Pre-Trip Notes, 1989 Canyon Creek Boot 'n Blister hike

Two years ago, Kathy'sdream of a reunion backpack came true. A total of 22 people from four states showed up for an 18-mile-round-trip hike to Caribou Lake in the Trinity Alps. We all agreed that doing such a trip every two years would be quite wonderful. This year, Canyon Creek Lakes was voted the next traditional Boot 'n Blister haunt of choice. The first weekend in October (roughly our traditional "second weekend of the school year") is October 7 and 8.

On this trip, new questions may be answered, like how do Chris and Carol like Tehachapi?, how did Nadine like living in Switzerland?, can Cristie Denton find three more people with the same birthday?, can Don still hike after all that mountain bike racing? The fire situation two years ago made the air and views smokey, with luck, things will be clear and crisp this Fall. There is no need for reservations, but if you want to drop a card, we'd like to get a rough idea of who all's planning the trip. If you need a 7 1/2-minute map, let me know that too. I have a colleague at Big Bar who will get our Wilderness Permit for us.

I tried to find as many of the old BnB folks as possible. I wrote REI Co-Op to see if they could provide information as to the whereabouts of people. They said "sure... all we need is their Co-Op numbers..."


Canyon Creek Lakes, Trinity Alps Wilderness, northwestern California


October 7-8, 1989

Hike Length

The trip is 1.9 miles one-way to McKay Camp, 4.5 miles one-way to Canyon Creek Meadows, 7.5 miles one-way to Lower Canyon Creek Lake, and 8.0 mile one way to Upper Canyon Creek Lake.


  • Roadhead elevation, 3,150 feet
  • McKay Camp, 3,600 feet
  • Canyon Creek Meadows, 4,750 feet
  • Lower Canyon Creek Lake, 5,606 feet
  • Upper Canyon Creek Lake, 5,668 feet


  • U.S. Geological Survey Helena 15' (1:62,500) quadrangle (1951)
  • U.S. Geological Survey Mt. Hilton 7 1/2' (1:24,000) quadrangle (Provisional edition, 1982)
  • AAA Northwestern California road map

    Driving instructions

    Take California Hwy 299 88 miles east from Arcata or 57 miles west from Redding to Junction City. Take the Canyon Creek Road about 13 miles north past Dedrick to the end of the road.


    There is a U.S. Forest Service campground at Ripstein Camp, one mile before the end of the road. This is a convenient place to car-camp if you arrive Friday evening, October 6 (as most of us will). The trail takes off from the parking area at the end of the Canyon Creek Road.

    Hike description

    The trail is level for 0.3 mi. to Bear Creek crossing, the last water for 3 miles. after 1.9 miles, the climb becomes a little steeper. McKay Camp is down the hill from here (an early bailout campsite). Along the steeper trail, there is water, a view of Sawtooth Mountain to the northeast, and a view of Lower Canyon Creek Falls. At 4.5 miles you reach Canyon Creek Meadows, another early-bailout campsite. Another 1.5 miles and you can see Boulder Creek across the canyon and Upper Canyon Creek falls up ahead. Switchback up a bench and proceed towards Stonehouse, a spot several of us used for shelter in the old snowshoe hikes era. The last stretch of the hike winds up to the northeast to the lower lake. The route to the upper lake is only another few hundred yards around the southwest side of the lower lake. Lowe and Lowe (1981) note that the normal 200-foot camping limit from water is waived since there is no other place to camp.

    Mountaineering opportunities

    Thompson Peak, the highest point in the Klamath Mountains (8,995') is situated 1.9 miles NNW of the upper lake just north of 41 lat. in the USGS Cecilville 15' quad and the Thompson Peak 7 1/2' quad. Proceed up the creek that flows to the northwest shore of the upper lake, head for the crest to the west, and follow it north to the summit. Sawtooth Mountain (8,886') is situated about a mile east of the lakes but is easier to climb by going around to L lake and approaching the summit from the north. The summit is the northeastern of the three pinnacles. You can climb a peak before dinner Saturday, early Sunday morning, or both.


    Precipitation is rare in the Fall, but, being among those who have been wet in the Klamaths in October in the past, I will be bringing a light tent. Nights are mild; days can be quite warm.


    The Klamaths have their fair share of black bears. Hang your food at night (up 10 feet, out 4 feet). There are a few rattlesnakes; bring a snakebite kit. I suspect that the mosquitos will be down near zero in October, but bring your Cutters anyhow. Water is best boiled or run through a water filter. I use a filter pump called "First Need." Bigfoot prints are only a problem if they are still occupied.


    The lower elevations in the eastern Klamath mountains lie in a mixed conifer forest consisting of Douglas fir with sugar pine, ponderosa pine, incense cedar, California black oak, and white fir. At higher elevations, red fir with western white pine and Brewer spruce are present. Keep a lookout for weeping spruce, a species indigenous to the local region.


    The roadhead is underlain by the Devonian Salmon Hornblende Schist. This formation is commonly foliated with lineated amphibole, fine to medium grained, and is locally gneissic. The protolith is probably a basalt that has been metamorphosed to amphibolite grade (Cox, 1956).

    Less than a half mile up the trail from the roadhead, you cross the contact with the Canyon Creek stock, a large tonalite pluton that intruded the Salmon Hornblende Schist in the Jurassic. It is composed of plageoclase (An40-20), quartz, hornblende, and biotite, with accessory apatite, sphene, and magnetite. The rock is medium-grained, seriate to hypidiomorphic granular, and leucocratic to mesocratic.

    This part of Canyon Creek is situated in the central metamorphic belt of the Klamath Mountains geologic province (Irwin, 1981). The central metamorphic belt is one of several arcuate (convex westward) lithic belts that are thought to represent eastward-dipping thrust slices of oceanic crust and island arcs that were accreted to the continental margin during the Mesozoic. The belt is overthrust by the eastern Klamath belt to the east, and in turn overthrusts the western Paleozoic and Triassic belt (North Fork terrane) on the west.


  • Cox, D.P., 1956, Geology of the Helena quadrangle, Trinity County, California: Stanford, Calif., Stanford University, Ph.D. dissertation, 123 p.
  • Hart, John, 1975, Hiking the Bigfoot Country: San Francisco, Sierra Club Totebook, 398 p.
  • Hotz, P.E., Thurber, H.K., Marks, L.Y., and Evans, R.K., 1972, Mineral resources of the Salmon-Trinity Alps Primitive Area, California, with a section on an aeromagnetic survey and interpretation, by Andrew Griscom: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1371-B, p. B1-B267.
  • Irwin, W.P., 1981, Tectonic accretion of the Klamath Mountains: in Ernst, W.G., ed., 1981, The geotectonic development of California, Rubey Volume I: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, p. 29-49.
  • Linkhart, Luther, 1983, The Trinity Alps: a hiking and backpacking guide: Berkeley, Wilderness Press, 206 p.
  • Lowe, Don, and Lowe, Roberta, 1981, 41 hiking trails, northwestern California: Beaverton, Oreg., The Touchstone Press, p. 84-85.
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