The Brew Lake Trail offers slightly less hiked but no less magnificent access into the Pacific Ranges. Hikers in the Sea-To-Sky corridor are undeniably spoiled with an incredible array of trails to explore, and with Garibaldi Provincial Park encompassing almost everything on the east side of Highway 99, it is no surprise that the majority of the most popular trails are located within the park. These trails provide access to extremely beautiful and remote wilderness areas, they are all well-used and well-maintained, and we are very lucky to have them. But at times they are so well-maintained that it can detract from the sense of exploration that we all seek when heading out into the mountains. So it’s nice to get off the beaten path from time to time, to get away from the crowds that flock to the popular hikes, and to satisfy that deep-seeded desire to conquer the terra incognita.
In contrast to nearby hiking trails in Garibaldi Provincial Park, the Brew Lake Trail has no parking lot, no signage, and usually no crowds. It is steep and difficult to follow at times, and it involves some technical scrambling and route-finding across scree-fields that may deter some people, but for others that sort of thing is part of the appeal. There is a comfortable cabin known as the Brew Hut on the ridge above the lake built by the University of BC Varsity Outdoors Club. Brew Hut is open year round for use by hikers and backcountry skiers for $10 per person per night. There are no reservations, but it check out the registration page for information about accommodation and proper use. Also, dogs and campfires are allowed here, and there are no designated campsites like in the provincial parks. That being said, only agile and energetic dogs should attempt this steep rocky trail, and it is of course always important to check current fire restrictions, use best practices for backcountry camping, and leave the wilderness (and the cabin) in at least as good condition as you found it. Carefully consider the need for lighting a fire in the hut's wood stove; firewood is either flown in by helicopter, which is expensive and resource intensive, or it is carried in by volunteers, which is very difficult and time consuming. If you must start a fire for warmth, please conserve wood for other users, and never resort to chopping down trees in the alpine.
The best way to access the trail is via the Brew Creek Forest Service Road, the turnoff for the Whistler RV park and campground. Take the first left turn onto gravel off the RV park access road and follow the main spur uphill for about 3 kilometers. Two-wheel drive vehicles should park just before a small bridge, while four-wheel drive vehicles can drive approximately 1 kilometer further before the road is impassable.
The trail entrance is about 20 meters uphill from the four-wheel drive parking spot and is marked with a yellow sign. From here, the trail immediately enters the forest and starts climbing, getting steadily steeper as the mossy forest gives way to rocky debris fields. After about 4 kilometers and 675 meters of elevation gain you’ll pass through a short forested section of the trail and arrive at Brew Lake. Because there are no glaciers melting directly into the lake, its crystal clear waters are surprisingly warm and inviting, particularly after the relatively short but grueling climb up. The trail gets a little bit more difficult to follow as it continues past the lake, but the route is marked with cairns and follows up the fall-line of the valley for about 2 more kilometers and 250 meters of climbing to the hut at the top of the ridge. It is definitely worth wandering up there even if you don’t plan on staying the night, both to admire the beautifully built cabin and to check out the amazing views in all directions. Mount Brew itself is not one of the more prominent mountains in the area, but it sits right in the middle of several picturesque peaks such as Black Tusk and Mount Garibaldi to the east, Tricouni and Cypress to the south, and Mount Fee and Mount Cayley to the west.