By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 2 July 2015)
Where: Brandywine Mountain, Callaghan Valley (near Whistler, BC)
Description: This amazing hike winds through beautiful alpine meadows and provides continuous open views of local mountains including Fee, Whistler, Black Tusk, Rainbow, and others. The scenery, which is relentlessly spectacular and diverse, includes mountain ranges, trees, streams, waterfalls, and wildflowers. The round trip is approximately 12 kilometers (7.5 miles), with an elevation gain of 550 meters (1,804 feet), most of which occurs over a short portion of the trail. There’s a very rough logging road leading to the trailhead; if your vehicle can’t manage that, you’ll have to park lower down and hike the road, so add extra time for that if necessary (DO NOT attempt this road unless you have a 4X4 vehicle). You’ll also need to add a couple of extra hours if you want to scramble up to the peak (we haven’t done the peak yet, as there was far too much snow in June; we plan to do it later in the season. I’ll update this post to include information about the peak once we’ve summited).
Time: Most sources recommend allowing 5 to 7 hours for the round trip to be on the safe side. We spent nearly 6 hours on the mountain, but we stopped for around half an hour for lunch and again for awhile at the river and took hundreds of photos, so our actual hiking time was less than 5 hours and we were going far more slowly than usual because the views were so fantastic – leave yourself lots of time to really appreciate this one!
Difficulty: This hike is listed as difficult. Assuming that your vehicle can make it up the rough road and you start right at the trailhead, the first part of the hike is actually quite easy, with little elevation gain. However, you’ll eventually hit a point that requires steep uphill scrambling to reach the best viewpoints and there’s a lot of loose rock along the way. Fortunately, there’s also plenty of low-growing tough foliage to provide traction, so you can make your way up via the green route to avoid sliding. You’ll also need to cross a number of streams in the meadows.
Required Equipment: Food and water for the day, sturdy waterproof hiking boots, mosquito repellant, sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen; you may want microspikes if you’re going while there’s still snow on the mountain and a first aid kit is always a good idea
- This hike offers amazing scenery and the spectacular open views are continuous the whole way up.
- There’s plenty of wildlife along the way. We saw a coyote, a wild rabbit, a variety of colourful beetles, and butterflies everywhere – at times the air was thick with them.
- The trail provides a decent workout when you get to the steep portion.
- Dogs are allowed on the trail (though some stretches may be too steep and challenging for certain dogs).
- You can camp there.
- The trailhead can be very challenging to find.
- The road going in is so rough that many vehicles won’t be able to manage it.
- There are a lot of mosquitoes.
- There are no bathroom facilities on or near the trail (there were two outhouses near the start, but one was so overgrown it was impossible to access and the other had no door).
- The steep, scrambly portion of the hike is challenging, so not everyone will be able to access the best views that can be obtained higher up.
- This hike is recommended for July through October (we went in late June and there was still a fair bit of snow, though it was quite soft and mushy over the Meadows portion of the hike by then so we didn’t need the microspikes).
- Dress in layers – it can be very warm at the trailhead but cool and breezy up top.
- The trail is exposed all the way up, so there’s a high risk of sunburn. Apply sunscreen regularly.
- There are bears in the area, so you may want to bring protection and avoid leaving food lying around.
For more information, including driving directions and how to find the trailhead, see the VancouverTrails.com’s Brandwine Meadows page, TrailPeak.com’s Brandywine Meadows page, and the WhistlerHiatus.com Brandwine Meadows page.
For more great hikes in BC and Washington, see the main Activities page.
*Conditions may have changed since the time of this writing.