Callaghan Lake in the Callaghan Valley Whistler Hiking Trails
Callaghan Lake is not really a hiking destination but more of a drive to campsite on a beautiful lake, and gateway to some beautiful intermediate hikes. The campsite is small and looks a bit like a parking lot with about 6 spots to put up a tent. There is a proper boat launch at the campsite and the lake is large and beautiful to paddle. Surrounded by snowy mountains and nice rock outcrops the lake is good for fishing. If you have a canoe or boat of some kind you can find numerous, breathtaking places to camp. There is even a small island a short five minute paddle away that has a beautiful clearing for a tent, a fire ring and crystal clear water all around, deep enough to dive into.
If you don't have access to a boat you should pick up one of those hilarious, $20 inflatable boats that you find for sale everywhere and bring it along. You could easily use one to ferry your gear/tent across to this above mentioned island as a trail leads to the island with just a 8 metre gap of 1 metre deep water. Either that or walk with your pack above your head. Either way camping at this little island is an absolute paradise when compared to the parking lot of a campsite 300 metres away.
The hiking trails are minimal here due to the steepness and deep forest surrounding the lake. At the far end of the lake the rustic and steep Cirque Lake trail runs along the side of the crashing waterfall all the way to the breathtaking Cirque Lake. If you are motivated and have a canoe this is an amazing area to hike in mostly untouched wilderness where the alpine allows for hiking in several directions to countless lakes and glaciers beyond.
Callaghan Lake campsite also is the start of another little known though beautiful hike deep into the Callaghan Valley. Ring Lake and Conflict Lake. Conflict lake is 5k from the trailhead and from and easy and beautiful trail through meadows and creeks. From Conflict lake to Ring Lake is a more difficult and at time hard to follow trail. The snow persists very lake on this trail (until late July), but the lake is magnificent and worth the trek. The Callaghan Valley is dog friendly unlike Garibaldi Park, but extreme caution is needed due to this being grizzly territory. If you see a bear here, it will probably be a grizzly. There are no camping facilities at Ring and Conflict Lakes and expect to only find a flat place to put your tent on snow (as late as August).
The Callaghan Lake campsite is free to use and is notorious for being a bit rowdy during summer weekends, which does make it a friendly and fun place, but if you are looking for quiet and peace you may find it bothersome and should seek out one of the many, extraordinarily beautiful, boat accessed, backcountry tent sites.
Directions to the Callaghan Lake Campsite:
The Callaghan Lake turnoff is 20km south of Whistler Village. From Whistler drive 20km towards Vancouver, then turn right at the sign for Whistler Olympic Park. Drive up the beautiful, winding road for about 8 minutes. The sign for Callaghan Lake will be just before Whistler Olympic Park, you will turn left, cross a bridge and drive a very bad and horrendously potholed logging road for 6km. Most vehicles can make it to the lake but with extreme caution and care at several waterbars and the frequent and deep potholes. This logging road is usually deep with snow until mid June (mid July in 2012). If you attempt to drive this road before mid July, be sure to bring a shovel and rope in case you find yourself stuck in the snow.
In 2011 there was a metre of snow as of June 30th at the Callaghan campsite. For conditions on this road and the Callaghan campsite visit the Callaghan Lake Provincial Parks Page. There is lots of parking at Callaghan Lake, an outhouse, boat launch and several nice campsites.