Madeley Lake - Whistler Trails in September
Madeley Lake(wrongly named "Powell Lake" on Google Maps) is a well hidden, though easily drivable lake in the beautiful Callaghan Valley. Unlike the terrible gravel road (4x4 recommended though recently graded) to Callaghan Lake, the relatively smooth gravel road to Madeley Lake is drivable by car (relatively easily and safely). Just a 10 minute drive from the main, paved road to Whistler Olympic Park, Madeley makes a great side-trip on the way to or from the very popular 2010 Olympic attraction.
Just metres past the turnoff to Alexander Falls, turn left at the sign for Callaghan Lake Provincial Park. Cross the bridge and follow the terrible logging road for about three minutes, turn right at the first logging road that branches off to the right. Follow this logging road for about 10 minutes until Madeley Lake appears on your right. There is a large map board at the trailhead to Hanging Lake, Rainbow Lake and Mount Sproatt. You can park here or continue past this and drive to the end of the lake and small campsite area. This is an unmaintained area camping area and for the most park you will feel very far from civilization despite being just a couple kilometres from Whistler Olympic Park.
This is an amazing place to camp. If looking for solitude at a paradise, mountain lake, Madeley Lake is hard to beat. Though somewhat popular with fishing, you are still likely to rarely see anyone at the lake in the summer and never in the fall. Once in a while you will see a car or two at the trailhead to Hanging Lake. If you have a canoe, Madeley is a great place to paddle around or just float in the sun.
Hanging Lake is located just before Rainbow Lake. Though ugly in comparison to Rainbow Lake, Hanging Lake has a nice camping area and is dog friendly and swimming friendly. Rainbow Lake is the source of Whistler's drinking water and camping, dogs, swimming and fishing are prohibited. Though all of these prohibitions are unfortunately, routinely flouted at Rainbow Lake, Hanging Lake is a good alternative. The dividing line for dogs allowed and not allowed runs between Rainbow Lake and Hanging Lake and is marked with a huge sign.
The trail from Madeley Lake to Hanging Lake is nice, however at times muddy. Free of snow, usually early July to November most years, this trail is a great way to avoid the much busier Rainbow Lake trail that starts from the Whistler side of this area. If you can arrange to have someone drop you off at the trailhead you can hike all the way to Whistler Village via the Rainbow Trail and the Valley Trail. The entire distance is about 23 kilometres and should only take about 6 hours, much of it steadily descending the beautiful Rainbow Trail. The route is well marked and there are several map-boards along the route ensuring you find your way safely.
Ring & Conflict Lake
Ring Lake is a fantastically beautiful and wonderfully remote lake similar to Cirque Lake but considerably farther to hike. The 10k hike takes you through a beautiful forest of cedars then to a spectacular meadow filled with ponds and ringed with distant, enormous mountains. 5k into the hike you come to Conflict Lake with trails running around it. Signs at various junctions indicate which trail to take to reach Ring Lake, a further 5k from Conflict.
The trail from Conflict Lake to Ring Lake passes through a huge valley for a couple kilometres, then abruptly ascends on the right side of the valley. The trail is poorly marked in this section and you have to keep bearing right to avoid descending back into the valley. 3k of at times very steep, but not technical trail gets you to the magnificent Ring Lake and the imposing Ring Mountain across the emerald green water.
The trailhead to Ring and Conflict Lakes is very close to the Callaghan Lake Provincial Park campsite. From the campsite, drive a couple hundred metres as if returning to Whistler and you will see a clearing on the right and a very well worn trail. From this trail you will see plenty of signs to guide you first to Conflict Lake in 5k, then Ring Lake, another 5k past Conflict. The 5k hike to Conflict Lake is quite relaxed and easy as you don't gain any significant elevation. The 5k from Conflict to Ring Lake is very steep, and though marked well with flagging tape and cairns, very difficult to follow.
Alexander Falls Provincial Park
is a very impressive 43 metre/141foot waterfall just 30 to 40 minutes south of Whistler in the Callaghan Valley. Open year-round and located just before Whistler Olympic Park where several of the 2010 Olympic events were held. There is a nice viewing platform on the edge of the cliff across from the falls which crash fantastically into the valley below. The parking area and viewing platform at is one big area just 40 metres from the main road (to Whistler Olympic Park). The adventurous can find the obscure trail that leads to both the top of the falls as well as, with great difficulty, to the base of the falls.
Alexander Falls is certainly one of the nicest spots for a picnic in Whistler. The picnic areas are numerous, the surrounding forest is gorgeous and wild and Alexander Falls crashes loud and beautiful in the background. Several picnic tables are located in forested clearings that were once used as campsites, so if you have a big group, you will have lots of room to spread out and enjoy the surroundings.
There is a nice information board with as short history of the areas surrounding Alexander Falls, complete with museum-like pictures of the regions logging history. One depicts, "A Land of Giants" and describes, with photos, how incredibly huge trees were cut down and moved. One picture from 1910, shows 10 men sitting on an enormous, felled tree and looking tiny by comparison. The depiction goes on to show how First Nations people felled trees as long as 8000 years ago.
The history of logging continues to present day logging practices in British Columbia and around Whistler are depicted in another nice museum-like mural on BC's "Green Advantage" and sustainable future.
The drive to Alexander Falls is very nice. As soon as you turn off from the Sea to Sky Highway into the Callaghan Valley you ascend quickly into the mountains. Bears along the roadside are frequently seen as they seem to have a particular fondness for the fields of grass that grow in the sunny meadows that surround this recently constructed, paved road.
The Alexander Falls viewing platform and picnic area was redesigned and reconstructed just before the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Some of the Nordic competitions took place just a five minute drive north of Alexander Falls. The facilities are still in operation and open to visitors year-round. There is a cafe and visitor centre well worth visiting. The access road to Whistler Olympic Park is blocked by a security gate after hours so keep that in mind when going. The hours change seasonally. In the summer they are open 10am to 4:30pm daily and in the winter 9am to 4:30pm weekdays. Check their website for current opening hours.
Of impressive waterfalls in the Whistler area, several spectacular ones. Others in the area include the amazing Brandywine Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Nairn Falls. Along very difficult hike to Wedgemount Lake you will see the incredible Wedgemount Falls. Down in Squamish, 45 minutes south of Whistler, you will find Shannon Falls.is one of