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(Last Updated On: August 16, 2022)

I’ve lived in Northern California for almost three years and Canyon Creek Lakes Trail Trinity Alps Backpacking has been on my list for that entire time. Until now. I was beyond ecstatic to make a trip to these stunning granite peaks happen. I cannot wait to check out so many more of the trails in this area. I’m going to break down everything you should know to backpack in the Trinity Alps Wilderness at Canyon Creek Trail!

Everything you need to know for a successful Trinity Alps Backpacking trip to Canyon Creek Lakes Trail! Bears, bugs, and all the details!

Land Acknowledgement: Northern Wintu and Tsnungwe Land. Find what Native Land you are visiting by using the app Native Land! I encourage you to read the history and culture of the Indigenous people who’s land you are visiting!

All photos in collaboration with Johnathon DeSoto.

Canyon Creek Lakes Trail at a Glance

This rated hard hike is approximately 18.6 miles round trip with 3,051 feet elevation gain located in the Trinity Alps Wilderness/Trinity Alps National Forest. The best months to hike this Northern California trail are May-October. Permits are required, but are not limited and can be self issued at the trailhead or at the Weaverville Ranger Station. There are multiple backpacking trails from this trailhead. I went in Mid August and will be sharing more details below on bugs, bears, lakes and more!

  • No parking pass needed
  • Trailhead is accessible by any vehicle
  • Dogs allowed on Leash

Canyon Creek Lakes Trail YouTube Video

Canyon Creek Lakes Trail Directions

I used the navigation from AllTrails on Google Maps and it took me directly to the trailhead with no issues. Canyon Creek Road dead ends at the trailhead. ‘Canyon Creek Trailhead’ on google maps gets you there! The closest city to the trailhead is Junction City, CA, but Weaverville has a lot more in terms of food, gas, and store options.

  • 1.5 hours away from Redding
  • 5 hours away from San Francisco
  • 8 hours away from Portland

Directions: Once on the CA-299 highway turn onto Canyon Creek Road and continue for 13 miles.

Road Conditions: The road is dirt/gravel in some sections, but overall not a bad road. There are occasional potholes, but nothing too extreme. I saw plenty of Sedans and SUVs at the trailhead.

Canyon Creek Trailhead

The trailhead has a decently large parking lot that could fit approximately 50 cars before overflowing to road parking. It fills up quickly on weekends during June-August. We hiked in on a Thursday and enjoyed a couple days only seeing a few people.

Vault Toilets are available at the trailhead! Free Wilderness Permits are required for this backcountry camping experience and are available at the Weaverville Ranger Station (530-623-2121) or self issued at the trailhead. If you’re passing by the ranger station, I’d recommend stopping there for your permit, because I was told there are not always permits at the trailhead!

We did run into a ranger that asked to see our permit while hiking out. Permits are important for many reasons, including your safety and helping manage the impact.

Backpacking Resources:

New to backpacking? Check out these other guides I’ve provided on backpacking solo, what I bring backpacking and more!

Hiking to Canyon Creek Lakes

Canyon Creek trail is pretty well defined and decently maintained. There are several sections where the brush is pretty grown in and creates narrow sections of trail. The elevation is very gradual for most of this trail. The final push to the Lower Canyon Creek Lake and to the Upper Canyon Creek Lake had the most elevation. The view at the upper lake allows you to see Sawtooth Peak.

We started pretty early in the morning and avoided direct sun on the trail until 7 miles in, when it opens up to exposed granite. On average, the trail takes 8.5 hours to complete (round trip).

Trinity Alps Backpacking

Notable Trail Junctions/Add Ons

  • Boulder Creek Lakes: This is another popular destination to camp out at and is high on my list. In general less people go to Bolder Creek Lakes than Canyon Creek Lake. The junction splits at 6.8 miles and is marked with a sign.
  • Canyon Creek Falls: Very Short detours to get to these falls. Lower Canyon Creek Falls is at 4.3 miles into the trail. Middle Canyon Creek Falls is at 6.4 miles, and Upper Falls is at 7.3 miles.
  • “L” Lake or Little Lake: This is an add on day hike to a small Lake. The views on this hike up were fantastic looking down at the Canyon Creek Lakes. There is no trail on AllTrails for this, but it is well marked with cairns. The hike begins where the Trail for Canyon Creek ends. See my map below!
  • Thompson Peak: is a summit that experienced hikers/climbers attempt. I do not have any details on this, so do your own research if you have the experience to do this climb!
Little Lake Trinity Alps Map of Canyon Creek Lakes Trail

Camping at Canyon Creek Trail

Camping Spots

This trail is has SO many camping spots along the entire trail. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a trail with as many camping options before. This made it really easy for us to hike in a few miles on Thursday evening when we got to the trailhead. We camped at “The Sinks” the first night.

Not only are there a lot of options, but there are a lot of SCENIC options close to water! The trail follows the creek most of the way up. A lot of the spots at the lake don’t have any shade, so it is very common for people to camp at lower creek spots and day hike up to the lakes. There are many fishing and swimming options.

Bear Problems | Trinity Alps Backpacking

At the trailhead was a warning about thieving bears. Luckily this wasn’t a surprise to me, as I had read the latest reports on AllTrails and brought my bear canister. While it is not required to have a bear canister (as of August 2022), you really might want to consider renting or buying one for this trip. We ran into multiple groups (including someone camped right next to us) that had their food and camp raided by a bear. They had their food properly tied up.

