Russet Lake is a fantastic alpine lake that lays at the base of the Fissile. The Fissile is the strikingly bronze coloured mountain so visible from Whistler Village. From the Village look into the distance at the Peak to Peak hanging between Whistler and Blackcomb and you will see the Fissile. Its pyramid shape in the distance perfectly separates the two mountains.
Though Russet Lake is not terribly impressive in terms of size or colour, the valley around it is remarkably beautiful. The colours change from moment to moment in and extraordinary way. The distinctive colour of the Fissile and the stark grey of the mountains around contrast amazingly with the blue of the lake and green grass in the valley. So many different factors fill the place with colour.
There are several ways to get to hike Russet Lake. The Singing Pass Trail from the base of Whistler Mountain near the Whistler Gondola. The Musical Bumps Trail that begins near the top of the Whistler Gondola. The High Note Trail that begins at the top of the Peak Chair on Whistler Mountain. There is an increasingly popular route that begins from Blackcomb Mountain. And finally, a very infrequently hiked route from Cheakamus Lake that runs along Singing Creek.
In short, the three ways to get to Russet Lake are 1. Musical Bumps (direct route and beautiful), 2. High Note Trail (a bit longer but even more beautiful), and the Singing Pass Trail (not as nice as the previous two and constantly uphill, but no expensive gondola charge).
All three routes are have signs and well established trails. None are very difficult with the exception of being long trails. Though each can be done in a day, 28 kilometres of hiking in one day is quite a long way. Russet Lake is a beautiful place to camp. It has a wonderful hut available to use by anyone. It is a basic wooden hut with no facilities, but surprisingly comfortable. It holds up to 12 crowded or 8 comfortable. There is also an outhouse and a beautiful stream that runs along the massive camping area. There are no tent platforms but over a dozen tent clearings.
Cirque Lake is a wild and beautiful lake that hides high above and beyond Callaghan Lake in Callaghan Lake Provincial Park. What makes Cirque Lake special among the other sensationally beautiful lakes in the Whistler area is both its location and geologically formed shape. It sits high above Callaghan Lake, which itself is a gorgeous, remote feeling lake. The remoteness of Callaghan Lake is a wonderful mirage, due to the fact that you can drive right to it!
Callaghan Lake is accessible via an 8 kilometre weather battered and very potholed forest service road. The entire road is cratered with deep potholes, cut by frequent cross-ditches, and more recently a small section collapsing into the valley below. This logging road begins high up in the Callaghan Valley, which itself is largely overlooked by travellers to Whistler.
The Callaghan Valley is home to quite a few natural and man-made attractions. Brandywine Meadows, Alexander Falls, Northair Mine and Mount Sproatt are all found in the valley. Recently, the 2010 Olympic Games produced the largest man-made attraction in Callaghan Valley, Whistler Olympic Park.
Though Cirque Lake is tremendously far into the wilderness, the amount of hiking required to reach it is effectively less than two kilometres. Another two kilometres of canoeing is required to reach the trailhead at the far end of Callaghan Lake. But for such an enchantingly beautiful, mountain lake, the exertion to reach it is remarkably little.
The other attribute of Cirque Lake that makes it special, is its cirque structure. From the moment you catch sight of Cirque Lake, the abruptly steep sides all around give you the humbling feeling that you are inside a volcano. A volcano filled with emerald water and ringed by grassy meadows and crumbling, near vertical cliffs.
Where you stand, at the entrance to the cirque, is not far from the only water channel out of the cirque. An ever narrowing gap in the cliffs spills water down one cliff after another until reaching Callaghan Lake just 1.4 kilometres away.
Owing to the fact that you have to reach the trailhead to Cirque Lake by boat ensures that it almost always remains deserted. Even in the middle of summer, your tent will almost certainly be the only one that resides in this magical cirque. You sometimes get hikers venturing up from their campsites at Callaghan Lake for a couple hours, otherwise nobody.
One feature of the Cirque Lake trail that no doubt scares hikers away is its steepness and ruggedness. It is mostly very steep, and due to the obliterating effects of winter snow, the trail markers are sporadic at best. One consolation is of course the length of the trail. Under two kilometres, makes the steepness much easier to tackle.
