This is one of those posts where the photos really do the talking. The Rim Trail is a circular hike in Cathedral Provincial Park in British Columbia’s interior. For the most part, it transverses along a mountain ridge. It is, in my opinion, one of the best day hikes in BC. This was honestly one of the first hikes where I didn’t ever think about how far we were from the end at any point.

Being already at 2000m at our base camp by Lake of the Woods, the 650m elevation gain offers simply awesome vistas across the Cascades and Coast mountains as well as some more local interesting rock formations. Oh, and I almost forgot the lakes – the stunningly vivid Ladyslipper and Glacier lakes which bookended our hike. Did I mention the amazingly perfect hiking weather (especially compared the snow the day before)? Well, enough superlatives, you want to see the photos right?

Cathedral mountain range rim trail bcLadyslipper trail view of Lake of the Woods on the Rim Trail, BC

JR and Gemma on the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial ParkLadyslipper Lake, the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park

the trail to ladyslipper lake

We reached Ladyslipper Lake after 40 minutes of steep switchbacks from our campsite at the Lake of the Woods. The view of the mountains in the background was a great taste of the magnificence to come! Apparently, there is very good fishing available here.

As we said goodbye to beautiful Ladyslipper, a steady climb began. It wasn’t long before we could spot the ridge on our left The one obstacle between us and the ridge was a giant pile of slate and rocks, with a steep drop on either side. I’m not too good with heights but I was relieved we were heading up rather than walking down the slate slope. The views at the top were probably the best reward around.

ladyslipper trail view lake cathedral bcgiant cleft rim trail cathedrallady slipper trail to rim trail cathedral bctop of ladyslipper trail cathedraltop of the rim trail cathedral bcMountain views from the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BCLunch spot on the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BCMountain views on the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BC

the views from smokey the bear

The Stone City was waiting for us at the junction of the Ladyslipper Trail and the Rim Trail proper. It was like a giant’s playground with rocks of every size thrown about everywhere. After our well-deserved lunch in front of the gorgeous view, we explored the summits of Smokey the Bear and the Giant Cleft. Of course, JR got much closer to the edge than I did!

Looking to the south, we could see smoke in some of the mountain valleys. The morning after this hike we woke up to the smell of fire. Taking the bus back down the mountain, we slowly descended into a dark haze of smoke. This smoke was from the huge fires burning in Washington State and didn’t lift for over a week. We thought we were lucky at the time to do this hike on the perfect day we had but we truly had no idea!

Smokey the Bear view, the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BC

Top of Smokey the Bear, the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BC

Giant cleft, the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BC

Stone City the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BC

Stone City area, the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BCHiking the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BC

hiking the ‘wrong’ way round on the rim trail?

Out of the Stone City and back on the trail, we enjoyed the peace and quiet on the mountain ridge. It seemed that most people that day hiked the other way around to us – from Glacier Lake to the Rim and then down to Ladyslipper Lake. Indeed, we did not see any hikers after leaving the Stone City despite being able to see for what seemed like miles in every direction.

We sadly also did not see any mountain goats, which was something we had both really hoped to see. Oh well, you can’t have everything!

JR and Gemma hiking the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BCHiking the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BCGlacier Lake view, the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BC

post-rim trail rewards

At Glacier Lake, we turned off the Rim Trail and descended back down towards base camp. And it is a pretty steep way down, as evidenced by the photo above! Not much of the Glacier remains nowadays, but we did see a smattering of snow and ice on the slopes. It was sad to say goodbye to the mountaintop views, but fishing and wine at Lake of the Woods was waiting for us!

Making the last stop at Glacier Lake to admire Pyramid Mountain and the Rim Trail from below, we tried to work out how far we’d hiked. I’m still not sure how long exactly the route was as there are so many possible extensions to the circular trail we did…but I reckon around 12/13km. Either way, I honestly didn’t notice how far it was. It was truly a perfect hike.

Pyramid Mountain, the Rim Trail, Cathedral Provincial Park, BC

Hiking the Rim Trail details

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The Rim Trail is located in the core recreation area of Cathedral Provincial Park near Keremeos, BC. It is about an hour’s drive from the town of Penticton to the edge of Cathedral. To get to the core area, you must either hike in (16km minimum) or take the Cathedral Lodge shuttle from the parking lot on Ewart Creek Rd.

If you look on BC Park’s list of hiking trails in Cathedral, you’ll probably soon notice that the Rim Trail is not listed. It is however shown on their Cathedral Core Area map. If starting from Lake of the Woods (like we did), follow the Ladyslipper Trail to Stone City. Then hike along the ridge towards the Devil’s Woodpile, past the summit of Pyramid Lake and then descend above Glacier Lake. Some people choose to continue along the ridge and then descend at Quiniscoe Lake.

The core area of Cathedral Provincial Park has two campgrounds – Quiniscoe Lake and Lake of the Woods. Pyramid Lake has been closed to camping for quite a few years due to tree hazards. Camping fees are $10 per person, per night. The camping season in the core area is usually mid-June to early October.

Essential gear for a Rim Trail hike

  • Cathedral Provincial Park’s core area is 2000m above sea level. For this reason, you MUST bring a mix of clothing, layers and accessories (hats, gloves etc) no matter what the forecast says or the time of year it is. It was easily 25 degrees the day we hiked the Rim Trail but the morning before, we had snow and ice on our tent.
  • Be sure to bring extra batteries for your camera – there is so much to photograph! There are no facilities to charge items in Cathedral Provincial Park unless you stay at Cathedral Lakes Lodge or have a solar charger. If using your phone for photos, be sure to have a portable phone charger. 
  • The ascents and descents on the Rim Trail are quite steep, especially if you choose to descend where we did at Glacier Lake. I would highly recommend bringing hiking poles to help with knee strain. My favourite poles (and the ones I used on the Rim Trail) are the Black Diamond Distance Z. They are super light and also are easy to fold down when not in use.
If planning a trip like this, please take the 10 essentials of backcountry travel and follow Leave No Trace principles

The Rim Trail is one of British Columbia's best one day hikes. Stunning vistas, interesting rock formations, azure lakes, moderate difficulty hiking, potential to see mountain goats - what more could you want? - offtracktravel.ca

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Gemma
Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in New Brunswick, Canada. Gemma is happiest with a kayak/canoe paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.

5 Comments

  1. Hello!

    Just a question about this hike. Could this be done in a day? And I have never heard of the shuttle before that takes you into the core area. Could you provide some more information about this?

    Thanks!

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi there! The Rim Trail itself is a day hike. The shuttle is run by Cathedral Lakes Lodge – http://cathedrallakes.ca/ Looking at their website, they have a shuttle for day trippers going up at 8am and down again at 5pm. If you are reasonably fit, that should be enough time to do the Rim Trail.

  2. Hi! I just have a question, a couple of friends and I were planning on doing this hike in the afternoon starting at about 1 pm, would this give us enough time?

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Laura, this is super dependent on your hiking speed and ability. If you’re doing it soon, you would have plenty of light! If starting at 1, we would have finished at 7ish, which is doable.

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