Hiking has become one of my favourite activities here in Whistler. I came here to learn to ski and ended up finding a different activity that I fell in love with. Before coming to Canada I’d done maybe two easy hikes in total. I started by hiking the beginner trails here in Whistler and then working towards more intermediate hikes. This list of best hikes in Whistler includes easy hikes, intermediate and more advanced. Some you’ll need a 4×4 for and others you can take public transport to. There is something for everyone on this list!
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How To Get To Whistler
The best way to get to Whistler is via the Sea to Sky Highway. The Sea to Sky is a beautiful drive and many of the hikes on this list are located along this highway. Spending several days to take in this stretch of road is highly recommended since there is so much to see and do.
Hiking Packing Checklist
When I first started hiking, I would wear denim short and a pair of vans and no backpack. My husband would be the one to carry all my shit (sorry! love you!)
Luckily I married a man who’s spent more time in the backcountry than I have in Canada. He’s spent many years laughing at me for being a newb when it comes to the outdoors. So do yourself a favour, and don’t be like me!
Before attempting any of the hikes listed below there are a few things you’ll need.
These don’t have to cost $500 but the better the shoes/boots the better time you’ll have. Don’t wear Vans or Converse! They have zero grip. Runners are okay if they have enough grip but I prefer hiking shoes.
My first pair of hiking shoes cost me £19 in England and the first time I ever used them it was life changing. I was unstoppable on those trails. But, they are a cheap first timers/beginners shoe. Great for the entry level stuff. If you’re past that, invest in good hiking boots!
A Good Comfy Backpack
Again, this doesn’t have to be a $200 osprey if you’re doing entry level to intermediate hikes. But the better the backpack the comfier you’ll be! I currently have the Osprey Tempest 20 litre for my daypack and it is the most comfiest backpack I’ve ever worn! A quality backpack with thick straps that sit right will be much easier for those longer steeper trails.
The Ten Hiking Essentials
Anything can happen on even the most popular trails. Weather and temperatures can change rapidly without a moments notice. It’s always best to be as prepared as you can on any hike. Make sure you pack the ten essentials:
First Aid Kit
Extra Snacks/Food/Energy Bars
Bear Spray/Bug Spray
Other Things To Know When Hiking
Leave No Trace Principals
If you’re not familiar with Leave No Trace (LNT) guidelines please read up on them before you leave for your hike. The basic principle is to pack in what you pack out, that means everything. All trash including toilet paper (unless there are designated toilets where you can dispose of it) need to be packed out. Also keep in mind that many wildflowers grow in the backcountry so keep to the designated trails.
Whistler is home to many species of wildlife. Most are harmless however in the backcountry you may encounter both black bears and grizzly bears. It’s important to be bear aware and carry bear spray with. If on trails where only your group are hiking, make noise to scare potential bears. Always remember to keep your distance with any wildlife.
Hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Garibaldi Provincial Park is absolutely stunning! It’s a pretty big park with some on British Columbia’s top bucket-list hikes. Garibaldi stems from Whistler all the way down to Squamish. There are several trailheads you can access between Whistler and Squamish and a variety of hikes for differing skill levels. Garibaldi Provincial Park is relatively well-maintained and the trails are wide and well-kept. If you’re new to hiking, intermediate or advanced, Garibaldi is the place to go!
Panorama Ridge Hike
Panorama Ridge is one of the best hikes in British Columbia. It overlooks the bright turquoise blue Garibaldi Lake. The trailhead for Panorama Ridge can be accessed through the Rubble Creek parking lot.
The hike to get to Panorama ridge is 28km round trip so not a hike for beginners. However, I did find that up until the actual steep “ridge” at the very end, this trail is gradual in elevation and required little technical skills (again, until the very last steep climb)
There are two routes you can take to Panorama ridge. The most direct route is through Taylor Meadows but you can also get to Panorama Ridge via Garibaldi Lake if you want to do both in one day. Going the Garibaldi Lake route does add extra time onto the hike and you do have to go back on yourself.
While Panorama Ridge can be done as a day hike, it’s recommend as an overnight trip. The two main campgrounds for this hike are Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi lake campgrounds. Both can be booked through the discover camping website.
Elevation Gain: 1520m
Black Tusk Hike
Black Tusk is visible from almost any vantage point in Whistler. It is by far my favourite mountain n Winter. Except it’s not actually a mountain. It’s an extinct volcano that’s over 1million years old. Pretty rad eh?
The trailhead to Black Tusk is located at the Rubble Creek parking lot and takes the same route as Panorama Ridge for the most part. You’ll take the same route through Taylor meadows towards outhouse junction where you’ll follow the signs towards Black Tusk. The last climb of this hike is the hardest, the maintained trail ends and you’ll need to climb up loose rocks. It’s up to you if you decide to carry on after this point, it would depend on your hiking level and how confident you are with these type of scrambles.
This hike is only recommended for very advanced and experienced hikers.
Elevation Gain: 1600m
Garibaldi Lake Hike
Garibaldi Lake is a popular hike here in British Columbia and gets it’s blue colour from the glacial run off. It’s one of the bluest lakes I’ve ever seen. You can access the trailhead via the Rubble Creek parking lot.