New this year, as of June 22nd 2016 reservations are required for camping at Garibaldi Lake campground and Taylor Meadows campground from June 29th-September 30th, 2016. Camping fees must be paid before entering the park. There are no cash payment options. You can pay online here.. In 2016 the trail to Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake was reasonably easy to hike through the quickly melting and tracked out snow in late May. Hiking to Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge before mid June this year will remain very challenging and potentially dangerous.
Panorama Ridge is easily one of the most amazing hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park. The 15 kilometre hike from the trailhead at Rubble Creek to Panorama Ridge takes you through beautiful and deep forests, across countless idyllic streams, through meadows filled with flowers, and past dozens of jaw dropping viewpoints. The amazing views start once you reach Taylor Meadows and get even more spectacular as the trail progresses.
Once you arrive at Panorama Ridge and its phenomenal vantage point, high above Garibaldi Park, you will stare in wonder. Mesmerized first by Garibaldi Lake, far below you and looking unnaturally blue, the lake looks amazing surrounded by green, untouched wilderness and snow capped mountains.
The Table, the massive and unusual looking mountain with its bizarre flat top lays across the lake with the enormous Mount Garibaldi just beyond. In the distance, where Garibaldi Lake ends, a massive glacier rises out of the blue and jagged crevasses can be seen even from such a great distance. Behind you, Black Tusk lays across the valley. Close to the same elevation as Panorama Ridge, you get this wonderful view of it. Certainly the best and closest viewpoint to this iconic mountain.
Panorama Ridge sits, along with Black Tusk in the midst of some of the most popular and beautiful hiking trails in Garibaldi Provincial Park. There are two main trailheads for Panorama Ridge, Cheakamus Lake and Rubble Creek.
Rubble Creek is the more popular starting point as it is a bit shorter, far more scenic and allows for the inclusion of the trail to Garibaldi Lake and the beautiful Taylor Meadows as well as Black Tusk. The trail to Panorama Ridge from Rubble Creek is not so much difficult as it is long. 30 kilometres makes for a long 8-10 hour roundtrip hike. Staying overnight, therefore is a great idea.
These next five hikes are easy and/or short hikes that are relaxing, yet still beautiful. Much more suited for family outings instead of hard, multi-day hiking. Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are far and away the #1 picks for easy hiking. The convenient, comfortable and relatively inexpensive gondola from Whistler Village, and chairlift from Blackcomb take you up to spectacular trails on the top of the world. Add to that the Peak to Peak Gondola and some great restaurants and in short, easy hiking doesn't get much better.
The High Note Trail, the longest trail at 5.1k is a wonderful hike, all million dollar views without the effort. The start and finish are at the top of the Peak chair on Whistler Mountain, where you are carried in comfort to the breathtaking views ahead. Deep in the valley below you will see the impossibly blue Cheakamus Lakecontrasting with the incredible greens along the trail. Though the trail doesn't gain or lose very much elevation, it is still a fair hike at 5.1k.
If the trail gets too tiring, there is a shortcut home, the aptly named Half Note trail. This is certainly a must see trail and when combined with the Peak to Peak Gondola across to Blackcomb for dinner. Christine's, restaurant's fine dining on the edge of the world. A wonderful way to spend a day.
Of all the hiking choices on Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain, the High Note Trail is possibly the most amazing and scenic. It has several amazing attributes that make it a must-do hike on any summer visit to Whistler. First, the fact that it starts and finishes at the Roundhouse Lodge is fantastic. The Roundhouse has a very nice and reasonably priced restaurant with an outdoor seating area with million dollar views all around. They also have a great selection of pub style drinks so you can toast a beer or glass of wine on top of the world after(or before) your hike.
Cheakamus Lake is a wonderfully relaxing way to get in the wilderness easily and quickly from Whistler Village. The trail begins on the far side of Whistler Mountain, 8 kilometres from the Sea to Sky Highway at Cheakamus Crossing across from Function Junction. This 8 kilometre stretch of logging road is fairly bumpy and potholed, but does have the benefit of allowing you to drive the elevation gain instead of hiking it.
