Cheakamus Lake is a wonderfully relaxing way to get in the wilderness easily and quickly from Whistler Village.  The trail begins on the far side of Whistler Mountain, 8 kilometres from the Sea to Sky Highway at Cheakamus Crossing across from Function Junction.  This 8 kilometre stretch of logging road is fairly bumpy and potholed, but does have the benefit of allowing you to drive the elevation gain instead of hiking it.You can easily manage this road in a car, however carefully and very slowly in parts. Once you reach the trailhead/parking the entire 7 kilometre hiking trail to the end of the maintained Cheakamus Lake trail has barely any elevation gain.  Just plenty of gradual inclines and declines along the winding route. In fact, this makes it one of the few trails in Whistler and Garibaldi Park that can boast that.  The nearby Garibaldi Lake trail and the Wedgemount Lake trail make you work for the views, however, the Cheakamus Lake trail hardly makes you work at all.

  • Easy trail with minimal elevation change
  • Colour of the water is extraordinarily beautiful
  • Several area along the trail with amazing views
  • Exceptionally nice campsites in a natural setting
  • An unmarked trail extends further along the lake
  • Fishing is reliably very good for trout
  • Huge trees along the trail & lots of bear sightings
  • Unmarked route to Russet Lake from Singing Creek
  • Swimming is a bitterly cold experience
  • Campsites are crowded much of the summer

The trail to Cheakamus Lake takes you through an amazing forest of giant cedars that fill the forest with their amazing aroma.  This forest is so packed with ancient giants that year to year the trail is adjusted by a monster of a tree fallen across the trail during some winter storm.  Sometimes the trail bends around these behemoths, but more often they are laboriously chainsawed by BC Parks staff.  The more enormous of these remain as fixtures of the trail.  Either edging the trail or as a mighty obstacle to climb over. One monster of a cedar remained sprawled across, actually along a section of the Cheakamus Lake trail for much of 2012.  It surely surprised every hiker to come to an abrupt end of the trail with a tree across the trail too big to even see over. The bypass route was a hilarious, yet dangerous looking scramble underneath and along the edge of the trail for about 20 metres to get back on the trail at the other side.  Look for it when you pass by.  Though it has been mostly moved the tell-tale wreckage is hard to miss and captivatingly beautiful.  What a sound it must have made, exhibited now by giant cedar spears still menacingly pointing from a break in the massive trunk.

There are a considerable number of highlights to the Cheakamus Lake trail and Cheakamus Lake. The forest is amazing. There are lots of bear encounters. The campsites are very beautiful, much nicer than Taylor Meadows or Garibaldi Lake's overcrowded and packed in campsites. Cheakamus River along the trail is an impressive river with a nice suspension bridge to see at the start of the Helm Creek trail, 1.5 kilometres from the Cheakamus Lake parking lot. Cheakamus Lake itself is magnificent. You could hike there 100 days in a row and always be impressed by the varying colours. The lake is an extraordinary shade of green caused by glacial till suspended in the water. This surreal colour is surrounded by the bright green of the untouched wilderness across the lake. And above and beyond the forest you see majestic mountain peaks.

Though the Cheakamus Lake trail gets busy in the summer it is wonderfully easy to find a secluded place along the wild shoreline that stretches on and on. You will notice the occasional gap in the forest leading to the shore. As you emerge from the forest and your feet hit the gravel shore, you invariably find yourself in a little hidden world, a pocket beach. These little, naturally occurring beaches hide along the trail and are seemingly endless. Often just 2 to 5 metres wide, they offer just enough room to stretch out in the sun on the smooth and sun warmed rocks. The entire shoreline is south facing, which means constant sun. This is a good thing as swimming in Cheakamus Lake is bitterly cold.

