Whistler & Garibaldi Park in May Whistler Trails by Month
Average low and high valley temps in Whistler in May range from 7c to 17c (44f/62f)
May is an extraordinarily beautiful time of year in Whistler. The days are longer and warmer and a great lull in between seasons happens. Whistler is fairly quiet in May and nobody goes hiking. This is because most of the trails have quite deep snow. This keeps everyone away, and for good reason. The Garibaldi Park and Whistler region trails are all steep, so hiking or snowshoeing in deep snow is exhausting. But if that doesn't bother you, then you have a lot to look forward to in Whistler in May. There is something very special about looking across the brutally desolate Wedgemount Lake, still frozen solid, and nothing but pure white all around. That contrast against the perfectly blue sky is unforgettable. It's a hell of a hard hike in May, but it's worth it to have such an amazing place to yourself. This goes for all the other hikes around Whistler.
For some hikes that are not so exhausting, Cheakamus Lake is great in May. Depending on the snow accumulation during the year of course, but usually you can drive to the trailhead parking lot by early May and if you can reach the parking lot, the trail should be mostly free of snow. The Garibaldi Park hikes are amazing in May. Taylor Meadows, Garibaldi Lake are great, and not terribly hard, but snowshoes might be necessary, depending on how much the snow is packed down from other hikers. Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk are pretty exhausting with the added difficulty of snow, but considerably more amazing with snow.
May is also the month where the road to Sloquet Hot Springs becomes free of snow and you can drive right to the hot springs campsite. A hot springs trip for two or three days going to both Skookumchuck and Sloquet makes for an amazing couple days. There is a charge for Skookumchuck and theoretically a charge for Sloquet (for overnight camping), but I have yet to have the pleasure of paying.
The waterfalls around Whistler are great in May. Alexander Falls will have lots of snow, but only a few dozen metres of it to walk through to the viewpoint. Rainbow Falls will be free of snow in May as well as Brandywine and Nairn Falls.
Joffre Lakes is possibly the best hike in May. The snow disappears faster from the trail there, and what snow remains is consistently packed down by skiers, snowshoers and hikers. To hike Joffre Lakes in May you just need good warm clothes, good waterproof shoes for the mud and snow patches and the foresight or luck to go on a sunny day. The lake is amazing in good weather and dismal in grey weather.
South of Whistler, just 45 minutes away is the beautiful Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls hike. You can hike both from the same trailhead (Shannon Falls Trailhead), and be back in Whistler with half a day to spare. The views are amazing and snow is gone in May. Elfin Lakes in the Diamond Head area are amazing if you are up for a 22k roundtrip hike to an amazing mountain paradise. Better yet, if you have time to overnight there, there is an amazing hut equipped with propane heating and stoves, solar powered lights and the cute little Elfin Lakes out front. This area is breathtaking, though increasingly busy due to its proximity to Vancouver. But in May it's a serene paradise. The Elfin Lakes Hut cost's $15 to stay in (sounds like a lot, but wait until you see it-beautiful). Camping in the area costs $10. This is an exception to the rule in most of the hiking destinations around Whistler and in Garibaldi Park, where everything is free. Camping, parking, etc. But the high popularity of the Elfin Lakes and Diamond Head area has necessitated an almost constant Park Ranger presence there. They even have their own hut next to the Elfin Lakes Hut. And the Elfin Lakes Hut is nicer than many hostels in the world. Elsewhere in Garibaldi Park you can leave your wallet at home, with the exception of course of Garibaldi Lake and Taylor Meadows campgrounds where there is a small overnight charge.
Further down in North Vancouver, where the snow has all but gone in May so The are now easily hike-able, though the West Lion Summit near the end may not be. , and are all great in May, and make great day trips from Whistler.
