Brandywine Falls was one of the major waterfalls that we encountered while driving the popular Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler, and it was well worth the stop. This very popular 70m freefalling waterfall possessed a classically tall rectangular shape reminding me of what we saw at Tews Falls (in Hamilton, Ontario), except this falls possessed a more forceful drop as Brandywine Creek had a pretty healthy flow during our Summer visit in 2017. Evidence of the geologic forces that gave rise to this plunge waterfall was clearly evident as the neighboring cliffs exhibited the hard basalt lava layer with its signature hexagonal columns resulting from a combination of lava from an eruption 13,000 years ago rapidly cooling from the presence of ice during the end of the last ice age.
Legend has it that the name of the falls came from a bet between two surveyors working for the Howe Sound and Northern Railway over who can most accurately guess the height of the waterfall. The prize was a bottle of brandy (technically a shortened word for brandywine) while the loser got to name the waterfall. To wrap up the story, after measuring the height of the falls with a chain (only possible because this was a plunge waterfall; as described in this write-up), the losing surveyor named the falls after the prize and the rest was history.
Luckily, the walk to get to the view you see pictured above was short (500m each way or 1km round trip), which would typically take under 30 minutes to finish. Under normal circumstances, we would have savored the short hike and spent more time here or explored some of the other trails like the detour to Swim Lake. However, the air quality was pretty bad during our visit as it happened to have occurred during the British Columbia wildfires that would eventually turn out to be the biggest in the province’s recorded history. As you might notice in the photos on this page, the combination of morning sun and smoke created some unusual lighting on the falls and immediate surroundings.
From the big parking area (see directions below), we followed a pretty obvious walking path past some picnic tables towards a covered bridge over Brandywine Creek before following the trail in the downstream direction. After walking the well-shaded path alongside a slope of big volcanic boulders, the trail then crossed a railroad before reaching the obvious lookout deck for the Brandywine Falls. The trail continued beyond this lookout deck past a more direct but partial view of the falls, then terminating at the Canyon Rim overlooking Daisy Lake and Cheakamus Valley. Since the air was filled with smoke and haze, the otherwise nice view became more of an ominous and eerie scene where visibility was dramatically reduced and not much could be seen beyond the immediate mountains and the headwaters of the reservoir further downstream.
From downtown Vancouver, we could head east on the Route 7A towards the Hwy 1 going north then west, or we could take Route 1A through Stanley Park and the Lion’s Gate Bridge eventually joining up with the Hwy 1 going west. We’d then drive on Hwy 1 through West Vancouver for about 11km before taking the Hwy 99 (Sea to Sky Highway) towards Whistler. After about 85km on Hwy 99 (44km north of Squamish), the signposted turnoff for the Brandywine Falls parking lot was on the right. Overall, this drive took us about 90 minutes.
Going in the other direction, Brandywine Falls was about 17km south of Whistler on the Hwy 99 to the left.
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