MONDAY, JUNE 30, 2014
Camping on a Paradise Island in Callaghan Lake
Callaghan Lake Provincial Park is easily overlooked and most people don't see to know it exists. It's a spectacular place to find, and if you take the time to look around the lake you will spot an amazing place like this to put up a tent. 21c, constantly sunny and the emerald green water is crystal clear. A beautiful way to end June 2014! This little island is on the far side of the lake and even has a well loved fire ring and the forest on the mainland shore(30 metres away) has an endless supply of firewood in the form of deadfall.
Callaghan Lake is up in the Callaghan Valley just north of Brandywine Falls. From Squamish you will have to turn left on the Sea to Sky Highway. You will likely spot a bear or two or three on the drive up the valley. Bear tours come up to this area to spot bears and charge tourists quite a bit for the service. Alexander Falls is also along this route and just before the turnoff to Callaghan Lake Provincial Park. The logging road is terrible to Callaghan Lake and just over 8 kilometres long. You don't need a 4x4 on this road, and you almost always spot a giant motorhome at the lake when you get there.
MONDAY, JUNE 9, 2014
The Beautiful New Sea to Sky Gondola
The Sea to Sky Gondola opened in the spring of 2014 and has rapidly exceeded expectations. In June the number of season passes sold numbered more than 4000. A number which seems to have more than doubled confident estimates. Located between Stawamus Chief Provincial Park and Shannon Falls Provincial Park the gondola carries you rapidly from the sea to the sky. Departing just a few hundred metres from the ocean at an elevation of 35 metres, to 885 metres in just 10 minutes. In early June you will still feel the chill in the air from the snowy mountain peaks all around. The deluxe, shiny and new gondolas comfortably seat 8 and the entire 10 minute ride gives you stunning views of Howe Sound, the three summits of the Chief on your left, and distant snowy mountains up ahead. The gondola cabins are almost entirely windows so no matter where you sit you have amazing views. If you are driving from Vancouver the large and easy to spot, Sea to Sky Gondola parking lot is just 45 minutes from Vancouver. Just off of the Sea to Sky Highway, look for the entrance just past the Shannon Falls Provincial Park entrance or just a couple hundred metres before the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park entrance. Parking is free, however they have signs that indicate that if you plan on parking more than 3 hours you should park at the Shannon Falls parking lot instead. This is a good option as well if you want to take a look at Shannon Falls as well. You can park there, see the amazing Shannon Falls and continue walking to the Sea to Sky Gondola along the connecting trail in less than 15 minutes. At the top of the gondola you arrive at the spectacular Summit Lodge. You immediately are drawn to enter this cliff-edge building with a restaurant, coffee shop, bar and an enormous sundeck that stretches around half of the building. The sundeck has dozens of tables and of course views of everything. Gondola's coming and going, Howe Sound, Sky Pilot and Co-Pilot(mountains). At one end of the sundeck the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge extends across a chasm to a rocky outcrop in the direction of Sky Pilot Mountain. The amazing Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge takes you across to the Spirit Trail and your first of several massive and stunning viewing areas and the start of an interpretive tour of this wonderful forest. Everywhere you turn you see an interesting, written description of what surrounds you as well as frequent park benches to sit and enjoy the view.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2012
The Sea to Sky Trail from Brandywine Falls to Whistler
The Sea to Sky Trail is the 180K hiking, biking, walking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and running trail that stretches from Squamish to D'Arcy. Overall the trail is still under construction, however, the beautiful route through Whistler is finally in place and for the most part, complete. This extraordinary trail meanders its way through many of Whistler's seemingly endless, beautiful sights. The Whistler section of the Sea to Sky Trail is 33 kilometres long between Brandywine Falls Provincial Park and WedgeWoods Estates just north of Green Lake (north of Whistler Village). The Whistler section of the trail is paved near the Village, and further out, dirt or crushed rock. Some sections are narrow, dirt and challenging as they wind through deep forest in an absurdly winding, though very fun, roller coaster like route through the trees. North of Whistler Village the trail can be challenging with several hills as it rises above and beyond Parkhurst. This marvellous and newly built section is a wide, crushed rock path that is relaxing and smooth despite continuous hills to reach the summit of the trail. High above Green Lake, the high point of the Whistler part of the Sea to Sky Trail has some fantastic views of mountains all around. South of Whistler Village, the paved Whistler Valley Trail that the Sea to Sky Trail shares, ends at Cheakamus Crossing and becomes a narrow dirt trail with some wider sections of crushed rock. This beautiful section follows the Cheakamus River making four dramatically beautiful river crossings. The Cal-Cheak area is one of these beautiful crossings. The Calcheak Suspension Bridge spans the wide and always rushing and chaotic Cheakamus River. You can't help wonder how Whistler seems to have these great bridges on various trails. They are very long and well constructed and certainly expensive. There is another one further up the Cheakamus River towards Cheakamus Lake. Evidently, if you are thinking the cute suspension bridge at Calcheak is nice you are in for a shock. Further down the trail you come to the enormous, chasm spanning, Whistler Bungee Bridge. This amazing bridge crosses way above the Cheakamus River far below. The bridge is ridiculously long and absurdly high. Expect to spend some time in this area, not just for the amazing bridge, but also the cliffs just past the bridge, that have some impressive views as well. Across the Bungee Bridge the Sea to Sky Trail passes near and past some nice viewpoints of distant mountains and valleys. The trail eventually leads directly through Brandywine Provincial Park and very close to the wonderful viewpoint across to the falls. Brandywine Falls is a great place to park your car and start out on the trail. Calcheak is also a good place to park and there is plenty of room near the, hard-to-miss Sea to Sky Trail signs. Nearer to Whistler Village there are dozens of good places to park. All of the parks in Whistler on the trail have convenient and free parking. Right in Whistler Village you will find parking near Lost Lake Park in Lot 4 and get on the trail just metres from your car. North of Whistler there is convenient and free parking at Nicklaus North Golf Course, just a five minute walk from the Green Lake part of the Sea to Sky Trail that rises from the Lost Lake Trail. Further north still, the turnoff for Wedgemount Lake, just north of Green Lake has lots of parking near the Sea to Sky Trailhead there.