The Cheakamus Lake Trail

The first three kilometres of the 7 kilometre long Cheakamus Lake trail takes you parallel to the beautiful Cheakamus River.  This large, fast and always crashing river can be seen and heard occasionally through the massive forest and up close as you near Cheakamus Lake.  There is a trail sign, 1.5 kilometres from the trailhead, indicating that the trail descending to the Cheakamus River eventually leads to the Helm Creek campground and much further to Panorama Ridge, Black Tusk, Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake.  There is a beautiful bridge across the Cheakamus River that is just a two minute hike from this sign and well worth it.  You can see below your feet through the floor of the bridge the swirling and fast moving river under you.

Pay Campsites at Cheakamus LakeBack on the Cheakamus Lake trail, at 3 kilometres you arrive at the start of Cheakamus Lake.  The trail continues along the left side of the lake, passing some wonderfully located campsites, and very small beaches.  There are 10 very nice and hidden tent areas in this area, excellent water sources from several creeks, a bear proof food hang as well as tidy outhouses here.  The next 4 kilometres of the Cheakamus Lake trail reveal viewpoints progressively more amazing.  Camping fees must be paid before entering the park.  Parking and day-hiking are always free in Garibaldi Provincial Park. There are no cash payment options. You can pay online here.. The trail hugs the edge of the lake, with frequent views of its amazing, turquoise colour, distant snow capped mountains and occasional bear sightings.  With so much to see and such an enjoyable trail, Cheakamus Lake one of Whistler's best and most family friendly hikes around.  The trail is never strenuous and constantly beautiful with the wonderful smells that come with an old growth cedar forest are incredible.  At 7 kilometres from the trailhead/parking you reach the end of the maintained trail and another 7 tent sites beautifully blended into the surroundings, another bear proof food hang and outhouse.  Around these campsites are dozens of cute little beaches all along the trail which invite swimming in the crystal clear, though bitterly cold water.

Fishing at Cheakamus LakeCheakamus Lake has always been known for its good fishing so bring your rod and sit back in the sun.  The entire trail and mini beaches are south facing and capture the sun the entire day.  You can keep what you catch at Cheakamus Lake, however Cheakamus River is catch and release.  For more details read the notice board located at the first main campsite area.  Singing Creek is where the BC Parks maintained trail ends, however, an unmaintained trail continues much further. Easy to follow and well worn, this trail leads to cute and secluded little beaches that are so numerous and unknown as to be well beyond the sometimes noisy campsites and main Cheakamus trail.  Singing Creek originates high up towards Whistler Mountain and a long faded and unmarked trail connects to Russet Lake. The unmarked route begins on the far side of Russet Lake and ascends through the forest reaching the alpine after just over 1 kilometre and Russet Lake in 2.5k. There is no charge to park at the parking lot/trailhead, though there is a charge for overnight camping. Backcountry Camping Fee: $10.00 per person / night (persons 16 years of age and older). Backcountry Camping Fee: $5.00 per child / night (persons 6 – 15 years of age). Children 5 and under are free. Take a look at the BC Parks site for info on how to pay online.  The road to Cheakamus Lake is covered in snow until about mid May every year, but from May to October it is reliably clear enough to drive.  The road is horribly potholed, which makes the 8 kilometre drive very slow going.  The potholes are frequent and very deep.  As long as you drive slowly and carefully, most cars should be fine reaching the parking area.

Cheakamus Lake Trail Map

Cheakamus Lake is a very well laid out hiking trail. Lots signs, and the trail itself is fairly wide, hard packed dirt and gravel. There are lots of giant tree roots to trip over as you gaze up at the huge trees. The trail is unexpectedly pretty for the first 3 kilometres as you pass through a wonderful and changing forest of big trees. The scent of cedars is amazing and the power of the forest is often visible with a massive dead-fall tree blocking your way. After just three kilometres you reach the lake and first campsites. The impossibly coloured lake opens up to a dramatic view down its length. Continuing further the views of Cheakamus Lake get progressively more amazing as the trail hugs the shore fairly close. The Helm Creek trail connects to the Cheakamus Lake trail(see map). This trail takes you to Helm Creek, then Panorama Ridge, Black Tusk, Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake. 

