Whistler is surrounded by an immense wilderness dotted with spectacular, hidden lakes and amazing places to set up a tent. Decades of logging activity has left a network of forest service roads that has opened easy access to these places. Some of these you can drive to, some may need a 4x4 and some require a little hiking or a short boat ride. Some closer to Whistler Village you can just hike, walk or bike to.
Northair Mine(4x4 Recommended - drive to site)
Northair Mine is a surreal little world of colourful murals on abandoned cement foundations, surrounded by an astoundingly tranquil little lake in a secluded forest. Just a short logging road off of the Callaghan Valley Road takes you to this unusual little abandoned mine. You would have driven by the turnoff if you have been to Whistler Olympic Park, which is just a couple kilometres away. Northair Mine gets its name from the Vancouver based mining company Northair Group. The mine was in production from 1976 and extracted 5 tons of gold before being abandoned in 1982. Northair Mine is tricky to find and even when you near it, the turnoff is not obvious(see the map here for directions). However, once you find it, it is quite a sight. The area that encompasses Northair Mine is huge. About 2 kilometres long, edged by a cliff on one side and a beautiful lake on the other. A nice, smooth gravel road runs through the area, along the edge of the lake toward Whistler Olympic Park. Another gravel road runs through the massive cement foundations of what must have been quite a large building. Beautiful graffiti art covers some of the cement pilings and scattered remnants indicate that this skeleton of a building has been home to its share of gatherings since being abandoned. Another aerial video showing more of the potential tent sites here.
Callaghan Lake - Islands(canoe to island)
Callaghan Lake Provincial Park has a main campsite area next to the lake that is pretty nice. But for a spectacular place to put up a tent, the lake has some little islands. If you do have a canoe or boat, cross the lake you will find several amazing, backcountry places to put your tent as well as an incredible little island. All with phenomenal view of crystal clear, green water, trees, and snowy mountains. If you are motivated and have a canoe you can paddle to the far end of the lake and take the difficult, though beautiful trail to Cirque Lake. Callaghan Lake is certainly one of the most convenient and beautiful places to camp before reaching Whistler, if for example, if you are driving in from out of town and want a great, free, convenient (except for the 8.5k logging road), place to spend the night. Callaghan Lake Provincial Park is a relatively untouched wilderness of rugged mountainous terrain. The valley walls were formed by relatively recent glaciation. Evidence of this can be seen in the considerable glacial till and slide materials visible across the lake. Around the lake you will see talus slopes, flat rock benches, cirques, hanging valleys, tarns, waterfalls and upland plateaus with bog
Sproatt Alpine Trail - Lakeside(4x4 and hike to several lakes)
Mount Sproatt, or as it is known locally as simply "Sproatt", is one of the many towering mountains visible from Whistler Village. Above and beyond Alta Lake, directly across from Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain. Next time you walk through Whistler Village and cross the pedestrian bridge with Village Gate Boulevard below you, you will see Mount Sproatt from this excellent vantage point. It is the rocky giant, abruptly steep on one end and gently sloping on the other. What you can't see from Whistler Village is the extraordinarily beautiful alpine paradise that lays beyond it. Lakes and tarns everywhere you look. Fields of alpine flowers and wonderfully mangled, yet strikingly beautiful forests of krummholz. Hostile looking fields of boulders and absurdly placed erratics the size of RV's. Beyond, of course, endless stunning view of distant, snowy mountains. At the far end(Northair Mine) side of the trail you can 4x4 very close to some amazing alpine lakes(shown here) to camp beside. Less than an hours hike will then get you to paradise. Alternatively, you can hike the Alpine Sproatt Trail from the Whistler side and hike to the alpine in a couple hours(about 5k to the alpine). There is an alpine hut near the Callaghan Valley(Northair Mine) end of the trail. It is owned by Canadian Wilderness Adventures as their snowmobile hut. Canadian has a tenure in the area to run snowmobile tours here in the winter. There is a lock on the door, however it has an amazing view of the valley below and Sproatt Lake, and stopping there for lunch on their sundeck is very scenic. Out of courtesy to Canadian Wilderness Adventures, you should not disturb anything of theirs. There is a nice trail from the hut to Sproatt Lake that you will see from the hut's sundeck. It descends down the valley and only takes about 8 minutes to the lake. The hut is located just past a trail junction and large clearing where you will see a large mapboard and atv tracks through the mud and grass. The new Sproatt Alpine Trail branches off to the right just before this clearing and the hut is straight past the clearing and mapboard(see maps here).
Whistler Train Wreck(hike/bike to train wrecks)