The hike to Garibaldi Lake is 9km one way and you will experience several switchbacks before reaching the fork that turns to either Taylor Meadows or Garibaldi Lake. The trail is well-maintained and wide enough for two people. The climb to Garibaldi is gradual and there are no super steep sections or boulder fields/scrambles to climb – yay!
I would highly recommend camping here, you’ll want to soak in these amazing views as much as you can. Should you decide to stay a couple nights there are other hikes that are accessible from Garibaldi including both Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk. In the morning the lake reflects the mountains perfectly.
Elevation Gain: 975m
Difficulty: Intermediate to Hard
Cheakamus Lake Trail
Cheakamus is a personal favourite of mine. I’ve mentioned it a lot on this blog because it is so stunning and less crowded than that of Garibaldi Lake and Joffre Lakes. It’s also one of the easy hikes in Whistler. As long as you have 4×4 the trail to Cheakamus Lake is accessible!
The trailhead for this hike is located in the Whistler Interpretive Forest in the Cheakamus neighbourhood just south of the village. You’ll need to take the Cheakamus Road (aptly named) until you reach the parking lot. The drive to the parking lot is most of the work done. Just keep in mind that during the summer and weekends, this tiny parking lot becomes very crowded and you may not get a space so make sure you come early or in the off season. I’ve hiked this trail in late November with no snow so it’s definitely possible to visit outside of the main hiking season. Just always remember to check the trail conditions before hand.
Once you’ve reached the parking lot this hike is relatively easy. It’s a hike that all the family can do and for every fitness level. The pay-off for this hike outweighs the effort to get here. Eventually you’ll reach an opening framing the stunning mirror-like lake with mountain peaks in the distance. It’s also possible to camp at Cheakamus Lake, check out the discover camping website for more details.
Elevation Gain: minimal
Wedgemount Lake Hike
Located just north of Green Lake in Whistler is the trailhead for Wedgemount Lake and glacier. Wedge is visible from almost anywhere in Whistler, the views of the peak from Green Lake are amazing.
This hike is one of the more advanced hikes in Whistler and not for beginners. This is the highest elevation I’ve experienced to date and Wedgemount should not be attempted if you’ve not had some experience with bigger hikes already.
This hike is 6km one way with an elevation of 1200km. The hike up was not easy since it is a steep climb from the get-go. The hardest part of this hike was the boulder field at the very end of the trail. It was an uphill climb with very little grip or anything to hold onto. Coming down this steep climb was much harder than going up so just take your time, the dry dusty dirt is very easy to slip on.
Once at the lake, you can choose to take the extra 40 minutes or so walk to Wedgemount Glacier. I’d highly recommend this as the Glacier is stunning and the hike here is 90% flat. Since you’ve made the effort to climb this far, whats another 40 minutes?
Camping is available at Wedgemount Lake through Discover Camping.
Elevation Gain: 1200km
Elfin Lakes Trail
Garibaldi Provincial Park is huge, there are several hiking trailheads between Whistler and Squamish. Elfin Lakes is one of the hikes located south of Whistler in Squamish. The Elfin Lakes trail is great for an overnight backpacking trip since it has a campground as well as a hut that you can reserve. Once you reach Elfin Lakes and set up camp there are many other trails that stem from here including the Gargoyles. You can book the campsite and hut through the Discover Camping website
Elevation Gain: 600m
Difficulty: Intermediate to Hard
Hikes in Whistler
Skywalk Trail Loop
The Skywalk trail is a newer hiking trail here in Whistler. The trail makes a loop past Rainbow Glacier, Iceberg Lake and Screaming Cat Lake. This trail takes you deep into the backcountry where there is likely to be black and grizzly bears, so bear spray is a must for this hike.
The Skywalk loop is only recommended for advanced and experienced hikers as the trail is not consistent and it’s easy to get lost along the way. A GPS system would be beneficial for this hike. It’s also possible to to parts of this hike separately such as Iceberg Lake.
Elevation Gain: 1025m
Brandywine Meadows Trail
Brandywine Meadows is a beautiful hike which leads to an open meadow located on Brandywine Mountain. To access this trailhead you will need 4×4 as the logging road is unmaintained. Although this hike is short it does get steep in some areas and is more of an intermediate hike.
Elevation Gain: 550m
Whistler Blackcomb Hikes
The below hikes are located in the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort which means that you’ll need to purchase a days sightseeing pass to access them. In my opinion, the price of the ticket is worth it because the views are priceless. The other good thing is that you get to take a relaxing 30-minute gondola ride to reach the peak! Saving your legs for the good stuff.
High Note Trail
The High-Note trail is one of the alpine hiking trails on Whistler Mountain. This is a really popular hike in Whistler since it is included in the sightseeing pass offered by Whistler Blackcomb.
This is a really stunning hike, from the moment you reach the trailhead you’re greeted with views of endless mountain ranges in the distance. If you’re like me and love to take photos and soak in the scenery this hike will take longer than the average time. Make sure you allocate yourself enough time for this hike because I promise you will stop every 5 minutes!
