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Explore Whistler | Whistler Blackcomb Hiking Guide 2021 Update

Banner hiking edition

As the snow line creeps ever higher into the alpine, we suddenly have hiking on the brain. Sea-to-Sky country is the perfect place for a romp through the woods. So why not get out of the city and hike Whistler mountain?

You may be wondering where to hike in Whistler. Whatever your age or ability, there’s something for every adventurer out there. 

The following guide is going to cover the basics of hiking in Whistler, hot tips from us locals, and, of course, include our favourite hikes near this epic mountain town. 

Top 5 Reasons to Go Hiking in Whistler 

A quick search for “Where to hike in Whistler?” delivers hundreds of images of turquoise lakes, raging rivers, mighty glaciers, and old-growth forests. 

Whether you are visiting from Vancouver, Washington, or beyond, you may need some more convincing. So let’s give it a shot!

1. Accessibility from Vancouver 

Whistler is easily accessible. Arriving by car, there are plenty of places to park, with lots 6, 7, and 8 at Blackcomb Base. This means no parking along highways or sketchy mountain roads. You can access the mountains directly from the base of Whistler Blackcomb. 

2. Whistler as a Refuelling Station

Now, before you even set out on the trail, you’ll want to be armed with plenty of refreshments. Whistler is the place to fuel any adventure. 

Both Whistler Village and Creekside Village are home to many great cafés where you can grab your morning coffee as well as homemade sandwiches, salads, and snacks. 

3. A New Perspective on an Old Love

If you’re a skier or snowboarder, hiking Whistler can be pretty mind-blowing. In the summer, we love retracing your winter slopes to gain a whole new perspective of the mountain. We love to discover what’s hiding underneath the snow of our favourite runs.

4. Hiking for All Abilities

Whistler is home to more than 40 km worth of paved routes known as The Valley Trail if you’re looking for something a touch more mellow. Connecting all of Whistler’s neighbourhoods, it’s a great way to explore the local area either by foot or on a bicycle. 

The Valley trail covers all of Whistler’s lakes and even runs parallel to Whistler’s golf courses.

5. Seasonal Transitions (Hiking Shoes to Snow Shoes)

Hiking in Whistler is not just a summer activity. Even in the depths of winter, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to don a pair of snowshoes and explore the trails. 

The meters of powder that Whistler receives certainly add a new dimension worth experiencing. 

….A Bonus Reason to Hike in Whistler?

Another bonus to hiking in Whistler is the post-hike recovery. Regardless of strenuousness, you deserve to pat yourself on the back. For some, that may mean a swift beer on one of Whistler’s many glorious patios. For others, it may involve a Swedish Massage or a soak in a hot tub. However you like to unwind, Whistler has got you covered.

Local Tips for Hiking Whistler Mountain

Hand holding a compass, mountains in background

Where are you going to hike this weekend around Whistler?

We find hiking in Whistler to always be a great experience. With bucketfuls of fresh air and views for days – what’s not to love?! 

Like any outdoor activity, it’s always best to be prepared. Here are a few things you may want to consider packing:

  1. Pack Smart: A shell or light anorak is always worth remembering. Whistler summers are generally warm and dry, but mountain weather changes quickly, and it’s best to be ready should a storm arrive. Wear appropriate footwear!
  2. Bring Enough Water: With temperatures often in the high 20s, it’s important to bring plenty of water on your hike. We usually go with half a liter for every hour that we plan to hike. On really warm days, you may wish to consider a sports drink too to replace those electrolytes.
  3. Bear Aware: Whistler is home to many black bears, so you should be prepared for wildlife encounters. Some hikers like to wear bear bells, and others like to pack bear spray. Check the Bear Smart website for further tips on avoiding a conflict on Whistler’s trails.
  4. Share the Trails: Remember that trails in Whistler aren’t just for hiking. There are hundreds of biking trails too. You may find that your paths cross from time to time. Yield to one another and share the trail.
  5. Peal Season Crowds! If you’re looking to access some of Whistler’s most popular spots during peak season, be prepared for crowds. Areas such as Joffre Lakes and Brandywine Falls are staggeringly beautiful and worth exploring, but do so first thing in the morning.
  6. Trail Status: Check the BC Parks website before you set off for important updates on trail status. This is especially crucial in the spring or the fall, with the risk of snow at a higher elevation. This is a great resource for planning your hike and what you may need to pack.
  7. 105 Hikes by Steven Hui is a wonderful resource jam-packed with great trails and first-hand knowledge of them. Steven breaks each hike down by distance, time, and difficulty making it super easy to select one. A must-buy for hiking in and around Southwestern BC.
  8. Download the Apps: Have you ever gazed across a beautiful valley and wondered what different peaks might be named? Yeah, us too. This is why we love the PeakVisor app. Consider it your personal mountain guide, offering insight into the names of the surrounding peaks. All Trials and Gaia are other trail apps that have coverage of this BC region.

Hot Tip: Hire a Hiking Guide 

If you’re setting out on a trail for the first time, you may want to consider a hiking guide. 

This can be useful not only in terms of navigation but also for enhancing the overall experience. 

