A Weekend in the Wild | 48 Hours Camping in Whistler
We understand that just because you’re visiting Whistler, you don’t necessarily wish to stay in the plush and luxurious accommodation in the centre of the bustling village. Are you yearning for a more rugged experience of the Canadian wilderness? Camping in Whistler is your answer.
Camping in BC is one of the best ways to truly experience the Canadian landscape, and appreciate the outstanding natural beauty of this province. Can you think of a better view to wake up to than a pristine alpine lake surrounded by wildflowers?
And fear not, you don’t necessarily have to endure hours of hiking with a heavy backpack laden full of camping gear in order to sleep under the stars in BC’s backcountry. There are accessible car camping spots right on our doorstep!
So escape the city-bubble for the weekend and relax in the mountains this summer. We’ve selected our top picks for scenic camping spots around Whistler, so all you need to do is pack your bag and join us!
Top 5 Activities in the Wilds of Whistler
The appeal of camping in Whistler is that you can experience the remote, beautiful, wild side of BC, but also take advantage of all of the comforts and conveniences that come with a world-class resort. After enjoying breakfast cooked over a campfire, drive into Whistler Village for the afternoon and take part in an adrenaline-filled adventure. Whistler has so many activities on offer, especially during the summer months, so tear yourself away from your relaxing campsite for a day and head out on a thrilling excursion. Here are our top picks of things to do:
- White Water Rafting
There’s nothing quite like racing down the freezing cold, glacial-fed rivers of BC on a raft. Grab a paddle, slip into a wetsuit and head out on an exhilarating white water rafting tour. With The Adventure Group, you can pick from three varied and exciting trips (Green River, Cheakamus River, or Elaho-Squamish River), depending on the level of thrill you’re after!
- Go Bungee Jumping
Think you’ve got the nerve to throw yourself off of a 160 ft (53 m) bridge? Whistler Bungee, 15-minutes south of the village, might just be this town’s most extreme activity and is sure to make your heart race. But at least the breathtaking scenery, including spectacular basalt column cliffs, old growth forests and the glittering Cheakamus River, might take your mind off the jump a little.
- Cool Forest Ziplining
Want to experience BC’s beauty from the air? If that’s a YES that we hear you cry, then strap yourself into a harness and soar down Superfly’s ziplines. You’ll be taken high up into the mountains in an off-road vehicle, and make your way back down via a network of boardwalks and four thrilling ziplines up to speeds of 100 km/hour! Admire the magnificent views of the valley below from high up on Cougar Mountain and let the wind rip through your hair!
- Whistler by Air
Another spectacular way to get an aerial view of BC’s outstanding landscape is from a helicopter. Soak in the scenery on a Blackcomb Helicopter tour and fly over Whistler village, Cheakamus Glacier and the stunning Garibaldi Provincial Park. On their 24-minute BC Experience Tour, you’ll even have the once in a lifetime chance to set foot on a 12,000-year-old glacier! Talk about that for a day to remember.
- The Great Canadian Sport of Axe Throwing
If you’re unlucky enough for the heavens to open on you during your camping trip in BC, you might be searching for an indoor activity to keep you dry. There’s nothing worse than getting your only pair of camping shorts soggy in the rain, so shelter from the weather at Forged Axe Throwing and continue your true Canadian adventure experience! Anyone over the age of 10 can take part, so whether you fancy yourself as a lumberjack or have never picked up an axe before, head down to Function Junction (a short, 10-minute drive south of Whistler) and try your hand at this sport!
Where to Car Camp in Whistler
- Cal-Cheak Campground
Camping in Whistler doesn’t have to involve a tent. Cal-Cheak is a car accessible campground, named after the Callaghan and Cheakamus Rivers that intersect at this spot. Located just 20 minutes south of Whistler Village, Cal-Cheak is a really convenient camping choice.
You can’t reserve a space here, it’s first come first serve, but because it’s not a Provincial campground the area is usually quiet. The huge camping sites are spread out and nestled between old growth trees, creating a secluded and peaceful atmosphere – the perfect place for a quiet getaway from bustling Whistler.
- Nairn Falls Provincial Park
Nairn Falls Provincial Park is located 32km north of Whistler and is home to a jaw-dropping rock sculpted 60-metre waterfall, which can be viewed up close by walking a short, 1.5km trail from the main car park. The park boasts vehicle accessible campsites so pull-up and enjoy the ease of car camping, for just $22 per-party per-night.
Our favourite camping spots in the area are those on the edge of the high cliffs that tower above the mighty Green River. As you fall asleep at night, listen to the gush of swirling, glacial-fed water as it tumbles through the valley below. This campground is an ideal base to explore the natural wonders of the Sea to Sky corridor from.