To access the High-Note trail, take the Whistler Gondola to the Roundhouse then make your way to the peak chair – which is an experience in itself! Once you reach the peak of Whistler Mountain, you can opt to walk the Cloudraker Bridge. The trailhead to the High-Note trail is located at the very end of this suspension bridge.
The main attraction along this trail are the spectacular views it gives you of Cheakamus Lake from above. With the sun shining brightly over this lake, it’s bright blue turquoise colours really stand out. Most people often stop here on the trail for a break and/or lunch. I can’t think of a better viewpoint, can you?
Once you’ve reached the Cheakamus Lake lookout, you can either opt to take the Musical Bumps trail or you can take the half-note trail and pick up Pika’s Traverse to see the Whistler snow walls. Both will bring you back to the Roundhouse Lodge.
Elevation Gain: 300m
While Whistler Mountain is famous for it’s High Note trail hike, Backcomb is famous for the overlord trail. This is another hike located in the alpine and you get the same epic views of the mountain ranges and beyond. While this trail does lead to a lake, it doesn’t compare to the epic views over Cheakamus along the High Note trail.
Elevation Gain: 280m
So I’ve mentioned how you’d need to take the Gondola to access the trails on Whistler Backcomb, but you can actually hike the mountain to reach the peak too. The singing pass trail will get you to the High-Note trail for free, but… you’d need to climb 1300m before you even reach that point! (Like I said, that gondola ticket it worth it…)
Most people will hike singing pass to Russet Lake and turn back. It really depends on your fitness and hiking level. The trail isn’t overly scenic but the views once you reach Russet Lake are stunning!
Elevation Gain: 2000m
Hikes North Of Whistler
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park
While there are many lakes in British Columbia that are just as good as Joffre Lakes, there is something about Joffre that tugs at my heartstrings. I feel like Joffre just gets me.
Joffre Lakes is probably the most popular hike near Vancouver and Whistler. Every year hundreds of people flock to Joffre Lakes to get a glimpse of these three turquoise glacial lakes. It really is the most stunning place I have been.
But with those hundreds of people comes trash and people not respecting the area by walking off trail which kills wildflowers. While I think the outdoors is for everyone, I would recommend coming here in the shoulder seasons, coming early in the morning or camping overnight. The park is overrun with people and many people attempt this hike every year who are not physically fit enough to do so.
The first lake is around a 5 minute walk from the parking lot and while it is beautiful, the second and third lakes are where the blue really stands out. The trail is gradual to begin then climbs steeply until you reach the second lake. Once you have reached the second lake, the third lake is just a 30-minutes hike. There is little to no shade on the trail so make sure you bring sunscreen!
Elevation Gain: 490m
Hikes in Squamish
Locally known as “The Chief” the hike to Stawamus Chief is a favourite in the Sea to Sky area. If you’ve ever done a season in Whistler, you’ll no doubt have conquered the Chief. One of the largest Monoliths in the world, the Chief is one of the most popular hikes in Squamish.
There are three peaks in the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, all varying in distance and height. The first peak is the shortest and most popular. It’s a very steep climb from the start as you’ll be climbing stairs to begin with. Some sections of the first peak also require climbing ladders and sing ropes.
The trailhead is located just at the Stawamus Chief parking lot, but can also be accessed via the Shannon Falls parking lot. Once you reach the trailhead you’ll start by climbing some steep stairs, eventually you’ll reach an opening with several paths. One goes to the first peak, one to the second and third and one will carry along the Sea to Summit trail.
It’s possible to do two or three peaks in one day, however the lookout points are mostly the same. Once you reach the top of the Chief you are rewarded with incredible views of the Squamish Valley and the Sea to Sky Highway.
Elevation Gain: 772m
Difficulty: Intermediate to Hard
Hikes South Of Whistler – Cyprus Provincial Park
Tunnel Bluffs is one of the best hikes near Vancouver and Whistler. It’s around an hours drive south of Whistler in Lions Bay. This hike climbs steeply to begin and briefly follows the trail for Brunswick Mountain before reaching the viewpoint. The Tunnel Bluffs trail ends with amazing views of Howe Sound and the sunshine coast.
Elevation Gain: 470m
Difficulty: Intermediate to Hard
St Marks Summit
St. Marks Summit is another hike in Cyprus Provincial Park, the trailhead is again located in Lions Bay. St. Marks summit is very similar to Tunnel Bluffs in elevation and distance but ends at a different view point. The viewpoint at St. Marks summit features a different view of Howe Sound and the Sea to Sky.
Elevation Gain: 587m
Mount Brunswick Trail
Brunswick Mountain is the highest peak on the North Shore and not a hike for beginners. The trailhead for Mount Brunswick is in Lions Bay, the same trail that follows the Howe Sound Crest Trail.
This is a steep uphill climb with a scramble at the end. Climbing the narrow peak on Mount Brunswick is not for the faint of heart. There is loose rock and one foot wrong could end badly. Make sure that you are physically fit and experienced enough for this hike before attempting it.
Once you reach the peak, you’ll be rewarded with 360 degree views, featuring Howe Sound, Brunswick Lake, Pilot Mountain and The Lions.
Elevation Gain: 1500m
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