×

11 Top-Rated Hikes near Whistler, B.C.

Written by Magee Walker
Oct 16, 2019

Although it's world-renowned for skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking, Whistler, British Columbia, is one of the best places in Canada for hikers of all levels of ability and experience. In fact, some of the most breathtaking views in the area can only be accessed by foot.

Whether you're after a grueling climb with rewarding views or a mellower trek to gems hidden in the forests, there's a Whistler hike that is perfect for you.

Most of the hiking trails discussed below are best accessed in the late spring to early fall months, when they aren't buried beneath Whistler's infamous snow. And, of course, no matter what time of year you're heading out, be prepared with the 10 essentials, appropriate footwear and clothing, and a detailed trip plan left behind with someone at home.

Whistler is bear country, so bring along some bear spray and keep your eyes open on the trails. The best way to respect the local wildlife is to help keep it wild: don't feed the critters (no matter how cute) and always pack out your garbage.

Whistler's best hikes have something for everyone, from beginners to avid outdoors people. Find the best trails with our list of the top hikes near Whistler, B.C.

1. Garibaldi Lake

Garibaldi Lake

One of the most picturesque views in BC's Sea to Sky corridor is the brilliant turquoise Garibaldi Lake, a vast alpine lake that seems to flood the jaw-dropping peaks that surround it (more on those shortly). This hike—and a few others on this list—is located in Garibaldi Provincial Park, a sprawling park with rugged terrain stretching from Squamish to Pemberton.

Located just south of Whistler, the hike to Garibaldi Lake involves a long climb, over nine kilometers one-way (18 kilometers return), but those who tackle the trail will be highly rewarded.

The trek starts with seemingly endless switchbacks among the trees, which eventually open up into meadows—if you time it right, you'll be surrounded by gorgeous alpine wildflowers. More climbing takes you above the tree line to the iconic lake. You'll likely have worked up a sweat by the time you reach the lake, so you might not mind the fact that Garibaldi Lake is cold—really cold. After all, the glaciers that feed into it give it its color.

Garibaldi Lake can be done as a longer day hike for experienced hikers, but campers can also reserve a campsite at one of two nearby sites (Garibaldi Lake or Taylor Meadows) to make it an overnighter. This allows you to check out the next two hikes on our list, too.

2. Black Tusk

Black Tusk

Looking south from the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, one of the most recognizable peaks is Black Tusk. Luckily for hikers, Black Tusk is hikeable—and you pretty much feel like you're on top of the world when you make it to the top.

The trail starts out the same as Garibaldi Lake, but a junction at the scenic Taylor Meadows spits you onto a new trail as you head towards Black Tusk. From here, you go up, up, up as the landscape around you continues to evolve. Eventually, you'll find yourself way up in the alpine terrain, scrambling up loose shale towards the false peak of the Tusk and looking back down onto Garibaldi Lake.

The chimney—the final part of the Black Tusk—is very challenging and should only be attempted by those who have (and know how to use) mountaineering gear. Not to worry: the view to the base of the chimney is accessible to hikers and is one of the best there is.

This hike can be done as a long day trip or as part of an overnighter with Garibaldi Lake.

3. Panorama Ridge

View from Panorama Ridge

Another epic hiking option to take in the Garibaldi Lake area is to head up to Panorama Ridge. Both Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge follow the same trail for a while, but the trail splits off after Taylor Meadow. As you head towards Panorama Ridge from here, you'll pass by several trickling streams and fields of wild mountain flowers. There's no better place to be on a sunny day—though don't be surprised if you encounter some snow early in the season, as the altitude is considerable.

Once you've passed the relatively flat and mellow meadows, be prepared to keep on climbing through some steep, scrambly rocks. Most people agree that the final section is the toughest part of the hike, but the views at the top are absolutely worth it, with vistas capturing Black Tusk, Garibaldi Lake, and Helm Lake.

As with Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge can be done alone as a long day hike or can be combined with Black Tusk and/or Garibaldi Lake on an overnight trip.

4. Ancient Cedars Trail

Ancient Cedars Trail | Ruth Hartnup / photo modified

If you're looking for something a little more accessible than the Garibaldi Lake/Black Tusk/Panorama Ridge trio, look no further than the Ancient Cedars trail. At just under five kilometers round trip, this trail is much shorter and requires considerably less climbing—yet it takes you to a mystical place.

The trailhead begins by Cougar Mountain just north of Whistler. Be warned: the gravel road to the trailhead is prone to potholes. The first section of the trail takes you up, but the climb is fairly gradual compared to many other hikes in the area. Keep your ears on alert for the sound of water, as there is a scenic waterfall feature just off the trail as you get close to the grove.

Eventually, the trail leads you to the Ancient Cedars Loop. This is the real treasure: a meandering stroll among a grove of truly majestic trees. Take your time as you work your way along the path—there are climbable trees and photo ops galore. These are some of the oldest trees in the Whistler area, and they are truly remarkable.

5. Cheakamus Lake

Cheakamus Lake

South of Whistler Mountain sits a sparkling lake so blue that you'll have to see it to believe it—but you have to work (a little) to get here. Located in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Cheakamus Lake is one of the few Whistler area hikes that doesn't require you to climb up a mountain, but that still offers a tantalizing prize for your efforts.

The trail to the lake is relatively flat, non-technical, and well-marked, making it a good bet for hikers of all levels. This out-and-back hike totals approximately eight kilometers (return) with little in the way of elevation. The trail takes you past a river and along the lake to a spectacular lookout point—the perfect place to grab a bite before retracing your steps back.

