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Home » Adventures » British Columbia » Cathedral Provincial Park » Rim Trail

Friday — The Rim Trail

Route I Hiked This Day

Route I Hiked This Day

I endured a cool night, never shivering inside my sleeping bag, but a little more insulation would have been appreciated. With the warming morning sun, I made the commute from my inadvertent, makeshift campsite into the core. The trek involved a decent amount of walking and climbing which camping in the established areas avoids, but the hike was still better than any weekday drive to work.

On my first full day in Cathedral, I planned to explore the Rim Trail, which traversed most of the marked higher elevations. Before ascending even further into the heavens though, I began my long day of hiking with a warm up around Quiniscoe Lake. The flat, pretty trail circumnavigated the lake for an enjoyable jaunt. The highlight was a cascading waterfall along its western edge.

The backside of Scout Mountain

The backside of Scout Mountain

With the easiest of the day’s trails quickly completed, I was off next to a loop around Scout Mountain on the Diamond Trail. This mountain looked like a gigantic pile of loose rocks, as if it were the debris left from the construction of a giant’s castle.

On the north side of this mound, the trail skirted along the tree line before emerging into a meadow. It crossed a boulder field or two, and then climbed to meet the Rim Trail. On top, west of Scout Lake, a treeless expanse offered great views of the surrounding mountains and gigantic sky. This spot alone would have made the whole expedition into Cathedral worthwhile. Little did I know though, the day would only get better as I ventured deeper into this land.


The Rim Trail continued towards Red Mountain’s summit. To reach that peak, I clambered over a large slide of boulders. The hard rock prevented a worn trail from forming, so cairns instead led the way. This route over Red Mountain resembled a giant Q*bert board, with hikers having to hop between rocks to make progress against the hillside. At least bouncing snakes were not chasing me, trying to thwart my effort to change the steps’ color. Dancing across this undulating floor was fun, but not every foothold was solid. Stepping onto a rock that unexpectedly slid was a treacherous move. My large, but light, backpack did not help with my rhythm either.

Glacier Lake

Glacier Lake

From the top of Red Mountain many other summits, still higher than me, emerged, which meant my day of climbing had just begun. The Rim Trail next conquered Quiniscoe Mountain’s peak, which rose only a paltry several hundred feet meters higher, but a depression between the two summits made the actual climb much greater.

The hop down from Red Mountain was another adventure in jumping amongst boulders, same as the ascent. Going with gravity was slightly more technically challenging but still not requiring advanced skills. The more mundane climb to Quiniscoe’s peak followed a simple, dirt path the entire way. The trail only required stubbornness to overcome its relentless climb, but the vista from the top was more than worth the effort. It provided great views of the deep valley and all of the park’s lakes, deep forests stretched endlessly, and large mountains surrounded everything.

Mountain Goats

Coming down from Quiniscoe Mountain’s apex, I stumbled upon a pair of mountains goats near the path. Although keenly aware of my presence, a foreigner on their turf did not overly concern them. They kept chomping their grass, probably amused that an animal so unsuited for the environment and terrain would venture there.

Although my hike through the upper echelons of Cathedral Park had been great, a slight relent from the unending climbs would have been welcome. I was in good shape, but my legs actually hoped the trail might skirt around the back of some of the upcoming mountains. True to its name though, the Rim Trail hugged all the high points of the ridges above the lakes, making for a calorie burning afternoon.

The Land’s Greatness

Approaching Stone City, the surroundings were beyond spectacular and any descriptions or photos do not come close to doing justice. (Of course, undertaking the herculean effort to behold such beauty first hand made standing amongst the spires all that much greater. Anyway, rant off.) In every direction mountain range after mountain range — some taller, some shorter; some blanked with snow, others naked; but all beautiful — rolled into the distance. I did not know their names, but that did not matter. I could behold them, and that was enough. Even just counting the multitude of peaks would have been an impossible task anyway.

View of all the Core’s lakes atop Quiniscoe Mountain

View of all the Core’s lakes atop Quiniscoe Mountain

Besides, names would have made the situation more real, more tangible. This area had to be an imaginary wonderland, because how could such beauty exist this side of heaven? This fantasy world was no place that could possibly be found on a map. Perhaps I floated through a perfect dream. Would I soon awake, with my nocturnal memories fading away like smoke slipping through your hands? As it was, I could bend and twist the landscape before me, cramming it into my head, never to be forgotten. Such rare experiences are indelibly internalized, subconsciously shaping you forever, only occasionally overtly spilling out into concrete joy.

