Garibaldi Park Whistler A to Z: Alpine ZoneAlpine Zone or Alpine Tundra is the area above the treeline, often characterized by stunted, sparse forests of krummholz and pristine, turquoise lakes.  Mount Sproatt is an excellent example of an alpine zone in Whistler.  Dozens of alpine lakes, rugged and rocky terrain and hardy krummholz trees everywhere you look.  The hostile, cold and windy climate in the alpine zones around Whistler make tree growth difficult.  Added to that, the alpine areas are snow covered the majority of the year. 

Whistler & Garibaldi Hiking

Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerAlexander Falls  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyAncient Cedars  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerBlack Tusk  Pay Use Hiking Trail WhistlerBlackcomb Mountain  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerBrandywine Falls  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyBrandywine Meadows  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyBrew Lake  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerCallaghan Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerCheakamus Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyCheakamus River  Whistler Hiking Trail HardCirque Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyFlank Trail  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerGaribaldi Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerGaribaldi Park  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerHelm Creek  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyJane Lakes  Joffre Lakes Hike in Whistler in SeptemberJoffre Lakes  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyKeyhole Hot Springs  Hiking Trail Hard Dog FriendlyLogger’s Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyMadeley Lake  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyMeager Hot Springs Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerNairn Falls  Whistler Hiking Trail HardNewt Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerPanorama Ridge  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyParkhurst Ghost Town  Hiking Trail Hard Dog FriendlyRainbow Falls  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerRainbow Lake  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyRing Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerRusset Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasySea to Sky Trail  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerSkookumchuck Hot Springs  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerSloquet Hot Springs  Sproatt East  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerSproatt West  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerTaylor Meadows  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyTrain Wreck  Hiking Trail Hard - Whistler TrailsWedgemount Lake  Pay Use Hiking Trail WhistlerWhistler Mountain

  Winter Hiking WhistlerJanuary  Winter Hiking WhistlerFebruary  Spring Hiking WhistlerMarch  Spring Hiking WhistlerApril  Spring Hiking WhistlerMay  Summer Hiking WhistlerJune  Summer Hiking WhistlerJuly  Summer Hiking WhistlerAugust  Fall Hiking WhistlerSeptember  Fall Hiking WhistlerOctober  Fall Hiking WhistlerNovember  Winter Hiking WhistlerDecember

Other good places to explore alpine zones in Whistler and Garibaldi Park are Wedgemount Lake, Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler Mountain, Black Tusk, Brandywine Meadows, Brew Lake, Callaghan Lake Provincial Park, and quite a lot more.  Located within sight of Whistler Village, Wedge Mountain is the highest mountain in Garibaldi Provincial Park.  Just a relatively short, 7 kilometre hike takes you to this mountain paradise of impossibly turquoise water and jagged mountain peaks all around.  The shortness of the hike to Wedgemount Lake lulls hikers into thinking it is an easy trail.  The elevation gain, however is a staggering 1220 metres in this short distance.  If you are very fit and unburdened with a heavy backpack, you may get to the lake in 1.5 hours.  If you are carrying gear, however, you can easily double this time.  The Wedgemount Lake trail is easy to follow and well marked, but it follows a constant and unrelenting, steep ascent to the end.  If you pack light, you will often pass a few hikers who didn't.  The tough trail makes arriving at this paradise in the mountains very rewarding and shows you a great example of an alpine zone in Whistler.

Alpine Zone Wedgemount Lake, Garibaldi Park

Alpine Zone Wedgemount Lake, Whistler

Wedgemoiunt Lake Trail Map v14

Russet Lake Alpine Zone

The image shown here(below) is the alpine zone around Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park.  The Fissile towers above Russet Lake in the alpine paradise which lays at the head of the valley that separates Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and emerges in Whistler Village.  Fitzsimmons Creek, the beautiful turquoise, glacier coloured creek that flows through Whistler Village is fed by Overlord Glacier on the far left and Russet Lake on the right.

Alpine Zone Around Russet Lake in Garibaldi Park

Russet Lake Map v20

Whistler Mountain Alpine Zone

Whistler Mountain's Peak Chair is shown here(below) with the marvellous alpine zone of Blackcomb Mountain in the Spearhead Range in the background.  The Peak Chair is a wonderful, carnival-like ride to the summit of Whistler Mountain and a vast network of hiking trails.  The High Note trail starts here and takes you over the Musical Bumps to Russet Lake.  From Russet Lake you can take the Singing Pass trail which takes you down the valley along Fitzsimmons Creek, all the way to Whistler Village.  The Singing Pass trail emerges at the base of Whistler Mountain near the Dubh Linn Gate Pub.

