Roughly 11km, 6h
Elevation gain: cumulative roughly 1000m
Distance from Vancouver: 2h
I wanted to go up to Brandywine Meadows for a long time now… but have always been discouraged by the trip reports describing the condition of the road to get to the trailhead. This time, a friend of mine was able to get a nice 4X4 Jeep and we decided to brave the road… and head all the way to the Upper Parking lot.
Once you start heading up the Brandywine FSR, there will be signs showing you where to turn to head to the Lower Parking lot or the Upper Parking lot. All 2WD MUST go to the Lower Parking lot (unless you are willing to risk seriously damaging your car!). By driving up to the Upper Parking lot, we saved about 300-400m elevation gain of hiking, and we started high in the valley – practically already up in the alpine. Just so you know, the 4WD road is quite a challenge too! It is very steep, with lots of high rocks and water bars. You should be comfortable driving this kind of conditions. I would also avoid it after a heavy rain or in very muddy conditions… but I’ve always been on the safe side in terms of road conditions!
We couldn’t go all the way to the end of the 4WD road – we stopped 2km away from the real Upper trailhead, where the road gets larger and a few cars can park. We walked the last 2km and actually enjoyed it, as the views from Black Tusk and Mt. Garibaldi are beautiful. It gives you just a small idea of what you will see on your journey to Brandywine.
We quickly made our way up in the meadows from the Upper trailhead, and from there you can see Brandywine summit in the distance. Take time to turn around and have a look at the valley behind you too – Black Tusk and Mt. Garibaldi are visible on a clear day (which was the case for us!). There were 2 employees working in the meadows that day, doing some work on the trail (really appreciated!).
There was a lot of people camping in the meadows, which made us want to go back in the future to sleep up there. The trail is easy to follow all the way to the end of the meadows. You will have to cross the creek 2-3 times, and depending on the water levels it may mean getting your shoes – just a bit – wet. There was no snow in the meadows at this time of the year (end of September), although there was a snowfall the day before!
From the end of the meadows, we kept following what we believed to be the trail up to the left ridge, through the boulder field. It leads up in a small valley full of rocks, heading up the ridge towards the left side of the Brandywine valley. It is a bit of a scramble, so take your time and enjoy the view behind you as you work your way up!
As soon as we reached the ridge, the ground was covered in snow as we approached the glacier. Brandywine glacier is visible from that point on the trail all the way to the summit. You will also have a full view of Mt. Fee and Mt. Cayley in the background (breathtaking!). Keep following the trail on the ridge and the cairns up to the summit. I had to stop about 100-200m elevation gain before the summit (my friends who went up said about 20min of scrambling… though they are faster than me!) because I was getting tired (and wanted to keep my energy for the steep scramble down). From the summit, you can see glaciers on the other side of Brandywine Mountain (Summit : 2213m) and an entire 360 degrees view of Wedge Mountain, Blackcomb, Whistler, Black Tusk, Mt. Garibaldi, Mt. Fee, Mt. Caylay and more! I have seen peaks up there that I had never heard of before… So I’ll go back to my topo maps and explore the area further in the future!
You can come back the way you came, although we decided to hike down the last steep portion through the grass area instead of the last boulder field (to save our knees a bit!). We hiked for a total of 7hours, including the additional 2km back and forth from the car to the trailhead… but that included a few breaks and a ridiculous amount of time stopping to take photos! Keep some energy for the drive back down! It is quite bumpy!