Snowshoeing in Whistler’s Callaghan Valley and Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains


Snowshoeing in West Vancouver’s Cypress Provincial Park—C.Helbig

There is one silver lining to the incessant rainfall in Vancouver: snow in the mountains, and lots of it! A couple of weeks ago, Whistler had 79 cm  (31 inches) within 24 hours. Our local mountains too, just a 15 minute drive from my rain-soaked abode, have piles of the white stuff. This makes me very happy! During the last few weeks I’ve snowshoed at Whistler’s Callaghan Valley and on the North Shore mountains, in West Vancouver’s Cypress Provincial Park. They were very different experiences, from trailblazing in hip-deep snow to a gentle jaunt in a winter wonderland.

Trailblazing at Whistler’s Callaghan Valley 

Friends and I were in Whistler for a downhill ski weekend but plans changed on our last day when there was too much snow. That’s right…too much snow! The extensive avalanche control caused delays in lift openings, and upper lifts didn’t open at all. We decided to hightail it to Callaghan Valley, a cross-country skiing/snowshoeing area, and the venue for Nordic events at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Callaghan has over 35 km (22 miles) of snowshoe trails that range from easy to challenging. Since we hadn’t come prepared for snowshoeing, and some of us were sporting less than appropriate footwear, we selected a moderate trail called Lookout Explorer. We enjoyed the pretty, undulating trail through the forest, but our poles were useless as they sank into the bottomless snow. After about 45 minutes, the trail came to an abrupt end. Well, not the trail, just the tracks. Trailblazing—sounds fun, right? It was … for a bit. This wasn’t soft, fluffy powder snow, but moisture-laden, cement-like snow. Instead of billowing through it, we had to lift our legs up and over on every step. It was exhausting (and oddly exhilarating type 2 fun). We switched positions every 10 minutes to give the leader a break. We definitely worked off all the wine and raclette cheese we had consumed the night before.


Lots of snow but still easy going


Starting to work up a sweat


The tracks come to an end


Starting to get a little frustrated

Winter wonderland at Cypress Mountain 

Cypress Mountain is a North Shore Vancouver gem with great downhill, cross-country, and snowshoe trails. It also hosted a number of 2010 Olympic Game events in freestyle skiing and snowboarding. There are about 11 km of in-bounds snowshoe trails, maintained and operated by Cypress Mountain, and many more within the Cypress Provincial Park trail network (the next section in this post). On weekends, the parking lot can be very busy, and I’m always surprised how peaceful the trails are just a few kilometres past the entrance.

We had a wonderful late afternoon snowshoeing session followed by food, beer, and music at Hollyburn Lodge, a rustic ski-in cabin originally built in 1926 and respectfully renovated last season. Miraculously, after weeks of gloom, the sky cleared for the few hours that we were out on the trails. It was glorious! The beautiful winter wonderland scenery put me in an excellent mood and I had to pinch myself that I have this in my backyard. Hanging out over beers and enchiladas, with rosy-cheeked skiers and snowshoers at the fun and unpretentious lodge topped off a perfect day.


View to Hollyburn Lodge from snowshoe trails


Frozen pond next to Hollyburn Lodge


Peaceful trails on Cypress Mountain


Cross country ski trail at Cypress Mountain


Entertainment at Hollyburn Lodge

Sunset Snowshoe to Hollyburn Peak, Cypress Provincial Park

I’ve posted about Hollyburn Peak before. At 7 km (4.3 miles) with 430 m (1410 ft) elevation gain, and conveniently located close to my house, it’s one of my go-to winter workouts. And, the view from the top is pretty special. The well-trodden route can often be done with Microspikes or Yaktrax rather than snowshoes. A really fun thing that I’ve done a couple of times recently, is hike up to the top in time for sunset and return in the dark with headlamps. Sliding down on our behinds, in the dark, after drinking a hot, adult beverage, is particularly fun. In a previous post, I have photos of Hollyburn Peak on a sunny day after a big snowfall.


Hiking up to Hollyburn Peak, Cypress Provincial Park


Hollyburn Peak trail at sunset


The best way to go down!


View to Burrard Inlet and Vancouver


Downtown Vancouver from Hollyburn Peak


Cypress downhill ski area from Hollyburn Peak


All this talk of snow is making me excited about the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.


I’ll leave you with a photo of the Olympic ski jump at Callaghan Valley. Wow, would you ever consider doing this?


Categories: Activities, British Columbia, Canada, Hiking, Places | Tags: , , , , | 27 Comments

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27 thoughts on “Snowshoeing in Whistler’s Callaghan Valley and Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains

  1. That looks spectacular, and cold! And to answer your question – NO! I could never do the ski jump but I would like to see in person. TV and photos probably don’t show the scale of effectively.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! This place is a winter wonderland, Caroline. Whistler’s Callaghan Valley seems like my kind of place and I would love to go skiing there soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brian Foster

    Caroline, it takes someone like you to present the majesty and wonderment of a land like ours when it’s in a seemingly impossible situation to enjoy. You take it back to what it is to understand our country and what it has to offer to those open to the experience. Reminds me of my youth when I took it all in and ‘went for it’. You still do. Thanks so much for sharing the experiences and bringing back the memories. I’m almost cold in 30 C Eilat, Israel with your images. A special talent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah thanks Brian! I think I’m just a kid at heart when it comes to the snow. Plus, Mike and I are both getting excited about the Olympics (you know him and hockey!)
      Soak up some of that sun for me in Eilat. Hope you’re going to go snorkeling. It is there that I first fell in love with the undersea world.


