Cathedral Provincial Park is an 82,217-acre wilderness area nestled between the Cascade Mountains and the Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia. Known as a “true wilderness,” Cathedral Park protects acres of craggy Cascade summits, cobalt blue lakes, and flower-filled alpine meadows.
Named after Cathedral Mountain, Cathedral Park was originally established in 1968 and encompassed 44,000 acres along Lakeview Creek from the Ashnola River to the international border. Eventually, the park was expanded to 82,000 acres and was further aligned with the natural boundaries of the landscape. Much later, in 2001, the 63,970-acre Snowy Protected Area was created to increase representation of the Okanagan Ranges ecosystem, and the park was extended to its current size.
Today, Cathedral Park sits in the basin of the Ashnola River, east of E.C. Manning Provincial Park, south of BC Highway 3, and southeast of Princeton, British Columbia. The park’s southern border is shared with Washington, in the United States.
In addition to preserving fascinating rock formations and pristine, turquoise lakes, Cathedral Park is home to more than 800 lithic artifacts, including several bone fragment sites and four historic cabins dating back to the early 1900s. Hikers in the area may also encounter a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, mountain goat, California bighorn sheep, grizzly and black bear, the red-listed badger, and the occasional marmot.
Incredible 8,000-foot Cascade peaks, like Grimface Mountain, Lakeview Mountain, Matriarch Mountain, Smokey the Bear, and Stone City entice skilled hikers and climbers to the park, while a close-knit set of dazzling lakes, Quiniscoe, Ladyslipper, Scout, Pyramid, Glacier, and Lake of the Woods, attract avid campers, backpackers, kayakers, and anglers.
Cathedral Provincial Park contains two vehicle-accessible campsites – Lakeview Trailhead and Buckhorn. Sites are first-come, first-serve and primitive, offering little to no amenities. Most visitors to the park, however, will venture into the core to spend a night sleeping along the shoreline of one of the park’s incredible sapphire lakes.
30 primitive sites can be found spread out along the southern shore of Quiniscoe Lake, 28 sites can be found along the northeast shore of Lake of the Woods, and 12 sites can be found between the two flanks of Pyramid Mountain nearby Pyramid Lake. That being said, visitors to Cathedral Park are expected to have knowledge of wilderness camping, self-sufficient, and proficient in backcountry travel.
There are three hiking trails that provide access to the core of Cathedral Park – Ewart Creek, Lakeview, and Wall Creek.
Ewart Creek is a 17.4-mile that takes 10-12 hours to complete. Most hikers spend the night at Twin Buttes before heading into the core.
Lakeview is the shortest and most direct route into the core area. Though it’s still considered a difficult trek, Lakeview is just 9.9 miles long and generally takes 6-8 hours to complete. Don’t be fooled by the trail name, however, Lakeview doesn’t actually offer any lake views.
Wall Creek is a 12.4-mile trail that takes anywhere from 7-9 miles to complete. This scenic footpath crosses a footbridge over the Ashnola River and follows the creek into Red Mountain Meadows.
Once in the core, hikers can take advantage of more than 30 miles of well-maintained hiking trails including the scenic Rim Trail, the Glacier Lake trail, Stone City and the Giant Cleft, Goat Lakes, and Lakeview Mountain.
Cathedral Lakes Lodge is Canada’s highest full-service hiking and fishing wilderness lodge. The lodge, which sits near Quiniscoe Lake at 6,800 feet, is located at the heart of the park and offers all-inclusive, self-catered accommodations. Visitors to the lodge have access to roughly 30 miles of alpine hiking trails, transportation services, and freshly served, home-style meals.
The lodge is only accessible via a private 4x4 road. Private vehicles are not permitted on the road, so lodge guests park in a base camp parking lot and are shuttled via jeep to the lodge site.