Snowshoeing to Parkhurst Ghost Town
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 an access trail fee and therefore blocking the Sea to Sky Trail's south access point to the Green Lake section of the trail.
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 from the Highway. If you have a 4x4 vehicle and are confident in driving in snow you may be able to park at the Whistler Paintball parking area about 1k further along. This will save you walking along the somewhat boring first part of the route.
If you you don't have a 4x4 and park near the highway turnoff the route is easy to follow. At the first Sea to Sky Trail sign under the Wedgemount sign, follow the snowy road to the right. This road runs parallel to the train tracks, Green River and Highway which will be to your right.
After 1 kilometre you will come to the Whistler Paintball parking area, bear right and continue along the snow buried road. After a couple hundred metres you will see the Sea to Sky Trail branch off of the road to your left past a yellow gate. This route is fairly difficult and at times hard to follow as the deep snow obscures the trail. The better, easier and shorter route is to continue straight (don't go left at the Sea to Sky Trail sign and don't cross the yellow gate).
You will now be walking along the wide, snow buried logging road that runs parallel to the Green River and after a few minutes you will cross the Green River and have the train tracks to your right. This is when the trail finally becomes very scenic as you will be snowshoeing through a huge meadow with some nice views. Keep walking with the train tracks on your right and in a few minutes the meadow will narrow and keep your eyes out for the "Green Lake Loop/Parkhurst" trail sign.
This trail is very easy to follow as there are frequent yellow trail ribbons in the trees. This trail takes you into the deep forest and gently ascends up to Parkhurst. Once at Parkhurst the yellow ribbons stop and you will run into various Ghost Town sights spread over about a 4 kilometre square area.
It is possible to connect to the Sea to Sky Trail from Parkhurst and continue snowshoeing to Whistler. It can be tricky to find however as the summer trails are unmarked and hard to follow when buried in snow. You can however, quite easily walk in the direction of the Sea to Sky Trail and when you reach the power lines and the clear cut forest underneath, look for the wide path that connects to the Sea to Sky Trail. The blue dotted trail on the map below is one of many possible unmarked routes in the snow you can take.
Whistler has an absurd number of wonderful and free hiking/snowshoe trails andcertainly ranks as one of the most unusual, exotic and interesting. Parkhurst was a little logging town perched on the edge of Green Lake way before Whistler was Whistler. Up on the ridge where Parkhurst sits, the views are sensational. Green lake far below, a solid unnatural looking mass of green. Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains out in the distance to the left and Rainbow Mountain across and beyond the lake.
The small logging town called Parkhurst came into being in 1926 when the Barr Brothers Logging Company purchased the land from a recent widow looking to sell. Mrs Parkhurst sold the land and a small house which quickly transformed into several small houses, bunkhouses and a steam powered mill on the point of land that still conspicuously juts out from the shore. Soon there were 70 loggers working the mill and living much of the year in the town that was now named after the original owners of the land, the Parkhurst's.
The Great Depression hit the logging industry hard and unable to sell what they produced and the mill went into receivership. In 1932 the mill was purchased by another logging company and was back in business under a new name, Northern Mills. It was to be short lived however, as a fire destroyed the mill in 1938. It was rebuilt and the town once again grew in size to include a school and a store. Parkhurst continued as a small logging town until the logging industry slowed down in the 1950's and in the 1966 Parkhurst was finally abandoned. If you have a good look around Parkhurst today, you can find remnants of its past almost everywhere you look. From the old disintegrating truck from the 50's to the absurdly and improbably located car being consumed by the forest.
What makes Parkhurst Ghost Town such a great snowshoe/hiking trail and destination is where it is located and the trail to get to it. One route, one of several ways to get to it, runs along the scenic Green River and next to the still active train tracks that run through Whistler. There always seems to be something to see. From the beautiful, snowy meadow along the train tracks, to the suddenly deep forest where you have to play a game of finding the next, pink tree marker or risk wandering off the trail.
