There are several excellent and free, moderate snowshoe trails in and around Whistler. If it hasn't snowed in a couple days these trails will be tracked out by others, so you won't need to bother with snowshoes. If it has snowed a lot in the last few days, then snowshoeing these will be an amazing day out.
Trails run so abundant in Whistler that many go unnoticed, neglected or taken for granted. The Flank Trail is one of these. Most people in Whistler don't even know about it, but the ones that do, love it. Officially known as the Rainbow-Sproatt Flank Trail, it runs the length of Whistler Valley, opposite Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Flanking both these enormous mountains, the Flank Trail is the inspiration for an ever-growing number of trails that run to it, from it, and across it. A beautiful way to access the Flank Trail on snowshoes or on foot any time of the year is via the Rainbow Trail near Rainbow Park on the far side of Alta Lake. From the road-side parking at the trailhead you are immediately plunged into deep forest, deep snow, and the sound of crashing water nearby. The Rainbow Trail winds through the forest fairly steeply upward. In less than a kilometre you come to Rainbow Falls crashing down through huge pillows of snow. This little waterfall sits in a beautiful little snowy enclave that feels as though it belongs in some movie. Deep snow, crystal clear green water cascading down from a frozen cliff. A little, hidden paradise. One of many in Whistler. Further up the trail takes you to the first signs for the Flank Trail. The Flank Trail overlaps and crosses the Rainbow Trail for half a kilometre. Following the Flank Trail to the right takes you to a very scenic bridge over 21 Mile Creek. Following the Flank Trail to the left leads you to a steady ascent for 400 metres along the Rainbow Lake trail to the trail turnoff to the Flank Trail. The Flank Trail from here quickly ascends through more deep forest and finally after 15 minutes opens up and flattens out.
The views become beautiful and trail less tiring. Whistler, Blackcomb and Wedge mountains all come dramatically into view and Alta Lake appears far below. Just steps from the trail take you to pristine, snowy outcrops, perfect for taking in the view on a sunny day.. and with most of the Flank Trail south facing, sun will always be facing you over Whistler. The Flank Trail is way more than a days hike on foot or snowshoes. It is best tackled in pieces. The great advantage of accessing it from the Rainbow Trail is that you are roughly in the middle of the trail. On snowshoes, it is especially good. The Rainbow Trail is steep here, but very scenic and even small kids won't complain.
Why should you snowshoe the Flank Trail?
Every bend in the trail of the Flank Trail reveals another great view. Dramatic views of the crashing creek, beautiful snow weighed down trees, wilderness waterfall and a wonderful, snowy bridge crossing, all in the first 15 minutes on the trail. Fantastic.
The extraordinary Parkhurst Ghost Town can be reached by snowshoeing the wonderful new section of the Sea to Sky Trail that runs along the far side of Green Lake. The trail starts at both ends of Green Lake. One end is near Whistler Village close to Lost Lake and the other is north of Green Lake at the turnoff to Wedgemount Lake from the Sea to Sky Highway. In the winter the Lost Lake area has a entry fee and the Sea to Sky Trail can only be accessed from that end by going through Lost Lake. The far end of the Green Lake section of the Sea to Sky Trail is free to enter and closer to Parkhurst Ghost Town. It is easy to find. Just north of Whistler, past Green Lake you will see the Wedgemount Lake sign on the highway. Turn right and park where you can. Just across the bridge over Green River you will see a Sea to Sky Trail sign. The trail goes both left and right here. Following the Sea to Sky Trail to the right takes you to Parkhurst. Keep your eyes out for the obvious Sea to Sky Trail signs and it would be a good idea to print out a map as the trail that leads to Parkhurst from the Sea to Sky Trail is unmarked. It is however, quite well worn and if you are looking for it, you should spot it easily. Keep in mind that snowshoeing is slower than hiking so expect to reach the Parkhurst turnoff at about 2.7k in about an hour from where you started. The town was once a thriving logging community, but when logging stopped here in the 1950's so did life in the town. As recently as a decade ago there were several old houses still standing, however, heavy snow and the wet climate have flattened almost all of them now. Still, it is a wonderful glimpse of the past and remarkably untouched.
