Cathedral Provincial Park
Flora and fauna
The park is home to a number of grazing animals like mule deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and marmots. Bears, while in the park, are rare.
The growing season is short but there is a mixture of flowers and trees. Douglas Fir is the dominant tree at lower elevations, mixed with aspens and cottonwoods. As the ground gets higher, Lodgepole pines and Engelmann spruce trees become more plentiful. These trees eventually give way to sub-alpine species. The highest parts of the park do not have tree cover. Forests in the park are less dense than forests found in coastal British Columbia and have much less undergrowth.
Flowers tend to be found in open areas and alpine meadows. The main blooming period is July-August.
The park altitude ranges from 2000M at the lakes to mountain peaks above 2600M - This park is noted for it's rapidly changing climate and weather. In summer months, weather can range from being hot and sunny during the day, to well below freezing at night. Being at high altitude, weather here can change very quickly. Hikers and campers can experience a blue sunny sky, and in 20 minutes, it can turn to rain, hail, snow, including frequent thunder and lightning. It is recommended that all visitors come prepared with cold weather equipment even during summer months.
Access is via the Ashnola Forest Service Road that intersects with the Crowsnest Highway 3 three km west of Keremeos. The first 10 km is paved, after which it becomes gravel. The road can be rough in spots, but it is suitable for two-wheel drive cars. The park entrance is about 20 km from the main highway.
Entry to the park is free, but backcountry camping fees apply (see the Sleep section for more details).
The Ashnola Forest Service Road from the highway only skirts the northern and western edges of the park. Access to the core area of the park, where most of the hiking and scenery is, can only be done on foot or by private shuttle.
The shuttle service, operated by the Cathedral Lakes Lodge, is the fastest way to the core area of the park. The trip, in four-wheel drive vehicles, starts at their base camp about 22 km down the Ashnola Road. It is easily identified by the sign and gate across the entrance. The trip takes about an hour each way and costs $90-$100 per person (low season-high season). Space is limited though, so you must book transport at least a day in advance by calling the lodge (see contact details in the Sleep section below). You don't need to stay at the lodge to use the shuttle service -- it is available for campers and day-trips.
Hiking is the cheaper but more strenuous option to access the core area. Three trails connect the Ashnola Road to the core area. The Lakeview Trail, at 15 km and over 1000 m of elevation gain, is the most direct route. The turn-off for the trailhead is between the 13 and 14 km markers, about 2 km beyond the base camp for the Cathedral Lake Lodge shuttle service.
There's plenty of natural beauty to take in -- mountains, glaciers, lakes, alpine meadows, wildlife -- but it all requires some effort (hiking) to get to. Some of the highlights are below.
The main activity in the park is hiking. Trails are mostly well marked and signposted, particularly in the core area. Difficulty levels vary, with short easy trails to longer, steep trails that require route-finding skills.
Quiniscoe Lake, with the main campground and lodge, serves as the hub of the trail network. All times and distances listed below are round trip from the lake unless noted otherwise.
Fishing is allowed in the park. Four lakes are stocked with trout. Ladyslipper Lake is considered the best lake for fishing.
The only restaurant in the park is at Cathedral Lakes Lodge, which is available to both campers and guests of the lodge. Prices are $20 for breakfast, $20 for lunch and $40 for dinner. Otherwise, you must bring your own food and cook it yourself.
A small selection of drinks is sold at the Cathedral Lakes Lodge.
There are a number of campgrounds in the park. Three are along the Ashnola Road so they have drive-in access. The remainder are up on the mountains and will require some hiking. Pit toilets are available on-site. Campers looking for a bit more luxury can use the flush toilets and showers at Cathedral Lakes Lodge.
Always keep and eye on the weather when hiking and be prepared for sudden changes. It can snow any month in the park and the weather can change from sun to rain/clouds quickly.
Unlike much of British Columbia, bears are not common in the upper regions of the park (not enough food for them). They are sometimes found in the lower parts of the park.