History of Cheakamus Lake

Cheakamus Lake is one of the easiest and impressive hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Garibaldi Park was created in 1927 and encompasses a staggering area of 1950 square kilometres. The name derives from Mount Garibaldi, an impressive mountain that towers over Squamish, a quickly growing city south of Whistler. Garibaldi Mountain gets its name from the famous guerrilla general of the 19th century, Giuseppe Garibaldi. Captain George Henry of the Royal Navy was doing a survey of the area and named the towering peak after Garibaldi as his exploits were well known at the time. Years later, in 1907 a group of Victoria climbers reached the summit of Mount Garibaldi. Garibaldi Lake was explored and became an increasingly popular hiking destination. Cheakamus Lake is in Garibaldi Park and Whistler and Blackcomb mountains cut into the park, however Whistler Mountain has an incredible view of this brilliantly coloured lake.

Camping & Bivouacking at Cheakamus Lake

Camping fees must be paid before entering the park. Parking is free and dayhiking is free.  There are no cash payment options. You can pay online here.. Cheakamus Lake has two BC Parks maintained campsites.  The first campsite at 3 kilometres from the trailhead/parking has 10 areas for tents.  Most with great views of the lake and all within steps of the shore.  There are outhouses here as well as a system to hang your food high up in the trees beyond the reach of animals.  The forest is wonderfully thick and huge at the campsites with enormous trees everywhere which allows for some privacy from other campers.  Swimming and fishing are popular at the lake despite the cold water.  The second camping area is at Singing Creek at the 7k mark of the trail.  This campsite has 7 areas cleared for tents as well as good water sources and bear hangs.  This campsite is much nicer, quieter and edges on Singing Creek, which is an idyllic mountain creek that originates high up toward Whistler Mountain.

Facilities at Cheakamus Lake

There are a couple of great picnic tables at the trailhead with an unexpectedly nice view over Cheakamus River. There is an outhouse at the trailhead/parking to Cheakamus Lake as well as outhouses at the first set of campsites at 3 kilometres along the trail and the Singing Creek set of campsites 7k from the trailhead.  The beautiful new neighbourhood, Cheakamus Crossing near the turnoff to Cheakamus Lake Road has restaurant and cafe's with washroom facilities.  The large HI Hostel has a great little cafe with a great selection of food and drinks available in its beautiful lobby.  Easy to find, just continue past the Cheakamus Lake Road turnoff and in about 1 minute you will see the HI Whistler on your right.  Free parking out front or at the side. Cheakamus Crossing is well worth visiting as this neighbourhood was purpose built for the 2010 Olympics as the "Athletes Village".

Restrictions and Concerns at Cheakamus Lake

No Campfires AllowedNo Motorized VehiclesDogs are not permitted on the Cheakamus Lake trail or any other Garibaldi Provincial Park trails out of courtesy to the resident animals of the park.  There are a large number of black bears in the park and encounters with dogs result in unpredictable and potentially dangerous conflicts.  There are quite a few excellent hiking trails in Whistler that are dog friendly.  The beautiful trails on either side of the Cheakamus River on the drive to the Cheakamus Lake trailhead are dog friendly.  You can park at several places on either side of the river to access these trails and there are lots signs indicating where to go.  Train Wreck is also dog friendly.  The trailhead, marked Flank Trail is located in Function Junction, on the opposite side of the Sea to Sky Highway from the Cheakamus Lake Road. Whistler's Valley Trail and Lost Lake Trails are dog friendly and run throughout Whistler.  The Sea to Sky Trail, which runs over 30 kilometres through Whistler is a paradise trail for dogs as it runs through numerous parks, beaches and forests.  Ancient Cedars is a nice, dog friendly hike that is 5k roundtrip and takes you into a thousand year old forest. Further south you will come to Brandywine Falls, which is a short, 2k (roundtrip) dog friendly hike to the amazing falls.  About 25 minutes north of Whistler, Nairn Falls is another beautiful and dog friendly hiking trails.  For a look at some of the best dog friendly hikes in Whistler try here.. And for some more challenging dog friendly hikes try here..

