Getaway to Cathedral Provincial Park & Cathedral Lakes Lodge

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Some of my most precious memories of wilderness adventures are planted in places for which access requires extra effort. Cathedral Lakes Lodge in Cathedral Provincial Park is a great example.

From Vancouver, it’s about four hours east via Manning Park on Route 3 (also known as the Crow’s Nest Highway) past Hedley and before Keremeos, you exit on to the Ashnola Highway, Thompson-Okanagan. From Penticton, it’s about an hour southwest and we had the opportunity this summer to be guests of the Lodge. When you make that turn to follow the Ashnola River, you cross through a bright red covered bridge and follow the river to the muster point.

Bright red bridge to cross

Bright red bridge to cross

Muster point - Base Camp Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Muster point – Base Camp Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Here at the Base Camp you’ll be greeted by Lodge staff and be guided across another gated bridge to a parking area where you’ll leave your car. Transportation, whether you’re camping or staying in the Lodge must be booked in advance for both the trip up and back. In the high season it costs $100 return. You’ll climb into huge antique Mercedes four-by-fours and if you haven’t shaken off the stress of the city you left behind you will after the scenic and rough 40 minute climb upward over tough terrain. It’s a rough and tumble trip and on the day we ascended, a young family travelling with us said a scrambler ride in a midway would never seem extreme again. (You can choose to hike up, however, the lift takes you right into the core of Cathedral Provincial Park from which the most scenic trails radiate.)

Mercedes four-by-fours await guests

Rugged and scene route up to Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Rugged and scenic route up to Cathedral Lakes Lodge

The deep cobalt colours of Quiniscoe Lake and the serenity of the setting captures your attention first as you wobbly disembark. First cabins built in 1934 still stand and harken back to a simpler time. Cathedral Lakes Resort Ltd. was formed in 1964 with the jeep road built over the next year and the provincial park established in 1968. Now, the main lodge speaks of a time when alpine entrepreneurs sought to emulate Bavarian influences. If it was human, it would remind you of an elderly aunt still gracious while a bit worn.

Original cabins

Original cabins

Pristine Quiniscoe Lake at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Pristine Quiniscoe Lake at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Bavarian influences in Main Lodge at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Bavarian influences in Main Lodge at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Activities room in Main Lodge, Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Activities room in Main Lodge, Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Once on all outdoor enthusiasts’ bucket lists and requiring booking far in advance often with a stint on a waiting list, it is victim of the North American economic downturn of 2008. She is showing her age without ongoing income of full reservations for full maintenance and renovations. She survives due to the ingenuity of her owners in frugal budgeting and leveraging Help Exchange (HelpX). HelpX is primarily a cultural exchange for working holidays where helpers wanting to travel abroad stay with locals to gain practical experience. For example, an arrangement where the helper works an agreed number of hours daily receiving benefits such as free accommodation, meals and perhaps Internet access and other activities.

New cabins along Quiniscoe Lake, Cathedral Lakes Lodge

New cabins along Quiniscoe Lake, Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Room in Bungalow at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Room in Bungalow at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Newer accommodation such as the log cabins along the lake are well appointed. We stayed in an older bungalow in one of four bedrooms that shared a common room and two bathrooms with showers. Like the aforementioned elderly aunt it could use a makeover and thorough grooming if finances allowed and staff had the luxury of time to train helpers in cleaning protocols witnessed in comparable settings. That aside, you don’t plan a trip to a remote outdoor adventure setting to focus on the room. The food included as part of the lodging package is plentiful and scrumptious home cuisine influenced by the bounty of fresh and local organic produce available in the Similkameen.

Fresh and local lunch at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Fresh and local lunch at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Make your own lunch set out at breakfast time for hikers

Make your own lunch set out at breakfast time for hikers

Lots of information available about hiking options

Lots of information available about hiking options

The staff are incredibly knowledgeable about the trails and lots of information is provided on details such as level of difficulty, estimated time required, elevation gains and other highlights. Well-fortified by the kitchen, in just a few steps you will be transposed to a magical land of twists, turns, alpine forests and meadows accentuated by flowers and low berry bushes. Despite the evident damage by the spruce bark beetles, the scenery is truly spectacular. You’ll need to pace yourself because you’ll want to tackle them all and quite frankly, the food is so good you won’t want to be late for dinner! You are given the option to pack a lunch in the morning or make it back in time for noon.

Well marked trails for hiking at Cathedral Mountain Park

Well marked trails for hiking at Cathedral Provincial Park

Captivating trails in Cathedral Mountain Park

Captivating trails in Cathedral Provincial Park

Amazing vistas Cathedral Mountain Park

Amazing vistas Cathedral Provincial Park

Cathedral Lakes Lodge strives to engage local winemakers and growers and we were fortunate to be there when proprietors of Harker’s Organics and delectable Rustic Roots Winery of Cawston were on site. Before dinner, Sara and Troy Harker led guests through a wine tasting of the fruit-based wines. Many a guest commented that they had their perception of fruit wine turned on its head and would be now adding those from the Rustic Roots Winery collection to their home cellars. The menu that night was an ode to Harker’s Organics with wines Of Rustic Roots Winery used in many dishes to complement the flavour profiles. Guests were treated to pick a favourite selection from the tasting to enjoy another pouring with their meal.