SUNDAY, MARCH 25, 2012
Snowshoeing in Vancouver - Hollyburn Mountain
Hollyburn Mountain (aka Hollyburn Peak), in Cypress Provincial Park, is an amazing place to snowshoe or hike south of Whistler in North Vancouver (1.5 hours drive). The 1.5 hour drive from Whistler is beautiful and certainly the drive up to Cypress Provincial Park is beautiful with great views of Vancouver. From the always beautiful crossing of the beautiful Lions Gate Bridge, to the incredible views of Vancouver from the approach drive to Cypress Mountain and the Hollyburn Mountain trailhead. You would almost expect that there would be various fees for parking, trail use, etc. But the Hollyburn Mountain snowshoeing and hiking trail is completely free, and also quite convenient. You will likely be able to park withing a few metres of the Hollyburn Mountain trailhead and if you don't happen to own snowshoes, you can rent them at the trailhead for a very reasonable price. As if it couldn't get better, it does... the trail is so well marked that it can easily be done after dark, as many do. What a perfect escape from the city. Hollyburn Mountain is perfect mountain escape to a towering mountain paradise far above the big city below. The city lights are amazing. From the lights of the Lions Gate Bridge, to the beautifully bright tankers, to the wondrously glowing Vancouver towers. This hike has it all. Great views, easy hike, convenient times to use, and of course free. Hiking or snowshoeing Hollyburn Mountain is yet another spectacular piece of the whole amazing . Hollyburn Mountain is easily done in a half day trip from Vancouver as it is quite close and quite a short hike/snowshoe, at only 7k roundtrip. Go early for the amazing sunrise, or late in the day for the unbelievable sunset. The Hollyburn Mountain trail is very well marked with light reflecting, neon orange, 6 foot tall marker poles, only a few metres apart most of the way. Though the trail is a fairly constant uphill it is a relatively short trail. Most make it to the summit of Hollyburn in an hour from the trailhead. Coming down is quite a bit faster and you will see people using crazy carpets on the trail in the winter. In the summer with no snow, your downward pace will be quite fast as compared to uphill. If you plan to hike or snowshoe Hollyburn Mountain after dark, make sure you have a light and a backup light. The trail marker poles only reflect light, so you could easily lose the trail without lights after dark.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2012
Elfin Lakes Snowshoeing in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Squamish
Elfin Lakes is an amazing place to snowshoe in Squamish. The trail is easy to follow, not too steep and after the first 5k the views are phenomenal. And astonishingly, amazingly, there are two luxurious huts. One after 5k is called the Red Heather Hut and is a day use only, warming hut. Which means it is a cute little house in a snowy paradise with large windows, a fantastic wood stove and stacks of ready cut wood to fill it with. This may not seem luxurious, but in the cold mountains of Garibaldi Park in Squamish, a little house with a wood stove is paradise. From the Red Heather Hut to the Elfin Lakes Hut is a further 6k, and constantly beautiful. The views are incredible because the trail runs along a sharp ridge so you often have views both left and right. In the early morning or evening light this makes for quite an amazing contrast in light and colours reflecting off the mountains all around. The Elfin Lakes Hut is quite a thing as well. Buried in a few metres of snow, you have to descend snowy stairs as if walking into a snow cave. Once inside two remarkable things hit you. First the warmth, the thing is heated... shocking. Second the size. This half buried hut looks small from the outside, but once inside you marvel at the hugeness of it all. Sinks, large tables, windows everywhere... and a set of stairs going up to another floor above. The upstairs is wall to wall bunk beds. Unbelievable cozy and tidy. The whole interior has a wonderful ski lodge feel. After I went back downstairs with the bouncing walk of a kid in a new tree fort, still amazed at this hut in the mountains, I noticed two modern timer dials on one wall. Turning one a bit sheepishly and brightness filled the place. There are lights. Unbelievable. The Elfin Lakes Hut has power. Unbelievable.
TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2011
Shannon Falls and the Stawamus Chief
The Chief is the mammoth rock face that towers over Squamish. Though hardly believable from looking at, the summit is an easy two hour hike. In fact there are three peaks, South (First), Centre (Second), and North (Third). Each accessible from the single trailhead.
Growing in popularity as the newest brother to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver because there are quite a few stairs and considerable elevation gain. 540 metres in 1.5k. (The Grouse Grind is 853 metres in 2.9k)
The trailhead to the Chief is easy to find. From highway 99, in Squamish. As you approach the Chief, visible for several kilometres, watch for the sign for "Stawamus Chief." The large parking lots are arranged next to the trailhead.
There is a nice campground with 47 tent sites. This part of the world is somewhat expensive so this is an amazingly cheap option at $8 per person, per night. Officially open May 15 - October 12. If you go outside these dates you just have to walk in from outside the gates and camping is free however there are no services available which means that the washrooms may be locked and no water available (though there is a river nearby). There are no shower facilities here any time of the year.