You can easily manage this road in a car, however carefully and very slowly in parts. Mostly free of snow in 2016 by May 1st, though some vehicles may have difficulty through one large muddy/snowy section. Once you reach the trailhead/parking the entire 7 kilometre hiking trail to the end of the maintained Cheakamus Lake trail has barely any elevation gain. Just plenty of gradual inclines and declines along the winding route.
In fact, this makes it one of the few trails in Whistler and Garibaldi Park that can boast that. The nearby Garibaldi Lake trail and the Wedgemount Lake trail make you work for the views, however, the Cheakamus Lake trail hardly makes you work at all.
The trail to Cheakamus Lake takes you through an amazing forest of giant cedars that fill the forest with their amazing aroma. This forest is so packed with ancient giants that year to year the trail is adjusted by a monster of a tree fallen across the trail during some winter storm. Sometimes the trail bends around these behemoths, but more often they are laboriously chainsawed by BC Parks staff. The more enormous of these remain as fixtures of the trail. Either edging the trail or as a mighty obstacle to climb over.
Decades ago a train derailed south of Whistler. The cost to clean up the mess was deemed too high, so seven train cars were left scattered next to the Cheakamus River. As it turns out, time and local effort has transformed this mess into a wonderful work of art, an extraordinary bike park, and a great place to hike.
Cheakamus River winds its way, crashing and emerald green along the length of the Whistler Train Wreck, and there are several spectacular river vantage points that shouldn't be missed. A locals favourite spot for a surreal and amazing night out, or just a quiet campfire on the river.
To get to the trailhead for Whistler Train Wreck, drive 7.6k south of Whistler Village. At the traffic lights at Function Junction turn left onto Cheakamus Lake Rd, then immediately left again in the the huge parking lot for the Cheakamus Community Forest(aka Interpretive Forest). Park here then walk or bike to the Flank Trail trailhead that almost immediately branches off to the Train Wreck Trail(see the maps below). The mostly unmarked Train Wreck trail is tricky to find and follow.
About 40 metres from the tiny Flank Trail sign off of Alpha Lake Rd you will spot the large, old sign indicating Flank Trail to the right and another, unmarked trail heading left. Walk a down this unmarked trail with the creek still on your left and you will pass some ancient, but weirdly idyllic picnic tables. Further along you will come out to a clearing and see two painted boulders on your left on either side of a trail. If you miss this trail you will come to the water tunnel under the highway(video above/right, this is the wrong way).
The first part of the Train Wreck is not train wreckage, but instead some amazing views of the Cheakamus River. This extraordinarily beautiful river crashes violently through here and various viewpoints can be found along the trail. After a few amazing viewpoints, the Cheakamus River forces you back towards the train tracks. Walk past this bend in the river by keeping well left of, off and away from the train tracks. The trail picks up again on the left and descends into the forest again. This is the stretch of forest that contains seven train wrecked cars strewn over one kilometre. Some perched at the edge of the Cheakamus River, others mangled against trees. It is amazing to see the impossibility of where they rest.. with huge trees all around. In the decades since they crashed and wrecked here, trees have grown all around.
Nairn Falls, like Brandywine Falls is an easily accessible, yet wonderful, short hike to a spectacular waterfall. Where Brandywine Falls is majestically grand to view, as you must from a distance. Nairn Falls almost engulfs you as it wraps around you from your vantage point. They are opposites in every way, and because of this you should try to see both on a visit to Whistler.
There is quite a large and popular camping area at Nairn Falls that is popular with motor homes and tenters throughout the summer. Its location in between Pemberton and Whistler makes is a great pit stop on the way to and from Whistler. Nairn Falls is located just 20 minutes north of Whistler on Highway 99. Just keep your eyes out for the huge sign on your right that says, "Nairn Falls Provincial Park". You can't miss the large parking lot on your right. From the parking lot the falls are only about 15 minutes away along the beautiful Lillooet River.
Most visitors to Nairn Falls Provincial Park just see Nairn Falls, however, to the left, beyond the campsites the Green River is beautiful. A short trail takes you down to a wide bend in the river and you find yourself in what looks like a large beach.
