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Whistler in October: A Hiker’s Best Kept Secret

Hiking Whistler in Fall

As the temperatures drop and the leaves begin to change, business slows down and seasonal workers head home. Crankworx is forgotten for now but snow is still only in our sweetest dreams. 

However, slightly cooler temperatures and crisp autumn air makes for the perfect time of year to explore the endless amount of hikes the Sea to Sky offers. British Columbia hiking destinations are just about the get covered in snow once more, so it’s time to sneak in one final trek.

Forget hiking in mid-August when you’re dripping sweat and already dehydrated after the first switchback. May might seem perfect but trails are often still covered in ice and snow, and the temperature at the top is less than desirable. 

So give your bank account a break and your legs a challenge. with these best hikes near Whistler. Spend this October in the great outdoors, smashing every hike you can. It will certainly get your muscles ready for the months to come on the mountain!

3 Hikes For People That Don’t Really Hike

While there is always a level of fitness and ability required to hike, there are certainly easier options that are more suited to beginners and younger hikers. You may not make it to glacier-fed lakes, but the views you can walk to will take your breath away. These are the best hikes near Whistler for the curious, but not mountain experienced.

Train Wreck

Where is it? The trailhead for Train Wreck starts in Function Junction, about 10 km south of Whistler Village. There is parking behind Olive’s Grocery Market. 

How long is it? 5km round trip. Allow 1-3 hours. 

What’s it like? Easy walking with a few hills. Mostly along train tracks. 

Other things to know: Bring a camera! Ask most Whistler locals and they will admit to having had a mini photoshoot at Train Wreck. It’s one of the best hikes in Whistler for a photo op.

Callaghan Lake

Where is it? Callaghan Lake is in the Callaghan Valley, 20 km south of Whistler. Watch for the Whistler Olympic Park sign and make a right, then follow the signs.

How long is it? This is a real beginner. You basically drive right to the lake and then can walk around and enjoy the views. You can also camp. 

What’s it like? Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and the gateway to many other hikes. Callaghan is full of wildlife so keep your eyes peeled and make sure not to leave any food behind!

Other things to know:  The last 10km is an unkempt logging road. It is in horrible condition and caution needs to be used to avoid the endless potholes. 

Loggers Lake

Where is it? Loggers Lake is unique in that it is located in a century-old volcano. It is in Cheakamus Crossing, located in Whistler’s Interpretive Forest. Cheakamus is a short trip south of Whistler Village. 

How long is it? Steep but short, the trail is a mere 350 meters. There is a 76 meter (250 foot) elevation gain, but it will be over before you know it. 

What’s it like?  Warm, isolated and peaceful.

Other things to know: Loggers Lake is the warmest in Whistler, so be ready to swim! It also boasts excellent fishing. 

5 Hikes For People Who Actually Like to Hike

“Yeah, I’m in pretty good shape” can mean a lot of different things. You’ll need a decent level of physical ability, lots of water and a good attitude. If you have these, you can do these hikes, whether it takes you two hours or ten, it will be worth it!

Joffre Lakes 

Crystal clear water, mountains and forest of Joffre Lake Canada

One of the most popular hikes around Whistler is Joffre Lakes

Where is it?  You’ll need a car to get to Joffre. From Whistler Village, you will drive 39 km north through Pemberton. You will see a sign for Lillooet where you will turn right. Follow the ascending highway and the signs. 

How long is it? Joffre is 11km roundtrip if you choose to see all three lakes (highly recommended!) There is a 400 m elevation gain meaning it is a pretty steady ascent. 

What’s it like? Joffre is stunning. Glacier fed lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains, it is one of the most popular hikes. Many are brave enough to take a dip, but remember to bring a towel as the water is (literally) freezing!

Other things to know: Joffre has gained immense popularity over the past five years, meaning it is often crowded. Try to go mid-week/off-peak. October is perfect for this! This is a top British Columbia hiking destination, and on many Whistler bucket lists.

Cheakamus Lake 

Where is it? In Cheakamus Crossing across from Function Junction, km south of Whistler Village. 

How long is it? 14km roundtrip. 

What’s it like? There is only a 78-meter elevation gain, so it’s the length rather than the elevation that makes this adventure more for an intermediate hiker. The trail takes you alongside Cheakamus River. 

Other things to know: This area is the gateway to many more epic hikes, so bring some extra supplies in case you feel extra motivated! Camping options are also available.

Stawamus Chief

Hiking near Vancouver. Young woman on cliff over the ocean. Stawamus Chief Peak. Squamish. Whistler. British Columbia. Canada.

Hike the Chief for one of the easiest peaks around whistler.

Where is it?  The Chief (you probably won’t ever hear a local call it “Stawamus Chief”) is in Squamish, overlooking Howe Sound. 

