Exploring the best hiking trails in Whistler
As the snow cover starts to melt in late spring, Whistler transforms itself into a hiker’s paradise, with a huge network of trails and paths opening up to enable visitors to make the most of the scenic beauty, along with plenty of recreational opportunities for swimming, camping and picnicking. Here you’ll find a selection of must-do summertime hikes in and around Whistler, all within easy reach of the village and with trailheads accessible via car (no gondola lift access required). From relaxing valley strolls and short excursions through spectacular old-growth forests and waterfalls, to more challenging all-day hikes up into the alpine, you’ll find there’s enough variation in distance, terrain and scenery to satisfy all tastes and abilities.
Whistler Valley Trail
The Valley Trail is a 40km pedestrian-only paved network of paths winding between Whistler’s various neighbourhoods, lakes and parks. Whilst it may be tempting to head for the mountains, spending time strolling, cycling, skating or running along the Valley Trail is one of the most relaxing and rewarding ways to experience the area’s serene natural beauty. The paths are kid and dog friendly and also pass through many of Whistler’s spectacular lakes and golf courses, providing the perfect excuse to stop for an energising dip or enjoy a drink at a clubhouse patio enroute. From Cheakamus River all the way up to Green Lake, here are four highly recommended hikes for exploring the best of Whistler Valley.
Whistler Village to Rainbow Park (6.4km return): A leisurely 20 minute cycle from the village will transport you to the beautiful Rainbow Park bordering the shores of Alta Lake. This is an ideal spot to come for fun and relaxation in the summer months, with a sandy beach, plenty of grassy areas, picnic tables, volleyball courts and a floating dock for swimming in the lake.
Whistler Golf Club Loop (4.3km loop): Starting and ending at the clubhouse, this circular route takes you around the outskirts of Whistler Golf Course, past towering cedars, plentiful wildlife (including chance black bear sightings) and mesmerising views of densely forested mountain slopes and snow-capped peaks.
Creekside to the Lakes (6.4km return): This fantastic trail takes you on a tour past three of Whistler’s most stunning valley lakes. Alpha Lake Park features a great dog park along with a play area for the kids. Be sure to take in the stunning scenery from Rainbow Trout viewing platform on Nita Lake. Then round off the day at Lakeside Park, the perfect spot for swimming, canoeing, BBQs and picnicking.
Whistler Village to Meadow Park (8.7km loop): Located north of the village, Meadow Park is a wonderful destination for the whole family, with plenty to keep the kids entertained, including a playground, waterpark, ice skating rink and indoor swimming pool. Access is via Lost Lake, past Nicklaus North and returning along the banks of the River of Golden Dreams, with plenty more opportunities for swimming, scenic sightseeing and fun-filled play along the way.
Whistler hiking trails
This moderately challenging trail winds its way up through a beautiful ancient forest, before opening up to reveal a spectacular subalpine landscape of sweeping meadows and multiple glacier-fed lakes. The highlight of this classic day hike is the massive and wonderfully unspoilt Garibaldi Lake, situated 1450 metres high in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Admire the shimmering turquoise water against a picture-perfect panoramic backdrop of snow-capped mountains, towering glaciers and deep green forests. Garibaldi Lake is a popular picnic and camping destination and also acts as a launching point for numerous other rewarding hikes in the area.
Time required: 6 hours
In the heart of the Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, this mighty 66 metre waterfall is a must-visit on the way in or out of Whistler and is just a short 20 minute drive south of the village. An easy trek along Brandywine Creek leads to a large viewing platform offering a thrilling perspective on the falls. The trail then continues on to another observation point, with spectacular views across Daisy Lake and Black Tusk in the distance. If you’re feeling adventurous, follow the path down to the base of the waterfall, which requires navigating a steep cliff and lowering yourself down carefully by rope!
Time required: 30 minutes
Sea to Sky Trail
The Sea to Sky Trail is a 180km trail stretching all the way from Squamish on the Pacific coast up to D’Arcy in the mountains. You can hike a short and spectacular section of the route starting from Cheakamus, heading south towards the cascading Brandywine falls and returning the same way. The hike begins along a narrow dirt/gravel trail along the Cheakamus River, passing through a beautiful forest and featuring several dramatic river crossings, before leading into the impressive Brandywine Provincial Park.