Why should you snowshoe to Parkhurst Ghost Town?
The snowshoeing route to Parkhurst takes you up to some great views over Green Lake. The trail is challenging, but not overly difficult and the 7 kilometre roundtrip can usually be done in 3.5 hours. Parkhurst itself is located in quite an amazing setting on Green Lake. Part of the ghost town is high up on a ridge above Green Lake, and another part of the town edges on Green Lake itself. If you get a taxi to the trailhead (less than $20), you can snowshoe back to Whistler Village via the amazing Sea to Sky trail (8 kilometres/5 miles) in about 3-4 hours.
The Brandywine Falls to the Whistler Bungee Bridge is a beautiful 6 kilometre, roundtrip snowshoeing adventure that takes you to two amazing Whistler area sights. Brandywine Falls, though extremely popular in the summer and fall months, hides behind a massive, snowplow formed, wall of snow from (usually) December to March. The gate to the parking lot is closed and buried. Attempting to hike to the falls on foot is tough as you find yourself thigh deep in snow right from the start. But if you have snowshoes this trail becomes a winter paradise. The snowplows intentionally clear a winter parking area for the park near the (buried) gate. There are plenty of Sea to Sky Trail signs and even a beautiful mapboard in the parking lot. Just across the bridge at the parking lot you will see the first sign for the Sea to Sky Trail. Turn right here and in five minutes you will see the amazing Brandywine Falls from the viewing platform. From the viewing platform you have to return from where you came and turn right at the Sea to Sky Trail sign indicating the Cheakamus Bungee Bridge in 2.6km. The snowshoeing trail is wide and easy to follow. After a few hundred metres you come to your first viewpoint of the valley and distant mountains. The trail ascends fairly quickly and then opens up to some more views before reaching the amazing Bungee Bridge high above Cheakamus River.
Why should you snowshoe to the Bungee Bridge?
The Cheakamus Bungee Bridge is an amazing recent addition to the massive Whistler snowshoeing and hiking trail network. The trail is wide, scenic and takes you to two amazing viewpoints. The Brandywine Falls viewpoint is near the start of this trail and the Bungee Bridge is 3k from the trailhead making this an enjoyable distance to snowshoe. Most make the roundtrip journey in two hours.
Decades ago a train derailed south of Whistler. The cost to clean up the mess was deemed too high, so seven train cars were left scattered next to the Cheakamus River. As it turns out, time and local effort has transformed this mess into a wonderful work of art, an extraordinary bike park in the summer, and a great place to snowshoe in the winter. The Cheakamus River winds its way, crashing and emerald green along the length of the Whistler Train Wreck, and there are several spectacular river vantage points that shouldn't be missed. During most of the winter you will need snowshoes to get to the Train Wreck, however if it hasn't snowed for a week or so, you may be fine due to the trail being packed down. Snow usually covers the area until late March or early April. The Flank Trail trailhead is easy to spot. A small "Flank Trail" sign sits at the edge of Alpha Lake Road just before Alpha Lake Road bends sharply right. The Flank Trail immediately runs into the deep forest as it follows the river away from Function Junction. There trail is easy to follow and well used. There is only one part of the trail that may get you lost. About five minutes into the trail you will exit the forest and walk along a wide, clear gravel area. Keep your eyes out for the trail across the clearing.
Snowshoeing through the trees for about 100 metres and you will see and hear the Sea to Sky Highway ahead. You have to turn left here and follow the trail to the river where the highway overpass it. Continue along the trail under the overpass and continue on the trail. At this point you will be walking in a strip of forest about 40 metres wide with the highway to your right and the train tracks about 30 metres to your left...
Why should you snowshoe to the Whistler Train Wreck?
Easy and beautiful. One of the nicest, easy snowshoeing and hiking trails in Whistler as you see both an amazing train wreck, turned work of art as well as the amazing Cheakamus River. Family friendly (easy), and close and convenient to Whistler Village as it is just an 8k drive away.
