The largely unspoiled Callaghan Valley is an outdoor adventure playground in the southern Coast Mountains of British Columbia, located west of Whistler Village at Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. The Callaghan Valley is the traditional territory of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations, whose traditional territories overlap the valley.
Callaghan Valley hosted the biathlon (cross-country and shooting), cross-country skiing, Nordic combined (ski jumping and cross-country), and ski jumping for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Callaghan Valley is located in the Coastal Snowbelt, ringed on three sides by glaciated terrain. As the warm moist maritime air pushes up over the glaciers of Brandywine, Metal Dome, and Powder Mountains, the air gets super-cooled, providing a reliable snowpack and more snowfall on average than surrounding areas. The Pemberton Ice Cap and the Rainbow Mountain glacier lie to the north and east.
The rolling subalpine terrain of Callaghan Valley is well suited to Nordic Skiing, and the steeper slopes surrounding the gentle valley floor and meadow offer telemark and ski touring opportunities. Callaghan Valley offers miles of track-set classic cross-country ski trails, peaceful snowshoeing in the old growth forests and sub-alpine meadows, and snowmobiling through old-growth forests and deep powder bowls.
Lakes in the Whistler region are often hemmed in by thick forests. Paddling out on their open surfaces reveals views that are restricted from shore. In fact, some of the best views in the area are reserved for paddlers. On a clear, calm day, the surrounding peaks are so perfectly mirrored on the lakes that you would be hard-pressed to tell the reflection from the original. The best example of this is Callaghan Lake.
Paddling out on Callaghan Lake you’ll leave the hubbub of the campsite behind and be drifting over the deep, emerald-hued lake. Water temperatures are so frigid that algae barely blooms, which accounts for the lake’s exceptional clarity. Looking across the lake to the east, you’ll see a panorama of peaks that extends from Whistler Mountain south to the Black Tusk and beyond to the glaciated slopes of Mount Garibaldi near Squamish.
This is without question the most expansive mountainscape to be found in Whistler. To the south is a formidable barrier of snow-clad mountains that separates the Squamish and Callaghan Valleys. Chief among the peaks is Powder Mountain, whose icefields form an unbroken white mantle. The flanks of Callaghan and Rainbow Mountains dominate in the northwest and north, respectively.
Wildlife is abundant in the snow-draped stands of yellow cedar, balsam fir and mountain hemlock of the Callaghan Valley and Soo Valley, including mountain goat, moose, grizzly bears, black bears, and cougar.
Location: The Callaghan Valley is located in the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region of British Columbia, 8 miles (13 km) west of the ski resort village of Whistler (over the summit of 7,639-foot Rainbow Mountain), and approximately 55 miles (88 km) north of Vancouver. Callaghan Valley is easily accessed from Highway 99. Travel 44 miles (70 km) north of Vancouver (12.5 miles/20 km south of Whistler), and turn west at the sign following the Callaghan Lake Forest Road (Callaghan FSR 01). This road travels 10 miles (16 km) through the Callaghan Valley and ends at Callaghan Lake.
Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games: Vancouver and Whistler were the host cities for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, the third Olympic Games hosted by Canada, and the first by the province of British Columbia. Previously, Canada hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Whistler and the Callaghan Valley hosted Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Cross-country Skiing, Nordic Combined, Ski Jumping, Bobsleigh, Luge, and Skeleton.
Callaghan Lake Provincial Park is a prime year-round backcountry recreation area northwest of Whistler in the Callaghan Valley. The Callaghan Lake area receives an average snow pack of 275 centimetres, which may yield 150 days of skiing. The rolling subalpine terrain is well suited to Nordic Skiing, and the steeper slopes surrounding the gentle valley floor and meadow offer telemark and ski touring opportunities. A commercial cross-country ski operation operates 4 kilometres of groomed trails within the park (of the total 38 km in its operating area), and a mountain cabin west of the park. Other outdoor opportunities at Callaghan Lake Park include snowmobiling, rustic lakeside camping, canoeing and kayaking, boating, hiking, and fishing.
Fishing is good for trout and char in Callaghan Lake and Cirque Lake. There are numerous wetlands and small lakes, especially in the southern and eastern areas of Callaghan Lake Provincial Park, and in the upper headwaters of Callaghan Creek.
Hiking: Access to numerous circuit trails may be gained from rough marked and unmarked trails at Ring Lake, Mount Callaghan, Madely Lake, and Rainbow Lake to Whistler. Cirque Lake is an alpine lake at 1,499 metres elevation and is within easy hiking distance from Callaghan Lake.
Camping: Callaghan Lake Provincial Park offers informal vehicle accessible campsites on a first-come, first-served basis. The current camping area can accommodate tents in an informal area at the end of the road, close to the lake. Of all the campsites in the Whistler region, the view from Callaghan Lake is the best. Tent units are located at the small walk-in campsite at the beautiful mountain Madeley Lake (500 metre walk), located 10 miles (16 km) from Highway 99 on the Callaghan Forest Service Road, and vehicle/tent units are provided at Alexander Falls, located at 8 km on the Callaghan FSR.
Snowmobiling: Snowmobiles are allowed on the Callaghan Forest Service Road to Callaghan Lake, across Callaghan Lake and along the designated trail to outside of the park. This zone has been designated for snowmobile use, providing an access corridor to the bowls north of the park. Snowmobiling is prohibited outside of this corridor.
Golf: Nearby Whistler has been named one of the top ten golf destinations in the world. A fine combination of phenomenal scenery, superb golf courses and fabulous accommodation attract some of the world’s golfing giants to Whistler. Top courses include Chateau Whistler Golf & Country Club, Nicklaus North Golf Club, and Whistler Golf & Country Club. Top courses nearby are Big Sky Golf & Country Club in Pemberton, and Furry Creek Golf & Country Club in Lions Bay, between Vancouver and Whistler. Whistler Golf Vacations.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, 36 km north of Squamish, is girdled by Hwy 99 on the west and the BC Rail line on the east. The vehicle/tent campsites here are in constant use in warm weather, but once snow falls, the campground closes for the winter.
Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort has the largest ski area on the continent: over 28,000 hectares (just over 7,000 acres) of skiing area, with over 200 marked trails and 12 massive Alpine bowls.
Skiing & Winter Activities in the Whistler Area.
Heli-Skiing in the Whistler Area.
The nearby resort destination of Whistler is nestled below the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains in the Whistler Valley, east of Callaghan Valley. Enchanting Whistler has been recognized as the Top Ski Resort in North America for the past decade and co-hosted the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games with Vancouver.
The community of Squamish is located south of Callaghan Valley, at the head of Howe Sound on the Sea to Sky Highway. Surrounded by mountains, Squamish is cradled in natural beauty as only a West Coast community can be.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on a driving Circle Tour. Head north out of Vancouver for the scenic Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, or stay on the intensely scenic Sea to Sky Highway, passing through the magical winter resort town of Whistler and Coast Mountains Circle Tour. To explore the rural farmlands and forests of the fertile Fraser Valley, take the Fraser Valley Circle Tour, travelling outbound on the scenic route north of the historic Fraser River, returning westwards along the Trans Canada Highway 1 to Vancouver. Circle Tours in British Columbia.