Madeley Lake in the Callaghan Valley

The mountains are full of secrets. The Whistler valley oozes with hidden viewpoints, sneaky waterfalls and unmarked trails that lead to some of the earth’s finest treasures. The tricky part is, of course, finding these spots. It takes time and many wrong turns to organically encounter such places, but it’s always worth the journey. We cannot guarantee that finding our Whistler local secrets will be a fool-proof experience for you, even with these directions. However, we can say with confidence that any time spent exploring our backyard is time well spent!

Secret 1: Rainbow Falls

Access Level: Easy

Unlike Brandywine Falls, Narin Falls and Alexander Falls, you won’t see a marked sign on the road or on the trail for Rainbow Falls. Don’t let that discourage you, Rainbow Falls are one of those not-so-well-kept Whistler local secrets, so they are pretty easy to find! The Rainbow Lake Trailhead is on Alta Lake Road. There is limited parking at the trailhead since this small, roadside pull-out is used by more than visitors to the falls, although it is rarely full. As an alternative, you can bike or walk here using the Valley Trail system. Once at the parking area, take the trail on the left of the river by the big sign and map. Start hiking up the trail. As you encounter forks in the trail stay right, keeping as close to the river as possible. At one point, you’ll find you’re walking quite high above the river on a ridge before making your way back down towards the water and base of the falls. Once you reach the falls, there are no barriers or formal structures so be careful of slippery logs and rocks, but enjoy the refreshing mist of the falls and the gorgeous view!

Rainbow Falls, Whistler.

Secret 2: Loggers Lake

Access Level: Easy

A quick drive or walk on the Cheakamus Forest Service Road will bring you to Loggers Lake. This lake is a short walk from where you can park, is dog-friendly, and is out of town enough to not attract crowds. While you won’t find sandy beaches, you will find lots of lava rock, the nearby Crater Rim Hiking Trail and a pretty low-key place to hang out. If it’s a quick escape you’re after, Loggers Lake will not disappoint. We recommend bringing a floaty to spend the day soaking up the sun and relaxing on the cool water.

Secret 3: Madeley Lake Area

Access Level: Moderate

If you’re not privy to Whistler local secrets, you might not be aware that the gravel fire service roads through the Callaghan Valley cross-country ski area are open to cars, making it possible to drive to Madeley Lake and the surrounding areas. Not only is it a well-maintained road to reach the lake, but there is camping and incredible fishing once you arrive. If that isn’t enough, there is a trailhead near Madeley Lake that is pretty quiet. The trailhead leads to several, often overlooked destinations including the hike to Hanging Lake, which is a moderate hike to a beautiful spot, where you can continue on to Rainbow Lake if you choose. Additionally, there is a less than well sign-posted trail directly from Madeley Lake to Beverley Lake – if you’re great with a topographical map this might be your chance to shine! The Madeley Lake trail system is much quieter than accessing Hanging Lake or Beverley Lake via the more popular Rainbow Lake trailhead.

One of the great Whistler local secrets is camping at Madeley Lake.

Secret 4: Cirque Lake

Access Level: Difficult

Just beyond Callaghan Lake lies one of the best-kept Whistler local secrets, Cirque Lake. It is a rarely reached destination that is beyond breathtaking, from both its beauty and the effort required to get there. Cirque Lake is not for the faint of heart, but for the adventure-driven. Step one; conquer the 8km of forest service road that is littered with potholes and washouts. You’ll definitely want a vehicle with good clearance and AWD or 4X4. Step two; cross Callaghan Lake via canoe. From someone who has learned the hard way, do not bring an Explorer. 2.6km of paddling in an Explorer feels like cruel punishment and is extremely unproductive. Step three; start the 2km hike up, literally, it’s pretty much straight up. You’ll gain a quick 300m as you pass a gorgeous waterfall, scramble through a boulder field and eventually land on a saddle. There are countless viewpoints along the way so take your time; this is possibly the most gorgeous hike I’ve encountered in Whistler. Step four; enjoy Cirque Lake for the seriously stunning alpine lake that it is!

Cirque Lake, Whistler.

Bonus Whistler Local Secrets

  • Escape Route has a stand-up paddleboard that 10 people can stand for daily rentals! Talk about the ultimate lake toy. This won’t stay secret for long so snag it for an awesome lake day soon!
  • Trundling isn’t cool. It might make you feel big and powerful to push a boulder down a mountain, but we live in a place where mountain enthusiasts are everywhere, taking every opportunity for adventure possible. Just because you hiked up the backside of a cliff doesn’t mean that there aren’t climbers on the face of it or someone camping below.
  • On the far south-west side of Alta Lake lies the hidden art docks. This area has outdoor art pieces, massive Adirondack chairs, a frame of an old decaying squatters truck and an amazing dock. It’s hidden location keeps it semi-secret and offers a really rad place to chill out.
  • It is possible to hike to the base of both Brandywine Falls and Alexander Falls although there are risks involved and the trails are not well marked or maintained.
  • There is indoor climbing right in the village at The Core for those not so pleasant afternoons when you’re itching to get active.

You don’t have to explore any Whistler local secrets to have a great time here, but it definitely keeps things interesting! Experience something for the first time, or visit somewhere new on your next Whistler based adventure and let us know how it was by tagging us on Instagram @GibbonsWhistler #thisiswhistler. Now get busy adventuring already!

Abby Cooper

A lover of all things outdoors, Abby Cooper is a splitboarder, hiker, adventurer, year-round snow seeker, photographer and writer.