Explore Whistler | 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. With maintained trails dotted from Vancouver to Pemberton, there’s a whole summer worth of hikes to explore (and then some).
For city-dwellers you may want to maximize your time outdoors and consider hiking around Vancouver. For visitors to the area, you may be wondering where to hike in Whistler. Whatever your age or ability, there’s something for every adventurer out there.
Quick Pre-Hike Tips in the Sea to Sky
First off, we’d like to share with you some useful pre-hike tips to really make the most of your adventure:
- 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. He then provides very simple directions on finding the trail head as well as following the trail itself. A must-buy for hiking in and around Southwestern BC.
- Have you ever gazed across a beautiful valley and wondered what different peaks might be named? Yeah, us too. Which is why we love the PeakVisor app. Consider it your personal mountain guide, offering insight into not only the names of the surrounding peaks but also respective elevations. The app uses augmented reality, making it super easy and fun to use.
- Check the BC Parks website before you set off for crucial updates on trail status. This is especially crucial in the spring or the fall with the risk of snow at higher elevation. This is a great resource for planning your hike and what you may need to pack.
Our Top Recommendations for Hiking Around Vancouver
Staying close to Vancouver, you’ll find a number of really great hiking trails to check out. A few favourites of ours can be found at Mount Seymour, Mount Fromme and Goat Mountain. They’re all close enough to avoid sitting in a car for hours; but far enough for you to genuinely feel away from the city.
It’s also worth remembering that Grouse, Seymour and Cypress Mountains each offer summer access. By buying a ticket, you can enjoy a ride up the mountain with access to alpine trails and amazing views of the city, too. Be sure to check online for details of summer operations and to plan your route.
Other gondolas worth exploring for hiking potential include the Sea-to-Sky Gondola and of course the Whistler Village Gondola. Each provide access to tonnes of spectacular trails with stunning views thrown in for good measure.
Top 5 Reasons to Go Hiking in Whistler
No trip to the Sea-to-Sky corridor is complete without a visit to Whistler. And if it’s hiking you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. A quick search of “Where to hike in Whistler?” comes up with images of turquoise lakes and raging rivers to mighty glaciers and old-growth forests. There are also opportunities to spot wildlife such as marmots, grouse and black bears.
But besides the natural beauty of British Columbia, there are plenty of other reasons to make Whistler top of your hiking agenda:
- 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 being totally free. You may also want to consider parking in the Creekside parkade, which is also free and provides direct access to the Creekside Gondola, which is included in the ‘360 Experience’. The summer sightseeing pass also provides access to the incredible PEAK2PEAK Gondola and the Whistler Village Gondola.
- Whistler as a Refuelling Station
Now, before you even set out on the trail, you’ll want to armed with plenty of refreshments. Whistler is the place to be to fuel an adventure. Both Whistler Village and Creekside Village are home to a number of great cafés where you can grab your morning coffee as well as homemade sandwiches, salads, and snacks (A full update of where to grab breakfast here). While you’re there, be sure to fill up your water bottle with some of Whistler’s finest!
- A New Perspective on an Old Love
If you’re a skier or snowboarder, hiking Whistler can be pretty mind-blowing. By retracing your steps in the summertime you gain a whole new perspective of the mountain. We love to discover what’s hiding underneath the snow of our favourite runs.
- Hiking for All Abilities
If you’re looking for something a touch more mellow, Whistler is home to more than 40 km worth of paved routes known as The Valley Trail. 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 too. One of our favourite highlights has to be Rainbow Park – a peaceful lakeside spot with easy access to swimming and views over to Whistler Blackcomb.
- Transition from 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 adds a new dimension worth experiencing. We’d recommend hitting up the Callaghan Valley for snowglobe-esque landscapes. It’s home to Whistler Olympic Park where you can get up close to the 2010 Vancouver Games legacy and even try your hand at Nordic skiing, too, if you like!
….A Bonus Reason to Hike in Whistler?
Another bonus to hike in Whistler is the post-hike recovery. Regardless of strenuosity, you deserve to give yourself a pat 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.
What to Expect Hiking in 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:
- 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.
- With temperatures often in the high 20s, it’s important to bring plenty of water on your hike. We usually go with half a litre 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.
- Whistler is home to a number of black bears and so you should be prepared for wildlife encounters too. Some hikers like to wear bear bells and others like to pack bear spray. One really simple piece of advice is to make noise during your hike. By having a conversation on the trail, you’ll likely scare any bears away before you’ve even noticed them. Check the Bear Smart website for further tips on avoiding a conflict on Whistler’s trails.
- Remember that trails in Whistler aren’t just for hiking. There are hundreds of biking trails too and you may find that your paths cross from time-to-time. The general rule of thumb is to just be courteous. Yield to to one another and share the trail.
- 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 absolutely worth exploring, but do so first thing in the morning.
That way you can enjoy the peace and quiet before passing the hordes on your hike out. For tips on accessing quieter trails, we always ask the locals. Quiz your server or the friendly Australian on the front desk. Whistlerites are a friendly bunch and always happy to share their own adventures with you!
Why Hire a Hiking Guide?
If you’re setting out on a trail for the first time, you may want 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.
There is plenty of opportunity to join a scheduled hike in Whistler with some even departing directly from specific hotels in town. 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.
Get Out There!
We hope we’ve inspired you to explore Whistler and the wider Sea-To-Sky area by foot this year. Even if you are just hiking around Vancouver, there are epic trails to explore. In Whistler? If you have just an hour to check out Whistler Trainwreck, or the whole day to conquer the 18 km to Garibaldi Lake. Whatever you choose there’s no doubt that you’ll find adventure in Whistler.