Whistler can be an expensive place to visit. For the most part that is justified. Skiing, Snowboarding, Biking, Golfing, ZipTrek, etc are all amazing in Whistler and well worth the cost. Sometimes it is good, however, to get in your car and have a wonderful day out and spend nothing. These places are all free, and because they are free, are not advertised, and generally overlooked. Three are north of Whistler Village and three are south and the Sea to Sky Trail is everywhere. Three can be done in a half day easily, though if you see all in one day, bring an extra battery for your camera!
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.
Why should you go see the Whistler Train Wreck?
Beautiful, easy, relaxing, so much to see. Seven extraordinary train wreck cars and amazing views of Cheakamus River. Convenient, just off of the Sea to Sky Highway in Function Junction(8k south of Whistler Village). Whistler Train Wreck is one of the best places in Whistler for a picnic or glass of wine. A very easy, interesting and definitely a kid friendly hike.
Whistler has an absurd number of wonderful and free hiking trails and Parkhurst Ghost Town 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 Parkhurst Ghost Town 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...
Why should you go see Parkhurst Ghost Town in Whistler?
Parkhurst Ghost Town is located next to the beautiful and new Sea to Sky Trail that runs high above the very scenic Green Lake just north of Whistler. This allows for including Parkhurst into a longer hike that can begin from Whistler Village, extend through the Lost Lake trails up to the Sea to Sky Trail, then descend to Parkhurst on the shore of Green Lake. Of all the routes to Parkhurst, none are boring and seeing a bit of pre-Whistler history is interesting and a bit surreal at times.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park 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.
Why should you go see Brandywine Falls in Whistler?
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.
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.
Why should you drive 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 in previous years, however partly graded in 2013), and Madeley Lake.
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.
Why should you go to Nairn Falls Provincial Park?
Nairn Falls is a short and easy, family friendly hike to a very impressive waterfall. Perfect for an afternoon drive/hike/picnic from Whistler.
The North Arm Farm in Pemberton, just a 30 minute drive north of Whistler is one of these great secret spots that most locals don't even 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.
Why should you go to North Arm Farm?
North Arm Farm has great views of Mount Currie and the farm animals are fun to see and you can sometimes feed them. The store that sells produce, baked goods and coffee is very nice and everything has a healthy, organic and high quality look to it. They are amazingly welcoming at the farm and invite you to wander around and see what a farm is all about.
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 the hillside above Green Lake 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.
Why should you walk parts of the Sea to Sky Trail in Whistler?
Whistler's Sea to Sky Trail is easy, convenient, well signed and takes you to countless amazing viewpoints, parks, lakes, and interesting places. The trails are wide and well signed so you can easily find your way in the winter with deep snow with the help of snowshoes or skis. There are several great access points to the Sea to Sky Trail. The Bungee Bridge, Brandywine Falls, Nairn Falls, Parkhurst Ghost Town, Cheakamus Crossing and Cal-Cheak all have entry/exit points.