Whistler is packed with tremendously beautiful hiking trails. Whistler, as a resort community, is only decades old but the enormous number of hiking trails is staggering. The huge number of trails ensures that most remain sparsely hiked and incredibly diverse. You can find hikes with majestic waterfalls, enormous glaciers, heart pounding summits and impossibly blue lakes.
Lots of fantastic views. Two hikes listed below even have user maintained huts that are free to use by anyone. It is of course difficult to narrow a top 5 list down to only five hikes out of so many wonderful hikes. Black Tusk tops the list mainly for the its extraordinary view and its incredible geology. It is constantly amazing. From its crumbling sides to its alarmingly dangerous looking approach, you can't help but marvel at everything about this mountain. And standing on its summit, you stare down at everything. Recalling how impossibly steep the sides look from every angle, you can barely believe it when you reach the top. Another wonderful aspect of the Black Tusk is simply the hike itself. It is really three hikes in one as you can hike to Garibaldi Lake on the way and Taylor Meadows on the return journey. Both of these hikes are worthy destinations on their own, but combined with Black Tusk are incredible. The roundtrip hike, trailhead to trailhead for Black Tusk is 30k. Wedgemount Lake comes in the top 5 here as it is such a wonderful alpine hiking paradise. There is a perfect turquoise lake, a nice, free hut to use, tent platforms everywhere you look and all with jaw dropping views from all of them. There are several great hikes that emanate from the lake and the Wedgemount Glacier is easily accessible. The hike to Wedgemount Lake is only 7k, trailhead to lake and only takes about two hours to hike but the elevation gain is huge, so you'd better be in good shape. Wedgemount Lake is 14k roundtrip, trailhead to trailhead. Russet Lake is another amazing hike listed here that has a hut free to use by anyone. Russet Lake is usually accessed via the Whistler Gondola then hiking via the Musical Bumps Trail or the High Note Trail, then Musical Bumps Trail. Either way the views are incredible. Russet Lake is located in a wonderful, usually snow filled valley and just like Wedgemount Lake, there are amazing hikes in all directions. Cirque Lake enters the list here for many reasons. Its remote feel, its difficult though, short trail is quite an adventure. It requires canoeing to its trailhead at the far end of Callaghan Lake, which is a wonderful way to start a hike. Cirque Lake is a beautiful and compact world. The cirque that the lake exists in shuts the world out and the invariably mirrored surface of the lake reflects the mountains and clouds hypnotically. Cirque Lake is also so far off the radar that it remains infrequently hiked and almost always a serene paradise far from humanity. Panorama Ridge has to be included on a top 5 list for hiking for Whistler. The hike is beautiful and challenging and the views from the ridge are unbelievable. You can see in all directions and Garibaldi Lake far below is impossibly blue. Panorama Ridge stretches for over a kilometre then descends down the valley, finally reaching Garibaldi Lake. Once in a while you see a tent at the far end of Panorama Ridge and it immediately brings to mind the thought... Where on earth could you find a better tent view? In Whistler, evidently, there are plenty of contenders. Certainly a testament to the wonderful hiking around Whistler is the runners up for this list. Joffre Lakes and Rainbow Lake are not on this list. Joffre is a bit far at over an hour to the trailhead from Whistler, but it is marvellously beautiful. You would be hard pressed to find a more incredibly coloured lake. The turquoise colour is extraordinary at Joffre Lakes. Rainbow Lake is a great hike as well. The trail on the way to the lake is quite beautiful. You see several waterfalls, two impressive bridges, and an unexpectedly wonderful meadow on the way to the picture-perfect lake. As Rainbow Lake is Whistlers water supply, camping, swimming and dogs are prohibited, so that weighs on its attractiveness as a hiking destination. It does, however have trails that extend in two directions beyond Rainbow Lake. If you take the trail that ascends to the right you will quickly arrive at a marvellously desolate landscape of huge boulders. This brutal looking scree field descends from Rainbow Mountain. A challenging and marked route gives way to a very challenging and unmarked final ascent to Rainbow Mountain's summit. This route is not to be taken lightly. It may have taken the life of a hiker a decade ago. Brian Faughnan was last seen in Whistler Village in 2002, and was possibly aiming for the summit of Rainbow Mountain when he was last seen. For a list of easier and shorter hikes take a look here..