- Riverside Resort
If you’re arriving in Whistler in an RV, head straight to Riverside Resort. This campground, located just north of Whistler and within walking distance to the village, is open year-round and is fully equipped for all of your needs.
Camping here certainly doesn’t feel like your true Canadian wilderness experience – amenities include full washrooms with heated floors, Wi-Fi, laundry service and an on-site cafe, but its location, close to the stunning Green Lake, is actually surprisingly tranquil. This is also the only place where you can legally camp within the municipality of Whistler.
Where to Pitch a Tent in Whistler
- Cat Lake, Squamish
Of all of the camping in Whistler, Cat Lake is among our preferred spots. A favourite among locals in the summer, this beautiful site is just a 30-minute drive from Whistler Village and offers everything that you need for a night under canvas. The lake is a popular swimming hole because of the warm water, and the small beaches and docks make it an idyllic location to relax in the sunshine.
The car park can be reached just a couple of kilometres from the Sea to Sky Highway, and from there it’s only a short walk to the campsites, which surround the lake and are connected by a loop trail. We love Cat Lake, but do be aware that it is a popular spot with young campers at the weekends, so if you’re looking for something quieter visit mid-week or check out Alice Lake, described below!
- Alice Lake Provincial Park
Alice Lake Provincial Park is located between Whistler and Squamish, close to Cat Lake, and just off the Sea to Sky Highway. This unspoiled campground boasts a large number of walk-in sites, but these do get booked up in the summer months, so we’d recommend making a reservation in advance.
This is a very well maintained area and the impeccably clean washroom facilities with showers are a welcome luxury! There’s a brilliant (and not too strenuous) six-kilometre hike, known as the Four Lakes Trail, that loops around the Provincial Park and takes around two hours, or if you’re feeling less adventurous, why not spend the day relaxing on the large, grassy beach area on the edge of the lake. Alice Lake Campground is perfect for families and easily accessible.
- Upper Third Lake, Joffre Lake
Drive north of Whistler for around an hour and you’ll reach Joffre Lakes. These lakes, with their vibrant, dazzling blue colour and spectacular mountain backdrops, are no secret in BC. In fact, their beauty has made them an Instagram sensation and gained them a reputation for being mildly overcrowded. But don’t let the masses deter you. The total round trip hike is 11km, and it’s at the Upper Third Lake where you’ll find the camping ground, consisting of 26 wilderness sites.
Most tourists don’t venture past the lookout point, but power on, be prepared for some rock scrambling, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most beautiful camping spots imaginable. And when the hoards of tourists descend back down at the end of the day, you’ll be able to fully appreciate this tranquil environment. You do need a valid backcountry camping permit to stay overnight, so plan in advance.
Tips from the Experts for Camping Around Whistler
- Be Fire Smart
You probably know it, but forest fires are a massive deal in BC. The past few years of fires have had a devastating effect on forests and wildlife in the province due to human mistakes. So if a campfire ban is in effect, abide by it! Don’t start a fire to warm yourself up or to roast your marshmallows, just one spark could burn a forest down. Check out the restrictions before you set off, and pack an extra layer or two if you think it’s going to be a chilly night!
- Be Bear Aware
Camping in Whistler also means you’re camping in bear country! We share our beautiful backyard with some pretty wonderful wildlife, but whilst black bears might look cuddly, they should never be approached and you should always follow Bear Smart principles.
The majority of campgrounds around Whistler have bear boxes on site, designed specifically to keep your food away from bear bellies. Always store your food in these, or lock it away in your car. Bears have even been known to be attracted to scented bath products, including toothpaste, so don’t leave these in your tent while you’re sound asleep either. Always be bear aware!
- Be Prepared for No Cell Service
Although you might be just a short drive from the heart of Whistler Village, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re safe from the wilderness. You might not have cellphone signal at some camping sites in BC so be aware that you might not be able to rely on it if you find yourself in trouble.
If you’re heading further into the backcountry, make sure that you bring enough water with you, as some sites may not have access to drinking water. Pack a first-aid kit, plenty of layers, enough food, and a map. Finally, always tell a friend where you’re heading and when you plan on being back.
Camping in Whistler – The Perfect Wilderness Mini-Break!
Camping in BC is one of the best ways to truly experience this magnificent landscape. Whether you’re keen to fully immerse yourself in the remote backcountry, fancy a fun-filled weekend outdoors with the kids, or want to relax in your RV surrounded by mountains, Whistler has a camping option for you. And remember, when enjoying Whistler’s wonderful campgrounds, leave no trace!