6. Singing Pass Trail

Singing Pass Trail

While millions of people have had the pleasure of skiing down Whistler Mountain, considerably fewer have taken the opportunity to do the trek in reverse. However, a well-developed network of trails on Whistler Mountain makes it a hiker-friendly journey in the summer months, once the winter snow has melted.

While you could skip the climb by taking the gondola to the hikes in the alpine area (see High Note Trail below), a more challenging option is to start from the very bottom of the valley in the heart of Whistler Village and work your way to the top.

Start early, as this 21-kilometer (one-way) hike will take you all day—and if you want to catch the gondola ride down, you'll have to keep in mind the timing of the last gondola of the day.

The first part of this hike takes you through a somewhat ho-hum gravel road, then you dip into the forest on a non-technical trail as you climb about 1,000 meters up towards the Singing Pass. You'll pass through meadows covered with eccentric-looking wildflowers before coming across the "Musical Bumps": Piccolo, Flute, and Oboe, three zones that are well loved by backcountry skiers in the winter months. Keep your eyes open for the hoary marmot—their distinct whistle is the reason Whistler Mountain has its name.

Eventually, you will make your way towards the developed part of the mountain, catching the gondola on your way back down (your knees will love you for this!) Those who prefer downhills can do the hike in reverse, paying to ride the gondola up the mountain and coming down on foot.

7. High Note Trail

View of Cheakamus Lake from the High Note Trail

If you want to explore the Whistler area alpine without having to climb a steep mountain, the High Note Trail is the hike for you. You'll have to shell out for the gondola ride up Whistler Mountain then pop onto the Peak Chair (which is an experience in and of itself), but relying on mechanical means allows you extra time to explore the alpine.

Even those who ski Whistler Mountain regularly don't get exposed to the section of the mountain that the High Note Trail covers, as it wraps behind the mountain and meanders through Whistler's backside—which just so happens to offer killer views of Cheakamus Lake way, way down below.

The trail winds its way back to the top of the gondola, passing by Seuss-esque plants and flowers as you descend back to the subalpine area. The total journey is just under 10 kilometers back to the gondola, but there's no need to rush—there are plenty of other shorter trails that can (and should!) be accessed from here.

8. Wedgemount Lake

A hiker at Wedgemount Lake

If you like a steep, grueling challenge, look no further than Wedgemount Lake. Wedge is an unmistakable landmark on the Whistler skyline: the mountain looks just like a big wedge of cheese. At a towering 2,891 meters, Wedge Mountain is the highest peak in all of Garibaldi Provincial Park. The trailhead is a short way off the highway just north of town and is easy to access.

The alpine lake at the top is, unfortunately, not so easy to access. Get ready to climb up, up, up a technical, relentless trail before you hit the lake. The trail itself is only seven kilometers long each way, but climbs 1,200 meters before spitting you out at the lake.

The hike is do-able in a day, but many prefer to hike it as an overnighter: the campsites along the edge of the lake are arguably some of the most spectacular in the world. Sites need to be reserved ahead of time through Garibaldi Provincial Park's official website.

9. The Train Wreck

The Train Wreck

While most of Whistler's attractions are the creations of Mother Earth, there are some pretty remarkable man-made features, too—like the eclectic, colorful remnants of a train that crashed many decades ago at the south end of town.

It's only one kilometer from the parking lot to the train, making this a short and sweet kid-friendly hike that can be squeezed in on your way in or out of town.

The first part of the trail follows a section of the Sea to Sky trail, then a side trail takes you over the raging Cheakamus River by way of a suspension bridge. Just past the bridge is the wreck itself: ravaged train cars covered in technicolor graffiti, a stark contrast against the tall trees that surround it.

10. Brandywine Falls

Brandywine Falls

As you head up towards Whistler from Vancouver, you'll notice a sign for Brandywine Falls just south of town. Do yourself a favor: pull over. At only one kilometer round trip, this hike is short enough not to interrupt the rest of your Whistler travel plans, but the wow factor of the falls makes it very much worth the effort.

All things considered, this is an easy, straightforward hike. It is a popular tourist spot, so the trail itself is very well marked. The falls can be viewed from a designated platform or from the side of the trail just past the platform.

While watching the water crash down in the summer is a sight to behold, the massive frozen icicles over the falls make it equally worthwhile in the winter.

11. Rainbow Lake

Rainbow Lake

Last—but not least—is Rainbow Lake, a hike that offers just about the best of everything. The well-maintained trail starts on the west side of Alta Lake in Whistler, climbing 850 meters steadily over eight kilometers (16 kilometers return) through the woods, along creeks and a waterfall, over bridges, and past bogs.

The turnaround point is at the lake itself, perfectly framed by the surrounding mountains. It also happens to be the perfect place to enjoy your lunch. Avoid the temptation to jump in for a dip: Rainbow Lake is a source of drinking supply for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, so it's best to keep out.

The length and elevation make it the perfect day hike—not so long that you need to start first thing in the morning, but long enough to make you feel like you've earned a good dinner at one of Whistler's restaurants.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

Exploring British Columbia: Whistler is only a 1.5-hour drive from the beautiful city of Vancouver. From here, some of your best options include heading east to the interior of B.C. or hopping a ferry to Vancouver Island. In the interior, popular places to visit include Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley, including the city of Penticton. On the Vancouver Island, spend some time in Victoria, the provincial capital, or head north to see the remote landscape and huge beaches around Tofino. Take some time to relax at one of Tofino's outstanding resorts and lodges.

Discover destinations, find outdoor adventures, follow the journeys of our travel writers around the world, and be inspired.

More on Canada