Nairn Falls Provincial Park Snowshoe Trail
Nairn Falls, located just 20 minutes north of Whistler Village is a nice, relaxing hiking/snowshoeing trail to a nicely constructed viewing area in the midst of Nairn Falls. The popular trail is actually hike-able year-round, so you most likely will not need your snowshoes unless there has been lots of snow just before you go. The nice trail runs along Green River for 1.2k.
The trail is well marked and doesn't gain any significant elevation, making it a very easy, kid friendly trail. The viewing area is located within a bend in the falls/river and the churning waters rushes around where you stand, far below. The water crashes through deep cuts in the rock and rushes into deep, green pools. There is a wonderful sign depicting how the area was formed over thousands of years.
A short side trail from the main viewing area takes you over to an abrupt edge, where you can look down on the Green River below. Railings have been constructed as a precaution to prevent people falling off the cliffs. Nairn Falls is one of several amazing waterfalls in the Whistler area that can be seen year-round. Other waterfalls in the area include, Rainbow Falls near Whistler Village, Alexander Falls and Brandywine Falls, both about 30-40 minutes south of Whistler.
From the parking lot, a hiking trail also goes along the Green River in the opposite direction to Nairn Falls. This 2k trail takes you to One Mile Lake excellent for swimming. Most visitors to Nairn Falls Provincial Park just see Nairn Falls, however, to the left, beyond the campsites the Green River is beautiful. A short trail takes you down to a wide bend in the river and you find yourself in what looks like a large beach.
It is a hidden bit of paradise with the crystal clear, green water flowing over polished rocks. The whole are is in almost constant sunlight despite being in the middle of the forest. On warm, summer days you will find people swimming, sipping beers on the rock cliffs across the river and generally having an amazing time in this usually forgotten corner of the park.
The 180 kilometre, Sea to Sky Trail that runs from Squamish, up through Whistler to well beyond Pemberton passes through Nairn Falls Provincial Park. You will spot the Sea to Sky Trail signs at a couple spots in the park with excellent maps showing you where you are about to go. The trails around the park have for years been gaining popularity as bike trails and you will spot Lumpy's Epic ascend quickly in the direction of Pemberton's One Mile Lake.
Dogs are welcome at, however bikes are not permitted on the trail leading to Nairn Falls. It wouldn't be a very exciting trail on a bike and there are plenty better trails to ride on the opposite side of the campground. Campsite amenities include a hand operated water pump, picnic tables and pit toilets everywhere you turn.
You would have trouble finding and better or more convenient place to pull in and have a picnic than at Nairn Falls. Picnic tables are everywhere and often overlooking the beautiful River. There is no charge for entry to the park, day use or for parking. The only fees in the park are for overnight camping.
Directions to Nairn Falls Provincial Park
Nairn Falls is very easy to find, just a 20-30 minute drive north of Whistler. From Whistler Village, zero your odometer at Village Gate Boulevard and head north on Highway 99(towards Pemberton), 28 kilometres from Whistler Village you will see the parking lot on your right for Nairn Falls Provincial Park. In the winter the campground is closed and the entry gate to the parking lot is closed. There is plenty of room to park outside the yellow gate at edge of the Sea to Sky Highway.
More Whistler Area Snowshoe Trails
There are several more excellent snowshoe trails a few minutes up the Sea to Sky Highway towards Whistler. At the lights to Function Junction, the southern end of Whistler you have two of the best easy to moderate snowshoe trails Whistler has to offer. If you turn right at the lights, drive a couple hundred metres and look for the area on your left cleared of snow for parking you will see a street sign for Cheakamus Lake Road. During normal winter months you will find this road buried in snow from December to April. This is the place to park to snowshoe Cheakamus River along one side, then across a suspension bridge and back along the other side of this beautiful river. As will the other snowshoe trails in Whistler, if it hasn't snowed in the last few days, you will probably manage without snowshoes. Take a look here for more info, directions and a trail map for the Cheakamus River, 4 kilometre roundrip snowshoe trail. On the other side of the Sea to Sky Highway in Function Junction, you will find the Rainbow Sproatt Flank Trail which almost immediately branches off to the trail to the Whistler Train Wreck. This is definitely one of the most scenic, amazing and unusual snowshoe or hiking trails you will find in Whistler. The trail begins by running along a cute, snowy stream before exiting the forest into a barren remnant of the Sea to Sky Highway's construction of the Function Junction overpass. At this point you pick up the trail and veer left and pass under the overpass and along the creek once again. Again the trail enters a narrow, yet very scenic old forest, now with the highway on your right. The trail then reaches the creek and abruptly turns you left and you come to the only train track crossing and the trail then ascends into the snowy forest to the first of several spectacular, Cheakamus River viewpoints. As you follow the trail to the various viewpoints, always keep the Cheakamus River on your left, you will eventually come out the the train tracks again. If you hike/snowshoe parallel to them, about 8 metres from them as walking along train tracks in BC is against the law and you may get a hefty fine(yes it does happen). After about 250 metres you can once again descend into the forest on your left and this time not only come to more amazing river views, but the extraordinary Whistler Train Wreck. There are 7, surreal train wrecks painted in wonderful graffiti that stretch for about 2 kilometres here, and each one a beautiful little world to explore. More information, details, directions and maps for the Whistler Train Wreck hiking/snowshoeing trail click here.
