Cathedral Provincial Park
Cathedral Provincial Park, also known as Cathedral Lakes is a hidden gem in British Columbia that not that many people seem to know about yet. It is full beautiful lakes, jagged mountains and even has golden larches in the Fall! In fact it is one of the very few places in BC where you can see golden larches.
The park is full of epic hikes with amazing scenery. The landscape in this park is so different to the rest of British Columbia and it surprised us. Some of the jagged mountains even made us feel like we were in the Italian Dolomites!
If you aren’t into hiking, you can still visit Cathedral Lakes and have an amazing time! If you stay in the lodge you can relax by or take out a canoe on Quiniscoe lake or book some time in to spend in one of their hot tubs.
We spent a long weekend in Cathedral Provincial Park and made the absolute most of the hiking and epic viewpoints while we were there. This guide has everything you need to plan your own trip to Cathedral Provincial Park, including accommodation options and the best hikes.
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How to get to Cathedral Provincial Park
Cathedral Provincial Park is located in Keremeos near Osoyoos, BC, about a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver. To get there from Vancouver, you will need to take the Trans-Canada Highway until Hope, where you will take the BC-3E. Eventually you will turn off onto Ashnola/Ewart Creek Road to get to the Cathedral Lakes Lodge Parking Lot also known as Cathedral Lakes Lodge Basecamp.
Can you drive to Cathedral Lakes Lodge?
From Vancouver to Cathedral Lakes, it is about a 4.5 hour drive. You cannot drive all of the way to the lodge as the road is a bumpy 4×4 and is privately owned. Instead, you can either hike up (I don’t recommend this as the road is extremely long and will take you almost an entire day), or you can book a shuttle through Cathedral Lakes Lodge. All shuttle trips need to be booked in advance through the Cathedral Lakes Lodge Website.
Once you have booked your shuttle and accommodation and arrived, you will leave your car in the guest carpark and get all of your belongings out and ready for the shuttle.
The shuttle aka 4×4 truck, takes you up the bumpy road to the lodge in around 1 hour. There is a separate walking trail from the basecamp to the lodge, but it would take about 8 hours or so.
About Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park
The park’s main area sits at 2,000 metres plus and the hiking season is pretty short, from Summer to early Fall. Being the park is so high up in the mountains, the weather can be extremely unpredictable and even snow during Summer! The lodge actually closes for the year at the end of September because of the weather. As the lodge is in charge of the shuttles up and down the mountain, this means that unless you want to hike for 8 hours, you cannot access the park outside of the lodge season.
Can you camp at Cathedral Lakes?
There are two open campsites in Cathedral Lakes, Lake of the Woods and Quiniscoe. Quiniscoe Lake Campground is right next to the lake and a very short walk from the lodge. The Lake of the Woods campground is a 1km (about 15 mins) walk from the lodge / shuttle drop off zone and is the quieter of the 2 campgrounds.
Quiniscoe Campground has bear caches available whereas Lake of the Woods only has bear hang pulleys.
When choosing which campground to book, keep in mind that campfires are banned all year-round at Lake of the Woods Campground.
⛺ Note: There were three campgrounds previously, however Pyramid Lake campground has closed due to spruce pine beetle.
How to Book Your Campsite
You cannot reserve a campsite. The campsites are on a first come first serve basis, however they do cost money. To pay, you can either purchase a camping permit in advance on the BC Parks website or take cash with you. Once you arrive, there are envelopes at the information kiosk near the lodge which you can complete and put in the box, or you can wait for a ranger to do the rounds and pay them directly.
Cathedral Lakes Lodge
If you are wanting to hike in Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park, unless you are wanting to camp, the best way to do this is to stay at Cathedral Lakes Lodge! The lodge is super cosy and they serve up amazing food!
You can choose to have all meals included with your accommodation. Dinner at the lodge was a lot of fun because you sit at communal tables with the other guests and get to chat about which hikes you have all done in the area.
The lodge is also right next to Quiniscoe Lake and they provide canoes and other boats for guests to take out on the lake.
The lodge has separate cabins which you can book, or you can choose to stay in one of the rooms in the main lodge. When we visited the park, we stayed in one of the rooms in the lodge which we really enjoyed because we didn’t have to go outside to get to dinner. If you stay in the lodge, you share a communal bathroom down the hall from the rooms. We didn’t have any issues with long queues to the bathroom in the 3 nights we were there.
