Whistler & Garibaldi Park in January Snowshoeing & Hiking by Month
The average Whistler Village temperatures in January range from -8c to -2c. (18f to 28f)
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, if you don't mind the drive is possibly the nicest snowshoe trail you could try in January. It is only moderately difficult and gets you right into deep forest and deep snow. It is located about 90 minutes north of Whistler Village via Highway 99(Sea to Sky Highway). Joffre Lakes can be a challenging trail if the weather is very cold, raining or snowing. If you are new to snowshoeing, you should try another, easier trail as in bad weather you can get dangerously lost. If you include the drive to and from Whistler, this is an all day outing. If you are lucky enough in January to get sunny weather, this trail is beautiful, and the drive to the trailhead is very scenic as well.
Closer to Whistler Village, Parkhurst Ghost Town is an amazing trail any time of the year. In snow it is quite an adventure. It is located just a short, 10 minute drive north of Whistler Village and is, for the most part an easy snowshoe trail. If you can find your way to the marked trail from the unmarked route where you can park, then you will find the trail well marked with flagging tape. Parkhurst was a logging town several decades ago that has been long abandoned. Now it exists as an interesting array of old machinery and a couple ancient looking houses. What makes this trail amazing is not just the ghost town itself, but the town's setting. High up on a ridge overlooking Green Lake, the views are sensational. Depending on how deep the snow is and how close you park to the Parkhurst trailhead, expect to take two or three hours, roundrip on an average January day.
Parkhurst is a short drive north of Whistler Village, but south of the Village exists another similarly beautiful trail. The Whistler Train Wreck is another ghostly area of decaying wreckage left from the 1950's. A train slid off the tracks here and down along the beautiful Cheakamus River. Seven interestingly mangled train cars now lay in over a kilometre of forest. The decades have added an amazing array of artwork on these massive train cars. The trail to Train Wreck takes you through a very interesting zig-zagging route through the wilderness south of Function Junction. You pass under the Sea to Sky Highway via the highway overpass then along various stunning viewpoints of the Cheakamus River. In January the Cheakamus River is wonderfully frozen with torrents of water crashing under, over and through the ice. Train Wreck, roundtrip on an average January day should take you less than an hour at a quick pace and a couple hours at a leisurely walk. If it hasn't snowed in more than three days, you should be fine doing the hike without snowshoes as the trail will be packed down by others.
Across the highway from Train Wreck is another beautiful trail that follows along the edge of Cheakamus River for two kilometres then crosses a suspension bridge and returns along the other side. Cheakamus River is a spectacular, crashing and huge river that often has virtical cliffs on either side, making the trail amazing to hike. In January the trail is often buried in over a metre of snow, making it quite a winter adventure. The trail is fairly popular, so if it hasn't snows significantly in Whistler in the previous couple days, you likely won't need to bother with snowshoes.
Rainbow Falls, just north of Whistler Village is another easy snowshoe trail in January. This always up and down and zig-zagging trail is possibly the easiest way to see deep, wilderness snow in Whistler in January. Snow accumulates deep and fast here, it seems. And the short trail to Rainbow Falls, buried deep in this winter wonderland is located in a cute little wintery oasis. Along with Rainbow Falls, the zig-zagging trail takes you to a bridge over the river, with more great views. Kids love this trail as it is easy, yet very scenic and adults love it for the same reasons. Rainbow Falls can be done in less than and hour and is just a short 10 minute drive north of Whistler Village. Located very near to Rainbow Park, another beautiful place to visit in January or any time of the year.
If you continue beyond Rainbow Falls along the Rainbow Trail as if going to Rainbow Lake, you will come to the Flank Trail. The Rainbow Sproatt Flank Trail cuts along the edge of Mount Sproatt. Once you get on the Flank Trail from the Rainbow Trail, you have hiked most of the elevation. The Flank Trail then runs along with amazing views across to Whistler, Blackcomb and Wedge Mountain. Below you, you look down on Alta Lake and tiny people, like ants, skating on the lake. Endless viewpoints along the Flank Trail slow your progress and you will likely only hike or snowshoe for a couple kilometres before taking in enough sights to turn back home. This trail is well marked and very wide, making it easy to follow and navigate. Signs at every junction make it easy to find your way and though you may get lost on your way back. Getting lost usually only means, finding your way to a different place on Alta Lake Road, just a short walk back to your car. All in all, expect to take a couple hours to hike or snowshoe this small section of the Flank Trail.
Rainbow Park is located just across from the trailhead to Rainbow Falls, Rainbow Lake and the Flank Trail. The year-round parking for Rainbow Park is just a couple hundred metres past the "Rainbow Trail" parking area at the edge of Alta Lake Road. Rainbow Park is a must see place in Whistler, especially in January. In January Alta Lake is frozen solid, usually a hockey game is being played somewhere on the lake and the views are beautiful. Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are best seen from here. Just far enough to take them both in at once, yet still close enough to easily make out the ski runs in the daytime and the bright lights from the snow groomers at night. Just a 10 minute drive from Whistler Village and a 1 minute walk from your car to the lake and beautiful sights.
