The Madeley to Hanging lake trail, up the Callaghan Valley road near Whistler, is the poor cousin to the very busy Rainbow Lake trail, both of which yield access to great sub-alpine terrain. The Hanging Lake trailhead is somewhat more obscure than the Rainbow trail TH, although it is nicely accessible with any decent 2wd vehicle. Although the trail is well marked with red/white metal tags, information about it is somewhat sketchy and sometimes conflicting. Time for a little look-see ourselves.
Although this trail has some very nice forested ridge and sidehill sections it has been well known for its mucky sections through numerous bogs in the first few km of the track. Recently, however, the RMOW trail crew has placed many sturdy foot bridges across these wetlands. The trail experience is vastly improved as a result. Many thanks to these hard working trail builders.
The path is about 6.7 km to the north end of Hanging Lake from the TH. It climbs gently, for the first three km, through wetland and very old, decaying Hemlock-dominated forest. It then begins a steady climb up and across varied terrain including rock scree, sidehill and ridge top. This latter portion of the trail requires crossing about 1/2 dozen heavily vegetated, rocky slide chutes in the upper sections. These can be tricky to navigate, especially when wet. They can be a little unpleasant when they are in an overgrown state, as they are right now in summer. That aside, the trail has many enjoyable sections.
The elevation difference from TH to the first lake view is less than 1700', but much of that occurs in the back half of the trail. The track undulates a great deal so there is noticeable elevation gain and loss along the way. Hanging Lake is quite pretty, and affords great access to marvelous terrain.
ACCESS to the trailhead:
The TH is accessed via the Callaghan valley road, south of Whistler, which heads up to the Whistler Olympic Park. Near the end of the paved road, turn left across the river on to the Cllaghan FSR. A few hundred meters later turn right on to the Madeley FSR. It is about 5 km along this road to the Trailhead, where a large sign and parking area are to be found. Here is a TH pic and a plotted track of the trail:
The LOWER section of the trail:
Examples of the many new footbridges across wetlands and creeks in the lower, notoriously muddy section of the trail. Some sections have been re-routed as well. A great improvement:
Jurassic sized skunk cabbage, devil's club and a massive, ancient Western hemlock tree in the lower slope area of the trail. The upgraded trail does a great job of working its way through these intense areas of vegetation, without having to wade through mud and standing water:
The MIDDLE to UPPER sections of the trail:
After some 3km from the TH, a formidable looking rocky scree slope appears where the trail heads sharply upward, This is not as bad as it looks but still requires careful footing in wet conditions. As the trail climbs above this rocky area there are nice sections of hillside/ridge footpaths but also some 1/2 dozen or so short, rocky sections which are narrow and slippery when wet. Some of these are somewhat brushed in. A dry day is recommended.
Above the major slide area, a nice viewpoint of the powder/brandywine area and a look down towards a hiker on the trail below the slide:
The HANGING LAKE area:
Our day was wet and cloudy so picture taking was not very rewarding. However, the lake is lovely, with a shimmering green when the sun comes out. At the right time of year flowers of all types fill the meadow with abundant colour. The area affords access to much further hiking and scrambling, including a short hop over the ridge to hook up with Rainbow lake. If you can arrange a pick-up or second vehicle, hike this trail up and then head over the ridge and down the Rainbow lake trail. Beautiful