The Top 5 Best Challenging Hiking Trails in Whistler
Black Tusk is the extraordinarily iconic and appropriately named mountain that can be seen from almost everywhere in Whistler. The massive black spire of crumbling rock juts out of the earth in an incredibly distinct way that appears like an enormous black tusk plunging out of the ground. Whether you spot it in the distance from the top of Whistler Mountain or from dozens of vantage points along the Sea to Sky Highway, its unmistakable appearance is breathtaking. Whether you see it from the highway or from closer vantage points such as Taylor Meadows, Helm Creek, Panorama Ridge or Garibaldi Lake, all views make climbing to the top look impossible. In fact, Black Tusk seems to look more impossible to climb the closer you get to it. Even when you are close enough to touch its vertical, black and crumbling sides, you wonder in amazement how anyone can ever reach the top. The barely distinguishable trail skirts its edge, along a perilous scree slope, winding its way around its trunk. As you clamour carefully along the trail you come to a chute heading almost straight up. Again, even this close you will wonder out loud, as almost everyone else at this spot, “I don’t think this is a safe way to go.” Then you pause and look around. Spectacular. Just spectacular.
Why is Black Tusk one of the best hikes in Whistler?
Surreal looking from every angle, Black Tusk is an amazing hiking destination. From the beautiful approach views to the exhilarating.. and to some terrifying, final ascent. This challenging and ever-changing hiking trail leaves you breathless at the summit and lost for words at the tremendous view. You will find yourself looking at the ground beneath your feet, wondering how safe this crumbling, yet beautiful freak of nature is as black chunks of it shift and tumble off its vertical sides.
Wedgemount Lake is one of the most spectacular hikes in Garibaldi Park. Though it is a relentlessly exhausting, steep hike, it is mercifully short at only 7 kilometres (one way). The elevation gain in that short distance is over 1200 metres which makes it a much steeper hike than most other Whistler hiking trails. Compared with other Whistler hikes, Wedgemount Lake is half the roundtrip distance of either Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, for example, at 13.5k and 15k respectively (one way). Wedgemount Lake itself is a magnificent destination for a day hike or spectacular overnight beneath the dazzling mountain peaks and stars. Many sleep under the stars on one of the many beautiful tent platforms that dot the landscape. Solidly built, wooden tent platforms are everywhere you look at Wedgemount Lake. Strategically positioned, these platforms manage to maintain an amazingly secluded feel despite their numbers. In all Wedgemount Lake has 20 of these tent areas. Most are wooden, but several down by the lake shore are gravel, yet every bit as nice. At a fast hiking pace you can reach Wedgemount Lake from the trailhead in just an hour and a half but at a leisurely or backpack laden pace you will likely take well over two hours. The trail is decently marked and well used. The steepness of the trail doesn't require any technical skill, however that last kilometre before the lake you will be scrambling on all fours quite a bit.
The elevation gain makes a tremendous difference when carrying a heavy backpack and unprepared for the exertion. There is hardly a section of the trail that is not steeply uphill. The first 15 minutes takes you into the deep forest and then across Wedgemount Creek. This crashing creek can be heard from quite a distance and gives you a hint of the steepness of the trail to come.
Why is Wedgemount Lake one of the best hikes in Whistler?
One of the most spectacular hikes in Garibaldi Park. Close to Whistler, the trailhead is only about 10-20 minutes away. Though the hike is hard and steep, it is short. A fit person can hike the trail in under 1.5 hours (one way). There are endless mountains, glaciers and hidden trails to explore. Wonderful and free hut to use with a million dollar view of the lake.
