Whistler Mountain Hiking Trails
The alpine hiking trails on Whistler Mountain are the ultimate in luxurious hiking. Little hiking effort gets you amazing views of turquoise lakes, snowy mountain, valleys of flowers, waterfalls and spectacular glaciers. In the summer months, Whistler Mountain is somewhat divided in two. The lower half of the mountain is for biking and the upper half is for hiking, sightseeing, trail running, eating and drinking.
There are a few directions you can start hiking from the Roundhouse Lodge, however, taking the Peak Express(quad chairlift) up to the summit of Whistler Mountain is an amazing place to start. The Peak Express is an exhilarating ride that takes you to the start of Whistler Mountain's best hiking trails. The Half Note Trail, High Note Trail and Mathew's Traverse start here. The High Note Trail in turn leads to the Musical Bumps Trail to Russet Lake and Singing Pass in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
The summit of Whistler Mountain is also a destination of its own. Spectacular views all around from this rocky, alpine summit visible from almost everywhere in Whistler. Black Tusk comes into view as you exit the Peak Express. This amazingly distinct pinnacle of jet-black rock is a local icon and remnant of a not too distant history of volcanism in the area. As you admire its absurdly vertical form, remind yourself that there is almost certainly a few hikers looking back at you from its summit.
Looking right as you get off the Peak Express you will see an enormous inuksuk. A remnant of the 2010 Olympic Games and now a fixture in thousands of photos. This beautiful stacking of huge rocks is a take-away from the Inuit tradition of marking routes in an otherwise stark landscape with a human form. The inuksuk is part of the Whistler Summit Interpretive Walk. This 1.6 kilometre(1 mile), trail takes you along an excellent route around the summit of Whistler to one amazing viewpoint after another.
Branching off of the Whistler Summit Interpretive Walk you will see the High Note Trail extend toward the rocky cliffs. The High Note Trail is a beautiful trail that skirts the edge of Whistler Mountain for several kilometres before bending back around Whistler to the Roundhouse Lodge. A total of 9.4 kilometres(6 miles), the High Note Trail is a must-see trail on Whistler. For much of the trail you have Cheakamus Lake down the valley on your right. This huge lake fills the valley below with an extraordinarily vivid turquoise colour. This amazing colour caused by glacial meltwater filling the lake with suspended particles of rock which in turn reflect the light in an absurdly beautiful way.
The High Note Trail takes about 3 hours for most to hike and returns you to the Roundhouse Lodge where you began before walking down to the Peak Express and riding it up to the trailhead at the summit of Whistler. If you prefer a shorter route you can veer off from the High Note Trail, part way and take the Half Note Trail back. The Half Note Trail takes a couple kilometres off of the High Note Trail, though doesn't cut it in half as the name suggests. The Half Note Trail connects you to Pika's Traverse, which is an access road that runs from Whistler's summit down to the Roundhouse. Though it is a dusty road, it still has beautiful views for most of the way.
If you take the High Note Trail and continue further along the ridge of Whistler, you will get more stunning views of Cheakamus Lake before it bends left and in the direction of the Roundhouse Lodge. At this bend you will come to the trail junction for the Musical Bumps Trail that continues toward Russet Lake and Singing Pass. This is Piccolo Summit which leads to Flute Summit and then Oboe Summit. These summits, long ago, became known as the Musical Bumps and inevitably the Musical Bumps Trail.
The Musical Bumps Trail takes you to Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park. This wonderful little lake lays in a brutally hostile looking valley dominated by The Fissile. The Fissile is the strikingly triangular shaped, reddish orange mountain visible from Whistler Village. If you walk along Northlands Boulevard in the Village and see Blackcomb Mountain and Whistler Mountain with the Peak to Peak Gondola running between them, then you will have seen The Fissile. It lays directly behind and seems to want to pierce the suspended 4 kilometre long gondola lines.
The Fissile is climbable by the brave, but Russet Lake is a popular hiking destination for weekend hikers in Garibaldi Park. It can be hiked in a day, however, at 28 kilometres roundtrip, it is a brutally long day. The Singing Pass Trail which begins in Whistler Village(near the taxi and bus loop up the stairs from the Dubh Linn Gate Pub), takes you to Russet Lake as well. This makes for a long 28k trail that can be done in reverse for free as you can hike from the Village all the way to the summit of Whistler and ride the gondola back down.
