Home » 2018 Trinity Alps

Sinks to Upper Canyon Creek Lake, CA

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - 9:30pm by Lolo
6 miles and 3 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Looking out over Canyon CreekLooking out over Canyon CreekAfter some coffee and Nature Valley Oats ‘N Honey granola bars (we decided to forgo the oatmeal this morning), we reloaded our packs and we set off on the trail north towards Upper Canyon Creek.

From the junction, the trail began a moderate climb - nothing too tough, just pretty much a steady uphill. Conditions weren’t particularly great, as smoke had settled in overnight, leaving visibility pretty poor.

We eventually came to a spot where a tiny stream crossed the trail. It was tiny now, but our neighbors who had hiked this in July had faced a lot more challenging stream crossings than we would be dealing with in late September. We crossed this little stream three times as we followed a series of switchbacks up the canyon.

At about 5 miles from the trailhead (2 miles into our hike today), we came across the first of three waterfalls along the trail. While not as impressive as it would have been during the spring, the falls and pools were pretty and served as a good source of water. Herb and I had decided to carry two 1-liter Smartwater bottles each, which we would refill along the way as needed, using our Sawyer Squeeze water filter on top of the active shared bottle. Even at this time of year, we had no trouble finding places to refill.

Herb hiking up to Upper Canyon Creek LakeHerb hiking up to Upper Canyon Creek LakeAt about 6 miles, we met a couple coming the other direction, saying that they had camped at Boulder Creek Lakes the night before, but the smoke was so bad that you couldn’t see a thing. This was certainly disappointing, but since we were all the way here, we decided to forge on to Upper Creek Canyon and just hope that the skies cleared. A little while further along the trail, we met another girl who said she was also hiking out because of the smoky conditions.

Continuing to moderately climb, we passed the junction for the spur trip to Boulder Creek Lakes (6.5 miles from the trailhead) and continued north to our planned destination at Upper Creek Canyon Lake. As we did so, the skies were becoming clearer, so hopefully we had made the right choice to continue on.

Approaching Upper Canyon Creek LakeApproaching Upper Canyon Creek LakeShortly after the junction we came across another hiker, probably in his 40s, with a thick Irish brogue, moving along quite quickly with just a daypack on his back. I was envious of his light load. We spoke to him for awhile, sharing stories of trails and places we loved. At one point, he started to say something like, “I give you guys credit for still doing…” and then caught himself, realizing that he was basically calling us too old to do hikes like this.

After we left him, Herb and I had a good laugh, as we are still 28 in our minds, and continued dragging our feeble bodies onward.

Eventually, as we approached Lower Canyon Creek Lake, our so-easy-to-follow trail turned to granite slabs with cairns to guide us along the right path. We made our way down to the lake and even briefly considered camping on it, before deciding to go all the way to Upper Canyon Creek Lake. The west side of the lake had a path alongside it, but the east side was impassable with the Sawtooth Mountains looming above it.

We deliberated for awhile about whether to take the low road alongside the lake, or the high road up and over the granite slabs we had just come from. A hiker we had met earlier had advised us to take the high road, so that is what we did. The scenery along the way was phenomenal. It was a little confusing, but we eventually found ourselves at the stream that connected the two lakes, which we had to cross over to get to the east side of Upper Creek Canyon Lake. I can imagine that this is quite a difficult passage during the spring, but for us, it was an easy hop across rocks without even getting our feet wet.

View down on Lower and Upper Canyon Creek LakesView down on Lower and Upper Canyon Creek LakesThere didn’t seem to be many spots to camp - you are supposed to only camp on a spot that has already been leveled out for a tent - but we found a really nice option on the eastern shore of the lake, complete with small boulders to put our stuff on (rather than in the dirt) and a Platypus 4-liter water bag that someone left behind that would be perfect in providing us with a well-needed shower. There was even a “flutter” (I looked that one up) of Monarch butterflies by the water to greet us. It was quite lovely.

We set about the business of setting up camp. Herb put the tent up, inflated the mattresses, etc., while I tried to construct a little dam out of rocks at the edge of the lake where I could place my green tea bottle full of wine to chill it down. Everyone has their priorities.

It was quite surprisingly warm (near 80), so we spent the afternoon reading and fishing before getting down to the nightly shores of showering (so good!) and making dinner.

Our campsite on Upper Canyon Creek LakeOur campsite on Upper Canyon Creek LakeSpeaking of dinner, let me describe a bit our menu selection. Rather than going with freeze-dried backpacking food, such as Mountain House, which is expensive and not that great, we bought Knorr’s Rice and Idahoan powdered potatoes and used one of those as a base to add pouches of either salmon, tuna, or lemon chicken. It was actually quite tasty, and I think better and cheaper than the freeze-dried options. Oh, and of course, my chilled Chardonnay.

It did get cold during the night, but not too bad - probably in the 40s. Probably the chilliest time is in the morning when all the surrounding granite has had a chance to cool down.

After our standard breakfast fare of coffee and Nature Valley Oat ‘N Honey bars, we hit the trail again, with the intention of camping at Boulder Creek Lakes.

Sinks to Upper Canyon Creek Lake location map in "high definition"

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