Theis well marked and well worn and only gradually uphill for the 2.5k hike, trailhead to ancient forest. At the Ancient Cedars forest there is a short circle trail that takes you throughout the giants then leads you back to the main trail for the return journey.
The whole trail takes you through the tranquil and remote forest that hides up on the far side of Cougar Mountain. Cougar Mountain is home to TAG and Superfly Ziplines. The rows of atv's you will pass while driving up the Cougar Mountain Forest Service Road will belong to TAG. Superfly Ziplines is worth a look here too as they boast the "Longest, highest, fastest ziplines in Canada."
The whole 5k Ancient Cedars roundtrip should take you less than two hours. Unlike most other Whistler hiking trails,is dog friendly. Unfortunately snow makes the road undrivable much of the year, so you can only reliably get up there around mid June to early to mid November.
The main attraction to the Ancient Cedars trail is of course the monster cedars at the end of the trail. The trail itself is scenic and at least a couple times the forest opens up to some great views of the Soo Valley and snow capped mountains beyond. With the trail improvements in late 2013, you will now find more trail signs and kilometre markers. Some interpretive information about the beautiful forest around and above you, as well as some strategically placed benches to sit and appreciate the grandeur of the trees.
The obvious draw of Ancient Cedars trail tends to make hikers overlook the connecting trail to Showh Lakes. After hiking to Ancient Cedars, halfway along the trail take the connecting trail to Showh Lakes(sometimes known as Showh Lake and Cougar Lake). The trail runs along the left side of the larger lake on your right and then veers left, crosses a creek and circles around the smaller lake on your left where it connects with the logging road and Showh Lakes parking area. You can either follow the road back to your car at the Ancient Cedars trailhead or continue rounding this smaller Showh Lake and rejoin the main trail you came in on and hike back to your car.
Showh Lakes are very remote and wild feeling lakes which certainly ads to their draw as fishing lakes. They are stocked with trout every year and your average summer day will find a couple fly fishermen out on the water floating inside those funny little one-man rubber float tubes having a great time catching lots of fish. Swimming is not the best at Showh Lakes, however, the wonderful remote setting more than makes up for the lack of inviting beach.
Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Russet Lake is a fantastic alpine lake that lays at the base of the Fissile. The Fissile is the strikingly bronze coloured mountain so visible from Whistler Village. From the Village look into the distance at the Peak to Peak hanging between Whistler and Blackcomb and you will see the Fissile. Its pyramid shape in the distance perfectly separates the two mountains.
Though Russet Lake is not terribly impressive in terms of size or colour, the valley around it is remarkably beautiful. The colours change from moment to moment in and extraordinary way. The distinctive colour of the Fissile and the stark grey of the mountains around contrast amazingly with the blue of the lake and green grass in the valley. So many different factors fill the place with colour.
There are several ways to get to hike Russet Lake. The Singing Pass Trail from the base of Whistler Mountain near the Whistler Gondola. The Musical Bumps Trail that begins near the top of the Whistler Gondola. The High Note Trail that begins at the top of the Peak Chair on Whistler Mountain. There is an increasingly popular route that begins from Blackcomb Mountain. And finally, a very infrequently hiked route from Cheakamus Lake that runs along Singing Creek.
In short, the three ways to get to Russet Lake are 1. Musical Bumps (direct route and beautiful), 2. High Note Trail (a bit longer but even more beautiful), and the Singing Pass Trail (not as nice as the previous two and constantly uphill, but no expensive gondola charge).
All three routes are have signs and well established trails. None are very difficult with the exception of being long trails. Though each can be done in a day, 28 kilometres of hiking in one day is quite a long way. Russet Lake is a beautiful place to camp. It has a wonderful hut available to use by anyone. It is a basic wooden hut with no facilities, but surprisingly comfortable. It holds up to 12 crowded or 8 comfortable. There is also an outhouse and a beautiful stream that runs along the massive camping area. There are no tent platforms but over a dozen tent clearings.
There is a considerable amount of exploring available in the valley around Russet Lake. The fissile is a difficult but very feasible hike from Russet Lake. Below Russet Lake is a very accessible glacier as well as a bonanza of glacier formed landscape features, inviting hours of interesting exploration. Above Russet Lake there is a beautiful snow covered ridge that commands incredible views all around and if you have the energy makes for a spectacular tent site.
Taking the Musical Bumps Trail that begins at the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain is arguably the best route to Russet Lake. It is fairly direct(12.5k to Russet Lake) and full of incredible views. Alpine forests, massive valleys, small alpine lakes, dramatic mountain views all around.
The trail has considerable elevation gain and loss though. The trail is well marked with signs directing you along the Musical Bumps trail. You won't see Russet Lake signs until you reach the trail junction at the Singing Pass Trail. This route is a very popular trail running route in Whistler. From the Roundhouse to the Village is 24k, and much of it downhill.
To find the Russet Lake trailhead take the Whistler Gondola up to the Roundhouse Lodge. Walk out of the Gondola and past the Peak to Peak building, up a gravel slope about 50 metres. On your left you will see a trailhead. Trail names have been evolving over the recent years and keep in mind that you may not see any mention of Russet Lake, Singing Pass Trail, or even the Musical Bumps Trail until you get a couple kilometres into the trail. From the Roundhouse, look for the trail marked as Harmony Lake Trail and continue onto the High Note Trail. See the map below. At the bottom right corner, the Musical Bumps Trail continues to Russet Lake, where the High Note Trail bends to the right, towards Whistler Peak.
The Musical Bumps trail next takes you to Flute Summit. At Flute Summit follow the signs to Singing Pass. The signs on this route are sometimes confusing as some get destroyed during the winter. Just be sure to aim for Flute Summit, then Singing Pass, then Russet Lake. From Russet Lake, you can return to Whistler Village the way you came, or via the High Note Trail, or via the Singing Pass Trail, which brings you back to the Village.
Russet Lake is one of the most extraordinary hikes in Garibaldi Park. Though the distance required to hike is considerable, the route takes you through an extraordinary array of viewpoints and geological features. The hike is often done as a long 30k dayhike, however, it is best done over multiple days to adequately appreciate and enjoy this breathtaking region of Garibaldi Park.