Train Wreck 6k - Whistler Trail Running
The Whistler Train Wreck is a very convenient and amazingly beautiful trail run. It's convenient as it is just south of Whistler with parking just metres from the Sea to Sky highway. And it's amazingly beautiful as it runs through a wonderfully varied terrain of dense forest, train tracks, sunny clearings overlooking the crashing Cheakamus River and of course the wildly beautiful train wreck itself.
Decades ago a train derailed south of Whistler. The cost to clean up the mess was deemed too high, so seven train cars were left scattered next to the Cheakamus River. As it turns out, time and local effort has transformed this mess into a wonderful work of art, an extraordinary bike park, and a great place to trail run.
Though somewhat short, running to the end of the train wreck near the train tracks is just under 3k, then retracing your steps makes the run almost 6 kilometres. And of course repeating the run, which allows for some variation within the spider web of trails near the wreck can enjoyably double the run distance to 12k.
It's recent evolution into a manicured bike park has made it into a wonderful trail run as well. It's growing use as a convenient running route from people arriving and departing Whistler on holiday is apparent, though barely. It's still almost always wonderfully serene, and always wonderfully surreal.
The first part of the Train Wreck is not train wreckage, but instead some amazing views of the Cheakamus River. This extraordinarily beautiful river crashes violently through here and various viewpoints can be found along the trail. After a few amazing viewpoints, the Cheakamus River forces you back towards the train tracks. Walk past this bend in the river by keeping well left of, off and away from the train tracks.
The trail picks up again on the left and descends into the forest again. This is the stretch of forest that contains seven train wrecked cars strewn over one kilometre. Some perched at the edge of the Cheakamus River, others mangled against trees. It is amazing to see the impossibility of where they rest.. with huge trees all around. In the decades since they crashed and wrecked here, trees have grown all around.
There trail is easy to follow and well used. There is only one part of the trail that may get you lost. About five minutes into the trail you will exit the forest and walk along a wide, clear gravel area. Keep your eyes out for the trail across the clearing.
Walk through the trees for about 100 metres and you will see and hear the Sea to Sky Highway ahead. You have to turn left here and follow the trail to the river where the highway overpass it. Continue along the trail under the overpass and continue on the trail. At this point you will be walking in a strip of forest about 40 metres wide with the highway to your right and the train tracks about 30 metres to your left. Follow this trail for a couple minutes as it winds past enormous and ancient, giant cedar tree stumps. You will abruptly come to a small creek in your way. This "creek" comes from a giant drainage pipe under the highway.
At the creek look to your left and you will see the trail lead to the train tracks, don't cross the tracks, but rather, just before the tracks turn right, follow the trail at the edge of the tracks past and over the creek and then pick up the trail again as it veers away from the train tracks into the trees again. Just ahead the trail will end at the train tracks and you will have to carefully cross the tracks here (the only train tracks crossing you will need to do). Keep in mind that walking along the train tracks is illegal and potentially dangerous. Fortunately, travelling on the train tracks to access the Whistler Train Wreck is completely unnecessary.
Whistler Train Wreck Trailhead Directions
To get to the trailhead for Whistler Train Wreck, drive 7.6k south of Whistler Village. At the traffic lights at Function Junction turn left onto Cheakamus Lake Rd, then immediately left again in the the huge parking lot for the Cheakamus Community Forest(aka Interpretive Forest). Park here then walk or bike to the Flank Trail trailhead that almost immediately branches off to the Train Wreck Trail(see the maps below). The mostly unmarked Train Wreck trail is tricky to find and follow.
Construction of a bridge across Cheakamus River from the Trash Trail was started in 2014, however has been put on hold until 2016. As a result, the Whistler Train Wreck is not officially accessible. An alternate route can be found via the Trash Trail off of the Sea to Sky Trail on the Cheakamus Crossing side of Cheakamus River. This route involves a tricky river crossing over boulders and logs. Hopefully the new bridge will be completed this year as promised. In the meantime, trespassing on CN's tracks may result in a hefty fine from CN's rail police.
About 40 metres from the tiny Flank Trail sign off of Alpha Lake Rd you will spot the large, old sign indicating Flank Trail to the right and another, unmarked trail heading left. Walk a down this unmarked trail with the creek still on your left and you will pass some ancient, but weirdly idyllic picnic tables. Further along you will come out to a clearing and see two painted boulders on your left on either side of a trail. If you miss this trail you will come to the water tunnel under the highway(video above/right, this is the wrong way). The trail to Whistler Train Wreck is the one between the painted boulders. Continue along this trail through the forest for a couple minutes and you will come out to a wall of boulders with the Sea to Sky Highway far above. Follow the trail to the left here and you will pass under the highway with beautiful graffiti on either side of the river(see the video to the left here).
From here the trail is fairly straight forward, but keep in mind that you should, and easily can keep clear of the train tracks with the exception of crossing them once. There is a bright blue spray painted line on the tracks at the one place you need to cross. Avoid being on or near the train tracks as much as possible and if a train comes, be sure to not be seen. Having people in the vicinity of the train tracks understandably alarms the train conductors and they will notify BC Rail staff to come down and issue fines if they see people walking on their tracks.
Whistler Train Wreck Trail Map
Cell coverage is reliable on all of the trail to Whistler Train Wreck so you will be able to access the internet if you have a data plan, however saving this map to your smartphone or tablet may be a good idea as Whistler Train Wreck is not indicated anywhere along the trail. You can access Whistler Train Wreck from the Trash Trail side by using the boulder crossing(see map) or the new bridge to be completed in late July(2016). The boulder crossing is a slow and very wide section of Cheakamus River where you can usually navigate through by hopping from huge boulder to huge boulder. Depending on the water crashing through this area, you may be able to safely cross to the Train Wreck side. If you want to park close to the Trash Trail you can find road-side parking(make sure you are legally parked) near the Sea to Sky Trail(bottom middle of the map below).
Whistler Train Wreck Parking Directions
Free parking can be found at the Cheakamus Community Forest parking lot just a short walk away from the Train Wreck/Flank Trail trailhead.
Other Trail Running Near Whistler Train Wreck
If 5 kilometres is not enough for you, there is an amazing route around Alta Lake that you can run. Once again, you can start in Whistler Village and run along the Whistler Golf Course on the Valley Trail, continue past Blueberry Park, Lakeside Park and Wayside Park. You then round the south end of Alta Lake and head north on the Valley Trail, then along Alta Lake Road for 1.3 kilometres. Alta Lake Road is a fairly quiet road and has some great views of the lake. You then rejoin the Valley Trail at Rainbow Park and continue along the River of Golden Dreams to Lorimer Road... Lost Lake, in the opposite side of Whistler Village is also home to some great trail running and the most straight forward route is the Lost Lake 6k. From Blackcomb Way in the Village, the Valley Trail takes you across Fitzsimmons Creek by way of a picturesque, covered bridge. After the bridge, turn left and follow the Valley Trail through the forest keeping the Fitzsimmons Creek on your left... Past Lost Lake, the Lost Lake trail ends at a beautiful bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek near the Nicholas North Golf Course. If you follow the Valley Trail across the train tracks and past the golf course's club house you will come to the boardwalk at the southern end of Green Lake. The views from here are amazing. On a sunny day, Green Lake is unbelievably green. This bizarre colour, along with the snow capped mountains all around make this a fantastic place to run to. You just have to backtrack a couple hundred metres to the Fitzsimmons Creek again to regain the trail along the river. If you keep the Fitzsimmons Creek on your left, you can follow it quite closely all the way back to the Village and where you started. The Lost Lake - Green Lake 9k is serene, beautiful and wonderfully varied.