Russet Lake is a wonderfully spectacular and varied destination. For a start it can be accessed by trail or by gondola. By the Whistler gondola, it’s an unbelievable, yet arduous trek along the High Note Trail. The 22 minute gondola ride with its wonderful views of Whistler Village in the summertime, then from the top of the gondola, a wonderful walk to the Peak chair where the best is yet to come. Any time of year the Peak Chair is like a carnival ride, exhilarating, and wonderful, but in the summer, it’s surreal as well. Great walls of snow pass under you far below, as you glide upward at times at a shocking degree. The incline of the ride is extreme, so steep as the breathtaking scenery cannot even distract fully from the nervousness you will surely feel as you glance down, 20 metres to the boulder field below. Then you arrive, the peak of Whistler, what a magnificent way to start a hike. You are still four hours from Russet Lake, but the adventure is well underway. From the top of the Peak chair, follow the signs for the High Note Trail and Singing Pass.
The trail is 14km with several ascents and descents on the way. The entire hike from the Peak Chair to Russet Lake and back to Whistler Village via the Singing Pass Trail is 30k.
Why is Russet Lake one of the best hikes in Whistler?
Challenging, varied and packed with views, the trail to Russet Lake is amazing. If you start from the Whistler Gondola and Peak Chair you save yourself quite a lot of elevation gain by riding instead of hiking. The hut at Russet Lake makes a great base for exploring the nearby peaks, glaciers and lakes.
As you canoe across the length of Callaghan Lake to the Cirque Lake trailhead, keep aiming toward the waterfall in the distance. The closer you get, the less likely it will seem to be the correct way. To the right the valley slopes away in a much more inviting angle. Keep toward the waterfall though and get ready for the next hour of clinging to the scarcely visible, though well flagged trail that snakes upward, often at a 50 degree incline, astonishingly close to that majestic waterfall. Your destination is one of those fantastic forces of nature, a cirque lake. A perfectly arranged glacier is required to form a Cirque Lake. A magical combination of size, a certain slope and more unexpectedly, a certain angle away from the sun. In the northern hemisphere, this means the glacier must be on the northeast slope of the mountain, away from the suns rays and the prevailing winds. Thick snow protected in this way grows thicker into glacial ice, then a process of freeze-thaw called nivation, chews at the lower rocks, hollowing out a deep basin. Over a thousand winters you are left with a magnificently circular lake with steep slopes all around.
If you arrive at Cirque Lake, near Whistler, BC on a favourably sunny, summer day, you will almost certainly fall silent, gaze in wonder at this spectacular place, and feel in that moment that this place is as perfect as it is possible for a place to be.
Why is Cirque Lake one of the best hikes in Whistler?
Spectacularly beautiful and incredibly remote feeling, this hidden lake is a challenge to get to and a paradise to arrive to. Wonderfully beautiful, untouched wilderness hiking. Endless hiking opportunities beyond Cirque Lake. Trailhead must be reached by canoe, amazing! Challenging trail to Cirque Lake due to its steepness, however the trail is short and should pose no difficultly for a moderately experienced weekend hiker.
Panorama Ridge is certainly one of the most amazing hikes in Garibaldi Park. Usually accessed by the Rubble Creek (Garibaldi Lake) trailhead, just off the Sea to Sky Highway 30 minutes south of Whistler. The hike to Panorama Ridge is comparatively long at 15k trailhead to ridge, but there is plenty to marvel at along the way. Though the first 5k is fairly uneventful as you gain altitude via several deeply forested switchbacks. After the switchbacks you come to a fork in the trail. You can take either fork to reach Panorama Ridge. The left fork takes you through the beautiful Taylor Meadows Campground. In the summer this area is flower-filled and beautiful in every direction. The campsite stares up at the iconic Black Tusk. The right fork takes you first along the Barrier. An extraordinary buttress of rock that holds back a potentially devastating debris slide.
You may have noticed the trailhead sign indicating that camping at the parking lot is prohibited as it is directly in the path of a potential debris flow. Past the Barrier viewpoint you can take a short side-trail to Garibaldi Lake or continue on and eventually the forked trail that led to Taylor Meadows meets with the Garibaldi Lake trail and the single trail continues to Black Tusk and then Panorama Ridge beyond..
Why is Panorama Ridge one of the best hikes in Whistler?
Challenging, long distance hike. Jaw dropping views from Panorama Ridge. Often cited as the best hike in Garibaldi Park. Panorama Ridge is often combined with other hikes in the area such as Black Tusk and Garibaldi Lake, over several days of amazing hiking.