Brew Lake is beautiful mountain lake in the Callaghan Valley, north of Squamish. Compared to Garibaldi Provincial Park across the valley, the Callaghan Valley is relatively unknown and seldom hiked. Brew Lake lays in a massive alpine valley of enormous erratics scattered around and in the lake. On first seeing it, it looks serene, yet wild and hostile. The lake is surrounded on one side by idyllic tree covered hills and lakeside cliffs and on the other side a brutal looking wasteland of huge boulders sloping up from the lake to the skyline. Hiking into this wasteland of erratics reveals an amazing paradise of small, island forests, cute streams and endless worlds within worlds to explore. You find yourself wandering along like a kid mesmerized at what you will find next. Brew Lake itself doesn't come close in wow factor to the postcard-perfect alpine lakes such as Wedgemount Lake, Joffre Lakes, Cheakamus Lake or Garibaldi Lake, but I does beat these lakes in other aspects. Because Brew Lake is outside of Garibaldi Provincial Park, few people have heard of it. More often than not you will have both the lake and entire valley to yourself. An increasingly rare occurrence elsewhere that gives the place a quiet calm and that strange and satisfying feeling that there are no other humans for quite some distance. You have that exhilarating wilderness feeling that sometimes gets lost on other Whistler area hikes when you start the trail from a parking lot packed with cars. The fact that the Brew Lake trail doesn't have a parking lot or proper trailhead actually makes it more mysterious, adventurous and in some ways more fun. Brew Lake is shallow and absolutely crystal clear. Mesmerizingly clear. You can look across the lake and see smooth and rounded rocks scattered across the lake bottom. The lake is also relatively small at just a few hundred metres across and unexpectedly warm to swim in. Breathtakingly cold lakes are the norm in the Whistler area. Try swimming in Wedgemount, Joffre, Russet, Cirque, Cheakamus or for any length of time and you will be shivering cold. You can manage a minute or two swimming in these lakes, but certainly not 20 or 30 minutes as you can in Brew Lake. There are even some massive, flat topped erratics in the lake to swim to and lounge on. The sun makes them amazingly warm on a sunny day..
There is something magical about starting a hike in a canoe. A childlike sense of adventure and novelty. The hike to Cirque Lake begins with this sense of excitement. Sheltered by mountains Callaghan Lake is eerily calm and mesmerizingly clear. You slip away from the shore in tranquil silence as if floating on air. The other end of this once glacial valley is the trailhead. Hidden in the forest and so little used as to remain invisible until you stumble onto it after repeated aborted attempts to find it. The key to finding it is to aim toward the waterfall in the distance. Cascading almost straight down a couple hundred metres from its starting high up the steep mountains. A perfectly arranged glacier is required to form a cirque lake. A magical combination of size, a certain slope and more unexpectedly, a certain angle away from the sun. In the northern hemisphere, this means the glacier must be on the northeast slope of the mountain, away from the suns rays and the prevailing winds. Thick snow protected in this way grows thicker into glacial ice, then a process of freeze-thaw called nivation, chews at the lower rocks, hollowing out a deep basin. Over a thousand winters you are left with a magnificently circular lake with steep slopes all around. If you arrive at Cirque Lake on a favourably sunny, summer day, you will almost certainly fall silent, gaze in wonder at this spectacular place, and feel in that moment that this place is as perfect as it is possible for a place to be.
High Falls Creek is a great hike not only for the beautiful scenery in and around the trail, but the drive to it as well. The often passed by Squamish Valley Road, just of the Sea to Sky Highway, opposite the Alice Lake Provincial Park access road, is wonderful. This glacier carved valley stretches on and on, along the majestic Squamish River as you follow forest service roads 26 kilometres to the trailhead. The High Falls trail is well marked and difficult to moderately challenging. There are some short chain assisted areas to climb and overall the trail is fairly steep. You gain a gruelling 622 metres in less than 4 kilometres. Past the beautiful falls viewpoints the trail leads to a few more cliff viewpoints before ending at the Branch 200 FSR. You can either turn back and retrace the steep trail you came back to your car (8 kilometres roundtrip). Most prefer to walk the forest service road back to the trailhead instead. It is much longer (almost 2 kilometres longer), but it is easy and relaxing and there are some stunning views of the river valley below. This road takes you back to the S Main FSR where you will turn left onto and walk about 1.4 kilometres to get back to your car.
Elfin Lakes is a wonderfully accessible mountain paradise at the southern end of the mighty Garibaldi Park in Squamish. An amazing destination on its own, Elfin Lakes is also part of a gateway to so much more. The Gargoyles, Little Diamond Head, Opal Cone... There is a wonderful, extremely well equipped hut and campsites as well as a ranger station at the lakes. Staying at the amazing hut costs $15, cash only. Which sounds expensive until you see it.
