Way up high in the ancient forest of the Callaghan Valley, where the trees seems as old as time itself, there’s a small secluded paradise called Madeley Lake.
Just 20 minutes from highway 99, Madeley Lake can be accessed by 4×4 up a well-travelled fire service road leading from the Ski Callaghan base. In the face of its close proximity to Whistler and its drive-in access, this area is a surprisingly well-kept secret – even from locals.
At the west end of the lake there’s a pebble beach and large flat clearing that looks right out onto the water In the summer months you can camp here and have your own private lake-front home in the wilderness.
**Caution: Madeley Lake is part of the Callaghan Lake Park and this is considered the backcountry. If you are going to adventure or camp here, be aware that mobile phone reception is limited on the drive in, and is non-existent at the lake. You must be capable of self-rescue and a have appropriate knowledge, equipment, clothing and footwear. It is important to follow the good outdoor ethics such as packing out what you pack in, and (if you’re camping over night) how to secure your food in trees away from the reach of bears and other wildlife. See Leave No Trace Canada, to learn more about being respectful and safe in the wilderness.
How to get to Madeley Lake, Whistler
Madeley Lake is often mislabelled on some maps – including Google Maps – as Powell Lake.
If we give you the directions you have to promise to keep them to yourself:
– Drive out of Whistler south on Highway 99 for about 20k, then turn right at the sign for Whistler Olympic Park (Google Map at the bottom of the post)
– Continue up the beautiful winding mountain road (being sure to keep an eye out for bears and amazing vistas) for about 8 minutes.
– You will see a sign for Alexander Falls, take the next left signposted Callaghan Lake. This is the start of an FSR (gravel Fire Service Road) that it will cross over a small bridge. If you get to Whistler Olympic Park you’ve gone too far
– Follow the FSR over the bridge and around to the right where you’ll pass a “Ski Callaghan” hut.
– 100m or so after the hut you’ll come to a fork in the road. Take the right-hand road signposted “Madeley Lake”
The drive to the trailhead is about a 15 minute accent up a well graded FSR until you reach a small pull-in and a sign for Rainbow Madeley Lake Trails.
The Callaghan Valley area is renowned for its seclusion and natural beauty. The silence of the winding trail closely guarded by thick forrest and no view of the valley makes you realise, you’re in her house. The home of Mother Nature.
Wildlife of the Callaghan
Callaghan Lake Park is home to creatures like cougars, bobcats, coyotes, mink, Douglas’ squirrel and weasel; and large mammal species including black bear, grizzly bear (sightings are incredibly rare), Columbian black-tailed deer, and mountain goat. Transient species have at times included moose, wolverine and wolf.
It is uncommon, anywhere in the world, to have such sprawling wilderness so close to a big urban hub like Vancouver. As a result threats to the Callaghan Valley are mostly human-related. Forestry, residential, and recreational developments tend to displace wildlife and destroy plant habitats – the destruction of habitats is the biggest threat to sustaining the region’s vibrant biological diversity.
Pets in the backcountry
You know your dog, you know how they behave, but there is no way to predict how wildlife behaves. While sightings are infrequent, bears and cougars do roam this area. In enclosed forrest areas that can put your dog quickly out of sight and out of reach, it’s safest to keep them on a leash.
Most dogs would be circumspect of a strange animal that walked into their backyard, that is how the wildlife up here see your dog. Be vigilant and considerate that this is their backyard and their turf.
The view from the pebble beach at the west end of Madeley Lake in early November.
[googlemap address=”Whistler Olympic Park” width=”600″ height=”340″ position=”left”]