I’d been meaning to climb The Beehive for several years but I was getting sick of walking up Squirrel Canyon. Squirrel Canyon is one of the main access points to the Canaan Wilderness but it’s a boring hike of 3 miles along sandy ATV trails to get up on the plateau where I like to spend my time. So looking at maps I noticed what looked like a small lake to the east, in the back of an alcove. I wondered if I could make a loop, hitting the lake and the peak on the same hike.
It turns out you can! It also turns out the lake is named “Amphitheater Lake” and although I had never heard of it, it’s a rather popular place in some circles.
Amphitheater Lake from below and above.
This was a very rewarding off trail hike, strenuous and mentally challenging at times. According to Strava, the route I took, wandering around without a map, was 11.5 miles and 2,500 feet of elevation gain. About 4 miles of that is walking to the lake, and like I said, it’s more than 3 miles on the Squirrel Canyon side, so about 7 miles of this hike are walking through the lower regions below the plateau.
Amphitheater Lake, as I mentioned, is far more popular than I could have ever imagined, considering I’d never heard of it. Within the last mile I must have passed a dozen people, some of them from Europe, and at the lake itself were at least a dozen more locals. We started chatting while I took a break and they told me that there used to be a waterfall that fell into the pool all year round. The pool used to be a lot bigger but in the 1980’s an earthquake changed something in the bedrock and the waterfall stopped. The pool has been slowly drying up since then. It definitely looked like the Lake had been much larger in the past, based on the shoreline
The climb up the faint old trail is steep and a bit hairy at the very top. The second image is above the first pool at the top of the cliff, the lip of which can be seen in the upper left. Since Amphitheater Lake is in an alcove of sorts, it’s interesting to imagine if this pool is directly above the other.
Looking across the lake it looked like I saw a faint trail zig zagging up the cliffs. The woman I was speaking to had lived there her whole life and said she had seen guys climbing up there when she was younger. That was enough to encourage me to give it a try.
The trail was clearly abandoned long ago but it was good enough to show me the way to the top and before long I was making a few somewhat exposed awkward moves to get over the highest lip of the canyon. I was very relieved to have made it all the way up. I knew from that point on I could find my way across the plateau over to Squirrel Canyon, whether or not I made it to the Beehive.
Walking along the rim of the quicksand stream it pinched off at a 90 degree turn and went through a little natural bridge!
The route continued to alternate between flat sandy areas and small ledge climbs. Eventually I had my first sighting of The Beehive! It looked farther away than i thought but it was nice to know i was headed straight for it.
There is a lot of illegal off road activity by a few individuals who are tearing the Federal Wilderness up really bad. At least one of these people has been fined in the past but has made it a personal crusade to cut as many roads as he can into the wilderness area. If you see anyone in the Canaan Wilderness with a motor vehicle, please document it and report it to the BLM. There are fresh tracks and new damage every time I go up there.
This was from the beginning of the day but these guys were also illegally riding in the Wilderness area. They had gotten their amphibious ATV stuck in water and were creating all kinds of smoke and havoc trying to get it out. I got a picture of the license plate so I reported them.