We did not see any bears while spending time here, but it was definitely eerie waking up to finding our neighbors (destroyed) food and cooking set near our campsite.

The ranger we ran into told us that the bears are getting so comfortable walking into camps for food that they have destroyed some camps that didn’t even have food there. Do your part and NEVER leave food or scented items at camp when you’re away.

Trinity Alps Backpacking trip to Canyon Creek Lakes Trail! Mountain views, Bears, bugs, and all the details!


When we started the hike at 7pm, the bugs were BAD on the first couple miles. At first I thought they were all mosquitoes. There definitely were a decent amount of mosquitoes, but most of the bugs were just gnats and other annoying bugs (no biting Black flies!)

There were minimal bugs the next day as we were hiking, so I think it was also that we were out at dusk. No bugs at the lakes.


The best seasons to backpack Canyon Creek Lakes Trail is May-October. This is true for most of Trinity Alps Backpacking, as snow remains in the mountains typically through May or June.

Weather Trinity Alps Backpacking. Best Seasons


No Fires are allowed on the Canyon Creek Lake Trail. This area is always at great risk for fire.

Wildfires often happen nearby or in this area. We were closely monitoring a fire North of this before hiking in and also using our Garmin devices to keep updated from friends. While we were camping, additional fires started South of us and caused smoke to blow in. We were lucky that the winds changed by morning and there was no smoke.

Leave No Trace Principles: Canyon Creek Lakes Trail

Most people that get outdoors are familiar with the Leave No Trace or LNT Principles. If not I encourage you to check out the link. I’m going to break down some important things that I personally did not know much about as a beginner backpacker.

Tips for Packing Out what you Pack In

A lot of people don’t understand that you also need to pack out any food waste. This includes fruit/veggie peels, shells from nuts, etc. These things do break down, but at a VERY slow rate and also impact the wildlife in the area. Example: Banana peels can take up to 2 years to biodegrade. Wildlife can become too reliant on human food waste and lead to dangerous encounters as well as animals being put down due to this.

Bring a small garbage bag or ziploc and keep it accessible for your garbage.

Backpacking LNT

There are a few things to keep in mind when practicing leave no trace while backpacking!

  • Keep to existing trails and used areas on popular trails
  • Camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. I see this one violated a lot.
  • When in relatively untouched areas try to camp on durable surfaces like rock, gravel, dried grass – areas that wont leave an impact
  • Dispose of waste properly (see below)
  • Pack EVERYTHING out. That includes apple cores, banana peels etc.
Trinity Alps Backpacking trip to Canyon Creek Lakes Trail! Lakes, mountain views, and more!

Pooping in the Backcountry

When using the bathroom outside, make sure you are 200 feet away from the trail and any water sources. If you are pooping, make sure to dig a hole at least 6 inches and completely bury it. Stick to just toilet paper. Wipes take SO long to breakdown. You can bring a ziploc bag or doggie poop bags for wipes and toilet paper if you’re going the extra mile.

If you’re a beginner this might sound insane, but if you CAN go the extra mile, pack out your poop and all toilet paper in bags. As long as they are properly tied off, you can dispose of human waste in public garbage. REI sells these toilet kits ($30 for a 12 pack) to minimize the impact of waste on the environment.

Popular camping areas really cannot handle toilet paper and poop from thousands of backpackers each year. And in areas like the Trinity Alps, a lot of the surface is granite rocks, leaving only a few areas where digging a hole is even possible.

For urinating, I personally like using my Kula Cloth Pee Cloth to avoid using toilet paper for urination. It is antimicrobial and really discreet and doesn’t smell. AGAIN, don’t be that person that leaves toilet paper half buried all around the campsite.

My Trinity Alps Backpacking Experience

This was the longest backpacking trip I had done in a WHILE. Both in length of trail and length of days. I hiked in on a Thursday evening and hiked out on a Sunday Morning. It was absolutely stunning.

I’m so accustomed to backpacking in Washington, and these mountains in Northern California were a different and special kind of beauty. I loved having access to water on most of the trail to cool off or to fill up my water. Filling water as we went instead of carrying a heavy 3 Liters really made my pack a lot more comfortable.

The gradual incline of the Canyon Creek Lakes Trail had me feeling strong. My only regret was not bringing light long layers for sun protection. The direct sun when hiking to the lakes can be brutal. We LOVED cooling off in the water mid-day. It was definitely chilly water, but tolerable and felt amazing after burning up in the sun.

I would absolutely backpack this trail again and really want to check out Boulder Creek Lakes

Nearby Destinations:

Check out my guide on Adventurous things to do in Shasta, NorCal to Oregon Coastal Road Trip and the Ultimate Redwoods Guide

Conclusion: Canyon Creek Lakes Trail

This trail is 18.6 miles of beautiful forest, creeks, lakes and more. Going in August was very hot during the day. Be strategic about camping in shade and avoiding hiking at the hottest parts of the day!

Bear activity is on the rise, so do come prepared with a bear canister and never leave food unattended at camp.

This trail offers SO many camping spots, day hike options, swimming holes, fishing spots and more. I definitely recommend planning a trip here in May-October. It took me almost 3 years to finally get here with summer always being such a short window before fires blaze through, but now I can’t wait to plan a trip back.

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Everything you need to know for a successful Trinity Alps Backpacking trip to Canyon Creek Lakes Trail! Bears, bugs, and all the details!

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