January Hiking & Snowshoeing Whistler & Garibaldi Park Trails
Average low/high valley temps in Whistler in January range from -8c to -2c (18f to 28f)
January in Whistler is a paradise for skiing and snowboarding, but also a paradise for snowshoeing. There are several excellent, and free trails to get away from the crowds. With the massive variety of available snowshoeing trails in and around Whistler, there is a great range of easy, moderate and brutal trails to try.
Joffre Lakes is one of the nicest winter snowshoeing trails, though a bit difficult and over an hours drive away, but well worth the drive. Joffre Lakes snowshoeing is featured in the April edition of Whistler's Ultimate Hiking Magazine.
The Blueberry Trail, another easy and relatively short snowshoeing trail, takes you high above Alta Lake for fantastic views. Train Wreck is another great snowshoeing trail, though a bit longer. About 4k roundtrip.
Located in Function Junction, 10 minutes south of Whistler Village, the trail runs along the train tracks, then along the beautiful Cheakamus River, then to an amazingly surreal train wreck.
Take a look here for more info and directions to Whistler's Train Wreck.
While in the area of Function Junction, just across the highway from Train Wreck is a beautiful snowshoe route along the Cheakamus River to a beautiful suspension bridge across the river, then back to where you started from the other side of the river.
There are several amazing, intermediately difficult snowshoeing trails. Take a look at a top 5 list of the best moderate to difficult snowshoeing trails in and around Whistler here..
They include Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park, Squamish. Joffre Lakes, mentioned above. Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake. Elfin Lakes snowshoeing is featured on the cover of Whistler's Ultimate Hiking Magazine April 2012.
Joffre Lakes is a Wonderful, Difficult Snowshoe Trail to Try in January
Joffre Lakes is yet another amazing snowshoeing trail near (kind of) to Whistler. About 1 hour and 20 minutes north of Whistler gets you to the Joffre Lakes trailhead. Located up on the Duffy Lake Road north of Pemberton, Joffre Lakes is well known for its incredibly surreal, turquoise water. In the winter of course all three of the Joffre Lakes are frozen over but the trail is popular with skier and snowshoers between the months of November and early June (depending on snowfall). Though the trail is fairly well marked and often snowshoe and ski tracked in the winter it is possible to lose the trail after dark or after or during heavy snowfall. So caution should be taken on this trail. Make sure you don't go snowshoeing to Joffre Lakes immediately after heavy snow. Pick a nice, sunny day and leave yourself lots of daylight and be prepared with headlights as the winters bring very early sunsets, especially in the mountains. The trail is sometimes steep as you gain 400 metres of altitude in just 5k trailhead to the third Joffre Lake. On snowshoes expect to reach the third lake in about two hours. On a sunny day the frozen lake is beautiful and almost warm feeling. However, as soon as the sun goes behind the mountains the temperature gets bitter cold so be prepared with very warm clothing on any snowshoeing adventure there. You do occasionally see people camp overnight at Joffre Lakes in the winter. The usual campsite area is buried in snow as it lays at the base of the mountains so people usually put their tens directly on the frozen lake. Extraordinary!
Why should you snowshoe to Joffre Lakes?
The trail is challenging though very beautiful. The constantly winding trail takes you past and to the three beautiful lakes that all have spectacular, distant mountain views. The trail is relatively short at 5k one way to the third lake but the first lake is just metres away and makes for a worthy destination if you are just after a quick and easy snowshoe to an amazing mountain lake. The drive to Joffre Lakes is beautiful on its own. From Whistler you pass by Nairn Falls, a convenient and beautiful snowshoeing or hiking trail on the way to Pemberton. Pemberton is a cute farming town in a wonderful glacial valley. Past Pemberton you drive along the huge Lillooet Lake before ascending quickly into the mountains to the Joffre trailhead. A very nice drive from Whistler any time of the year.
Nairn Falls is a Great Easy Place to Snowshoe in January
Nairn Falls, located just 20 minutes north of Whistler Village is a nice, relaxing hiking/snowshoeing trail to a nicely constructed viewing area in the midst of Nairn Falls. The popular trail is actually hike-able year-round, so you most likely will not need your snowshoes unless there has been lots of snow just before you go. The nice trail runs along Green River for 1.2k. The trail is well marked and doesn't gain any significant elevation, making it a very easy, kid friendly trail. The viewing area is located within a bend in the falls/river and the churning waters rushes around where you stand, far below. The water crashes through deep cuts in the rock and rushes into deep, green pools. There is a wonderful sign depicting how the area was formed over thousands of years. A short side trail from the main viewing area takes you over to an abrupt edge, where you can look down on the Green River below. Railings have been constructed as a precaution to prevent people falling off the cliffs. Nairn Falls is one of several amazing waterfalls in the Whistler area that can be seen year-round. Other waterfalls in the area include, Rainbow Falls near Whistler Village, Alexander Falls and Brandywine Falls, both about 30-40 minutes south of Whistler.
Why should you snowshoe/hike to Nairn Falls?
Nairn Falls is a relaxing and constantly interesting and beautiful hike. Very kid friendly and makes for a nice escape from Whistler. Close to Pemberton, a great little town that lays in a beautiful glacial valley just a ten minute drive past Nairn Falls.
