Brandywine Meadows in Callaghan Valley, Whistler
Brandywine Meadows is a nice hike in a massive flower filled valley high up in the Callaghan Valley. Located 40 minutes south of Whistler, this tough and sometimes muddy trail gains a huge 550 metres of elevation in just 3k (trailhead to valley). The trailhead is tricky to find and involves a fairly long gravel road journey that is passable without a 4x4, but barely. Not that the road is potholed, which it is, but that it is at times very steep and strewn with loose boulders. is used mainly for snowmobiling in the winter months and the bumpy ex-logging road to the trailhead is in poor condition in the summer. The Brandywine trail network in winter (approximately Dec-late April/early May) is for snowmobiles & ski touring only. No free public access.
The hike is consistently very steep for the first two kilometres. It is at times scenic though, despite being in very deep forest. The trail runs parallel to Brandywine Creek, which is steeply flowing, very loud and quite beautiful at various vantage points.
After two kilometres on the Brandywine Meadows trail, the elevation gain levels off and you catch several alpine mountain peaks through the trees. And finally reaching the meadows, the amazing valley stretches into the distance, ending at the formidable mountains.
In that grey and white mass of mountain peaks in the distance you will see Brandywine Mountain. A visible and well worn trail skirts the right edge of the valley leading to the rocky slopes that lead you to Brandywine Mountain. The trail, of course, gives way to the mess of boulders and erratics that make the beautiful, flower filled meadows below look all the more serene. The mountains in the area, including Brandywine are hike-able, though the trails, if any are faint and unmarked. There are no camping facilities in Brandywine Meadows, however, the seemingly endless valley offers plenty of tent sites.
If you plan on camping before mid July, you will likely be on snow as the valley is snow filled until mid summer most years. The meadows are somewhat notorious for mosquitoes so avoiding the area in August is a good way to avoid the swarms. September and even October are possibly the best months to explore Brandywine Meadows. No snow, bugs or hikers to take away from the wonderful solitude of this great spot in the Callaghan Valley. As the Callaghan Valley is outside of Garibaldi Park, dogs a welcome in Brandywine Meadows.
Brandywine Meadows - Parking & Trailhead Directions
Brandywine Meadows is very remote and wild by comparison to other Whistler hiking trails, so there are few direction signs. Even the trailhead sign is easily missed and the parking lot area is difficult for most vehicles to get to. Make sure you have driving directions memorized or printed out as getting lost on the way to a trailhead can make for a late and frustrating start. If you have a good 4x4 with high clearance, you should take the very challenging 4x4 road to the snowmobile hut and start at the trailhead there. It is much shorter, much easier, and the snowmobile hut is a pretty nice pit-stop or place to overnight.
Brandywine Meadows - Parking & Trailhead Directions
There are two trails to Brandywine Meadows. The regular, official trail is near the end of a very rough, though 2WD passable vehicle. The shorter and more interesting route is at the end of a very dodgy 4x4 only ex-logging road. Both routes are difficult to find due to infrequent signs after leaving paved roads. Follow the signs that direct you to Brandywine Valley and "snowmobilers".
1. 14k south of Whistler Village, on Highway 99, turn right at this sign: Brandywine Valley (1 on the map below).
2. Turn left almost immediately at another sign for Brandywine Valley. Drive down the road that passes to the left of the Waste Transfer Station (2 on the map below).
3. Follow this road for about 1k as it passes through the very large snowmobile parking lot. At the far end of this parking lot (pictured here) follow the gravel road to the right (3 on the map below).
4. Follow this logging road for about 4k and you will come to a fork in the road. Continuing straight takes you to the official Brandywine Meadows trailhead in 2 kilometres, (shown on map below as Parking symbol furthest to the left). This 2 kilometre section of logging road quickly becomes 4x4 only as parts are very steep and the gravel road becomes a boulder road. Your best bet is to drive as far as you can and park at the edge of the road and walk to the trailhead. There are plenty of wide sections suitable for parking.
To go to the shorter, easier trailhead (shown on map below as the parking symbol nearest the tent symbol) next to the snowmobile hut, turn right here, then left after you pass the large parking lot on your right. This section of logging road to snowmobile hut is very bad and requires a good 4x4 vehicle due to several large washouts, many steep and boulder strewn sections. If you do brave this section of road you will be rewarded by avoiding 2 kilometres of steep hiking from the normal trailhead. The hut is a great place to relax and spend the night. Due to the brutal access road it remains mostly unused, most of the winter. The section of road from the hut to the 2nd trailhead gets progressively worse.
Deep washouts and alarmingly narrow sections scare most hikers into parking at the hut and walking this relaxing and scenic ex-logging road to the trailhead. This route also has the benefit (over the main trailhead) of having no elevation gain, unlike the steep main trail.