Cat Lake, Squamish is one of the most popular of the many outstanding lakes in the area. It is close enough to town to be convenient, yet far enough away from houses and businesses to retain a wilderness feel. The fact that it is a couple kilometres in off the highway also helps, compared with nearby Brohm Lake which is also beautiful and very popular but is located right next to the highway. And, while Cat Lake Recreation Site can definitely get crowded on nice summer weekends, it is still sees less traffic than Alice Lake in Alice Lake Provincial Park, which is a bit closer to Squamish and located on a better, smoother road.
Small, calm Cat Lake is surrounded by gorgeous old trees and offers wonderful views of the distant mountains and a fun variety of typical lake activities, from swimming, hiking and biking to floating, fishing and swinging out into the water on tattered old ropes. Plus, it is lined with pleasant campsites if you want to settle in for the weekend (or longer).
Of course, even though it is slightly less busy than Alice or Brohm Lake, it is still a very popular spot, especially with a younger party crowd on summer weekends, so keep that in mind if you are hoping to spend time there with young children. It is considerably quieter during the week.
The Cat Lake Loop Trail (details below) provides easy access to all the campsites, several different picnic areas, a number of docks and even a few small beaches. The day-use picnic area near the parking lot and the t shaped dock has picnic tables and fire pits, as well.
Cat Lake Swimming
Cat Lake is pretty small and, while it can be cold early in the season, it warms up nicely in the summer. The water is calm and clean and there is no boat launch, making it a safe and terrific place for a dip. There are several floating docks and jumping platforms to help you get your splash on, and some rope swings for something that at least feels a little more adventurous.
Cat Lake Floating
As a relatively small lake surrounded by forest, Cat Lake tends to be fairly sheltered from the wind, making it a great place for floating or paddling. Many people just lounge around on the docks, or you can explore every corner of this little gem via kayak, canoe or paddleboard. Or a lot of people just bring tubes or inflatables for a relaxing float, letting the day take them where it may.
Cat Lake Hikes
Cat Lake Loop
1.5 km / 20 min / 20m
AllTrails: Cat Lake Loop
As you might suspect, this easy little loop trail simply circles the lake. The trail is wide, smooth and relatively flat (hard to find in the Squamish area, or British Columbia as a whole, for that matter). It passes all the picnic areas and campsites and is the only access to most of them, as there are no roads beyond the parking lot. Bikes are also allowed on the trail so be alert and courteous whether you are walking or riding.
Cheshire Cat Loop
5 km / 1.5 hrs / 180m
AllTrails: Cheshire Cat Loop
This wonderful trail starts off along the Cat Lake Loop Trail – head to the right (counter clockwise) from the parking lot. Soon it branches off, though, getting deeper into the forest where the trail gets a little wilder and rougher (i.e. roots, rocks, logs). After crossing an old logging road the trail starts climbing up into more open sections of forest where you’ll be treated to some great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Both of these trails can be found on our detailed list of 22 great Squamish hikes, along with plenty more options for those who love to explore on foot.
Both of these trails are also open to mountain bikers and, while the Cat Lake Loop Trail is pretty tame and often quite crowded with campers and day-use visitors, the Cheshire Cat Loop is actually a very challenging biking track (but with fewer pedestrians to worry about). With lots of short, steep hills it is a fast, flowy ride in parts, although it can be pretty rocky and rooty in others. Rated as “moderate”, many consider it harder than that considering it features some tricky switchbacks, plenty of obstacles and even some technical boardwalks and jumps.
There is a more extensive network of trails branching off from here as well, most centered around the Cheekye River. Most of them are pretty challenging and they can get pretty busy on weekends so I’d recommend getting out there nice and early to avoid the trail traffic.
Many of these trails are also popular with the motorbike crowd and you will often see dirtbikes racing up and down the logging roads. Obviously, keep an eye out but, realistically, there is never any problem hearing a motorbike long before it arrives.
Cat Lake Fishing
Although it isn’t big, Cat Lake still offers some pretty decent fishing. There is quite a bit of variety, including rainbow trout, and you will typically see avid fishermen casting, spinning and fly fishing at different areas around the lake. There is no boat launch and it is a bit of a walk down to the lake from the parking lot but the water gets deep quickly (to a max depth of 43 metres) so fishing from the many docks, or even from shore, is perfectly feasible.
Also, keep in mind that everyone needs to have a British Columbia freshwater fishing license.
Cat Lake Camping
To answer the question of can you camp at Cat Lake – unlike Brohm Lake, you can camp right next to Cat Lake. There are 50 popular walk-in sites, some very close to the shore with good lake views, and others set back farther into the trees offering a bit more privacy. Make no mistake, though, these sites are quite popular and between the easy access from Squamish and the convenient trail leading around the lake these are not the kind of sites that will make you feel secluded or remote. They are, however, extremely handy if you want to spend a couple of days really close to the water and the nearby trails.
The Cat Lake campground has plenty of secure bear caches to store your food, the sites are open from the beginning of May to the end of October, cost $15/night and are not reservable. This is a great choice for camping near Squamish.
To read more about all the Squamish campground options in the area, check out The Best and Worst of Squamish Camping.
Is Cat Lake dog friendly?
Yes, dogs are allowed at Cat Lake (ironically) but they must be kept on a leash at all times.
How to Get to Cat Lake
The Cat Lake directions are pretty easy. Head out of Squamish north on the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) for about 11 kilometres and you will see a sign directing you off the road to the right. From there you will follow the bumpy and slow Cheekye Forest Service Road for roughly 2.5 kilometres and the parking lot will appear on your right hand side. There is an information board, trash bins and a pit toilet right next to the parking area. Right behind the board trails lead off toward the lake. Those to the left and right head around the lake on the loop trail while the one in the middle heads steeply down to the main dock.
Things to Do Nearby
Lovely Brohm Lake is just up the highway from the Cat Lake turnoff and offers a pretty similar experience, but with some cliff jumping instead of docks, and no camping. Alice Lake is another great option slightly closer to Squamish with more facilities than the others.
“The Chief” hike is the most famous hike in the area. It is a strenuous climb up featuring stairs, rocks, roots, scrambling, ladders and chains to reach three different viewpoints, all of which are amazing.
Bowen Island makes a great day trip, featuring an outstanding viewpoint at the end of a hike up to the panoramic summit of Mount Gardner, plus a bunch of good beaches, a lighthouse, a number of bayside restaurants and bars, as well as a short hike to a mysterious, hidden driftwood mastodon.
It is a short stroll to the main Shannon Falls viewpoints, or you can tackle the strenuous and tricky climb to the spectacular viewpoint at the Upper Pools.
Lillooet Lake, up past Whistler, is a beautiful, reflective lake surrounded by mountains, great for camping or day trips.
Tunnel Bluffs viewpoint has phenomenal views of Howe Sound and is a very popular spot reached by a moderate hike from Lions Bay.
Porteau Cove is certainly worth a stop along the Sea to Sky Highway south of Squamish, with some great viewpoints, a nice short hike and plenty of picnic areas.
Other useful articles you may want to check out:
Pemberton Camping: 8 Great Rustic Campgrounds
Seton Lake: Stunning Blue Water and a Viewpoint Hike