Get Out of Whistler Bike Park …and into the Wild
Whistler may be known for having the world’s best lift-accessed bike park, but why not go beyond the chairlift and into the forest for some self-propelled fun. Sure it may be more strenuous, but you will be greeted with epic views, fewer crowds, and the satisfaction of knowing that you did the hard work. You got to the top of the mountain using your own two legs!
This season, consider bringing your cross-country bike during your Whistler mountain biking trip to take advantage of all the great terrain this town has to offer.
Why Head Out of the Bike Park This Summer?
The Whistler bike park is epic – with seventy expertly-crafted trails spread throughout four different mountain zones, there’s something for everyone from beginners to pros. It can also be dusty, busy, and expensive. Save yourself from the dust, crowds, and empty wallet by hopping on your mountain bike off mountain. Take in Whistler’s plentiful and free cross-country trails.
Mountain biking season typically runs from April to October, even longer for the hardcore who swap their regular tires for fat tires and bike even in the winter. Hot sunny days and regular use cause trails to become exposed, dusty, and extra bumpy whereas rainy days can cause damage to the trails as your tires leave ruts in the mud that dry. The sweet spot is the day after a rainfall when the dust settles, puddles start to dry up, and you can breathe in that fresh mountain air.
Why should you head out of the bike park this summer? Here are some reasons to swap your full-face helmet for a half lid and get out there.
Reason #1 – Choose Your Own Adventure
Download the TrailForks app and explore all the options you have for biking in Whistler. There’s anything from the beginner-friendly Molly Hogan trail in Lost Lake Park to double black technical Wizard Burial Ground in Westside. Have a quick pedal that will take one hour or less to a full day adventure – the choice is yours in Whistler.
Reason #2 – Epic Views
The amount of cool hidden waterfalls and lakes is rediculous when you jet off on a self-propelled adventure, and all that climbing typically leads to an epic viewpoint. Even the trails in Lost Lake Park provide incredible viewpoints of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and down to Green Lake on the opposite side.
If you have enough space in your pack, consider bringing a small camera and make sure your cell phone is charged up to take all the pictures, or strap on that dusty GoPro and get footy for the boys.
Reason #3 – Top Trails
Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA) work hard to maintain and build trails all around Whistler. They host weekly trail nights where the public can get out and help make trails look as good as new, and host toonie rides every week for race enthusiasts to beat the clock. If you’ve had a great time biking Whistler’s cross-country trails, consider a donation to WORCA as a way of saying thanks.
Reason # 4 – A Guide Will Tell you Why
Feeling intimidated by the number of trail options, or hoping to maximize your time on the bike? Hiring a guide on Whistler’s singletrack mountain bike tours is a great way to explore Whistler without wasting any time navigating (they do it for you!). Guides choose trails best suited to your ability and fitness level and keep the stoke levels high. Guides are local and know all the best spots, and are an amazing option if you’re riding solo and are looking to be orientated with the Whistler trails.
A Quick Explainer on Whistler’s Bike Zones
Whistler officially (or unofficially) has eleven “zones” where you can take your bike. Below are the main three sections, not including the Whistler Bike Park, where you can get rad on two wheels during your Whistler mountain biking trip.
Whistler’s Lost Lake Park trail network offers many trails within very close proximity to Whistler Village. All trails are well-marked and easy to navigate and are best suited to beginner and intermediate riders. Not to say advanced riders won’t have fun here – there are lots of gnarly routes they can take.
There are two Westside areas – ‘Sproatt’ to the south and ‘Rainbow’ to the North. They link up to provide a network of trails that flank the mountainside and offer some serious descents. This is also the entrance to the infamous Lord of the Squirrels trail – a 5000-foot climb into the alpine of Sproatt Mountain that takes from 3 – 8 hours to complete. Not for the faint of heart, this trail is tough but the reward is incredible views and the feeling of being on top of the world.
Cheakamus is 5.5 km south of Whistler Village and offers multi-use trails, interpretive signage, a rather stunning suspension bridge, river views and evident volcanic activity. With the addition of the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood following the 2010 Olympics, this area has become extremely popular and well used by many different user groups. Trails next to the river are scenic and have a great loop option perfect for intermediate riders (HiHi, Highline, AM/PM, Duncan’s) or beginner riders can loop the Riverside and Farside trail.
Best Overnight Mountain Biking Trips Near Whistler
Looking to take your bike into the backcountry with you to stay overnight? While many of the provincial parks and trails around Whistler do not allow bikes, there are some exceptions that make for great bike-packing adventures. Strap a tent onto your handlebars and prepare to drag yourself and all your gear to your next camping spot.
Cheat and get a ride to the parking lot or bike up a logging road for 7.5 km to the main parking lot, then another 3 km to the beautiful and expansive Cheakamus Lake. This is a multi-use trail so be aware of hikers and families who frequent the trail, along with wildlife such as black bears. It is an easy, pleasant trail through a forest of old growth trees and has two campsites along the shores that must be reserved in advance. On a bike, it could even be a quick afternoon lap should you wish not to stay overnight, but you’ll wish you did!
Elfin Lakes is located in Squamish in Garibaldi Provincial Park and has a hut option and a tenting option (both must be reserved). It’s a 22 km round trip ride that has an elevation gain of 600 meters and follows along wide logging roads that turn into an alpine abyss. Hikers are the main clientele frequenting this trail, though there is a special bike turn-off once you hit the Red Heather Hut that makes it a bit easier for climbing. Enjoy beautiful alpine lakes and the feeling of being surrounded by mountains.
Hut-to-Hut Floatplane and Mountain Biking Adventure with Tyax
Looking to take your Whistler mountain biking trip to the next level? Drive about 4.5 hours north to Tyax Adventures and experience the beauty of British Columbia’s Chilcotin Mountains. A float plane will fly you (and your bike) to a backcountry lake where you’ll then get to experience some of the best singletrack biking in the world as you travel from hut to hut. Camp hosts will greet you wish cozy digs and tasty home-cooked meals to revitalize and recharge you for the next day. It’s a trip of a lifetime that could be a single day, a couple of days, or an entire week – regardless, you won’t want to leave.
The Whistler Bike Park is great and all, but there’s a whole world to explore outside of the resort’s tenure. From a mellow ride after work to a full-day excursion, or an overnighter at the lake to a fancy floatplane adventure – there’s something for all tastes outside of the bike park. Plan your Whistler mountain biking trip to have a bit of everything – hire a guide, DIY, hop in the park. And when you’re all done, grab a cold one on one of Whistler’s many sunny patios or soothe your sore muscles at the spa – it’s all about balance!