Day Hikes Vancouver Area

Brohm Lake: A Great Shoulder Season Hike

Views on the Brohm Lake trail

It’s that time of year again: There isn’t enough snow to go skiing or snowshoeing, but there’s enough ice to make high elevation travel annoying or even dangerous.  Welcome to shoulder season, that grumpy time between summer and winter that is better known as Fall and Spring.  Many people find it a frustrating time to go hiking, but I’ve learned that with a bit of persistence you can find trails to hike that are very rewarding.  You won’t be attaining any major summits but there are still plenty forests, lakes, rivers and viewpoints to explore.

When I was growing up my Dad often took us hiking on Remembrance Day if the weather wasn’t too terrible.  Half way up a mountain or along a forest trail he’d look at his watch and let us know it was time: it was the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.  We’d stand still for two minutes and be silent while listening to the whistling of the wind or the babbling of a brook.  After our moment of silence we’d continue up the trail, and chat about how Grandpa had been in “The War” and what Remembrance Day meant to us.

This year Greg and I continued the tradition of the Remembrance Day hike by taking a trip to Brohm Lake just north of Squamish with our friend T.  It promised to be a cold clear day so we wanted a trail that had great views but we didn’t want to deal with icy conditions.

After some research we found that the trails at Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest fit the bill perfectly with views of the Cheakamus River valley and the Tantalus Mountain Range, a few loop trails to choose from and lots of great scenery including a lake, a marsh, numerous rocky bluffs and both deciduous and coniferous forest.

We put together a loop that started by heading south from the parking lot along the Brohm Lake Trail to the big wooden bridge that crosses the marsh at the end of the lake.  I had seen this bridge countless times whizzing by on the highway so it was nice to finally cross it!

Brohm Lake Bridge

Silhouettes crossing the bridge over the marsh at Brohm Lake

Next we headed uphill and then downhill on the Bridge trail heading south.  The trails in the southern portion of the Brohm Lake area are all old logging roads so they have a nice even tread that doesn’t ever get too muddy or rocky.

Brohm Lake hiking trail

Beautiful mixed forest along the Bridge Trail

After a quick couple of kilometers we crossed an old road and headed uphill on the Cheakamus Loop Trail.  This trail meanders through the forest and stops at a few rocky bluffs that have great views of the Tantalus Mountain Range as well as some spots where there are sheer drops down cliffs to the Cheakamus River valley 200m below.  As we sat and watched, a group of 5 stand up paddleboards came down the river and we could even hear them chatting away even though we were so high above them.

Views on the Brohm Lake trail

Looking across to the Tantalus Mountain Range and down to the Cheakamus River valley from the Cheakamus Loop Trail

After finishing the Cheakamus Loop we turned on to the High Trail and headed north towards the Tantalus Viewpoint spur trail.  This 200m spur trail leads steadily uphill across roots, rocky bluffs and staircases to a spectacular view of the Tantalus Range.  There is a tiny old fire lookout up here (that no longer has any windows or doors) and the spectacular views make it a great place for lunch.  Bring a warm jacket and a toque up here though as it is very exposed to the cold wind.

 

Tantalus Viewpoint

Looking out from the old Fire Lookout at the Tantalus Viewpoint

After lunch we headed back down to the lake on the steep Connector Trail and made our way around the rest of pretty little Brohm Lake.  From Highway 99 Brohm Lake looks tiny and marshy, but if you explore the area you’ll find that the lake extends around the corner away from the highway and has some picturesque granite bluffs.  As we hiked the rest of the way around the lake we found many spur trails that headed down to the water, evidence of its reputation as a popular swimming spot in the summer.  The trail around the lake includes quite a few bridges and boardwalks and even a section that is elevated along the face of a short cliff.

 

Brohm Lake trail stairs

Stairs along the cliff face on the Brohm Lake trail

In only three short hours (including our lunch break and breaks at viewpoints) we were back at the parking lot.  This little eight-kilometer hike was a great choice for the cold and clear weather.  We had great views of the Tantalus Range and the Cheakamus River without being enveloped in clouds or smoggy haze.  We also enjoyed some great forest walking on varied trails.  I give the trail system at Brohm Lake a big “Thumbs Up” for shoulder season hiking!

Tantalus Range from Brohm Lake trails

Thumbs up to views like this!

Since the hike was short it allowed us some extra time afterwards to explore other parts of Squamish and the Sea to Sky highway that we normally don’t have time for such as the view of the Stawamus Chief from the Squamish Spit.

Stawamus Chief

Stawamus Chief and the Squamish River Estuary seen fro the Squamish spit

 

If You Go

Brohm Lake is located just a few kilometres north of  the Alice Lake turn off on Highway 99.  You can see it from the highway and it is well signed.  There is a large trail map in the parking lot and there are trail maps at every junction so it’s easy to orient yourself on the many trails in the network.  A track of the route that we took is below.  Click on the map to see the trail network in the area in more detail.

Brohm Lake Trail map

Our hike at Brohm Lake. Click to see trail names and more details.

You can choose your own adventure by combining a few or even all of the trails in the area to make loop trips as short as 3.5km for a quick trip around the lake and marsh or as long as 11km for a loop that takes in pretty much all of the trails.  For the most part the trails aren’t marked but are easy to follow with a well-defined footbed.  Confusing sections are marked but you may have to look around for markers.  The trails in the south section of the park are not very muddy, rocky or rooty as they are on old roads while trails in the northern section can be rocky and rooty and the bridges and boardwalks can be slippery.

More information about the history and ecology of the Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest as well as trail descriptions can be found on the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations website but the map on that site is super old and kind of terrible.

Have you hiked the trails at Brohm Lake before or are you like me and you have only ever driven past them?  What is your favourite shoulder season hike?  Let me know in the comments!

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Hike the Brohm Lake trails in Squamish, BC for great mountain views. This lower elevation trail is snow-free in spring and fall, so it makes a great shoulder season hike. Hiking in Squamish, BC.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Alan Osborne
    May 9, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Thanks for the excellent review! I did this hike years ago from Paradise Valley, up the Thomson Trail, and around the lake; however, I don’t think the Cheakamus loop existed then so I missed out on all the views. Definitely adding this one to my To Do list 🙂

    FYI, this is a much better map: http://naturevancouver.ca/sites/naturevancouver.ca/VNHS%20files/Brohm%20Lake%20Map_x.jpg

    • Reply
      Taryn Eyton
      May 9, 2017 at 5:58 pm

      Thanks for the link to the better map Alan. I’ll add it to the post – it is waaay better! I haven’t done the hike up from Paradise Valley yet but I do plan to check it out… maybe in the fall once the snow hits the mountains again.

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