Level: Easy

Distance: 4 km o/w

Time: 1½ hr o/w

Elevation Change: 10 m

Topographical Map: Brandywine 92J/3

Click to View Map

Season: May to October

Access: See Getting to Whistler

The best way to access this trail would have been BC Rail. The railroad right-of-way parallels historic Pemberton Trail for the most part, crossing it at a couple points. There is even a whistle stop called McGuire near the north end of the trail but, alas, the train, now owned by CN Rail, won't stop there no matter how hard you whistle. The next best alternative is the dependable Whistler-bound bus. Since the turn off to Cal-Cheak Forest Recreation Area may be difficult to find for some drivers, jump out, figuratively-speaking of course, at Brandywine Provincial Park instead. From the parking lot walk over to Brandywine Falls before beginning the hike in earnest. The Falls is best viewed in the morning when fingers of sunlight stream in to light up the mist and canyon walls below the 66-metre falls.

The Pemberton Trail was originally the only transportation route from Squamish through to Pemberton providing a vital link between the aboriginal peoples of the coast and those of the interior. Later, pioneers and prospectors trod the forest footpath in search of a better life. Little remains of the trail today though this little 4-kilometre section should be sufficient to take you back in time while leading over to Cal-Cheak Forest Recreation Area.


Brandywine Falls: Brandywine Creek meets an untimely end, dropping off a cliff into a gorge of its own making.

This section of the Pemberton Trail is known as the Brandywine/Cal-Cheak Trail and can be accessed by crossing back over the railroad tracks from the waterfall and making an immediate right. Near the beginning, the trail cuts across a ridge above tiny Swim Lake. There are some undulating sections and staircases to be negotiated but the trail is generally easy and should take just an hour and 20 minutes to complete. On the way look for outcroppings of columnar basalt and other signs of volcanic activity, leftovers from the cataclysm that created nearby Black Tusk and The Barrier. The trail flattens out for the last kilometre or so. Near the end the trail passes by the disused whistle stop of McGuire before reaching Callahan Creek.

The Ministry of Forests Recreation Site is just across the suspension bridge. This route could also be undertaken as a very easy backpacking overnighter. Rustic campgrounds and a picnic area are situated here at the confluence of the Cheakamus River and Callahan Creek. Due to high recreational use in the area drinking water should be boiled or treated with iodine. Both waterways are heavily laden with glacial till. Camping is possible too at Brandywine Provincial Park. While the water is better the price is also higher and the highway noise thunderous.

No need to walk all the way back to Brandywine Provincial Park to catch the return bus to Vancouver. Instead follow the dirt forest access road north for a kilometre to Highway 99. Cross the highway and stand in a visible location. Be sure to leave during daylight so the driver has plenty of time to safely pull over. Wave a jacket or $50 bill as the bus approaches.

The End


Dentalia Shells

These thin, tubular mollusks formed the currency of commerce throughout the Pacific Northwest as long as 3000 years ago. Pre-European civilization is often considered a barter economy, with, for instance, coastal tribes swapping oolichan grease directly for prized Oregon obsidian. Commodity traders, however, could rely on this wampum to close a transaction when interest in the goods was decidedly one-sided. Called hykwa in Chinook jargon, dentalia shells possessed all the necessary attributes of money, being portable, recognizable and durable but rare and desirable enough to foster trade. Being available in a variety of sizes, the tusk-like shells were even divisible into small change. Professional traders are known to have tattooed measuring lines on their forearms as a handy calculator of individual shell values. Only a handful of groups, including the Nuu-chah-nulth in the vicinity of Tofino, possessed dentalia in quantities sufficient enough to make them wealthy. Harvesting the deep water mollusks was no easy undertaking however. From a dugout canoe a long, broom-like apparatus was thrust straight down into the muddy sea bottom then retrieved. With any luck a shell or two would be trapped amongst the stiff twigs at the end of the handle. Dentalia were also ostentatiously displayed as symbols of wealth and power in the form of body adornments. Perhaps most recognizable are the breast plates invariably worn by cheesy Hollywood Indians.

Illustration by Manami Kimura