Perhaps in this vast sea of mountains, if indeed real, a tiny dot, too small to be seen, stood on a distant, magnificent peak. A telescope would reveal this speck to be another individual, actually residing in the greatness I could only behold at a distance. Even if he could decipher my shouts, describing to him the sacredness of where he stood would have been in vain, for he was much too close to appreciate the vast beauty. But he was not missing out, for he too starred towards my unseen form, in as much awe as I. With dirt on his boots and sweat on his forehead, my insignificant dot did not captivate him, but the mountains that also engulfed me. For the wonder I could not express to my unseen friend was also in the hills in which I stood, and they were just as marvelous to him as his mountains were to me.

Smokey the Bear

The trail became slightly more rugged near Smokey the Bear. The simple dirt path was still not technical, but had steeper climbs and descents amongst the rocks, with a few drop offs a short distance from the trail.

The ridgeline above the lakes

An obvious sign noted the Smokey the Bear rock formation, which did resemble a bear — if you squinted a lot, used your imagination, and were inebriated by the thin mountain air. Even more noticeable than the fire prevention Ursus though were the tall cliffs nearby. These abrupt chasm always stop me in my tracks. Even at a safe distance from the edge of the drop, my head started spinning and heart racing.

In an effort to overcome my cremnophobia, I forced myself to sheepishly crawl on my belly towards the abyss. Even in this perfectly safe position, I could barely extend the top of my head to the cliff’s edge before a dizzying, vertigo sensation forced my retreat. Of course, having a healthy fear of deadly drops has its advantages, but not being so incapacitated by them would also be nice. Perhaps a visit to The Ledge at the Willis Sears Tower would eradicate my phobia.

I continued past the safety bear on established trails, in search of more wonders. I was not sure what a cleft was, much less a giant one though, so the next landmark remained undiscovered. The trail’s terminus was supposed to mark the site, but that fact proved unhelpful as the unofficial trail continued onward to at least Grimface Mountain.

The hike was nonetheless enjoyable, regardless of whether I found the formations described within the tourist guide. I eventually turned around on the dead end trail towards Grimface Mountain upon encountering a large descent that I did not want to later climb on my return.

Other Observations

The weather had been ideal for a hike along the tops of mountains. A crisp air prevented overheating, even during demanding climbs, but I was never cold either. Blue skies with ne’er a cloud in sight capped everything off. As nature remind me though, such great weather in the mountains is never guaranteed.

Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake

With hygiene options lacking in the woods, I could smell my own aroma from several days of strenuous hiking. I could only imagine how my odor might affect other people. Thankfully for the passengers on my return flight, deodorant and relatively clean clothes were in my car.

Attitudes in the backcountry can change with amazing quickness. The highs and lows of backpacking can be quite manic. With my days in Canada’s wilderness winding down, I was constantly torn between remaining a mountain man or those modern conveniences of solid walls and hot meals. Usually when hungry or a little cold, I cursed the wilderness and just wanted to give up (although that was not really an option soloing in the woods). Upon finding a trail or getting a little grub in my stomach, I felt on top of the world and never wanted to leave.

Coming Down From A Natural High

Ladyslipper Lake

Ladyslipper Lake

My two goats from Quiniscoe Mountain again reunited with me at Stone City. They had wandered amongst the mountains just as much as I. Several other hikers also occupied this junction, who informed me the snow patches scattered upon the mountains were from the previous day. While I experienced rain, wind, and falling trees in the lower elevations at Okanagan Mountain, Cathedral received snow in its upper reaches. This report made me doubly glad for the good weather that day.

Sunset over Quiniscoe Mountain

Having explored almost the entire Rim Trail in a little over half a day (the park literature recommended about 12-16 hours total), I took Ladyslipper Trail down from the ridgeline. This descent was a maddeningly steep, knee pounding adventure. An extreme slide down loose rock near the top transitioned to maneuvering amid boulders closer to the lake. The slope never yielded the entire length though. The way down was actually hard, both physically and mentally, but I was still very gracious not to be going up the monster.

Even at Ladyslipper Lake the trail did not relent, as rocky and rooty terrain made even level passage difficult. The milestone of reaching the water did not mean an end to the descent either. Ladyslipper Lake lay at a higher elevation than the other bodies of water, so after a half circumnavigation and a short climb, the painful descent continued until finally reaching the core area.