Cheakamus River is located just 8k south of Whistler Village just off of the Sea to Sky Highway. This well marked, though beautifully remote feeling snowshoeing trail takes you along both sides of the wildly crashing Cheakamus River. Snow begins to fall in earnest in the Whistler area in November so the best months for snowshoeing the Cheakamus River are from late November to early April. The best routes is to walk/snowshoe from your car for about 100 metres following the road to Cheakamus Lake. At about 100 metres you will see a branching road go to the right and a large, vehicle bridge cross the Cheakamus River. Cross the bridge and you will immediately see a trail on your left running along the river. This trail, with Cheakamus River on your left will descend and ascend through a beautiful forest. Sometimes close to the river, sometimes 100 metres away. As these trails are popular in the summer for hiking and biking they are well marked with signs. Keep to the signs aiming for the Cheakamus River Suspension Bridge which is 2k from where you parked and should take about an hour to reach. Once you reach the suspension bridge you can cross it and return to your car from the other side of the river. You will see a trail on the other side of the bridge on your left. You can also snowshoe back via the Cheakamus Lake road which is just a hundred metres or so from the bridge (after you cross it from the side you just snowshoed). As long as you keep within the bounds of the Cheakamus Lake Road and the Cheakamus River on your way back to your car you can pick your own route as the trails branch in and out in this confined area as it ascends back to your car and starting point. There are no facilities on the trail however in Cheakamus Crossing just a one minute drive past the trailhead you will see the large Hostel, the HI Whistler which has an amazing coffee shop where you can get a great selection of food and drinks and even a beer or glass of wine.
Why should you snowshoe Cheakamus River?
It is very beautiful, the trail is extremely varied. One minute you are looking down on the chaotically beautiful Cheakamus River from above, the next minute you are snaking through a beautiful forest of massive trees, the next minute you are high above the river in the middle of the impressive suspension bridge looking beneath your feet at the river. The Cheakamus River snowshoeing trail is moderately easy though impressive and fun. The snow gets very deep and untouched in the area so that you can literally jump off the trail into waist deep powder snow. The trail length is perfect for a relaxing snowshoeing outing as it is just two or three hours trailhead to trailhead. Great for kids as they will be constantly jumping off the trail, down into the deep snow.
More Whistler Snowshoeing..
Rainbow Falls is a fantastic way go get yourself into some deep snow quickly from Whistler Village. The trailhead is located just a couple hundred metres from Rainbow Park on Alta Lake which is another great place to snowshoe in Whistler. The Rainbow Falls trailhead is the same as the Rainbow Lake trailhead, located halfway along Alta Lake Road on the far side of Alta Lake. The Rainbow Falls Trail is short, varied and relatively easy. This well used trail never goes in a straight line and goes up and down through a beautiful and deep forest. There are no signs to Rainbow Falls and you will just see signs for Rainbow Lake and Madeley Lake. To find Rainbow Falls you just follow the Rainbow Lake trail from the trailhead for about a half kilometre until you reach the water treatment building (Rainbow Lake is Whistler's water source). Just before the building the trail forks. Take the right fork which branches off of the Rainbow Lake trail. Within a couple minutes you will hear the falls. There is a bridge that goes over the river where you can see some of the falls. But further along, without crossing the bridge, you will come to the falls and end of the Rainbow Falls trail. This area is fairly popular even in Winter so the well marked trail is easy to follow and the snow on the trail usually well packed down. Some parts are steep, but the shortness of the trail makes it suitable as a family snowshoeing trail.
Why should you snowshoe to Rainbow Falls?
Rainbow Falls is just 15 minutes from Whistler Village and is an easy trail through some very wild and deep forests. You can get close enough to touch the falls. Though they are not large, they stretch for some distance and can be viewed from various vantage points. Try to pick a sunny day as the trail reflects the light magnificently and you feel as if you are in a winter wonderland, which of course you are.