If you’re anything like me, you’ve always got your ear to the ground listening for amazing backpacking trips. This 18-miler in the Trinity Alps of Northern California is an epic three-day, two-night adventure you should definitely add to your list! This one has it all: ancient forests, beautiful meadows, high alpine lakes, and serene waterfalls all surrounded by craggy mountains. And best of all? Permits are easy. Just go to the Ranger Station in Weaverville, California, fill out a free permit form, and you’re on your way! Fair warning – this is not an easy climb! Be in good shape and ready to sweat, ascend, and scramble for this one.
First things first: permits. At this time, you do not need to pre-reserve permits. Bonus! To get to Weaverville Ranger Station, travel I5 North to Redding then go west on Highway 299. The Ranger Station is on the left hand side just as you are about to leave Weaverville.
To get to the trailhead: take Highway 299 to Junction City, 8 miles northwest of Weaverville, and then turn east 75 yards southeast of the Junction City bridge onto Canyon Creek Road. Drive 13.2 miles on the paved road that follows Canyon Creek to the Canyon Creek trailhead
From the parking lot your hike begins gradually through a wooded area. About 2.5 miles in, the views open up and the switchbacks begin. This portion of the trail gets direct sun in the afternoon, so keep that in mind when you are planning your start times and bring plenty of water for this first segment.
Lower Canyon Falls is your first reward for all those switchbacks at around mile four. This is the perfect chance to stop and catch your breath, grab a bite to eat, and soak up the wondrousness of the Trinity Alps. The water is cold, but it’s possible to scurry down the cliff to take a dip in the refreshing alpine water.
Your hike continues on through a forested area with the creek meandering peacefully through. The water is an electric blue-ish green and beckons you to jump in and cool off from the hot summer day. We camped at a pretty little spot beside the creek on our first night. Shade and water are plentiful and there are several campsites to choose from.
There are a variety of campsites to choose from right next to the creek and across the trail from the creek. We thought this rock cave was pretty cool! It looked like campers had made campfires for years inside this little alcove across the trail from the creek.
While we were sitting and enjoying our afternoon sunset, this little bumblebee landed on Daniel’s face. He sat, licking off the salt from his face for probably ten minutes! We laughed and watched him until he finally flew off.
The next morning we packed up and continued upward! The trail moseys through the woods for a bit longer then ascends to switchbacks again.
At about mile six, you will reach upper Canyon Creek Falls. This is a lovely little stopping spot with several campsites, a raging waterfall, pools to play in, epic views, and pure bliss. I camped here on a different trip and though popular – you probably won’t be alone at this spot – the location is breathtaking and the sounds of the falls will lull you to sleep.
This is definitely a good place to drop your pack, cool your feet, grab and snack and enjoy for awhile. We think this is one of the prettiest set of falls in the Trinity Alps.
Next stop: Lower Canyon Lakes. You’ll push uphill for another mile or so until you come to a rock scramble. It’s not too hard and the way is marked by several cairns. Trekking poles definitely come in handy for this hike! Make your way up and across the scramble and just over the next ridge likes Lower Canyon Lakes.
We went in late summer when wildfires were burning so the air wasn’t as clear as some days, yet the high alpine scenery is still amazing. We weren’t sure if we wanted to camp at Upper or Lower Lake, so we dropped our packs and scrambled our way around Lower Lake to catch a glimpse of Upper Lake.
Upper Lake is beautiful, but campsites aren’t as plentiful and there is not as much shelter. We ate a snack and headed back to Lower Lake to set up camp.
We set up camp in a great little location on a cliff overlooking the lake with easy water access.
Our granite campsite radiated the summer sun and kept us warm throughout the night, even though the winds kicked up a bit. Elevation at Lower Canyon Lake is about 5,700 feet so it gets cool at night.
There are fish in these lakes so if you are a fly fisherman, bring your gear!
We spent one night up at Lower Canyon Lakes, then hiked the entire way out on the third day. This backpacking trip has it all: from alpine views to refreshing mountain waterfalls, your spirit will be full and you will not leave disappointed. Be sure to stop at the Nugget in Weaverville for a pancake breakfast on the way home!
Have you done this epic backpacking trip? What are your favorite places to backpack? Comment below and don’t forget to share, like, and follow our blog. Thank you for reading!