The trail markers are numerous, and though getting lost is inevitable, you can only stray a few metres before, the river or steep terrain push you back onto the marked trail. Once up on the ridge above Green Lake where Parkhurst is located, the forest takes on a spooky feel. Trees are all far apart and with branches only high up give the forest a unnaturally lifeless look.
As recent as the late 90's a few houses remained standing, but the merciless winters with crushing snow has collapsed all but one house. There are a couple half collapsed relics, but for the most part the town has disintegrated. Unexpectedly, even in the deep snow of winter, stumbling on remnants of the old town are frequent. Countless half collapsed houses lay in the picturesque forest that has grown since the town was abandoned. Finding the abandoned vehicles in the town is like a game as you wander around the maze of trails. The old rusty car, the even older truck, and an ancient and enormous logging tractor perched as it was decades ago, on the edge of Green Lake. Quite a marvel to see. Like a giant museum exhibit that looks like it could still be there in a thousand years from now.
Parkhurst Ghost Town Trailhead Directions
Zero your odometer at Village Gate Boulevard and proceed north on Highway 99. At 11.3km a sign will direct you to turn right to "Wedgemount(Garibaldi) Trailhead". Turn right here and cross the bridge over Green Lake and you will see the sign for Wedgemount Lake and the small Sea to Sky Trail sign attached to it. Park here and snowshoe to the right, following the Sea to Sky Trail signs. Further along you will pass the Whistler Painball parking area which you may be able to reach with a 4x4 vehicle even in the winter months.
More Snowshoe Trails in Whistler
Whistler has an amazing selection of easy snowshoeing trails. Some are easy and obvious to find, but most are well hidden and just known locally. The less than five minute drive from the Village gets you to a free parking area at the dead end of Lorimer Rd and the Valley Trail runs in three directions from here. One direction goes to the Whistler Golf Course, another goes to Meadow Park and the third direction goes to Rainbow Park. These sections of the Valley Trail are never plowed and are beautiful for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. There is a very obvious and nice signpost directing you where Rainbow Park is and it is just a short, .8k snowshoe walk from where you park. Rainbow Park is in a beautiful setting on Alta Lake facing Whistler and Blackcomb mountains in the distance and even Wedge Mountain further left. Near Rainbow Park is another wonderful place to snowshoe. Rainbow Falls is about a 20 minute walk from Rainbow Park. You go through the parking lot and then turn right on Alta Lake Rd. After about 15 minutes you will see the trailhead and parking to Rainbow Lake on your left. You can drive here directly by taking the Alta Lake Road by either joining it from just south of Creekside (4k south of Whistler Village) or by going through the neighbourhood of Alpine which is north of Whistler Village. From the trailhead to Rainbow Falls is just a short and beautiful hike through deep forest along a crashing river to the picturesque, winter wonderland that is Rainbow Falls in the winter. These are the main easy snowshoeing trails that are very close and convenient to Whistler Village. If you don't mind driving a bit further there are three more snowshoeing trails that are as good or better. Certainly considered easy snowshoeing trails, but longer, more to see, and closer to what might be called moderately difficult snowshoeing trails. The first is Nairn Falls. This beautiful park is a 20 minute drive north of Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway. Easy to find even in the winter. The parking lot gate will be closed and buried in snow so you just have to park on the edge of the highway and walk/snowshoe to the falls. The beautiful trail is 1.2k long and runs along the beautiful Green River to Nairn Falls where there is a fantastic viewing area. Back through Whistler and just 10 minutes south of Whistler Village are two amazing and easy to moderately difficult snowshoeing trails are located. The Whistler Train Wreck is an amazing area of train wreckage that has been painted into an amazing art exhibit of sorts. A 5k (roundtrip) trail takes you through the amazing wreckage that lays along the beautiful Cheakamus River, which is an attraction on its own. In the same area, though across the Sea to Sky Highway there is a beautiful snowshoeing route that takes you along the amazing Cheakamus River for 2k, then crosses this massive, crashing river by a suspension bridge then back to the trailhead/parking on the other side of the river along beautiful forested trails.