Sara and Troy Harker lead guests of Cathedral Lakes Lodge through a tasting of Rustic Roots Winery

Sara and Troy Harker lead guests of Cathedral Lakes Lodge through a tasting of Rustic Roots Winery

Even the deer are curious about wine tasting of Rustic Roots Winery

Even the deer are curious about wine tasting of Rustic Roots Winery

Cathedral Lakes Lodge menu is an ode to Harker's Organics and Rustic Roots Winery

Cathedral Lakes Lodge menu of the day is an ode to Harker’s Organics and Rustic Roots Winery

Dinner at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Dinner at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

By the way, even if you camp you can opt into some meals at the Lodge and it is licensed with a good, while limited given the transportation issues, stock of libations. I can’t think of a better way to combine roughing with some indulgence.

Fresh, local and hearty breakfast at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Fresh, local and hearty breakfast at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Fat Dog 100 Trail Race starts in Cathedral Mountain Park

Fat Dog 100 Trail Race starts in Cathedral Provincial Park

We were early to bed anxious to conquer more trails the next day. There is something exciting about hiking a path and finding it marked for the Fat Dog 100 Trail Race. Exhilarated by the view and with hearts pounding due to the elevation gain, we couldn’t help but marvel at the fitness level of those who enter such a race. Listed as in the top nine toughest Ultra marathons by Outside magazine, Fat Dog 100 Trail Race, starts in Cathedral Provincial Park with participants negotiating challenging and stunning trails there as well as in E.C. Manning Provincial Park and Skagit Valley Provincial Park. Fat Dog 120 is a qualifier and earns four points toward Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc while the Fat Dog 70-mile and 50-mile events earn three and two points respectively. Not a race for beginners, you’ll want to plan far ahead if you plan to join the challenge, August 15 to 17, 2014, and registration is now open. Outside Online likened the 28,453-foot climb required in the race to “running from sea level to the summit of Mount Everest”.

Well maintained trails with boardwalks and other features in Cathedral Mountain Park

Well maintained trails with boardwalks and other features in Cathedral Provincial Park

Waterfalls reward hikers in Cathedral Mountain Park

Waterfalls reward hikers in Cathedral Provincial Park

Hikers in Cathedral Mountain Park can enjoy wildlife encounters such as mountain goat

Hikers in Cathedral Provincial Park can enjoy wildlife encounters such as mountain goat

A closer look at a mountain goat in Cathedral Mountain Park

A closer look at a mountain goat in Cathedral Provincial Park

We were thrilled to encounter deer, mountain goat, marmots and other alpine creatures throughout our ramblings. In addition to hiking, there’s plenty to keep you entertained. All guests are welcome to relax in the main floor fireplace room at the Lodge where you can enjoy a crackling fire, play a few games or select from the eclectic collection of books to read.

Respect the signs in Cathedral Mountain Park for future enjoyment

Respect the signs in Cathedral Provincial Park for future enjoyment

Stunning vistas in hiking Cathedral Mountain Park

Stunning vistas in hiking Cathedral Provincial Park

Gorgeous trails to explore in Cathedral Mountain Park

Gorgeous trails to explore in Cathedral Provincial Park

Hikers find low bush berries such as Grouseberry in Cathedral Mountain Park

Hikers find low bush berries such as Grouseberry in Cathedral Provincial Park

Marmots sneak a peak at hikers in Cathedral Mountain Park

Marmots sneak a peak at hikers in Cathedral Provincial Park

Many people make the trek for the fishing alone. Next time we’ll add fishing to our own itinerary. The Lodge provides complimentary rowboats with all the safety equipment. We watched that same family we rode up to the Lodge introduce their children to all the glories of the great outdoors. It was fun to watch the Dad coach his daughter in learning how to use a rowboat and Mom and daughter work together to try to capture a photograph of a marmot. I’m thinking there’ll be precious memories planted that’ll have this family returning again and again into future generations.

Boat available for use on Quiniscoe Lake at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Boat available for use on Quiniscoe Lake at Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Boats and play area along Quiniscoe Lake, Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Boats and play area along Quiniscoe Lake, Cathedral Lakes Lodge

Fish jumping in one of the alpine lakes of Cathedral Mountain Park

Fish jumping in one of the alpine lakes of Cathedral Provincial Park

Remote mountain lakes great for fishing in Cathedral Mountain Park

Remote mountain lakes great for fishing in Cathedral Provincial Park

Friendly critters greet hikers in Cathedral Mountain Park

Friendly critters greet hikers in Cathedral Provincial Park

Intricate boardwalks protect marshlands in Cathedral Mountain Park

Intricate boardwalks protect marshlands in Cathedral Provincial Park

Evidence of spruce bark beetle damage in Cathedral Mountain Park

Evidence of spruce bark beetle damage in Cathedral Provincial Park

Park Office at Cathedral Mountain Park by camping area

Park Office at Cathedral Provincial Park by camping area

As for me, I have to get back to Cathedral Lakes Lodge because there’s so much more to explore. Opening and closing dates for the season are weather dependent and if you plan to visit during the high season from mid-July to the end of August, it’s best to book well in advance.