  4. Heavens 31 inches of snow, Caroline! I have not seen the likes of it. I am putting snowshoeing on my list. It looks absolutely stunning even if I get to plod through the snow for just a mile! The photo of your friend lying plopped on the ground, staring at the camera as if questioning the ludicrousness of the situation, conveys it all. The landscape in Whistler and North Shore Valley is so stunning that I catch my breath looking at your (surreal) shots. That Hollyburn Lodge stay and the sunset, the beer and the enchiladas… oh oh how I want join in on the fun! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right about the expression on my friend’s face. She is such a good sport and will go along with much craziness, but she’d had it with plodding through that heavy snow and saw the ridiculousness of the situation. You should try snowshoeing (in fluffier snow) with a nice warm reward at the end. It really is fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh what fun! I haven’t been to any of these places for ages so it was sweet to have a visit via your blog. The first outing sounds like a slog but I get that feeling that comes from a really major workout.
    My very first foray out of Australia way back in Dec 1973 I came to visit my sister who’d moved to Vancouver a couple of years earlier. She and her husband and another couple, and me, spent a week x-country skiing at Cypress over new year and stayed at . . . . . . . Hollyburn Lodge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alison, that is so cool that you stayed at Hollyburn Lodge when you first visited Vancouver (what fun!). Even though it has recently been renovated, it still retains a rustic, comfortable, no-airs vibe. They’ve really done a nice job. Cheers, Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. Oh, my snowshoeing husband would be soooo envious! Even I – avowed cold hater – think that looks like a blast (but I might have been lured by the beer and enchiladas …)! The deep, wet snow is beautiful but I would quickly grow tired of pulling my feet out of that, I think. The other trails look like great fun. As much I I cringe when I first head out to ski or otherwise play in the snow, there is something so wonderfully cozy about coming in afterward and feeling you’ve had a solid, fresh-air workout. I could almost smell that steamy wet wool aroma of apres-ski!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is definitely an appeal to apres-ski! Food, drink seem to taste so much better after a cold weather workout (and the only time I tend to indulge in a big plate of fries). Enjoyment of snowshoeing is very much dependent on conditions, especially if you’re new to it. There’s really nothing like a hike through fresh (fluffy) snow under clear blue skies.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, winter wonderland indeed. All those snow pictures have me missing winter. So glad you got some opportunities to get out and enjoy the beautiful mountains you have up there.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As I sit here in the heat of India – so hot that at midday between 11-2, it’s better to be indoors, this is a welcome breeze of VERY cold air. The skiing looks like hard work! Wow that is a huge amount of snow. Love the photo of Vanvouver vista at night and reading about your snowy escapade.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Peta. Yes, quite a contrast in our two climates. I do love the winter and the snow, but a little dose of heat is welcome too (our sauna gets fired up a lot…probably a horrible thought for you in India). I look forward to reading your India posts (I’m a bit behind as usual). Cheers, Caroline


  10. Wow, so awesome! However, there is no chance we would throw ourselves off that jump!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ron Ipson


    You must have read my mind. I was having a beer downtown this afternoon with Paul and Lori, friends from my SOW trip last summer. Told them I was headed to Whistler to snowshoe, and they mentioned

    Callaghan! Funny coincidence. They told me it’s been raining here for about 3 weeks so I feel lucky we got a dry (for Vancouver) afternoon today.


    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ron, That is funny. You should feel very lucky for getting a relatively dry day in Vancouver (though I can hear the rain on my skylight windows now). We’ve had plenty of snow in the mountains, but barely any sun… looks like there’s some in the forecast for you on Friday and Saturday. Have fun in Whistler! Cheers, Caroline


  12. Mike Hohmann

    Wow! Fantastic, but don’t you have any flat-lands, maybe with some rolling hills and hardwood forests to snowshoe through… you know somewhere with 6″-10″ of snow? Somewhere like central Minnesota?

    Seriously, Caroline -I just showed your post to my wife and suggested we move. She said no! But I will try again! I think we’ll have to visit so she can really see it, maybe she’ll change her mind! I won’t give up easily! One of my brother-in-laws likes to ski at Whistler, maybe I’ll call him!

    Thanks for the post, I’m sure I’l get over it… no, I won’t kid myself. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Mike! I thought you might like this one. It has been really fun playing in the snow and I hope to explore some new stuff in the coming weeks. Yes, you guys should come for a visit and check it out for yourselves.
      Looking forward to seeing more of your snowshoeing excursions. Have you got the technical problem figured out? Cheers, Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mike Hohmann

        I’ve got a couple more flat-land snowshoeing trips in the can, Caroline, and I hope to get up to the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) yet for some more interesting snowshoeing -much more interesting terrain up there, more snow, and then the big lake as a backdrop!

        As to the tech. stuff, last time I tried, WP loaded all my photos w/ no problems… although slower than has been usual. I’ve been busy and haven’t tried to contact them any more… it’s been so fruitless in the past anyway.

        Btw, I forwarded a link to this last post of yours, to some friends -it’s definitely a great description of a beautiful get away -great photos as always. Thanks for the time and effort… although I realize it was a pretty effortless endeavor, as time flies when you’re having fun. And I know it was fun! 😉 Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. That’s some impressive snow! I have also changed plans a couple times recently due to deep snow – especially on roads leading to trailheads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The snow has been epic, but the driving up the access road to Callaghan was hairy. It’s a bit disconcerting when you see a giant snow plow in the ditch.


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