The biggest problem with Canyon Lake is that it is tough to find these days. Not that it has moved or anything, just that how to get there seems to have moved from time to time. Google maps, and most other maps that I checked, have you getting to Canyon Lake via Mosquito Lake Road, Canyon Lake Road and then on to the lake by hiking. An older Bellingham Herald article shows the road I took, but also makes mention of it being open to cars only through August 2016. That Herald article also shows, via a pdf link, the closed area of Canyon Lake Road that is apparently still closed, because I couldn’t find any way through to it from Mosquito Lake Road. I just found a brushy dead end to the road that feels like you are in someones backyard.
I did find my way up to Canyon Lake by driving the North Fork Road from Mosquito Lake Road and parking in the large lot just before Racehorse Creek. Adjacent to the parking area there is an obvious main road that takes off heading south, away from the river. On maps, this road either does not exist or is not labelled, however it is a logging access road, likely the road labelled CL-1000 on the Whatcom County map from the Herald article. The road is obviously there, because I rode it yesterday, and it meets up with what was/is Canyon Lake Road and continues on a vary direct course right to the lake.
The course maybe direct, but that direction also includes up. From the parking lot, the road leads south and gains a lot of elevation in the first mile. In fact there was much of the first mile that I couldn’t ride because it was steep and sustained. The steady uphill grade for the rest of the ride didn’t seem so bad after after pushing most of the first mile. Truth is though, I went on this ride because it was going to be a long steady uphill grade and I need as much conditioning time as I can endure before next week’s Mt. Baker Hill Climb. That’s a ride from Glacier to Artist Point, which in hind sight I have no idea what I was thinking when signing up for the ride but I did. But I diverge, probably the best way to follow the route I took to the lake is by following my track on gaiagps, if not though, just keep following the obvious road and the bullet riddled arrow signs. My T-Mobile service went blank as I approached the lake, so you may want to make sure you’ve downloaded the maps ahead of time.
As for the legality of this route, well I don’t know. And I don’t know about the safety either, with it being a logging area. I’ve read, here and there, things that would lead me to believe that hikers and bikers are okay to go around the gate that is somewhere within the first mile or so, even though the gate is plastered/duct-taped with signs telling me otherwise. I hit this early morning on Labor Day and neither saw nor heard any evidence of logging so I went around the gate and never saw a soul the whole time I was out. It’s up to you what you’ll do.
So after the long steady uphill ride, that I brought upon myself, I reached Canyon Lake. It was like one of those dystopian movies with overgrown signage, bridges, trails and parking area. Just what you’d expect to find in an area that hasn’t been car accessible for a decade or so. As I said, the trails were overgrown, but that didn’t stop me from riding, hiking, scrambling around the lake. Lots of cool sections of trail, bridges, sting nettles and sticker bushes of all sorts, but I saw the Palm fossil that pops up on every google search for Canyon Lake, so I felt complete and started my ride back down. That ride back down was a trip. Coasting for mile after mile stopping only to add back on a jacket. Remember the first mile of really uphill I mentioned? Going the other way it becomes a super fast downhill over a really washboarded road. Have fun, be Careful.