How long is it? There are three peaks on The Chief, all worth doing and all do-able in one day. Although the hike isn’t actually that long, it is steep, with a 600-meter elevation gain. Allow three to five hours. 

What’s it like? It’s steep. There are lots of stairs, and some areas are assisted by chains. It’s not a beginner hike. It is often referred to as “short but tough.”

Other things to know: Dogs are welcome and so are rock climbers! Go here to find out everything you need to know about climbing The Chief.

Note – This hike is still open despite the recent closure of the nearby Sea to Sky Gondola.

Rainbow Lake

Where is it?  The hike starts on Alta Lake road right in Whistler. You can even get there via the Valley Trail. 

How long is it? 16km round trip. There is an 850-meter elevation gain, so you are constantly ascending. It is a long, well-used trail. 

What’s it like? There are lots of bridges, waterfalls and gorgeous views. 

Other things to know: Rainbow lake is a water source for Whistler, so swimming, camping and fishing are prohibited. 

Garibaldi Lake

Where is it? Garibaldi Provincial Park. Several hikes begin from Garibaldi Lake. The Garibaldi Lake trailhead will come up in your GPS/smartphone maps. 

How long is it? 16km roundtrip with a 900-meter elevation gain. It’s steep and is mostly switchbacks. If you have bad knees, this may be a tough one. The descent is steep and often requires jogging down, quite impactful on the knees. 

What’s it like? One of the most stunning views you are likely to ever come across. The panorama, turquoise lakes are surreal.

Other things to know:  This one dances between intermediate and advanced. There are no out of the ordinary skills needed, but it is long and steep. There isn’t much to see until you get there, meaning it may feel like endless work with no reward. Trust us, it is so worth it. Check out a local’s take on it.

4 Hikes for the Avid Trekker (Camping Recommended)

If you do The Chief for your warm-up or Garibaldi hungover, it’s time to amp it up. With Whistler hikes, the effort really does correlate with the reward. The higher you go, the more breathtaking the hikes become (and not just because of thinner air). 

Panorama Ridge

Views from panorama Ridge

The view makes everything worthwhile – Panorama Ridge

If you’ve done Garibaldi, you’ve done about half of the leg work. 

Where is it? Same trailhead as Garibaldi lake. 

How long is it? Long. 30km round trip with a 1540 meter elevation gain. You will be going up the whole time (duh) and it will seem like it will never end. Garibaldi makes a good lunch spot!

What’s it like? Indescribable really. You can look at photos and get the gist of it, but absolutely no photo comes close to doing it justice. 

Other things to know: You can camp along the way, but all camping requires registration and a camping fee. 

Black Tusk

Where is it? Also in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Starting to see a pattern of where all the epic hikes are, aren’t we?

How long is it? 27km round trip with a 1740 meter elevation gain. A tad bit shorter than Panorama and a tad bit steeper. 

What’s it like? Black Tusk is an epic monument of Whistler, as you can see it from pretty much everywhere. Whether skiing down from Peak Chair or driving the Sea to Sky, the massive rock fixture is a beauty. 

Other things to know: Recently changes have been made so that hikers can legally camp in the backcountry, beyond the normal campsites. Not for the inexperienced camper! 

Wedgemount Lake

Where is it? Just a ten-minute drive north of Whistler, you will see the signs for Garibaldi Provincial Park. Enjoy beautiful views of Green Lake along the way. 

How long is it? Don’t be fooled when you see this hike is “only” 14km (7 each way). Even though it is half of Panorama or Black Tusk, the elevation gain is similar, meaning it is steep. 

What’s it like? Hard. Really hard. But nothing great ever comes easy, right?

Other things to know: The steepness doesn’t require any technical skill, but the final ascent will likely have you on all fours. Pack as lightly as possible (but lots of water!) and make sure your shoes have a good grip. 

Cirque Lake

Cirque lake view.

If there is a hikers best kept secret – it’s cirque lake. Canoe required!

Okay, this one is for the really avid outdoorsy type, because it actually requires a canoe/kayak.

Where is it? It sits above Callaghan Lake, the same lake mentioned at the beginning of this blog. You can drive to it on the logging road. 

How long is it? The hiking involved is actually pretty minimal. Only about 4km with a 300-meter elevation gain. The trailhead, however, is a 2km paddle across Callaghan lake. If you are looking for one of the best hikes in Whistler, but without the crowds… this is it!

What’s it like? If you’re looking for serenity, here it is. You need more than just your feet for this one, which a lot of people simply don’t have (I mean the canoe). 

Other things to know: It’s called cirque lake for a reason! Go see for yourself. Be a little more confident by checking out this guide.

So there you have it. Charge your camera, grab your most motivating friend, and make this October one to remember. Just because it’s fall doesn’t mean British Columbia hiking opportunities come to an end. Some may even argue they are at their “peak”.