Parkhurst Ghost Town - Whistler Area Trails
Whistler has an absurd number of wonderful and free hiking trails and 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 certainly ranks as one of the most unusual, exotic and interesting.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 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 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.
Just steps from the impressive tractor, if you are lucky and persistent, you can find another extraordinary part of abandoned tractor. This huge and solid piece of steel, left so long ago, has had trees grow in and around it. A large tree, over 50 years old now grows in a triangle shape through this ancient machinery. Squeezing into the only shape it could, but bewildering to see. If you do find it you will probably circle it over and over, trying to figure out how it managed to grown its way through.
If surreal and spooky camping, or just getting away from the noise of Whistler interests you, then Parkhurst Ghost Town will thrill you. With a tent on the edge of the cliff above Green Lake and silence all around, the sunsets are wonderful. There is a nice stream for water just a two minute walk, back from the cliff. Also, there is a water pipe sticking out of the ground where a house once stood, with water still flowing out of it like a little fountain. What a hilarious and great place Parkhurst is.
Trail Map & Trailhead Directions to Parkhurst
Of the many ways to get to Parkhurst, canoeing across Green lake is one is the nicest. You can also reach the town via the new Sea to Sky Trail. Either from the north route from the Wedgemount Lake turnoff or from the Whistler Village side at Lost Lake. It can be tricky to find the Parkhurst Ghost Town however, as the trail to it is appropriately unmarked from the Sea to Sky Trail. From the unmarked parking area just past Whistler Paintball, you walk along the train tracks and see the small "Green Lake Loop/Parkhurst" trail sign on your left(pictured below).
There are at least five ways to access Parkhurst Ghost Town and all of them are fun and scenic. You can canoe or kayak down the beautiful River of Golden Dreams by starting at the end of Lorimer Road. This meandering river is slow moving and you often see a beaver or a bear, and often both while making your way to Green Lake. Once at Green Lake you have to paddle the length of it with the slight current at your back to help you along. Look for the enormous logging tractor(pictured here) perched on the edge of the lake and park your boat there and follow the trail to Parkhurst.
Alternatively you can use the the Green Lake boat launch and dock just across from Parkhurst. There is room for parking near the dock/boat launch. From here to Parkhurst via canoe is just a few hundred metres or about 5 minutes. Finding this well hidden boat launch is actually very easy.
Just drive north from Whistler Village on the Sea to Sky Highway. Continue past the first half of Green Lake, then when it disappears behind trees keep your eyes out for the second street on your right called Summer Lane. Turn right, then immediately left and follow it straight to the dock. You can park about 5 metres from the pier and boat launch(pictured here on the left).
Yet another way to reach Parkhurst by boat is via Green Lake Park. If you back up from the boat launch area and back onto the paved Summer Lane follow it as it bends towards the lake, take the next right and you will see the Green Lake Park sign and room for about four cars to park. This is a cute little park with picnic tables and park benches looking out to the lake. The tractor is just 350 metres from the beach here. If the water wasn't bitter cold, year-round you might want to swim across, it's that close. Occasionally in the summer you see locals paddling one-man rubber dinghy's across from here. In terms of hiking to Parkhurst, you have two excellent choices. The longer, though beautiful way, is to hike directly from Lost Lake Park in Whistler Village via the new section of the Sea to Sky Trail. On foot, expect to take two hours to get there from the village. Alternatively you can bike this wide, crushed rock and dirt trail and get to Parkhurst in about 20 minutes. The Sea to Sky Trail actually runs from Squamish all the way to D'Arcy, well north of Whistler, and you can access it from both ends of Green Lake.
The shortest, yet very nice way to get to Parkhurst on foot or bike is from the north end of Green Lake. The trailhead is well marked and visible after you take the turnoff off of the Sea to Sky Highway at the sign for Wedgemount Lake, cross the bridge over the Green River then turn right. You can drive up the gravel road for a few hundred metres if you want as there is parking just past the entrance to Whistler Paintball. Continue past the left turn to Whistler Paintball and you will see a clearing on the right side of the gravel road across from the Sea to Sky Trail.
For the Parkhurst trail, don't follow the Sea to Sky Trail. Instead take the gravel road as it continues straight(pictured here on the right). Cross a car bridge over the river and continue keeping the train tracks on your right. Follow this route for about 8 minutes and keep an eye out on your left for the "Green Lake Loop/Parkhurst" sign see the map below. Roundtrip this is just 5 kilometres and you can even do it in a nice loop trail. Parkhurst, being a ghost town is somewhat off the radar in Whistler, so there still are no signs except the small "Green Lake Loop/Parkhurst" on along the route show on the map below.
Parking, Hiking & Camping Details for Parkhurst
As mentioned above there are several ways to access Parkhurst, but the access from the Wedgemount Lake turnoff on the Sea to Sky Highway is the most direct if arriving on foot or bike. If you zero your odometer at Village Gate Blvd in Whistler Village and drive north on Highway 99, at 11.3 kilometres you will see the Wedgemount(Garibaldi) turnoff on your right. Turn here, cross the train tracks and then the bridge over Green River, turn right and follow the gravel road for a few hundred metres. You will pass Whistler Paintball on your left and then see a yellow gate and a sign for the Sea to Sky Trail. Park on the clearing across from the yellow gate and walk straight ahead along the old gravel road, passing the yellow gate, road and Sea to Sky Trail on your left.
The places to put up a tent in and around Parkhurst are too numerous to list here. From the obvious camping among the crumbling houses at various places around the town to the less obvious areas down by the lake. If you go down to the shore of Green Lake to where the giant tractor is you will notice that if you head along the shore of Green Lake north for about 200 metres you will come to the old cement foundations of the mill and some clearings hidden in the spooky forest there. This area has some positives and negatives.
The bad of course is the train goes by at 2am and again at 6am, just 40 metres from your tent. If you don't mind that then this area is great. Spooky, though cute little forest, steps from the lake and nice, clean, grassy areas to wander around. If you are a fan of history, you might revel in the fact that this is the once home of the iconic Toad Hall naked picture from the early 70's. This picture can be seen at the Whistler Museum as several originals were donated. Back up the trail to Parkhurst, you have the beautiful ridge, high above the train tracks with mossy and grassy fields overlooking the lake.
You still get the train going by, but its fun to watch it from above. This cliff has an amazing view of the setting sun over Rainbow Mountain every evening as well. Another great place is at Green River by the bridge next to the highway. Both sides of the bridge have several excellent places next to the river ideal for camping and with the added benefit of being steps from your vehicle.
There are no public restrooms or outhouses anywhere near Parkhurst. With the recent building of the Sea to Sky Trail above Green Lake here there may be some springing up in the future. There is an outhouse at the trailhead to Wedgemount Lake a couple kilometres from the highway turnoff. If you are accessing Parkhurst via the Sea to Sky Trail from Whistler Village then you will pass the washrooms at Lost Lake Park just before connecting onto the . If you take the slight detour past the and stop at the beautiful Nicklaus North Golf Course at the south end of Green Lake then you will find public restrooms there as well as an amazing restaurant that is very welcoming to non-golfers. The views are of course amazing and the food and drinks always seem to be on special, all year-round it seems.
Parkhurst is dog friendly along with the entire Sea to Sky Trail that runs the length of Whistler and beyond. The Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain hiking trails don't allow dogs for various good reasons and Garibaldi Provincial Park doesn't allow dogs either out of consideration of the local animals in the park. There are several excellent, dog friendly hiking trails in Whistler. Here are some of the best easy and short ones here... and the best longer and more challenging, dog friendly hikes here...