Time required: 6-8 hours
Whistler Interpretive Forest
This diverse 3,000 hectare forest is home to numerous rewarding hikes, including two interesting educational trails along the Cheakamus River. Expect to find a wide variety of landscapes, forest types and wildlife habitats along the way, as well as plenty of interpretive boards detailing the flora, fauna, geology and local history. The forest is also the perfect place for mountain biking, fishing and kayaking, as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter.
Time required: 2-3 hours
Crater Rim Trail
From the Riverside Trail in Whistler Interpretive Forest, take this highly recommended scenic detour by crossing the Cheakamus suspension bridge and following the trail 3km up to the impressive Logger’s Lake. This hidden expanse of water sits in an ancient extinct volcanic crater. The breeze protection, relatively warm water and wooden pier, making it a wonderful spot for a dip in summer. The trail loops around the lake, providing a several scenic perspectives on the surrounding forest and valley below.
Time required: 2-3 hours
Cheakamus Lake Trail
This magnificent trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park is suitable for all ability levels, providing maximum reward for minimal effort due to the virtually nil elevation gain over the 3km to reach the lake. The route meanders through a forest filled with old growth cedars and firs and plenty of interesting plant life, before emerging onto Cheakamus Lake after about 2 hours in. You can stop here or choose to continue for another 4km along the north shore. Several attractive beaches provide the perfect place to relax and admire the impressive mountains and forests that surround the lake.
Time required: 2-5 hours
This unique hike takes you to the old logging town of Parkhurst situated on the edge of Green Lake. Abandoned since the mid-20th century, the ghost town is littered with fascinating relics of a by-gone era, including half-collapsed buildings, rusted trucks, pieces of machinery and many other intriguing historical finds. The hike up to Parkhurst follows the ridge above the lake and passes through an eerie tract of forest that helps set the mood. The views from the ridge are sensational, with Green Lake far below and Whistler and Rainbow mountains extending into the distance.
Time required: 2-4 hours
Rainbow Lake Trail
This classic Whistler hike makes the perfect day trip, with enough distance and elevation gain to provide challenge for seasoned hikers, whilst still being doable for beginners. The route meanders through varied and interesting terrain, including rainforest, marshland, creeks, waterfalls and bridge crossings, before arriving at one of Whistler’s most pristine and picture-perfect lakes.
Time required: 5-6 hours
Rainbow Falls Trail
Located a short distance from the Rainbow Lake trailhead, this short hike makes a fantastic detour for those on the way up to Rainbow Lake. The route weaves through a dense scenic forest with 21 Mile Creek raging below. Upon reaching the falls, you’ll be greeted with a marvellous view over the cascading water as it gushes into a picturesque oasis at the base of the cliff. The falls are beautiful year-round, and it’s possible to snowshoe in during the winter to witness a cascading icy spectacle.
Time required: 1 hour
Completed in 2014, The Skywalk Trail is a new valley-to-alpine route that’s one of Whistler’s most rewarding yet still relatively undiscovered hikes. The trail loops through old-growth forest, before winding past several stunning alpine lakes. The terrain is steep and pretty tough in places, but you’ll be rewarded with waterfalls, beautiful meadows (that come ablaze with wildflowers in mid-summer), glaciers and the especially picturesque turquoise Iceberg Lake. One of the unique features of this hike is that it provide access straight into the alpine without the need for a car or gondola ride.
Time required: 7-9 hours
Ancient Cedars Loop
The Whistler area is awash with impressive forests filled with towering old-growth trees, but nothing compares to the giants found on the Ancient Cedars hike. The path climbs steeply for 150 metres through the tranquil forests of Cougar Mountain, passing several viewpoints over Soo valley and the snow-capped peaks beyond. At the trail’s end, you’ll arrive at the spectacular Cedars Grove where a scenic loop takes you around dozens of thousand-year-old trees stretching magnificently towards the sky.
Time required: 2-3 hours
This is one of the most challenging and memorable hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park, with a gruelling elevation gain of 1,200 metres over just 7km. The trail climbs steeply through temperate forest, past a creek and over large rockslides, before opening out onto a jaw-dropping high alpine landscape. The definite highlight is Wedgemount Lake, a shimmering expanse of emerald water framed by an almost 360-degree panoramic backdrop of lofty peaks and ancient glaciers.
Time required: 6-8 hours