Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is girdled by the Sea to Sky Highway 99 on the west, and the BC Rail line on the east. Here you will find basalt columns and lava flows covered by small ponds and a forest. One outdoor essential that’s in short supply around Whistler is campsites. This is surprising, given the number of visitors that floods through the Whistler Valley each summer. In its defence, the valley floor is little more than 0.5 mile (less than 1 km) across at its widest point; that doesn’t leave much level space on which to build campsites.
You’ll notice this deficiency if you overnight at the 143-hectare Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, where 47 vehicle/tent sites here are in constant use in warm weather. Reservations for the campground are not accepted, and campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Facilities provided include a day-use/picnic area, and picnic tables located throughout the park, pit toilets, a fire pit and water. Open year round (gate is closed during the off-season). Campground Dates with Full Services and Fees from May 15 to October 15.
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A short walking trail leads from the parking lot at Brandywine Falls Provincial Park to an observation platform at the top of the falls. The spectacular 70 metre waterfall is best seen from this viewpoint, which also presents some marvelous views of Daisy Lake and the surrounding mountains. Cross the bridge over Brandywine Creek and then follow the trail to the right, which in 10 minutes will bring you to a clearing beside the falls. Along the way the trail passes close to Brandywine Creek beneath some towering fir trees, crosses the BC Rail tracks, and then reaches the viewpoint. Daisy Lake spreads out below as the monolithic Black Tusk probes the skyline. Depending on the time of year, dammed Daisy Lake may be more or less at ‘full pool.’ Spray from the 218-foot (66-m) escarpment that creates the falls, coats the sides of the gorge into which it plummets with ice in winter and nourishes lush growth in warmer months.
Trail to Cal-Cheak Suspension Bridge: Allow 2 hours return. This trail travels through mixed Douglas-fir and lodgepole pine forests among outcrops of lava beds and many small ponds. Watch your footing on rough parts of the trail.
Mountain Bike Trail: This section of the Sea to Sky Trail goes to the Cal-Cheak Forest Recreation Site, approximately 4 kilometres north of the park. Bicycles are permitted only on park roadways and the Sea to Sky Trail.
If there’s fresh snow, stop at Brandywine Falls Provincial Park for some ungroomed, cross-country trekking. You’ll have to cut your own track in to Swim Lake from the parking lot but the rewards are worth it. Follow the trail markers intended for summer hikers. This isn’t a long trek, about 2 miles (3 km) return. Crossing the bridge over Brandywine Creek is an adventure in itself, especially if the snowpack is so deep that you ski at the same height as the top railing. Pause in the shelter of a cedar grove at lakeside to admire the Black Tusk, gone white with snow. From there, retrace your tracks to Brandywine Creek and head along the trail to the falls. Cross the BC Rail tracks and ski a short distance to the observation platform beside Brandywine Falls. In winter, the sound of Brandywine Creek tumbling onto the exposed boulders below is remarkably similar to that of a jet streaking high in the sky above. All this glory, and you may have the place to yourself, too.
A gentle cross-country route runs between Brandywine Falls Provincial Park and the whistle stop of McGuire near the Cal-Cheak Forest Service Recreation Site. From Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, the trail follows a BC Hydro access road to McGuire near the Forest Service’s Cal-Cheak campground. This 5-mile (8-km) round trip is perfect for a smooth bit of cruising, a genuinely relaxing stretch past frozen pothole lakes with the sight of the Black Tusk on high. To find the trail, turn left immediately after crossing the bridge over Brandywine Creek from the parking lot in Brandywine Fall Provincial Park. (Swim Lake and the falls lie to the right.) You’ll have to do a short bit of hill climbing at the outset before reaching the level part of the trail. Inexperienced skiers should be very cautious when descending this hill on the return journey: bend the knees, mind the trees.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is located 7 miles (11 km) south of Whistler, off Highway 99, and 30 miles (47 km) North of Squamish.
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