Whistler in December has some amazing easy, moderately difficult, and challenging snowshoeing trails. Most are convenient, easy to access, and all of them are free. If you are looking for relaxing, easy to follow trails that lead to interesting viewpoints with amazing scenery then you have a lot of choices close to Whistler Village.
Whistler Trails Guide December
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 the map above 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. There are some excellent, easy and short snowshoeing trails close to Whistler Village. 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. 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. The Blueberry Trail is a relatively unknown, though amazing trail that ascends up to a marvellous cliff viewpoint, high above Alta Lake. Geographically, the Blueberry Trail is opposite of Rainbow Park and can be accessed by either the neighbourhoods of Whistler Cay (at the end of Crabapple Dr), or at the other end of the trail in Alta Vista (at the end of St Anton Way). Either trailhead is just a five minute drive from Whistler Village. It gets its name from the hill that rises above it named Blueberry Hill. So well hidden that you won't find either trailhead unless you search for them despite being on all the maps in Whistler. The trailheads do have small trail signs and once you are on the trail it is easy to follow, even in deep snow. Though at times steep, the trail is short. The high point of the trail, about midway, is only 1.2k from either trailhead. There is a small clearing at the edge of quite a high cliff that is a great vantage point to the lake. People skating, cross country skiing or walking appear as little black dots scattered across the frozen lake. As snowshoeing trails go, the easy and short Blueberry Trail is a great, fun, short workout to a beautiful vantage point. Dogs are allowed here as well. Cheakamus River leads to a beautiful suspension bridge and the snowshoeing trail is located through the intersection from Function Junction. Cross the Sea to Sky Highway and after about 300 metres you will see Cheakamus Lake Road on your left. In the winter it is not plowed so you will see a clearing at the start of the road with room for several cars to park. From this parking area you walk up the snowy Cheakamus Lake Road and you will almost immediately see a road branch off to the right and cross a bridge. Snowshoe across this bridge and you will find a trail running parallel to the beautiful and wildly crashing, Cheakamus River. The trails are unexpectedly well marked and easy to follow despite being (usually in winter), metres deep in snow. At each junction in the trail you will see either a map board or a direction sign with distances to each place shown. From the trailhead to the Cheakamus River suspension bridge is a beautiful 2 kilometres. Ascending and descending gradual slopes through the deep and snowy forest. At the beautiful suspension bridge you can look down beneath your feet through the metal grating that is the bridge and watch the massively rushing river below you. Once across the bridge you can snowshoe left and follow the trails on the opposite side of the Cheakamus. There is also the Cheakamus Lake Westside Road here and if you are in a hurry you can take this quicker, parallel to the trails route back to your car. The Cheakamus River trail to the suspension bridge and back is 4k long and should take about two hours to complete. Across the Sea to Sky Highway and further along the Cheakamus River you will find a beautiful and surreal world of extraordinary paintings and gigantic, mangled wreckage. Decades ago several train cars derailed and crashed down the hillside just south of what eventually became Whistler. The wreckage was never cleaned up and has been transformed into a fantastic work of art that stretches through the forest for over a kilometre. The Whistler Train Wreck is easily accessible in the winter and makes for a spectacular 5 kilometre (or less) snowshoeing route in the deep forest that runs along the Cheakamus River. The train wreck itself is just part of the beauty of this great place. The serene, yet chaotic Cheakamus River is wonderfully viewed from various points along the riverside cliffs that skirt its edge. 