It is a hidden bit of paradise with the crystal clear, green water flowing over polished rocks. The whole are is in almost constant sunlight despite being in the middle of the forest. On warm, summer days you will find people swimming, sipping beers on the rock cliffs across the river and generally having an amazing time in this usually forgotten corner of the park.
Brandywine Falls is one of the must see sights on the way to or from Whistler. The falls drop from a 66 metre, unnaturally abrupt cliff to the valley below. It is such a popular and beautiful sight that it is a Provincial Park complete with a large and elaborate viewing platform directly opposite the falls. Located just 20 minutes south of Whistler, Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is just off of the Sea to Sky Highway. If driving from Vancouver, keep your eyes out for the Brandywine Falls sign on your right about 25 minutes north of Squamish.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park was established in 1973 as a campground and recreational area. The origin of the name for Brandywine Falls is suspected to have come from a wager by two surveyors. Legend has it that Jack Nelson and Bob Mollison, working for the Howe Sound and Northern Railway made a wager for a bottle of brandy for who could guess how high the falls were. Measured by a chain, Mollison won the wager and bottle of brandy and Nelson named the falls Brandywine.
The start of the trail takes you across a small, covered bridge over the river. The trail then continues along the river and leads to the wonderful viewing area across from the falls. The trail then continues another hundred metres to another viewing area. This viewpoint overlooks Daisy Lake, the massive lake that Brandywine Falls empties into. On a sunny day, Black Tusk dominates the skyline here. An unmarked trail continues from this viewpoint and continues along the cliffs and to a very difficult trail down to the base of the falls. The first section requires lowering yourself down by rope, so should only be tackled by the adventurous and very fit.
Diary of a Hiking Guide: Part 1
Wedgemount Lake is incomprehensible. It is located so high up in the mountains as to take your breath away. It's turquoise, very turquoise. Unless you are one of the few that has seen it in the other half of the year where it is frozen over, then it is white. Kind of white. Clear really. If you see it in this way then you are tough. Tougher than the most. Hiking a tough hike through snow reveals a strength in you. You can die happy on a day like this.
Not a lot of people in the world have seen this lake. Any lake really. Frozen in the midst of towering mountains. In July.
July 18th. The middle of summer. Climate change. Global warming. You lose your grasp on words as you shiver in the July sunshine. Not cold. But looking on the frozen, jagged water you are about to jump into. The seven of you met only hours ago to climb this incredible trail.
Looking on the Saran Wrap of ice, you wonder how thick it is. If you can jump through it. Will it be thick? Will you break through? Why the fuck is there ice on a lake in July when it's hot, summer hot?
We ran there. Well, ran in a way. The Wedgemount trail is steep. So the Wedgemount trail run is a lot of walking. We walked for a lot of it. Ran some. But mostly walked. Hiked really.
There was the running obsessed Anita. 42, recently divorced and alive with strength and excitement. And an air of hatred and resentment that made us all step back. The two swedes. They ran together. Graceful and contented, happy and eager in their excitement about Canada. There were seven in the group. But they faded into the boredom that was forgotten as it started.
We all stood at the shore. Remembering that I was the guide and there was the script. I couldn't say the words out loud. Then I did. I couldn't stop myself. "Wedgemount glacier has receded 18 metres in 17 years. As you see it now. You can see the effects of global warming. The glacier before you is an example of how human profligacy is warming our world and killing us all."
As I read out loud the script I had read so many times. I didn't laugh. It was sad. Too sad. I felt a foreboding. What I said didn't make sense, standing in two feet of snow and shivering in the July heat. It didn't make sense in a world that was so sure that this snow should not be here. I didn't laugh because I felt for the first time the machine like way I read it. It looked true the other times I read it. This time it didn't. It really didn't. For fuck sakes. I was knee deep in snow and the goddamned lake was frozen. It was July. The fact that the impossibly blue water was impossibly frozen, was, in a word. Impossible.
It was then that I lost for a moment what was impossible.
The lake was frozen.
I was tired.
I was the first to break the ice.
Wedgemount Lake is one of the most spectacular hikes in Garibaldi Park. Though it’s a relentlessly exhausting, steep hike, it is mercifully short at only 7km. The Lake itself is a magnificent destination for a day hike or spectacular overnight among the dazzling mountain peaks and stars.