The Extraordinary Whistler Train Wreck
Amazing and surreal train wreckage along the beautiful Cheakamus River
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 on Alpha Lake Road in Function Junction. The hike begins on the Flank Trail then quickly branches off to the Train Wreck Trail through deep forest.
The trail leads first to the Cheakamus River and some amazing viewpoints then continues through deep forest along this amazing river. Around a bend in the Cheakamus, the forest reveals the first of seven, fantastic train wrecks. Once again phenomenal views of the crashing river and then the amazing train wrecks come into view. 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.
See Some History at Parkhurst Ghost Town
The crumbling remains of a pre-Whistler town on the shores of Green Lake
Whistler has an absurd number of wonderful and free hiking trails and certainly ranks as one of the most unusual. Parkhurst was a little logging town perched on the edge of Green Lake way before Whistler was Whistler. Up on the ridge where Parkhurst sits, the views are sensational. Green lake far below, a solid unnatural looking mass of green. Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains out in the distance to the left and Rainbow Mountain across and beyond the lake.
What makes such a great hiking trail and destination is where it is located and the trail to get to it. One route, one of several ways to get to it, runs along the scenic Green River and next to the still active train tracks that run through Whistler. There always seems to be something to see. From the beautiful meadow along the train tracks, to the suddenly deep forest where you have to play a game of finding the next, pink tree marker or risk wandering off the trail. The trail markers are numerous, and though getting lost is inevitable, you can only stray a few metres before, the river or steep terrain push you back onto the marked trail. Once up on the ridge above Green Lake where Parkhurst is located, the forest takes on a spooky feel. Trees are all far apart and with branches only high up give the forest a unnaturally lifeless look.
Decades ago, logging instead of tourism was the town-supporting industry. Eventually the logging industry slowed down and in the 50's, Parkhurst was abandoned. As recent as the late 90's a few houses remained standing, but the merciless winters with crushing snow has collapsed all but one house. There are a couple half collapsed relics, but for the most part the town has disintegrated.
Unexpectedly, even in the deep snow of winter, stumbling on remnants of the old town are frequent. Countless half collapsed houses lay in the picturesque forest that has grown since the town was abandoned. There are several abandoned vehicles in the town. An old rusty car, an older truck, and an ancient and enormous logging tractor perched as it was decades ago, on the edge of Green Lake. Quite a marvel to see. Like a giant museum exhibit.
Just steps from the impressive tractor, if you are lucky and persistent, you can find another piece of abandoned tractor. This huge and solid piece of steel, left so long ago, has had trees grow in and around it. A large tree, over 50 years old now grows in a triangle shape through this ancient machinery. Squeezing into the only shape it could, but bewildering to see.
If surreal and spooky camping, or just getting away from the noise of Whistler interests you, then Parkhurst Ghost Town will thrill you. With a tent on the edge of the cliff above Green Lake and silence all around, the sunsets are wonderful.
Drive to Some of the Amazing Waterfalls Near Whistler
Beautiful, accessible year-round, and just a short drive from Whistler Village
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.
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. 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.
Nairn Falls is a wonderful, crashing and chaotic waterfall that surrounds you from the deluxe viewing platform that allows you to safely watch it from above. The beautiful, green water rushes through the deep and angular channels of rock. Though the BC Parks website describes Nairn Falls as 60 metres high, the description is misleading. The falls crash through various narrow and wide areas, and though the cumulative drop is 60 metres, what you see is a series of 10 to 20 metre falls. There are a nicely constructed railing, fence and viewing area and walkway that guides you to the best views. With such abruptly steep rock all around, the area would be potentially dangerous. Evidently there have been deaths here before. A cross, reverently placed across the chasm from the viewing platform, indicates of some tragic event. Nairn Falls Provincial Park is located just a short 20 minute drive north of Whistler. From the large parking lot the well marked trail runs along the Green River for 1.2k to Nairn Falls. The trail is very easy and is hike-able year-round.
Visit the North Arm Farm in Nearby Pemberton
Beautiful, scenic farm in a valley surrounded by mountains
The North Arm Farm in Pemberton, just a 30 minute drive north of Whistler, is one of these secret spots that most locals don't know about. The farm is located in the shadow of the jagged peaks of Mt Currie and is startlingly beautiful in a wonderfully charming and unexpected way. And even more unexpectedly... it's free to visit.
Free to wander through the fields of strikingly colourful and organized crops stretching into the distance towards Lillooet River and Mt Currie.
Along with the beautiful setting and views there is a great little area with lots of farm animals. Chickens, pigs and geese crowd around you hoping for scraps from the farm shop.
The Farm Shop and Cafe are great to visit as well. A surprising huge variety of bakery and lunch items crowd the counters. Along with shelves and bins of farm fresh produce.
You suddenly realize that you just came through what could be called Pemberton Farm Experience. All for free, except of course for all the amazing food you are inevitably going buy before leaving.
It is open year-round. Everyday during the growing seasons and weekends only during the winter and spring.
Walk Sea to Sky Trail, Valley & Lost Lake Trails
Beautiful, accessible and extensive, trails are everywhere in Whistler
Whistler has an extraordinary network of trails starting with the paved Valley Trails that run in all directions from Whistler Village. These beautiful, wide and paved, two lane trails emanate from the Village to all the great places you want to see in Whistler. Rainbow Park, Lost Lake Park, Alpha Lake, Nita Lake and all the parks in between. Some of the Valley Trail is snow plowed in the winter as well making for convenient and easy ways to get around when there is snow.
The Lost Lake network of trails extend from the Valley Trail next to Whistler Village. These trails run like a massive spider web in and around the beautiful Lost Lake Park. In the summer Lost Lake is alive with people swimming, running, walking, hiking and lounging by the lake. In the winter the area comes alive with snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
A more recent addition to Whistler's massive inventory of trails is the marvellous Sea to Sky Trail. This monster, 180 kilometre trail sneaks through Whistler Village mostly unnoticed. It extends south to Squamish and north to D'Arcy and the Whistler section was carved out of hillsides and into life 2012. It technically runs through Whistler Village, though over existing Valley Trail and Lost Lake Trail sections so the new and impressive sections are north and south of the Village.