Alpine Zone Whistler Mountain Peak Chair

Whistler Mountain Musical Bumps Trail

Whistler Mountain Russet Lake Map v20

Garibaldi Provincial Park Alpine Zones

The alpine zone around Black Tusk is magnificent.  This image(below) is the view from the summit, with Mount Garibaldi dominating the skyline, The Table below it, and Mount Price to the right of The Table.  Clinker Peak is the far right peak of Mount Price, which is the huge mountain that rises from the shore of Garibaldi Lake.  Clinker Peak was an active volcano during the last ice age and you can still easily see the lava flows heading off to the right, around the end of Garibaldi Lake and the Battleship Islands.  About 9000 years ago the lava flowed down the valley and was blocked by the enormous glacier that filled Cheakamus Valley.  The lava pooled and rapidly cooled, forming an enormous vertical rock wall that remained when the glacier retreated north.  This gigantic barrier allowed Garibaldi Lake to form, where previously it was a valley that connected to the much larger Cheakamus Valley.  The Barrier remains today, however it is comprised of pretty unstable and crumbling rock.  It is prone to enormous collapses from time to time.  The last major collapse was in the winter of 1855/1856, when more than 25 million cubic metres of rock tumbled 6 kilometres down the valley at over 30 metres per second.  Today, you can see plenty of evidence of this huge landslide along Rubble Creek and on either side of the Sea to Sky Highway along Cheakamus River near Daisy Lake.

Alpine Zone Black Tusk View

Black Tusk Large Map v19

Brandywine Meadows Alpine Zone

Brandywine Meadows is an absolute paradise on a sunny, summer day.  The valley is filled with colour, from the green forest, to the bright flowers and up to the glistening, snowy cliffs.  There are even plenty of enormous erratics left by glaciers thousands of years ago and warmed by the sun, make spectacular places to relax on.  Wandering up the valley towards Brandywine Mountain gives you a great view, looking back, of this beautiful alpine zone so close to Whistler.  Brandywine Meadows is one of the many spectacular places you can camp for free around Whistler.  No-trace camping is not as hard to find as you might expect in Whistler, unlike the overcrowded campsites in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Alpine Zone Erratic Brandywine Meadows, Whistler

Alpine Zone in Brandywine Meadows, Whistler

Brandywine Meadows Map v8

Cirque Lake Alpine Zone

Cirque Lake, shown here(below) is another alpine paradise in Whistler.  Hidden up above Callaghan Lake in the wild and beautiful Callaghan ValleyCirque Lake has a short, but very steep hiking trail to reach this amazing spot.  Cirque Lake gets it name from the wonderful phenomenon of geology where a glacier gouges out a depression to form a lake.  Not only is Cirque Lake symmetrically stunning, but the walls of the cirque partly shelter you from the wind, making this alpine zone warmer than you would expect on a typically windy day in the mountains.

Alpine Zone Tent View, Cirque Lake, Whistler

Cirque Lake Map v7b

Mount Sproatt Alpine Zone

Another beautiful alpine paradise in Whistler is Mount Sproatt.  The recently built, and still expanding hiking and biking trail network on Sproatt covers a staggering area and opens up access that was previously following vague routes or difficult bushwhacking.  Shown below is one of many idyllic tent spots in this beautifully sprawling alpine zone, high above Whistler.  Mount Sproatt, or as it is known locally as simply "Sproatt", is one of the many towering mountains visible from Whistler Village.  Above and beyond Alta Lake, directly across from Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain.  Next time you walk through Whistler Village and cross the pedestrian bridge (with Village Gate Boulevard below you), you will see Sproatt in the distance.  It is the rocky giant, abruptly steep on one end and gently sloping on the other.  At its summit you may be able to make out the small weather recording structure.  What you can't see from Whistler Village is the extraordinarily beautiful alpine paradise that lays beyond it.  Lakes and tarns everywhere you look.  Fields of alpine flowers and wonderfully mangled, yet strikingly beautiful forests of krummholz.  Hostile looking fields of boulders and absurdly placed erratics the size of RV's.  Beyond, of course, endless stunning view of distant, snowy mountains.  There are several challenging trails up Sproatt and two main routes stand out, the Sproatt West (Northair) trailhead and the Sproatt East (Stonebridge) trailhead.  The Sproatt West trailhead is found a couple kilometres past Northair Mine in Callaghan Valley and you need a 4x4 to get much further than the mine.  The Sproatt East trailhead is much closer to Whistler Village and no 4x4 is necessary as the road is paved all the way to the trailhead.  Stonebridge is the luxurious neighbourhood nestled on the lower slopes of Sproatt.