Across from Rainbow Park is another great Whistler park. Blueberry Park and the Blueberry Trail lay hidden in the forest of Blueberry Hill. The park has three nice wharves on Alta Lake that you may be able to make out from Rainbow Park. Also, the Rainbow Trail cuts up and across Blueberry Hill, linking the neighbourhoods of Blueberry and Whistler Cay. There are a couple very nice viewpoints along the trail, high above Alta Lake. At times the trail is challenging and steep, it is quite short and can be done in under a hour by even the most leisurely hikers. In January the trail is a bit treacherous with snow, ice and huge tree roots across the trail, so be careful. Take a look here for a great walking route from Whistler Village to Blueberry Park and back.
For something out-of-the-ordinary to do in January, taking a beautiful 2-3 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. In January, you will find Skookumchuck very quiet and peaceful. You may even have the entire place to yourselves. The drive to get there is mostly along Lillooet Lake, which is snow plowed all winter. There is a small charge to use the springs by day, and an overnight camping charge if you plan to stay. Open 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. No reservations and Skookumchuck is available for camping, first come, first served.
Just a 20 minute drive north of Whistler Village on the Sea to Sky Highway is the beautiful Nairn Falls Provincial Park. A nice, easy and short trail takes you to these crashing and deep falls that have carved potholes in the rock over the years. Though Nairn Falls campground is very large and busy much of the year, in January the place is a ghost town. Not open for camping, the park is quiet, snowy and serene. Unless there has been heavy and recent snowfall, the 1.2 kilometre trail doesn't require snowshoes and is easy and flat. It runs along Green River, which you may have guessed, comes from Green Lake in Whistler. Whether you hike to the falls or just wander from your car to the nice viewpoints over Green River, the short and scenic drive from Whistler is well worth it. Pemberton, the cute little town 5 minutes up the road from Nairn is a great place for lunch or a coffee as well.
If you would rather just jump in your car, take a beautiful drive directly to an amazing waterfalls viewpoint, then Alexander Falls is perfect for you. Up on the mountains of Callaghan Valley, where some of the 2010 Olympic Games events were held, sits Alexander Falls. A large viewing platform sits directly across from them and you can literally park your car 1 metre from this platform. Alexander Falls are similar to Brandywine Falls in that they abruptly fall from a high and very vertical cliff to a chasm far below. Just a 2 minute drive past Alexander Falls is Whistler Olympic Park. In January this huge facility is open 9-5 and has a restaurant as well as cross country skiing rentals available for their groomed runs. Plenty of Olympic sights to see as well.
If you like waterfalls, then Brandywine Falls is nearby and even more dramatically beautiful than Alexander Falls. Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is located just south of the Sea to Sky(highway99) turnoff to Alexander Falls. Just look for the highway sign and you will spot it. The Brandywine Falls parking lot is gated during the winter, however, there is plenty of room to park outside the yellow gate. From where you park to the falls is just a nice and easy 15 minute walk. Keep in mind, however, that if there has been a lot of snow in December and January, you may have to climb a mountain of snow to get from your car to the parking lot. Snowshoes may be needed if there has been a lot of snow in the previous couple weeks or you will struggle in knee deep snow just getting across the parking lot.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park has the Sea to Sky Trail cut through it. If you follow the Sea to Sky Trail you come to the Whistler Bungee Bridge high above the Cheakamus River. If you are lucky, even in January, you will see someone bungee jumping when you are there. Whistler Bungee only occupies the area when people book jumps, but you want to just go there and admire the view or walk the Sea to Sky Trail, you are always welcome. You can actually drive directly to the Bungee Bridge in January, snow dependent. The road is fairly flat and easy to drive in snow, however, with lots of snowfall, you may want to hike or snowshoe there from Brandywine Falls instead. The trail is nice and scenic and should take you less than 3 hours on an average January, snowy day. Plenty of signs and a wide, well marked trail make this snowshoe trail easy to follow any time of the year.
If you are after a very challenging snowshoeing adventure in January, then you may be up for Taylor Meadows in Garibaldi Provincial Park. This 16 kilometre roundtrip snowshoe trail takes you deep into the wilderness beyond Whistler. In January the trail is usually a metre or two deep with snow and once you reach the alpine the views open up to reveal Black Tusk. You can vary the route to or from Taylor Meadows to include Garibaldi Lake, which will be frozen. The area is popular with skiers and split-boarders all winter so the trail will be packed down and easy to follow. Just the sheer distance you need to snowshoe makes Taylor Meadows very difficult. In minus 15c weather in deep snow, 16 kilometres feels like 30k. As long as you are prepared for bitterly cold weather and have the right gear, you will love Taylor Meadows in January. Getting close to Black Tusk, blanketed in snow is amazing to see and well worth the exertion.
More January Hiking and Snowshoeing in Whistler...
Take a look at our Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park hiking and snowshoeing guide for January. As well as taking a look at Whistler, some of Vancouver's best snowshoe trails are shown with plenty of photos and trail maps. Also, if you are driving to or from Vancouver you will find some great places to see between Whistler and Vancouver described...