Joffre Lakes is great for hiking in May with some snow above the 2nd lake
Joffre Lakes is one of the most beautiful lakes you are likely to ever see. There are three lakes and they get progressively more beautiful. By the third lake the intense blue is breathtaking. The mighty Matier Glacier rises above the third lake, making the experience even more spectacular. The trail is rough and tricky in some parts, but not terribly difficult. The trail is 5.5km to the third lake so give yourself 1.5 - 2 hours(one way). Snowshoeing is easy and relaxing to Joffre Lakes. There is no avalanche danger if you keep to the trail and do not continue past the third lake. The only danger is losing the trail (mainly on the way back to your car). I've never been to Joffre Lakes in the winter without seeing an easily visible trail of ski or snowshoe tracks in the snow however, the days are short in the winter and when the light fades the ski/snowshoe tracks you easily followed on the way up become harder to discern. This is a bit worrying though the contours of the land push you toward the first lake near the parking lot. To be safe you should always have a map or gps and headlight with you in the winter and be extra cautious about leaving early and returning early to get lots of light on the trail.
Why should you hike the Joffre Lakes Trail?
The drive to the trailhead is beautiful and you can see some interesting sights on the way from Whistler. Nairn Falls, the cute town of Pemberton, North Arm Farm and great views of Lillooet Lake are all convenient pit stops on the 1.5 hour drive to Joffre Lakes. The lakes are extremely beautiful and accessible for only a moderately difficult, family friendly hike.
Alexander Falls is beautiful in May with a couple metres of snow all around
Alexander Falls is a very impressive 43 metre/141foot waterfall just 30 minutes south of Whistler in the Callaghan Valley. Open year-round and located just before Whistler Olympic Park where several of the 2010 Olympic events were held. There is a nice viewing platform on the edge of the cliff across from the falls which crash fantastically into the valley below. The parking area and viewing platform at Alexander Falls is one big area just 40 metres from the main road (to Whistler Olympic Park). The adventurous can find the obscure trail that leads to both the top of the falls as well as, with great difficulty, to the base of the falls. Before the Olympic remodelling of 2009, there were several campsite areas. They have now been bulldozed into one unnecessarily large parking lot with big signs prohibiting camping of any kind. The area is however, so far from civilization as to be unfeasible to police. For this reason, the viewing platform and parking lot at Alexander Falls are still, though surreptitiously, used as a convenient and free place to sleep in a magnificent setting. For a unique and breathtaking spot to share a beer on the outskirts of Whistler, Alexander Falls surely ranks quite high. Of impressive waterfalls in the Whistler area, Alexander Falls is one of several spectacular ones. Others in the area include the amazing Brandywine Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Nairn Falls. Along very difficult hike to Wedgemount Lake you will see the incredible Wedgemount Falls. Down in Squamish, 45 minutes south of Whistler, you will find Shannon Falls.
Why should you go to Alexander Falls?
Alexander Falls is massive and beautiful. It's convenient and easy - you can drive right to it with no hiking involved. It's near the end of a beautiful drive up the Callaghan Valley. In the months without snow you will see multiple bears along the road in the last couple kilometres before Alexander Falls. There are bear watching companies that specifically drive to this area on their tours. Seeing Alexander Falls can be combined with other sights such as Whistler Olympic Park, Callaghan Lake (4x4 required), and Madeley Lake.
The Whistler Train Wreck is free of snow in May and beautiful to hike
It is hard to say enough about the Whistler Train Wreck. It is fantastic for so many reasons. First, its location. Just a short 10 minute drive gets you to the trailhead parking, just off of the Sea to Sky Highway at the intersection at Function Junction. The hike begins just down from the Whistler Interpretive Forest parking lot at the Flank Trail trailhead. Immediately you are deep in the forest, then the trail bends left and under the Sea to Sky Highway. Through a narrow forest, now with the highway on your right. The trail then crosses the train tracks and you arrive at some amazing views of the Cheakamus River. The trail then runs along the river to more amazing viewpoints, then forces you back toward the train tracks. Around a bend in the river, another trail, visible from the train tracks again heads into the trees on your left. Once again phenomenal views of the crashing river and then the amazing train wrecks come into view. They are amazing. Graffiti style paint brings the dingy wreckage to life with shockingly beautiful colours. The huge wrecks are enormous up close and mangled. Some on their sides, some upside down. Each one (there are several) is an interesting adventure to explore. A sort of wilderness art exhibit. The wreckage stretches for almost a kilometre and can bring out the kid in anyone. The area is very kid friendly as the trails are wide and generally flat. There are several extraordinarily surreal places to put up a tent or, as many often do, sleep on the edge of the incredible river or even in a wrecked car. There are indications in all the cars of thousands of past gatherings which gives the place a charm that seems characteristically Whistler. The Train Wreck is a spectacularly beautiful and interesting place, just like Whistler.