It looks more like a ski lodge than a mountain hut. Complete with solar powered lights, heat, propane stoves and room for 33 to sleep. You will find envelopes to pay at the trailhead. Camping away from the hut costs $10. Once again that seem expensive, but the area is very beautiful and popular so park rangers are nearly always around to keep things nice and functional.
The 22k route to the Elfin Lakes Hut and back is well marked and well used. Unlike most other Garibaldi Park trails, this one can be safely navigated in the dark if needed with a flashlight. You will often find people on the trail in the dark on the lower section from the Red Heather Hut to the parking lot in Squamish...
, in Garibaldi Park is an amazing place to snowshoe in the winter near Squamish. Beautiful snowy meadows surrounded by mountains everywhere you look. Black Tusk towering in the distance so close and blanketed in wonderful, beautiful snow. Garibaldi Lake is accessible as well on this snowshoeing hike. The Taylor Meadows trail forks partway up, left goes to , right to Garibaldi Lake (the trail joins again at the far side of both campsites).
Garibaldi Lake, so massive and dramatically beautiful in the winter, a huge frozen valley. The downside to this hike is the length of hiking to get to the beautiful parts. In the summer it's not so bad as the trailhead is a moderately difficult 9k from Garibaldi Lake. In the winter however, the trailhead parking lot is unplowed almost down to the highway. So just to get to the trailhead requires about a 2k uphill snowshoe slog.
If you snowshoe the beautiful route to and return via Garibaldi Lake the route is 25 kilometres long and very strenuous as a one day snowshoe trip. Camping at either or Garibaldi Lake are great options if you can stand the cold and are well prepared. If you plan to do this trip in one day be sure to leave very early and be well prepared for winter hiking. In the winter the days are very short so always have lights with you. Although the trail will likely be tracked out by previous hikers and skiers, having a gps is an excellent backup in case you lose the trail.
If you are not troubled by a lot of exertion then it's a wonderful snowshoe destination. Like Joffre Lakes it is frequented by skiers just enough to ensure an almost constant track throughout the winter so you can concentrate more on the scenery then keeping from getting lost. Another nice attribute of this hike is the fact that you can snowshoe through the beautiful on the way up then across to Garibaldi Lake on the way back, therefore doing a little snowshoe circle route before heading back to your car at Rubble Creek...
Brandywine Falls is a beautiful stop in between Squamish and Whistler. It's about 25 minutes north of Squamish, 11k south of Whistler. The hike from the parking lot to the falls is less than a kilometre and on a wide and flat trail. Most people miss the the viewpoint from the train tracks bridge. To find it is easy. As you walk toward the falls from the parking lot you will have to cross train tracks. Standing at the train tracks look to your right and you will see a bridge that the train tracks cross. Walk over to that to see the falls from above.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park has the Sea to Sky Trail running through it and there are signs and maps indicating were to connect to it a the Brandywine Falls parking lot. The Sea to Sky Trail runs east of Brandywine Falls and leads to the Cheakamus Bungee Bridge.
This huge bridge spans the Cheakamus River high above the trees. The trail from Brandywine Falls to the Bungee Bridge is just 3 kilometres and is wide, relaxing and scenic. To find it just keep your eye out for the Brandywine Falls sign about 25 minutes north of Squamish. The falls will be on your right. For much of the winter you will find the gates to the parking lot closed. If you encounter this, simply park as close to the gate as possible and hike from there. You will likely see a couple cars already parked there doing the same as you...
The Lions or Twin Sisters lie in North Vancouver, south of Squamish. The two distinct, rocky peaks are visible from downtown Vancouver. The West Lion can be climbed. You don't have to climb it to get great views of Howe Sound and Vancouver. There is a plateau before this difficult summit with amazing views. In fact, most finish their hike to The Lions here at this wonderful plateau with the towering West Lion so close. It's beautiful, tough, and very rewarding to get to this plateau. To get to the summit though is much tougher. The view from the top is spectacular. Howe Sound stretches out into the blue distance. A tough but wonderful hike in easy conditions. In wet, cold, or snowy weather, a summit attempt is extremely difficult and dangerous.
There are two plateaus before the final, very difficult ascent to the summit of the West Lion. Both plateaus have incredible views and most make the second plateau their final destination. It is at the base of the West Lion. There are not really any suitable places to put up a tent, but if you had to choose, somewhere in the vicinity of these two plateaus would be the place to do it. If you continue to the summit be prepared for a four metre rope descent. The ropes are there, fixed to a tree above, but are alarmingly worn. If you have ropes, you may want to bring them for this part. After this, you will cross the narrow col connecting to the West Lion. This begins the very difficult section. Clinging to narrow rocks and ledges you have to make your way around the right hand side of the steep West Lion. This section is so dangerous that there are permanent ropes fixed in places to prevent you falling several dozens of metres if you lost your grip. There is one section of rope now missing which is a bit unsettling.