Shadow Lake Interpretive Forest is one of three "outdoor classrooms" in the Sea-to-Sky corridor designated as spaces for learning about ecology and integrated resource management practices. The lake is nice, the scenery is beautiful, and there is a lot to learn about along this relatively short hike. Located 17 kilometers north of Whistler Village at the base of the Soo Valley, Shadow Lake is very near to the highway but is effectively blocked by a row of tall trees; many people are unaware of its existence even after having driven past hundreds of times.
There are over 6 kilometers of connecting trails in the 125-hectare area surrounding the lake, and different sections of the trail have distinct educational themes. For example, one section passes through a coniferous forest that grew in the aftermath of a massive forest fire that started at a nearby mill in the 1920s and burnt through a large portion of the forests around the lake, while another section passes through a patch of old-growth forest that somehow avoided burning during the same fire. Another loops past the banks of the Soo River and through a different patch of old-growth cedars to an abandoned trapper's cabin. On the northeast side of the lake visitors can observe wildlife in a biodiverse wetland ecosystem between the lake and an oxbow formed by the meandering Soo River, while the trails alongside the highway show evidence of different forestry management techniques employed throughout the years.
There are two access points for the trail network, one on Highway 99 and another on the Soo Valley Forest Service Road. By using the Soo River Forest Service Road traihead you can avoid crossing the highway, and the vast majority of the trails are on the northwest side of the highway anyway. From this trailhead there are two trails leading off into the forest. The first is a short trail on the left that leads 100 meters to a newly built viewpoint area where visitors can learn about the pine bark beetle outbreak that spread across virtually all of the western states and provinces during the last 15 years. The platform has a nice north-facing vantage point, but you can’t see much of the lake.
Returning to the trailhead you’ll find another trail leading downhill to the right. Take this trail, and after 300 meters you'll emerge at the intersection of the railway tracks with Highway 99. After crossing the tracks the trail re-enters the forest and passes through the aftermath of the mill fire of the late 1920s for 400 meters before arriving at a junction. From here you can take the trail in either direction to circle the lake, but be sure to make a brief detour on the north end of the lake down to the Soo River, through an old-growth cedar grove, and then to the old trapper's cabin. Another detour loop on the northeast side of the lake takes visitors through different patches of forest that were clear-cut, selectively logged, spaced and pruned, or left alone. The results of the different forestry techniques are easily observable. Signage throughout the trail network is interesting and educational, but the trails here could use some maintenance and updates, particularly the wooden bridges that are in a state of disrepair.