Alpine Zone, Mount Sproatt, Whistler

Sproatt Detailed Map v4

Rainbow Lake Alpine Zone

Mount Sproatt dominates the skyline across the valley from Whistler and Blackcomb with another huge mountain, Rainbow Mountain.  Rainbow Mountain and Rainbow Lake, shown here below, is one of oldest mountain hiking trails in Whistler.  A century ago when just a few dozen people lived in the valley here it was called Alta Lake.  Rainbow Lodge was built where Rainbow Park is today and Rainbow Falls became a popular destination for visitors to the lodge.  Rainbow Lodge was the focus of much of the activity in the valley along with small scale mining on the mountains, and later logging.  The Singing Pass trail also dates to about a century ago, though much of the lower part of the trail used to be on the Blackcomb Mountain side of Fitzsimmons Creek, whereas now it is on the Whistler Mountain side.  Though you can't swim in Rainbow Lake or camp near it as it is Whistler's source for water, it has some great views across the valley to Wedge Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain(shown here).

Alpine Zone Rainbow Lake Whistler

Rainbow Lake Map v11

Recommended Books About Geology in BC

In Search of Ancient British ColumbiaRoadside GeologyHere are two excellent books on the Geology of British Columbia.  In Search of Ancient British Columbia by Barbara Huck is one of our favourites.  It focuses on southern BC and covers each individual region separately.  The Lower Mainland chapter explains the geology, paleontology and archaeology of the region stretching from Vancouver, Sea to Sky, Garibaldi Park and north to Mount Meager and Meager Hot Springs.  Quite a lot of the book is devoted to how the last ice age shaped the land and inhabitants of southern BC.  The chapters on Vancouver Island are particularly good as the geological history was particularly chaotic and the history of glaciation around present day Victoria is very interesting.  Roadside Geology of Southern British Columbia by Bill Mathews and JWH Monger is a wonderful geologic history of BC and covers some great features along the Sea to Sky Highway.

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The Coast Mountains run from the Yukon down to Vancouver along the west coast of British Columbia in a band that averages 300 kilometres wide(190 miles).  ...
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The rocky and narrow row of islands in Garibaldi Lake just offshore from the Garibaldi Lake campsite are known as Battleship Islands.  Named by the ...
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The Fissile is the stunning Matterhorn-looking mountain that is visible from Village Gate Boulevard in Whistler.  Looking up from Village Gate you will see ...
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February is a great month for snowshoeing in Whistler and Garibaldi Park.  The days slowly get longer, but the temperatures stay consistently cold.  Expect ...
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Whistler and Garibaldi Park Hiking Gear Rental

Whistler & Garibaldi Hiking

Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerAlexander Falls  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyAncient Cedars  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerBlack Tusk  Pay Use Hiking Trail WhistlerBlackcomb Mountain  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerBrandywine Falls  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyBrandywine Meadows  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyBrew Lake  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerCallaghan Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerCheakamus Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyCheakamus River  Whistler Hiking Trail HardCirque Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyFlank Trail  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerGaribaldi Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerGaribaldi Park  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerHelm Creek  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyJane Lakes  Joffre Lakes Hike in Whistler in SeptemberJoffre Lakes  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyKeyhole Hot Springs  Hiking Trail Hard Dog FriendlyLogger’s Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyMadeley Lake  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyMeager Hot Springs Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerNairn Falls  Whistler Hiking Trail HardNewt Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerPanorama Ridge  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyParkhurst Ghost Town  Hiking Trail Hard Dog FriendlyRainbow Falls  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerRainbow Lake  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyRing Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerRusset Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasySea to Sky Trail  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerSkookumchuck Hot Springs  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerSloquet Hot Springs  Sproatt East  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerSproatt West  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerTaylor Meadows  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyTrain Wreck  Hiking Trail Hard - Whistler TrailsWedgemount Lake  Pay Use Hiking Trail WhistlerWhistler Mountain

  Winter Hiking WhistlerJanuary  Winter Hiking WhistlerFebruary  Spring Hiking WhistlerMarch  Spring Hiking WhistlerApril  Spring Hiking WhistlerMay  Summer Hiking WhistlerJune  Summer Hiking WhistlerJuly  Summer Hiking WhistlerAugust  Fall Hiking WhistlerSeptember  Fall Hiking WhistlerOctober  Fall Hiking WhistlerNovember  Winter Hiking WhistlerDecember

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Garibaldi Lake is the centre and base for much of the hiking in Garibaldi Provincial Park. The Garibaldi Lake campsite is located on the amazing, turquoise shores of this massive and mostly still wild ...
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Brandywine Falls is one of the must see sights on the drive to or from Whistler, and arguably the nicest of Whistler’s numerous beautiful waterfalls.  Located about halfway between Squamish and Whistler, the ...
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