Hiking guides may be a great source of knowledge and share insight into the local flora and fauna. Hikes in 

Whistler especially may have historical significance, too, and it’s pretty neat to learn about the settlers that shaped the valley.

If you’re already in a group, it may be worthwhile to hire a private guide. Private hiking guides in Whistler are super flexible and will take into consideration your group’s ability levels.

The Best Hikes Near Whistler

A train wreck covered in grafitti in Whistler

An easy hike for families, dog walkers and more near whistler

Whistler Trainwreck

Decades ago, a train derailed along the rail just South of Whistler. These long since abandoned cars have slowly been taken back by the forests and the graffiti artists. 

Now, the famous Whistler Trainwreck site has become an excellent family-friendly hike or short dog walk. The trail has little to no elevation gain and flows along well-trodden paths and railway tracks.

Perfect for families, social media superstars, dog walkers, and anyone with a sense of adventure.

Cheakamus Lake Trail

Whether you want a long (but easy) day hike into the mountains or a quick one-night camping trip, Cheakamus Lake Trail is the perfect destination. 

This is a shady, forested hike through the Cheakamus river valley up to the lake. There are plenty of viewpoints and picnic spots all along the trail.

It’s in Garibaldi Provincial Park, which means permits and camping reservations are required. The trail hits both Cheakamus Lake Campground and Singing Creek Campground.

Brandywine Meadows 

Brandywine meadows trail is an out and back trail that delivers breathtaking alpine landscapes for relatively minimal effort. 

It’s open in the summer from July to October when most of the snow has melted.

Accessed from the main trailhead requires a good 4×4 vehicle, as the route is extremely challenging and rutted. If you do not have a suitable vehicle, a lower trailhead in the valley is easier to access. 

Wedgemount Lake

a close up of a snow covered mountain

Expect a snowy mountain payoff when you hike Wedgemont Lake Trail

For backcountry lovers with experience in challenging terrain, Wedgemount Lake is one for the bucket list. 

Both the trail and destination are absolutely stunning. Keep in mind Pparts of the trail are forested, with others requiring a good scramble.

There are plenty of mountain vistas to take in, and of course, the piece de resistance – the lake! Big enough to handle a crowd and not feel crowded. The lake makes the strenuous uphill slog worth every step.

Rainbow Lake

For anyone looking for a challenge, the Rainbow Lake hike pays off. It has been called one of the area’s most iconic hikes, offering spectacular access to pristine alpine lakes and meadows. 

Most of the hike is forested until you reach the alpine. You’ll catch glimpses of some of the area’s fabulous peaks, like Black Tusk and others. 

It is only officially open in the summer months and is subject to closure for bear activity. 

The Best Hikes On Whistler Mountain

Want to stay closer to Whistler Mountain itself? Want to benefit from a gondola jump start? Or easy download? The beauty of hiking on Whistler Blackcomb is catching the gondola up or down (or both). You still get great alpine access and sweeping mountain vistas, but without the hour or more of uphill climbing.

Blackcomb Ascent Trails

Lovingly called the Little Burn, Big Burn, and Heart Burn, this trail leads you up the side of Blackcomb mountain through alpine forests and ends at Rendezvous Lodge. 

Like the Grind in Vancouver, this train is an excellent workout as you gain 1150 meters during the trek.

It’s open during the summer months and closes for the sky season. Although you technically can hike the Blackcomb Ascent up and back down, most people save their knees and take the gondola down. So purchase a ticket and check chair times before you leave the Blackcomb base.

Whistler Summit Interpretive Walk

Enjoy the gondola ride up to the very top of Whistler mountain, then take in the easy summer stroll to capture 360 degrees of mountain views. Its minimal effort, for massive pay-offs, making this ideal for those with different abilities, families, and even date night.

Take the Peak Express Chair to the tippy-top of Whistler, then wander through the casual yet rugged set of trails at the top. Sites at the top include the inuksuk and the Cloudraker Skybridge.

Harmony Lake Loop

Another fast but spectacular hike on Whistler Mountain is the trail to Harmony Lake. It starts from close to Roundhouse Lodge and takes you to the summit with a loop around a beautiful lake.

This is a relatively easy hike but does include some incline on rugged trails. It’s a good one for older kids and for those with a gondola pass wanting to fit in a quick hike.

High Note Trail

Accessed from the top of Whistler mountain via Peak Chair, the High Note trail takes you into the backcountry to wrap around behind the resort. 

You’ll hike around Piccolo Summit to see never-ending mountain peaks, Cheakamus Lake, and eventually end up in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

This trail is difficult, with some sections supported via rope holds. Because of the chair lift restrictions, this is not suitable for small children. Gondola passes and park passes are required for this trial.

Get Out There! Hike Whistler this Season!

We hope we’ve inspired you to explore Whistler and the wider Sea-To-Sky area by foot this year. 

 If you have just an hour to check out Whistler Trainwreck. If you have a weekend, try backpacking Cheakamus Lake. There is really something for everyone and all abilities. Whatever you choose, there’s no doubt that you’ll find adventure in Whistler.

 

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