Whistler Mountain - Camping and Parking Info
Parking in Whistler Village is in one of the four main day lots. Parking rules in Whistler changed to pay parking a few years ago, and parking rules keep changing. However, it seems that Lot 4 will always allow free, long-term parking for the High Note Trail, Singing Pass and Russet Lake. Lot 4 is easy to find. As you enter Whistler Village on Village Gate Boulevard, drive straight to the T junction stop sign at Blackcomb Way. Turn Left onto Blackcomb Way and you will see Lots 1 to 4 on your right. Lot 4 is the last one on your right, however you can enter the lots anywhere as they are all joined. Lots 1, 2, and 3 are all pay parking and you will see plenty of signs and instructions to pay. .
Camping possibilities are endless and amazing on both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. The High Note Trail exists on a fairly popular hiking route and though bivouacking is not explicitly prohibited, doing so in the vicinity of the trail and public would be weird and certainly frowned upon. Most camping is centred around Russet Lake, which sits in a beautiful setting near where Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains meet. Russet Lake is in Garibaldi Provincial Park and enjoys some nice amenities. There are outhouses, one at Russet Lake and another partway along the Singing Pass Trail. Russet Lake also has a nice, solid, hut that anyone is welcome to use for free. The numerous and very nice places to put up a tent around Russet Lake ensures that this hut remains vacant the majority of nights in the summer and fall. In the winter months, however, the Russet Lake Hut is a hive of activity and cherished as a temporary winter home for Whistler's numerous, hard-core skiers/snowboarders/snowshoers.
An amazing alternative to Russet Lake are the countless, unmarked places to bivouac along the Musical Bumps Trail. The Musical Bumps Trail skirts the edge of Whistler Mountain almost all the way to Russet Lake. As you hike you keep passing Whistler chairlifts on your left and to your right, endless wilderness descending to Cheakamus Lake. About 45 minutes beyond the High Note Trail you will start noticing some enticing areas on your right where you could disappear into the forest and set up camp next to an idyllic stream with an amazing view over Cheakamus Lake. Click the image here to play an aerial video of a campsite in Garibaldi Park near Blackcomb Mountain.
There are plenty of washroom facilities on Whistler Mountain. The Whistler Gondola drops you off at the Roundhouse Lodge, which has washrooms, gift shops and two restaurants. From the Roundhouse you have a 5 minute hike down to the Peak Express Chair. There are a couple slight variations on the route you can take for the High Note Trail, however, the normal route returns you past washrooms at a small cabin about 7 kilometres into the 9.5k roundtrip journey. If you are continuing past the High Note Trail toward Russet Lake or the Singing Pass Trail, you will find outhouses at both Russet Lake and partway down the Singing Pass Trail.
Tragically dogs are not welcome on Whistler or Blackcomb Mountains, or any of Garibaldi Provincial Park. This is out of respect for the local wildlife as well as the inability of chairlifts to safely accommodate transporting pets. Unfortunately that rules out quite a few hiking trails in the Whistler area. There are an ever increasing number of dog friendly hiking alternatives in Whistler. Certainly the recently established section of the Sea to Sky Trail above Green Lake is an excellent dog friendly hiking trail to try. The Sea to Sky Trail runs for over 30 kilometres through Whistler and every inch of it is pretty amazing. From Brandywine Falls, through and over the Bungee Bridge, up through Cheakamus Crossing and through Whistler Village and beyond Green Lake, the Sea to Sky Trail is an incredibly way to see Whistler with your pets. For a list of some of the best, dog friendly hikes around Whistler try here..
More Hiking Around Whistler Mountain
Blackcomb Mountain has come alive with beautiful hiking trails in recent years. With the 2008 addition of the Peak to Peak Gondola which connects Blackcomb to Whistler, the demand for mountain trails is higher than ever. A dozen years ago, you would just have had some rough hiking trails to follow, and not many hikers to follow them. Now you have mapboards, trail signs, viewpoint seating areas and six popular, named trails to hike. The trails are mostly easy and relaxing, however the Decker Loop Trail at the far end of Blackcomb is very challenging and spectacularly scenic. For the most part, you will find yourself winding through a nice alpine forest scattered with enormous fields of erratics leading to one great viewpoint after another. You can hike for as little as 15 minutes or more than 3 hours, depending on the trail or trails you choose to follow. Blackcomb Lake and Blackcomb Peak that looms far above it are the most popular destinations for hikers and getting there and back can be done in a couple hours. Russet Lake, in is the wonderfully expansive hiking area located just a few spectacular steps from Whistler. Among the various ways to reach Russet Lake, possibly the most impressive are the approaches from either the Musical Bumps Trail or the High Note Trail. Both begin from high up on Whistler Mountain. Musical Bumps starts near the Roundhouse on Whistler and the High Note Trail begins at the top of Whistler near the Peak Chair. Though Russet Lake is not terribly impressive in terms of size or colour, the valley around it is remarkably beautiful.