Join us over the next 5 weeks while we highlight some of our favourite summer activities during our Summer Inspiration Series! The best part – It’s easy to distance in the mountains with our first blog on hiking.
Part 1 - Hiking in the Mountains
Whistler is a hikers paradise. There are endless trails to discover with short hikes right through to multiple-day hikes. From Alpine hiking to trails throughout the lower valley. Hike to glaciers, lakes and waterfalls. Hike through old growth forests, along cliff tops, over rocky terrain and following river banks. With so many hikes to choose from, its easy to social distance and enjoy the fresh mountain air!
Feel at home in the mountains with Harmony Whistler Vacations.
I only discovered this hike last year after 10 years living in Whistler and I have no idea why. This beautiful area is located just south of Whistler in the Brandywine Valley. There are two different car parks where you can start your journey, the lower car park and the upper car park.
You will need a good 4 x 4 to reach the upper car park and even then you may have to stop short and finish the winding road by foot if the road gets too bad. The first km from the lower car park is the hardest part of the hike which you will skip if you make it to the upper carpark.
The hike starts with an elevation gain of 550m crossing fallen trees and slippery rocks, then veers away from the creek to continue climbing straight up the mountainside. This continues for your first hour before you will reach a muddy section with wooden planks to maneuver across. After crossing the stream and pushing your way up a final steep section you will be greeted with the most beautiful meadow. Here is where you will join those that were able to make it up to the second car park.
If you time it right and do this hike towards the end of summer the meadow is filled with colourful flowers and green pastures. Meander along the creek bed for as far as you wish or even head up Brandywine mountain at the end of the meadow. On your return you will see an amazing view of Black tusk on a clear day. Camping is allowed in the meadows as are dogs, making this one of my favourite places in Whistler.
Flank Trail is best done north to south – why? As you will end up in Function and can complete the journey with a lovely craft beer at Whistler Brewing. That is, if you just do a portion of the hike. The entire trail is 40km stretching the entire length of the valley and connecting Rainbow mountain to Sprout mountain.
There are multiple access points along the way to hike this one in sections. The most popular point which I did was the start at the Rainbow Trail trailhead. You will follow Rainbow trail for about half a kilometer and then veer off at the water treatment building.
Climbing high above the valley there are multiple lookout points along the way looking down on Alta lake, then Alpha lake and finally Nita lake as you make your way towards function. You will notice small side trails off of Flank, plunging into the forest and over rock rock cliffs, creating some of the most technical black diamond biking trails, impressive to see. The access point in function is just behind Whistler brewing for a rewarding cold craft beer.
If you wish to continue on you will come to Northair Mine and eventually the Callaghan Valley and Whistler Olympic Park, with the last stretch on an old logging road.
High Note Trail
This is the main hike on Whistler mountain so you will start your expedition riding the gondola up Whistler. When you reach the top of the gondola you will already have magical views of Whistler Village from out the front of Roundhouse restaurant.
Follow a small trail down to the Peak Chair and this will take you to the tippy top of Whistler Peak where you will be treated to magnificent views of the mountain landscape and Black Tusk. It’s also where you can get that obligatory photo with a huge rock Inukshuk.
Follow the signs for high note / half note which begins with a steep decent climbing down some rocky terrain. Be careful as the dry dirt and gravel can be slippery. The trail leads you all the way around the back of the mountain passing streams and pretty wildflowers. Keep your eyes peeled for marmots you will often hear whistling along the way. The highlight of this hike is when you come to a viewpoint of the turquoise blue Cheakamus Lake, a great spot to sit down and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Just past this point you can decide if you want to turn off up a steep route and complete the half note or continue on a rocky field for the full high note trek.
The high note trail will add on about an extra hour if you push. The dirt trail takes you through a grassy meadow high above Cheakamus Lake and all the way to the top of Flute Bowl, a popular spot for skiing in the winter. There is one tricky section where you have to use a rope to pull yourself up onto a rock and then lower yourself onto a metal bridge, but its should be pretty easy for the average person. Be mindful of the time as it’s a long walk down if you miss the gondola!
The hike in to the train wreck is perfect for all abilities. The trail begins in Cheakamus and is an easy 1 hour 2km return trip. The gravel path cuts through a beautiful forest before descending down to a suspension bridge above the beautiful Cheakamus river.
Cross over the river enjoying the scenery and just a little further along you will find yourself in the middle of 7 box cars that derailed back in 1956. The graffiti art work on the cars is frequently updated with new additions every year.
Garibaldi Lake Hike is the first part of Panorama Ridge. It’s about a 5 hour round trip if you hustle at 18km long and an elevation gain of 820m. The turquoise colour of the lake surrounded by mountains with a glacier as the back drop makes this trip well worth it!
The first 6km is a gradual incline through thick Douglas Fir trees. After this you can choose the shorter hike directly towards Garabaldi lake, however it’s worth going up through Taylor Meadows, especially in late summer and early fall when its filled with wild flowers. After another 20 minutes of gradual uphill climb you will arrive at Taylor Meadows Campsite. Reservation are required to camp here and do book up so plan ahead and book early. Black Tusk towers over this campsite through the trees. Continue through the meadow making sure you take the time to look back as you meander through the field. Eventually you will see the junction where you can head towards Garibaldi Lake or continue on for the challenge of Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge.
You are not quite there yet. It’s about another 20 minutes before the trail starts to descend through a series of switchbacks and you will catch glimpses of Garibaldi lake through the trees. After crossing a bridge and heading directly towards the lake, the trees will eventually open up and you will be hit by an amazing panoramic view of the turquoise lake, the perfect spot for a picnic stop.
Upon return you can bypass Taylor Meadows to save some time and follow the flow of water past two smaller lakes fed from Garibaldi. This will get you back to the top of the 6km downhill descent to Rubble parking lot and a well earned sleep that evening.
Rated as an intermediate trail this hike is about 7 hours round trip with an elevation gain of 870m. Essentially, the hike follows 19 Mile Creek up to a beautiful meadow with Rainbow Glacier in the background. The trail then turns into a boulder field to scramble along bringing you to Iceberg Lake and amazing views of the valley.
The trail starts at the top of Mountain View Drive in Alpine and you need to keep watch for the signage for lower 19 Mile Creek. You will start with a few logging roads before climbing into the forest. There is a neat lookout a little way up with great views of Green Lake. Most of the elevation is gained on lower 19 Mile Creek so once you reach upper 19 Mile Creek you can make a little more ground before the final pitch to Iceberg Lake. One thing to note: bring bug spray!
There are SO MANY more hikes in and around Whistler. Ancient Cedars and Rainbow Lake are two more of our favourites. Some of the more challenging hikes include Black Tusk (pictured above), Panorama Ridge and Wedgemont Lake.
Whistler Eco Tours run guided hikes if you want someone to show you the way. They have a wealth of knowledge on the flora and fauna to keep things interesting. If you’re a confident hiker and happy to do your own thing, then Whistler Hiatus is your go-to guide.