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 best reached by starting at the much easier to find, Flank Trail trailhead in Function Junction, just 8k south of Whistler Village.
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.
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 will be 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. Pictured below is the location on the Trash Trail side, facing the Train Wreck side where there will soon be a suspension bridge similar, though much smaller than the Cheakamus River one.
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). 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 July 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 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 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.