How to Book the Lodge
To book Cathedral Lakes Lodge, you will need to call or email the owner. You can find out more information on the rates and rooms/cabins available at the lodge on their website.
Is there Wifi?
There is wifi at the lodge, however you are high up in the mountains so don’t expect it to work well. You shouldn’t need to use the internet while you are there as there are a lot of helpful staff members if you have any questions and lots of fun activities to do to keep you busy.
The Hot Tubs
Cathedral Lakes Lodge has 3 woodfire burning hot tubs located across from the lodge with views of the lodge and Quiniscoe Lake. The hot tub area is covered and has chairs and places to put your towels and belongings. When we were there we found the area with the chairs to be quite messy with ash coming from the chimney so be careful with your things here. It also looked as though there has been a fire recently that hadn’t been fixed yet. This was in September this year (2022) so perhaps this will have been fixed in time for next year’s bookings.
We enjoyed the hot tubs, but they definitely weren’t the hottest we had ever been in. You also have to book a time slot with the lodge when you first check in. It’s one time slot for each room reservation.
Cathedral Lakes can have pretty unpredictable weather at times so I recommend bringing layers on your trip. Below is a packing list to help you plan for your trip.
- Hiking Boots or Trail Runners – I recommend hiking boots for hiking the Rim Trail as they usually have a harder sole making them better for rough terrain. My favourite boots are the Oboz Bridger Mid B-Dry Boots and Dave’s favourite boots are his Scarpa Kailash Plus Gore-Tex Backpacking Boots.
- Hiking Socks – Good hiking socks are important to make your boots as comfortable as possible! Some great hiking socks are the Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Light Cushion Crew and the Darn Tough Hiker Midweight with Cushion Micro Crew socks.
- Micro Spikes – Check with the Cathedral Lakes Lodge staff but only bring along micro spikes on your hikes if the trails are icy. When we went at the end of September 2022, it was still quite warm and hadn’t snowed yet, but this can vary greatly from year to year.
- Merino Top / Tee – Merino is a great material to hike in so we use Merino tops to hike. Our favourite Merino tops are from Icebreaker!
- Fleece – Our favourite fleeces are the Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4 Zip (Kerry’s) and a Mac Pac Fleece from Australia (Dave’s).
- Puffer Jacket – We love our puffer jackets to keep warm at the beginning of a walk and then once we are at the viewpoint. Dave’s favourite puffer jacket is the Arcteryx Cerium LT Hoody and Kerry’s favourites are the Eddie Bauer CirrusLite Down Hooded Jacket and Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket.
- Rain Jacket – Check the weather before you go, but if there is any rain in the forecast we recommend bringing along raincoats which can also double as a wind breaker.
- Beanie – We never go anywhere in Winter, Spring and Fall without our beanies! Some of our favourites are from Dakine and Eddie Bauer.
- Swimming Costume – There are lots of beautiful lakes that you might want to take a dip in.
- Hiking Poles – if you prefer hiking with poles.
- Safety Items such as a first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, headlamps, a navigation device and bear spray.
For a full guide containing all of the things we take hiking, check out our hiking gear guide!
Best Hikes in Cathedral Provincial Park
There are a few different hikes that you can do in the park, but the main and most popular hike in Cathedral Provincial Park is the 16km long Rim Trail. The hikes listed below are the most popular.
The Rim Trail
Distance: 15.9km loop Elevation Gain: 834m Time: 5-8 hours
The Rim Trail in Cathedral Provincial Park is one of British Columbia’s best day hikes as it passes some really beautiful viewpoints. The hike is an 15.9km loop with 834 metres elevation and will take you around 5-8 hours depending on how fast of a hiker you are and how long you stop at each of the viewpoints. Some of the amazing points of interest that the trail passes are Smokey the Bear, Ladyslipper Lake, Stone City and Glacier Lake.
We did the Rim Trail in a day and realised pretty quickly why it was the most popular hike in the area. The views were phenomenal and what was even better was that the hike is a loop so no backtracking!
Our favourite spot along the Rim Trail was Glacier Lake which is a lake that you come across surrounded by beautiful larches early into the hike.