Why should you hike Whistler Train Wreck?
Beautiful, easy, relaxing, so much to see. Convenient, just off of the Sea to Sky Highway. Popular as a 5.4k trail running route. Whistler Train Wreck is one of the best places in Whistler for a picnic or glass of wine. A very kid friendly hike.
Cheakamus Lake becomes accessible on foot sometime in May
Cheakamus Lake is an easy, relaxing hike in Garibaldi Park just a short, 16k drive from Whistler Village. The trail to the lake is in an amazing forest of giant cedars. Running along the beautiful Cheakamus River the hike is short and easy. The trail runs along the lake, passing some small, wonderful campsites, and very small beaches. The first 3k of the trail takes you along the beautiful Cheakamus River to the start of Cheakamus Lake and the first campsite area. There are 10 very nice and hidden tent pads on or near the lake shore. There is excellent water from several creeks in the area and a bear proof food hang as well as tidy outhouses here. Another 3k further on the trail takes you to some beautiful viewpoints on the ever increasingly majestic Cheakamus Lake trail. Huge trees, turquoise lake, snow capped mountains, and even the occasional bear siting make this hike one of Whistler's best and most family and kid friendly hikes around. The trail is never strenuous and constantly beautiful with the wonderful smells that come with an old growth cedar forest. The campsite at 6k on the Cheakamus Lake trail consists of another 7 tent sites beautifully blended into the surroundings, another bear proof food hang and outhouse. There are dozens of cute little beaches all along the trail which invite swimming in the crystal clear, though bitterly cold water. Cheakamus Lake has always been known for its good fishing so bring your rod and sit back in the sun. Which you will see a lot of. The entire trail and mini beaches are south facing and capture the sun the entire day. The road to Cheakamus Lake is covered in snow until about mid May every year, but from May to October it is clear enough to drive. There is no charge to park at the parking lot/trailhead, though there is a charge for overnight camping. $10/adults, $5/kid. Take a look at the BC Parks site for info on paying or just pay by cash at the drop box at the trailhead.
Why should you hike Cheakamus Lake?
Beautiful, huge tree forest, easy kid friendly trail, pristine Garibaldi Park wilderness and a spectacular and huge lake. Excellent campsites and numerous hidden beaches and wonderful, though very cold, swimming. Known for great fishing.
Brandywine Falls is always a must see sight on the way to or from Whistler
Brandywine Falls is one of the must see sights on the way to or from Whistler. The falls drop from a 66 metre, unnaturally abrupt cliff to the valley below. It is such a popular and beautiful sight that it is a Provincial Park complete with a large and elaborate viewing platform directly opposite the falls. Located just 20 minutes south of Whistler, Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is just off of the Sea to Sky Highway. If driving from Vancouver, keep your eyes out for the Brandywine Falls sign on your right about 25 minutes north of Squamish. The parking lot is immediately off the highway and the short 1 kilometre trail takes you over then alongside the Cheakamus River to the viewing area. The only facilities in the park are pit toilets and picnic tables and there is no charge for hiking or for parking your vehicle in the park. The gate off of the highway is locked at night and in the winter so at these times you simply park at the edge of the highway and hike past the gate. In the winter you often see people strapping on snowshoes for the short trek to the falls in the snow. Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is attached to the wonderful Sea to Sky Trail which runs between and beyond Whistler and Squamish. It is a wide, gravel biking and hiking trail that will eventually extend north to Pemberton.
Why should you hike to Brandywine Falls?
Brandywine Falls is amazingly beautiful and very easy and quick to hike to. Just a 20 minute pit stop on the drive to or from Whistler allows you to see this amazing falls. Brandywine Falls and Shannon Falls, just south of Squamish are both convenient, quick and beautiful stops on the drive from Vancouver to Whistler.