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. Whistler of course has its share of amazing, more difficult and strenuous snowshoeing trails. The Diamond Head trailhead in Squamish is a wonderful snowshoeing area. The amazing 11k trail to the Elfin Lakes Hut is fantastic for so many reasons. First, it is a well defined, easy to follow trail, even after dark that trail and trail markings can be seen with a good light. Second there are two huts on the Elfin Lakes trail. One, the Red Heather Hut is located 5k into the trail and is equipped with a wood burning stove and a ready supply of free wood. The second hut, the Elfin Lakes Hut is located at the end of the trail and is massive. It can sleep 33, is two levels, solar panels power the lights and there is propane heating. The third reason the Elfin Lakes trail at Diamond Head is amazing is that the views from 5k onward are breathtaking as you snowshoe along the ridge into paradise. Expect to take three or even four hours to reach the Elfin Lakes Hut on snowshoes as snowshoeing is much slower than hiking and the route to Elfin Lakes is consistently uphill and at times exhaustingly steep. Just 25 minutes south of Whistler is the Rubble Creek trailhead to Garibaldi Park. This is the most popular access route for Garibaldi Lake, Taylor Meadows and Black Tusk. In the winter you will find this trailhead used fairly consistently by skiers and snowshoers, though mainly on weekends. The almost constant use of the trails ensures that the trail to Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake are usually tracked out and therefore easy to follow in deep snow. These trails are by no means easy in the winter. Snowshoeing is always a workout and considerably more strenuous than hiking. To add to the difficulty, the Rubble Creek trailhead parking is inaccessible by car usually from December to April and you must add another kilometre or two just to reach the trailhead. Often you can park partway up the road depending on snowfall and time of year. Taylor Meadows is extraordinarily beautiful in the winter. The constantly uphill 7.5k (+2k if parking below the snowed in road to the trailhead), from the trailhead to the campsite is relentless, but manageable. If you are in reasonably good shape you should have no problem snowshoeing to Taylor Meadows with an overnight pack in 3.5 hours. If you plan well and get there in sunshine you will be in a breathtakingly untouched winter wonderland. Black Tusk just across the meadow from the campsite (about 2k away), and beautiful, snowy mountains everywhere you look. Joffre Lakes is yet another amazing snowshoeing trail near (kind of) to Whistler. About 1 hour and 20 minutes north of Whistler gets you to the Joffre Lakes trailhead. Located up on the Duffy Lake Road north of Pemberton, Joffre Lakes is well known for its incredibly surreal, turquoise water. In the winter of course all three of the Joffre Lakes are frozen over but the trail is popular with skier and snowshoers between the months of November and early June (depending on snowfall). Though the trail is fairly well marked and often snowshoe and ski tracked in the winter it is possible to lose the trail after dark or after or during heavy snowfall. So caution should be taken on this trail. Make sure you don't go snowshoeing to Joffre Lakes immediately after heavy snow. Pick a nice, sunny day and leave yourself lots of daylight and be prepared with headlights as the winters bring very early sunsets, especially in the mountains. The trail is sometimes steep as you gain 400 metres of altitude in just 5k trailhead to the third Joffre Lake. On snowshoes expect to reach the third lake in about two hours. On a sunny day the frozen lake is beautiful and almost warm feeling. However, as soon as the sun goes behind the mountains the temperature gets bitter cold so be prepared with very warm clothing on any snowshoeing adventure there. You do occasionally see people camp overnight at Joffre Lakes in the winter. The usual campsite area is buried in snow as it lays at the base of mountain slopes, so people usually put their tents directly on the frozen lake. Extraordinary!
The Blueberry Trail - Alta Lake
Relatively unknown, the Blueberry Trail is a, though amazing trail that ascends quickly up to a cliff viewpoint, high above Alta Lake. Geographically, the Blueberry Trail is across the lake from Rainbow Park and can be accessed by either the neighbourhoods of Whistler Cay (at the end of Crabapple Dr), or at the other end of the trail in Alta Vista (at the end of St Anton Way).
Either trailhead is just a five minute drive from Whistler Village. See below(the 2nd map shows a 6 kilometre walking, running or biking route from Whistler Village. If it has not snowed heavily in the last couple days, you will likely not need snowshoes for the Blueberry Trail as the snow will have been packed down by others.
Blueberry Trail gets its name from the hill that rises above it named Blueberry Hill. So well hidden that you won't find either trailhead unless you search for them despite being on all the maps in Whistler. The trailheads do have small trail signs and once you are on the trail it is easy to follow, even in deep snow. Though at times steep, the trail is short.
The high point of the trail, about midway, is only 1.2k from either trailhead. There is a small clearing at the edge of quite a high cliff that is a great vantage point to the lake. People skating, cross country skiing or walking appear as little black dots scattered across the frozen lake. As snowshoeing trails go, this one is a great, fun, short workout to a beautiful vantage point. Dogs are allowed here as well.