Rainbow Lake is a Difficult and Rewarding Snowshoeing Trail in January
Rainbow Lake is a tough and beautiful snowshoeing trail 8k, high up in the mountains across the valley from Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. The trail is generally well marked and easy to follow, however some sections are tricky to follow as the heavy snow bends the bushes down obscuring the trail. The trail is a constant, fairly steep ascent and you may notice ski tracks along the route. A somewhat popular skiing attraction in Whistler is to get heli-dropped on Rainbow Mountain and skiing back to Whistler. Rainbow Falls is a nice detour near the beginning of the Rainbow Lake trail. When you come to the small water purification building you will see a distinct fork in the trail and a sign directing you to Rainbow Lake turn left. If you go right however, in just a few hundred metres you will come to the beautiful Rainbow Falls as well as a nice picturesque bridge over the river. You of course have to backtrack to get back to the Rainbow Lake trail. Though Rainbow Lake is only 8k from the trailhead, on snowshoes it will likely take nearly four hours to get there. You can snowshoe around up there for quite a while so you have to be careful with the time as in the winter the sun goes down before 5pm. The Rainbow Mountain trailhead is easy and close to Whistler Village. You just need to drive to Alta Lake Road on the far side of Alta Lake, just a 15 minute drive away. There is a big sign for the Rainbow Lake trailhead on your right if coming from the neighbourhood of Alpine. The trailhead is about 200-300 metres from the Rainbow Park parking lot.
Why should you snowshoe/hike to Rainbow Lake?
Rainbow Lake is a tough but rewarding snowshoe hike through a thick and beautiful forest. There are several viewpoints looking across the valley to Wedge, Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains as well as Whistler Village. It certainly is a good idea to combine this snowshoeing hike with a look at Rainbow Park and Rainbow Falls as both are nearby.
Rainbow Park Snowshoeing January Hiking in Whistler
Rainbow Park is one of the hugely popular swimming beaches in Whistler in the summer. In the winter it is a spectacular vantage point across Alta Lake to Whistler and Blackcomb. The beautiful, artistic ski run lines snake down the mountains and by December Alta Lake is usually completely frozen. Hockey games occur at various spots on the lake and the Valley Trail leading to and from Rainbow Park is buried in snow and unplowed all winter. When the heavy snow of December comes, the valley trail becomes a snowshoeing and cross country ski trail. It can still be hiked, but once you reach Rainbow Park you will be knee deep in snow. The piers so well used in summer are frozen in place and, like everything else are buried in snow. Rainbow Park is a very easy, less than 1 kilometre trail from the parking area at the dead end of Lorimer Rd to the park. It is a relaxing trail that doesn't change in elevation. It runs for a while along the River of Golden Dreams then crosses the river on a cute little bridge giving you your first view of Alta Lake. Just past the bridge on your left you can walk to a viewing platform over the lake. Back on the trail it is just another five minutes to Rainbow Park at the wonderfully beautiful setting on Alta Lake.
Why should you snowshoe/hike to Rainbow Park?
Rainbow Park is fantastic anytime of the year. Easy to snowshoe, easy to get to, and beautiful, very beautiful. It is also very close to the Village and about as family friendly of a snowshoe/hike as you can get. Just a 5 minute drive from Whistler Village to the end of Lorimer Rd and the free parking next to the Valley Trail which runs in three directions from here. Rainbow Park, Whistler Golf Course and Meadow Park all can be reached from this three-way trailhead. There is no camping fees in the winter and you will likely have the whole valley to yourselves.
January Best Hiking and Snowshoeing Trails South of Whistler
If you would rather get out hiking on foot rather than snowshoes then you have to drive south 45 minutes to Squamish. The cluster of three breathtaking trails in the and kShannon Falls Provincial Park are amazing, and astonishingly hike friendly year-round. (with the exception of very snowy weeks in the winter).
The Upper Shannon Falls trail is featured in the May edition of Whistler's Ultimate Hiking Magazine. Though a continuously steep trail, you gain 450 metres in 3.5k, it is so sheltered in deep forest as to remain possible to hike even in January. Shannon Falls (the lower falls) are spectacular and just a short walk from the parking lot/trailhead of Shannon Falls Provincial Park. The very famous and popular Stawamus Chief trail leads to that massive mountain of rock that towers over Squamish and is a rock climbing paradise as well as a beautiful hiking destination.
Another 45 minutes down the highway from Squamish towards Vancouver leads you to an amazing year-round hiking trail through an amazingly huge coastal forest to some breathtaking views of Vancouver. This is the magnificent Lighthouse Park. Featured on the cover of Vancouver's Ultimate Hiking Magazine in May 2012, this gorgeous park is a convenient and easy pit stop on the way to or from Vancouver and Whistler. Take a look at the Best Sights Between Vancouver and Whistler for more great sights not to miss on the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway between Whistler and Vancouver.
For something out-of-the-ordinary to do in January, taking a beautiful two hour drive north of Whistler to Skookumchuck Hot Springs is an amazing adventure. These rustic hot springs are located on the beautifully crashing Lillooet River at the far end of the beautiful Lillooet Lake. It is easily manageable to do as a wonderful day trip from Whistler, or if you have a tent or camper as an overnight trip at the nice, adjoining campsite. Take a look at the April edition of Whistler's Ultimate Hiking Magazine for an article on the history of Skookumchuck Hot Springs that will surely entice to out for a visit.. even in January.