The Shadow Lake Loop is a super easy walk close to the Sea to Sky Highway between Squamish and Whistler. It will take you past the Shadow Lake Reservoir (with fab views of the Black Tusk), through some pretty woodland and past some cool geological formations. This is part of the new-ish Sea to Sky trail, which is part of the massive Trans Canada Trail.
I think it is a great little stop off on route to Whistler. Just be aware, in some parts of the walk you can hear the roar of engines from the highway. And there are sections below power-lines, so this isn’t the most picturesque hike in this area. I like the Tantalus View Look Out, Alice Lake – Four Lakes trail, and Lava Lake Loop (with Brandywine Falls) even more. But if you like pretty views of Black Tusk and the barrier, as well as interesting mushrooms, it’s worth visiting after you’ve explored the other options.
Shadow Lake Loop Map
This is the route we took. There’s an even shorter loop listed on the Alltrails website here.
Shadow Lake – the basics
The map above is the route we took, (11km). You can make this shorter and easier just looping around Shadow Lake.
Elevation Gain: 70m-190m (depending on the route you take)
Time: 1.5-2.5 hours
What to bring:
As always the 10 essentials.
Facilities: Nothing really.
Dogs: Yes! It’s good for walkies. If you continue on to Lake Lucille, dogs are allowed off leash in that area.
How hard is it? Easy and family friendly
Shadow Lake – Getting started
We followed the instructions in my Squamish Hiking Book by Marc Bourdon. Park on the edge of Black Tusk Village by a pullout on Pinecrest Estate Road. From there you’ll see a footpath with a sign for the Sea to Sky trail. Follow that to a wide, open path beneath the powerlines.
I have to admit, I am not normally a fan of walking under powerlines. They have a plus points in that you can see mountain views that would normally be obscured by trees, and they allow you to walk in the sunshine. Still, I didn’t mind that the path quickly veered off away from the power lines. You need to cross the trainline and walk into a pretty mushroom filled forest.
Gorgeous glacial waters
Shadow Lake may be a reservoir, but it is fed from the Cheakamus River (via Daisy Lake) so you can expect to see the same gorgeous greeny-blue waters that you see at Cheakamus Lake.
We took a mini detour to walk to the edge of the lake at Roe Creek. There is a fabulous mirror-like view of the Black Tusk off in the distance.
We visited at the beginning of October, so the leaves were just starting to change colour and the fungi in this forest were simply spectacular! I took multiple photos of the incredible mushrooms we found, so I’ll just share a few of my favorites. The first one is hydnellum (or orange spine) they look like brains growing from the forest floor!
We found loooads of these coral-like ramaria
I also loved seeing the teeny polka dots of orange bonnets (mycena acicula.)
And if you’ve read my mushroom posts before, you’ll know I always love finding puffball mushrooms. These are the ones that if you squeeze them a poof of fungi spores shoots out (You can see a video of Marc poofing one of these on my instagram here.)
If all those amazing mushrooms aren’t enough to keep you occupied, watch out for this amazing moss-fella as well.
Liking the lichen
Further along the trail you’ll walk along a gorge with steep moss-covered cliffs on either side of the trail. If you look at the rocks, they are carpeted with a variety of mosses and lichen. It’s like a mini version of the forest, just close to the ground!
The photo below (left) shows those steep cliffs covered in moss. It’s hard to see how cool those lichen covered rocks are until you get right up close to them. The second photo was our next view of Shadow Lake Reservoir through a gap in the trees.
Shadow Lake Reservoir
I have heard that the height of the waters can vary greatly here, depending on how much electricity BC Hydro need to make. So it might not always have so much water or be quite this pretty. There is a BC Hydro intake tower half way around the lake, so I guess this is *not* a lake to go for a dip!
As this (and the Daisy Lake Reservoir) are used to create power for the surrounding area, the depth of the lake and the river and vary massively (as BC Hyrdro ramps up power.) This can change the level of the river and lakes very quickly and leave poor fish stranded in puddles, or wash away the small juvenile fishes. I read an article about BC Hydro killing too many fishes in this area back in 2019. Hopefully things are a little better now.
Continue to Lake Lucille
Just hiking around Shadow Lake felt a teeny bit too short for us, so we checked the map, and then continued on through the forest towards Lake Lucille.
Like the next part of this walk, the path switches between open areas under the power lines – that were starting to look beautiful and golden for autumn, and shady, forest areas.
Lake Lucille wasn’t quite as easy to see as Shadow Lake. It has marshy areas around the edge, so we couldn’t get up close. We contented ourselves with peek-a-boo views through the trees.
Slide Hazard Area
Despite the awesome, open views there are some signs that this could be a very dangerous area. Basically people are not allowed to build (or even camp) here. As if the unstable volcanic rock of the Barrier (at Garibaldi Lake) ever gives way, this whole valley will be flooded by the weight of the huge glacial lake as it smashes its way through this valley.
If you have ever seen my posts about visiting Garibaldi Lake, you know that on the way up there, you can stop at a viewpoint to see the huge, crumbling barrier of volcanic rock that acts as a dam, holding back Garibaldi Lake. I’ve included a couple of photos below to show you what I mean. Below (left) is the barrier, and (right) is the view from the barrier. Shadow Lake is on the far side of valley directly below in this photo.
The barrier has held for far for 9000 years, so don’t let this put you off visiting this area! You should just be aware that if you feel an earthquake when hiking here, you’ll want to get to high ground as soon as you can!
Home via the Sea to Sky trail
We returned along the Sea to Sky trail, a bit closer to the highway. The sun was starting to go down, so my photos are a bit dark and gloomy. But the trail was lovely. There plenty more moraine-like piles of rocks that were carpeted with mosses.
The trail also has multiple moments where it is high enough to peek over to the mountains in Garibaldi Provincial Park and the barrier itself. There are also some fabulous views down to the Cheakamus River.
Near the end of the hike, we didn’t trust the all trails route as it looked like it goes straight through Shadow Lake near the end of the loop. This is why we returned via the way we came. Looking again, I think the trail goes along the trainline, so it is probably fine too. Let me know in the comments if you managed to hike that way!
In conclusion, I honestly really enjoyed this mini adventure for the Shadow Lake Loop. I thought the moss-covered rocks and forest were pleasant; And I absolutely loved the variety of mushrooms we found along the trail. Having said that, there are sooo many amazing walks in this area, that it’ll never be the top of my list. If you fancy a taste of the Sea to Sky trail, I think the Cheakamus Canyon is an even better option. What do you think? Do you like the look of this one? Have I just become spoiled as we have so many epic hikes in BC?
In any case, if you’d like to save this one, please click on the pins below.