Whistler Train Wreck
Decades ago a train derailed south of Whistler near what is now Function Junction. 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 hike. The Whistler Train Wreck.
Cheakamus River winds its way, crashing and emerald green along the length of the Whistler Train Wreck, and there are several spectacular river vantage points that shouldn't be missed. The whole length of the train wreck and Cheakamus River hike is 3 kilometres (each way) and the trails go along the beautiful river as well as several, widely spaced train wrecks. The Whistler Train Wreck trailhead is now located in Cheakamus Crossing. The new bridge connecting Trash Trail and the Train Wreck Trail was finished in July. There are a couple very convenient places to park very near the trailhead to both the Trash Trail and the Sea to Sky Trail.
After heavy use in recent years, the old Whistler Train Wreck trail will now return to a peaceful obscurity. The old trail began at the Flank Trail, trailhead behind Olive's Market in Function Junction, and took you under the constantly changing highway underpass. Graffiti in this wonderful area on the large cement foundations seems to constantly be added. A creek flows though the underpass on its way to connecting with the much larger Cheakamus River. The Flank Trail trailhead is easy to spot if you know where to look. If you don't write down these directions before you head out you will likely have trouble finding it. Memorize or print the trail map below and you will be able to locate it easily. A small "Flank Trail" sign sits at the edge of Alpha Lake Road just before Alpha Lake Road bends sharply right(just before Olive's Market). The Flank Trail immediately runs into the deep forest as it follows the river away from Function Junction.
The Whistler Train Wreck trail is easy to spot as it is well used. Just about 50 metres into the Flank Trail as you bend around the Olive's Market parking lot you will come to the large Flank Trail mapboard. The Flank Trail continues straight and the(usually) unmarked Train Wreck trail heads off left along the right side of the creek.
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 marked with two large, painted rocks on either side(see directions, map and videos below for better trail descriptions of where to go and where not to).
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 due to the new bridge across the Cheakamus River in Cheakamus Crossing.
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.
A new suspension bridge was finally built in 2016 and scheduled to be completed in late July linking the Whistler Train Wreck trail to Trash Trail on the opposite side of Cheakamus River.
Parking & Trailhead Directions to Whistler Train Wreck
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). This is the official parking area for Train Wreck, though still without signs indicating the Trash Trail or Train Wreck. There are much better and closer parking options to the Trash Trail located across from the Sea to Sky Trail entry in Cheakamus Crossing. See the map below. One very large, though still unmarked parking area located a stone's throw, across from the Sea to Sky trailhead has room for about 20 cars. Plenty of signs warn you to not park on the road in any way as the area is used by enormous construction vehicles.
Another good, possible the best place to park is just a few metres into the Jane Lakes Forest Service Road(see map below). Drive just a few metres in and you will spot an old gravel road on the right ascend steeply up into the forest. This road is not too troubling for most vehicles and easy for 4x4's. It quickly narrows and finally blocked by boulders about 50 metres in. You could certainly park here keeping mindful about not blocking other cars or being blocked in yourself. Alternatively you could park at the edge of the Jane Lakes FSR where it met this road. From here you continue up a briefly steep trail for about 1 kilometre before reaching a nicely signed and new junction directing you(for the first time) to the Whistler Train Wreck. From where you park to the amazing new Train Wreck bridge should only take you 15-20 minutes. The Whistler Train Wreck, of course is located just beyond the bridge.
The old trail to Train Wreck begins at the Flank Trail trailhead in Function Junction. This route has now been replaced due to the frequency of hikers walking along the train tracks even when trains are passing through. This resulted in ever-increasing numbers of fines to unsuspecting locals and tourists. It is still a nice trail as it takes you along a cute creek in an unexpectedly tranquil setting, under the Sea to Sky Highway. About 40 metres from the tiny Flank Trail sign off of Alpha Lake Road 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 straightforward, 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 except a couple small signs well past the trailheads. You can access Whistler Train Wreck from the Trash Trail side by using the new bridge completed in July 2016. 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). The bottom right parking area shown below is easy to find, huge, and so far unmarked. The bottom left parking area shown can be found by driving a hundred metres along the very smooth Jane Lakes Forest Service Road and parking well off to the side, out of the way of large trucks that may drive through. This parking area is fairly narrow and may only accommodate a couple cars, however it is a nice a quick way to get to the new bridge and mangled train wrecks.
Whistler Train Wreck Parking Directions
Free parking can be found at the Cheakamus Community Forest parking lot or other less obvious locations along the side of roads. See the map above for the yellow parking areas to watch out for. Keep in mind that the bottom two parking areas shown on the map are unmarked, though obvious when you get close. Still no Train Wreck trailhead signs until you get well into the trail, so save the above map to your phone for reference if you get turned around.