You can choose to do the Rim Trial clockwise or counter clockwise. Most hikers choose to do the hike clockwise, starting at Quiniscoe and heading past Ladyslipper Lake. We went counter-clockwise so that we could spend extra time at Ladyslipper Lake on the way back to the lodge but this meant hiking down a bit of a sketchy shale area. I recommend going clockwise so that you hike up not down the shale area. We have an entire hiking guide on the Rim Trail, which includes the pros and cons of which way to do the hike. you can find this guide here.
Distance: 11.3km return Elevation Gain: 452m Time: 3.5 hours
Goat Lake was unfortunately one of the hikes on our list that we didn’t have time to do, but we have heard it is absolutely gorgeous and worth doing if you have the time!
Distance: 6.6km return Elevation Gain: 300m Time: 2 hours
We hiked up to Ladyslipper Lake in the morning in the dark to be there for sunrise. It was beautiful watching the morning light hit the peaks of the mountains towering over the lake. To get to the lake in time for sunrise, we left the lodge at 6:30am as the sun rose as about 7:30am.
Larches in Cathedral Provincial Park
Cathedral Provincial Park is pretty special as it is one of the few places in British Columbia that has larch trees. If you don’t know what a larch is, they are trees that look like pines but turn a beautiful golden colour in the Fall. They grow to 20 to 45 metres tall and are native to locations in the cooler temperatures of the northern hemisphere. Another place that you can find larches in BC is in the nearby Manning Provincial Park.
When do the larches turn golden?
This is a great question, and unfortunately one where the answer is different every single year. This year the larches didn’t full turn until after the lodge was closed, and so it was impossible to book a time to see them. Usually Around the last week in September is a safe choice, as this is also the last week that the lodge is open for the year. Contact Cathedral Lakes Lodge to check when the last possible time to stay is.
Where to Find Larches in Cathedral Provincial Park
Basically, if you are hiking in the park, you are going to come across loads of larches. To name just a few different spots, there are tons of larches up at Ladyslipper Lake, Goat Lake and Glacier Lake framing the lakes but also along the Rim Trail as you hike through the forest up further into the alpine.
Wildlife in Cathedral Provincial Park
Bears are pretty rare in the park as the elevation is so high. There are however plenty of mountain goats, bighorn sheep and deer. When we were there we were also told by the staff about the wolverines that live in the area. They are quite rare to see but apparently there are quite a lot of them there! The only wildlife we actually saw while we were there were a couple of Grouses.
I always recommend bringing along bear spray on any hike you do in British Columbia and the hikes in Cathedral Lakes should not be treated any differently. It is always better to be over prepared than under prepared when it comes to safety.
The best time of the year to see the mountain goats in Cathedral Provincial Park is during Summer.
? Fun Fact: Mountain Goats are attracted to the salt in urine which means they may sometimes follow you on the trails, waiting for you to use the green toilet.
Are Dogs Allowed in Cathedral Provincial Park?
Dogs are not permitted in the park or at the lodge.
The Lakes of Cathedral Provincial Park
Cathedral Provincial Park has not only epic mountains but also gorgeous turquoise coloured lakes! You will pass some of these lakes when you hike the Rim Trail and can hike to the others separately.
- Quiniscoe Lake – This is the lake next to Cathedral Lakes Lodge. The lodge provides guests with canoes and other boats to take out on the lake.
- Ladyslipper Lake – You will pass Ladyslipper Lake on the Rim Trail but can also hike to it separately.
- Goat Lake – Goat Lake is a gorgeous turquoise lake that can be reached by hiking to it separately (not via the Rim Trail).
- Glacier Lake – You will reach a few different viewpoints overlooking Glacier Lake on the Rim Trail, showing the lake from different angles.
- Lake of the Woods – This is where the 2nd campground is located, about a 15 minute walk from the lodge.
- Pyramid Lake – Located 1km from the lodge
Cathedral Provincial Park and Cathedral Lakes Lodge are true hidden gems of BC and a great idea for a weekend trip away! Both Dave and I loved our time there. I especially loved the food that the lodge provided and also the fact that you could have a hiking holiday with a bit of relaxation on the side.
For more weekend trip ideas from Vancouver, check out our guide, Best Weekend Trips from Vancouver!
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