hour drive north to Klamath Falls Oregon. Somewhere along the way we stopped for some food and grabbed some tasty ass sandwiches at a Publix. I honestly can’t remember if that’s right, and I know Publix is more of a southern grocery store but they make the best grocery store sandwiches so I’m going with that. I popped a bunch of 800mg ibuprofen because after sitting in the car for 2 hours immediately following a 9 mile hike my hips were in awful shape. My hives disappeared and came back again so I bought this anti itching cream and applied it in the bathroom….fun times. I’m telling you this sucked.
But we eventually made it to Klamath Falls right around sunset and set up camp. That’s all for this one. We’ll pick up tomorrow when I go to MedExpress and then Crater Lake!