More Whistler Area Waterfalls
Alexander Falls is a very impressive 43 metre/141foot waterfall just 30 to 40 minutes south of Whistler in the Callaghan Valley. Open year-round and located just before Whistler Olympic Park where several of the 2010 Olympic events were held. There is a nice viewing platform on the edge of the cliff across from the falls which crash fantastically into the valley below. The parking area and viewing platform at Alexander Falls is one big area just 40 metres from the main road (to Whistler Olympic Park). The adventurous can find the obscure trail that leads to both the top of the falls as well as, with great difficulty, to the base of the falls. The drive to Alexander Falls is fantastic and with lots to see. As soon as you turn off from the Sea to Sky Highway into the Callaghan Valley you ascend quickly into the mountains. Bears along the roadside are frequently seen as they seem to have a particular fondness for the fields of grass that grow in the sunny meadows that surround this recently constructed, paved road. The Alexander Falls viewing platform and picnic area was redesigned and reconstructed just before the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Some of the Nordic competitions took place just a five minute drive north of the falls. Rainbow Falls: (20 minute drive north of Whistler): Steep but short trail, 0.5k hike to falls. The beautiful and easily accessible Rainbow Falls are located just a short, half kilometre from the Rainbow Lake trailhead. Most hikers don't notice or make the short detour to take a look at Rainbow Falls on their way to Rainbow Lake. Rainbow Falls is a crashing section of falls that runs for several metres and visible at several locations. If you hike to Rainbow Lake you will encounter a couple other falls that are also considered Rainbow Falls, however, this section is generally regarded as "Rainbow Falls". The trailhead is a short 20 minute drive from Whistler Village. There is parking at Rainbow Park at Alta Lake as well as lots of room at the Rainbow Trail trailhead. In the winter there is quite a lot of snow to deal with, however this is a popular trail and you will likely find the snowy trail padded down from snowshoes and walkable without snowshoes even in the depths of winter. Shannon Falls: (45 minute drive south of Whistler): Steep but short trail, 0.3k hike to falls. Shannon Falls towers above Howe Sound at 335 metres as the third tallest falls in BC. The wonderful, though very short trail winds through a beautiful old growth forest to get to the base of the falls. From your car to the viewpoint takes only about four minutes, however the trail continues a bit further to a higher viewpoint (five minutes higher). You can even continue along the trail and join with the Stawamus Chief Trail which goes to the three summits of the Chief or to the challenging trail to Upper Shannon Falls. The trail to the Stawamus Chief and Upper Shannon Falls are very steep and almost constant stairs to be prepared for quite a workout comparable to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver. Wedgemount Falls: (10 minute drive north of Whistler): Steep & difficult trail, 5k hike to viewpoint. Wedgemount Falls can be seen along the hike to Wedgemount Lake. At almost 300 metres high, Wedgemount Falls can be heard from a considerable distance. From the trailhead, just beyond Green Lake near Whistler Village the trail is challenging and very steep. Expect to take about 1.5 hours to reach the unmarked but obvious Wedgemount Falls viewpoint. Beyond this viewpoint in just 2 kilometres is the extraordinarily beautiful Wedgemount Lake, Wedgemount Glacier and Wedge Mountain beyond. Wedgemount Lake is a paradise for hiking and is the northern entry to the massive and spectacular Garibaldi Park in Whistler.