Cirque lake trail via Callaghan lake
Total distance (including paddling across the lake) ~7.2km
Elevation gain ~322m
High point ~1527m
Cirque lake trail is a steep, but short trail in Callaghan lake park. The only difficulty with it is access. One has to cross Callaghan lake in order to reach the trailhead.
The evening before the hike my husband asked me if I saw the weather forecast, I said no. I didn’t check it on purpose, because the weather this summer was consistently rainy all weekends and I wanted to go to Cirque lake rain or shine. He said, - ok, but there are thunderstorms in the forecast, so you know. Well, being on a lake in a thunderstorm is not my idea of a nice weekend outing, but there was no going back - plans were made, canoe was already loaded on my car and everything else ready too.
Sunday morning greeted me with sunshine and it was hard to believe that according to weathernetwork website it was currently raining in Whistler and Squamish. Off we went at about 7am. And what do ya know, it didn’t rain neither in Squamish, nor in around Callaghan lake, same mix of sun and clouds as in Coquitlam.
The Callaghan lake FSR was ok. It is covered in potholes with some shallow cross-ditches, as usual, but nothing too bad, 4x4 was not required. I think, any car with good clearance can make it to the campsite.
Callaghan lake in the morning.
It seemed that local insects population was eagerly awaiting our arrival. The moment car door was opened we were warmly greeted by a cloud of mosquitos and a few different kinds of flies. I was a bit surprised by their interest in me. Usually bugs don’t find me appealing and ignore me, but these ferocious beasts must have been starving and attacked me in full force. I stubbornly refused to use bug-repellent, hoping that insects will come to their senses, realize that there are tastier people around and leave me alone, besides, I can’t stand that stinky bug-repellent stuff. Well, my tactics didn’t work and we left the lakeshore in a could of bugs, who decided to emigrate to the other shore on our cruiseship with all-you-can-eat buffet. Thankfully, a light breeze on a lake blew the pests away. Paddling across the lake was pleasant. But I kept expecting rainclouds to appear at any moment, therefore we paddled fast. In about 15 minutes we reached the far shore.
Cirque lake falls.
Finding the landing spot wasn’t that obvious. By some reason I expected a well-defined creek channel with a gravel bars. But it turned out that Cirque lake creek’s delta is completely covered by vegetation and the creek has multiple small channels rather than big one or two. The small rivulets flow into the lake right from under the bushes. The trail description I read advised aiming to the right side of the delta, and then to the right of a large log, jutting into the lake. There we found two narrow breaks in otherwise complete bush-wall, where we could land. Upon landing we were greeted by local population of bugs.
Callaghan lake from the landing spot.
We dragged the canoe onshore, grabbed our backpacks and got going.. The ground at the landing spot is very swampy and the first part of the trail is water saturated too.
The trail to Cirque lake is pretty obvious, just keep right of the creek and follow the path on the ground.
There are some steep muddy sections, but nothing too strenuous or complicated. After a while the trail reaches steep narrow boulder field. Markings on the trail are sparse, but it’s ok, because the general direction is clear and the only necessary mark on a boulder field is exit mark. The exit is clearly marked with an orange tape. In case this mark disappears, just aim to the upper left, closer to the creek, rather than upper right.
Looking back from boulder field to Callaghan lake.
Black Tusk and Garibaldi mtn.
After the boulder field trail climbs to a nice view point at the top of a cliff.
Shortly after Cirque lake comes into view.
WHAT?! It is still completely ice covered! Well, nearly completely, ice begins to melt neat the outflow channel and in some places near the shore. Here goes my plan to swim in this lake… And it’s only about 1500m above sea level! No wonder there is such a huge cirque…
Cirque lake in it’s frozen beauty (mmm, glacially sculpted landscapes, one of my favourite…). Look, there are snowmobile tracks still visible on ice.
The lake hosted the largest and hungriest bug population encountered so far. I gave up and sprayed myself with bug-repellent. Yuck. It partially solved bug-issue, but they kept photobombing my pictures. I had an idea of climbing the closest nameless peak, but dark clouds began to roll in from north-east. Vivid pictures of us canoeing across the lake in the middle of thunderstorm promptly appeared in my mind with all possible outcomes. I chickened out. I wanted to be off the lake before any possible thunderstorms, therefore we headed down back to the canoe.
Flowers on the boulder field.
Paddling back was even better than before, the water was so smooth reflecting the scenery like a mirror. The views were gorgeous. And no rain or thunder or lightning! Oh, how I regretted leaving my camera at home and having just phone to take pictures…
We reached the camp in about 2 hours after we left it. We haven’t had such short hikes in years, unless with kids. It left a nagging feeling of something missing. To compensate for short hike we went on exploring the lakeshore, driving back made a side trip to Alexander Falls. Stopped there for lunch and some wild blueberry picking. Then drove leisurely back home stopping on some of viewpoints along the hwy, where we’ve never stopped before, because usually we don’t have time for such stops.
Overall it was a nice trip. And almost no rain, just some drizzle on a hwy, and definitely no thunderstorms!
I want to return to the lake later in the season when it thaws completely. And that time I’ll take kids with me. The trail is easy, beautiful and I can handle 15 minutes canoe ride with passengers.
Route schema from Strava, in case anyone is interested.