Madeley Lake - Whistler Area Trails
Madeley Lake(wrongly named "Powell Lake" on some maps) is a well hidden, though easily drivable lake in beautiful Callaghan Valley. Unlike the terrible gravel road (4x4 recommended) to Callaghan Lake, the relatively smooth gravel road to Madeley Lake is drivable by car (relatively easily and safely). The access road is now open and mostly free of snow(as of May 15 2016). 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 . Cross the bridge and follow the terribly potholed logging road for about 300 metres, turn right at the first logging road that branches off to the right(Madeley Road). Follow this logging road for about 8 minutes until Madeley Lake appears on your right. Provincial Park
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(park and look for the small trailhead sign across the bridge). 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 June 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.
Trail Map and Trailhead Directions
This trail map shows the Madeley Lake trail to Hanging Lake as well as the Rainbow Trail to Rainbow Lake and down to Whistler near Rainbow Park on Alta Lake. To print: Right Click on the map, save image as, save to desktop, then open the image and print on standard size printer paper. Cell coverage is sometimes spotty in the Callaghan Valley, however generally good nearer to Rainbow Lake. You will likely be able to access the internet and this map if you have a data plan, however saving this image may be a good idea especially if you are venturing out toward Beverly Lake where the trail is hard to find and follow.
From Whistler drive 20km towards Vancouver on the Sea to Sky highway, 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 after Alexander Falls and just before Whistler Olympic Park, you will turn left, cross a bridge and after a couple hundred metres turn right onto another logging road. Follow this for 5k until you come to Madeley Lake and a large info board and signs directing you to Hanging Lake and Rainbow Lake. There is lots of parking here. The first parking area as you approach the lake is the best if you are just hiking. Here you will see a nice sign and great directions. If you are camping, then continue to the end of the road where the campsite is and the top of the trail. If you try to find Madeley Lake on Google Maps it is named incorrectly as Powell Lake.
The campsite at the end of Madeley Lake is very basic, though wonderfully remote feeling and rustic. The sun rises over the lake in the morning and you are bathed in sun most of the day. In previous years you could also camp at the nearby Alexander Falls, however this is no longer allowed. Also, keep in mind that this whole area in the winter is taken over by Callaghan Country and Whistler Olympic Park so access via skis comes with a usage charge. Another campsite option in the area is the beautiful and large campsite area at Callaghan Lake Provincial Park nearby. Both Madeley Lake campsite and Callaghan Lake are free of charge for camping. For a look at the accommodation choices in Whistler try booking.com.
The Madeley Lake trail to Hanging Lake is very dog friendly but keep in mind that it is often a muddy trail so your car will get muddy if you don't take him for a swim at the end. Beyond Hanging Lake you will come to a large sign indicating that Rainbow Lake is Whistler's water source and dogs, swimming, fishing, etc are prohibited. There are plenty of other dog friendly trails around Whistler. For a look at some of the best easy, dog friendly trails try here.. and some of the best challenging dog friendly trails here...
Other Hikes & Sights Near Madeley Lake
Alexander Falls is a very impressive 43 metre/141foot waterfall just before the left turn to Callaghan Lake and Madeley Lake. Accessible 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 Alexander Falls 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. 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. To get there from Madeley, drive back the way you came from and at the T junction, turn right and drive for about 8 kilometres. Rainbow Lake is one of the original hiking trails in Whistler that has existed well before Whistler was called Whistler. The 8k trail is challenging though beautiful as it passes through an impressively huge forest of giant trees. There are several wonderful bridge crossings and crashing river views. Rainbow Lake itself is surreal and beautiful. An unnaturally bright, green meadow extends from one side of the lake and a field of starkly white erratics litter the landscape along the shores of the crystal clear lake. Rainbow Lake is Whistler's water source so swimming, fishing, dogs and camping are not allowed. There are, you will quickly notice upon reaching Rainbow Lake, that a trail continues past the lake then forks. From the Madeley Lake trail to Hanging Lake, Rainbow Lake is just a 20 minute hike past Hanging Lake. Cirque Lake is an unbelievably beautiful paradise high up above Callaghan Lake in the Callaghan Valley. It requires a canoe to get you to the trailhead at the far end of Callaghan Lake and therefore is seldom hiked. The trailhead is tricky to find and the 2 kilometre trail is very steep, though surprisingly well marked with flagging tape.
Once at the lake you find yourself in the wind shadow of the cirque and in a world of serenity and calm. It is an extraordinary thing to have a cirque valley to yourself. Feels like you are standing in a volcano of sorts. But a giant, tree filled meadow of a volcano with a mesmerisingly still and perfectly reflecting lake at its centre. To get to Cirque Lake you have to canoe from Callaghan Lake Provincial Park to the trailhead at the far end of the lake.
Ring Lake is a fantastically beautiful and wonderfully remote lake similar to Cirque Lake but considerably farther to hike to reach it. 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 trailhead to Ring and Conflict Lakes is very close to the Callaghan Lake Provincial Park campsite. About 200 metres before the Callaghan Lake campsite on your left you will see and unmarked parking area and a trail that crosses the river over a large log bridge. A few minutes into the trail you will start seeing trail signs.