Wildlife at Cheakamus Lake

WildlifeThe wildlife in Garibaldi Park is quite extensive. Black bears are frequently seen along the trail to Cheakamus Lake. There has never been an unprovoked bear attack at Cheakamus Lake, however you don't want to be the first. Be aware of your surroundings and if you round a bend and see a bear, just stop and edge back. If you give the bear some space he will wander off the trail and disappear into the wilderness. At the campsites, you will find some clever places to keep your food safe. Bear hangs are at both campsites. They are long cables suspended from the trees, that you attach your bag of food to and then pulley up, out of reach of furry scavengers. Fish are plentiful in Cheakamus Lake and you will often see several trout lining the shore of the river as it meets the lake. They seem to hover in place as they swim the same speed as the fast current. Fishing is welcome here with a BC Freshwater license, however you can only keep fish you catch in the lake, not the river. There is information about this and signs at the start of the lake. Other big mammals make their home around Cheakamus Lake, but are rarely seen. Mountain goats, deer, cougars, wolverines and grizzly bears have been known to range this area, but very rare to see.

Parking & Trailhead Directions to Cheakamus Lake

Parking for Cheakamus LakePublic Transit to TrailheadFrom Village Gate Boulevard, drive south, toward Vancouver for 7.7km. At the lights at Function Junction, turn left, about 300 metres ahead you will see a sign on your left for Cheakamus Lake. Follow the unpaved, potholed road for 8km to the Cheakamus trailhead. Parking is free and the parking lot has an outhouse as well as some picnic tables overlooking the Cheakamus River far below.  There is also a nice, large mapboard at the trailhead as well as some BC Parks, Garibaldi Park information. Biking to Cheakamus Lake is a tremendously good option. You can head off from Whistler Village and reach the trailhead in about an hour by riding along the extensive and very nice, Whistler Valley Trail. The 8 kilometre slog up the logging road to the trailhead parking for Cheakamus is a bit tedious, but riding out on your way back is fun and fast. Once on the Cheakamus Lake trail, you will find biking very fun and surprisingly effortless. Bending left and right and ascending and descending small hills on a bike feels like riding a rollercoaster. Most of the Cheakamus Lake trail is like this. Very fun and pretty relaxing. Despite a very gradual elevation gain, the trail feels like it goes downhill both ways owing the the frequent ups and downs. Public transit is also a very good option to get to Cheakamus Lake. The turnoff to the logging road up to the parking lot is very close to the Cheakamus Crossing bus stop. You will have to hike up the 8 kilometres to the trailhead, but you could also hike part of the way along the beautiful Cheakamus River trails. A bit longer, but very pretty with lots of wonderful scenery. Those who like more substantial treks, will hike the Cheakamus River trail to the suspension bridge, hike up the Logger's Lake, then back down to the river and continue up to Cheakamus Lake. Logger's Lake is well worth a visit and sits in a starkly apparent, extinct volcano.

More Great Hiking Around Cheakamus Lake

Cheakamus Lake can be reached via Cheakamus River trails which link to Logger's Lake. Further along, towards the highway you emerge in Cheakamus Crossing. A purpose built community that was created to house 2010 Olympic athletes. Now a growing suburb of Whistler with the enormous HI Hostel which is the first bed for many backpackers in Whistler. If you pass by the Hostel and continue along the Sea to Sky Trail you will come to the Whistler Train Wreck. One of the coolest and most surreal places to see in Whistler. Several train cars wrecked here decades ago and were left in the forest to become an art gallery of sorts, for talented artists. Graffiti style art adorns the train wrecks, that sit along the cliffs of the crashing Cheakamus River. The Cheakamus Lake trailhead is also and excellent place to hike to Helm Creek, Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge. The Helm Creek trail branches off the main Cheakamus Lake trail at 1.5 kilometres and crosses Cheakamus River, before quickly ascending into the alpine. Helm Creek is much quieter than Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Park and yet still very scenic. There is even an unmarked route to Black Tusk that is easy to stumble upon just before you get to the small lakes below Black Tusk.

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