My best advice for seeking out an epic hike is to ask the locals. When visiting a hiking destinations, chances are an outdoor gear or rental shop will be in the vicinity. These folks can advise you on popular trails nearby, directions, trail difficulty, conditions, etc. We came upon our first hike, Cheakamus Trail, by the recommendation of the local adventure store.
1. Cheamakus Trail, Garibaldi Provincial Park
The Cheakamus Trail is an easy, relatively flat hike along the Cheakamus River leading to the Cheakamus Lake. The walk is through lush vegetation with multiple streams running under the trail. This is a perfect hike to experience all of Whistler’s natural splendor without too much exertion. Early on we reached a short side trail that led to the river and bridge, pictured.
Much of the rivers and lakes in Whistler are creamy turquoise, unlike anything I’ve ever seen, because its water is glacial melt. Is it clean enough to drink? I recommend sticking to your bottled water with a follow-up beer after the trail!
Upon finishing the hike, we recommend a stop at Whistler Brewing Company just across the 99 Highway. They have a wide selection of brews on tap, food, and we met a lot of great locals who gave us good visitor tips, such as the recommendation for Wedge Rafting.
2. Rainbow Trail
The Rainbow Trail (Rainbow Madeley Lakes Trail – East Trailhead) is arguably the best hike in Whistler. Get your glutes ready for some incline. Enjoy a steady rise all the way to Rainbow Lake. It’s a 2,800 feet incline over 5 miles. Totalling 10 miles round trip, this is a full day out and back hike. I’d categorize this trail as a fun intermediate. The path is well-trod and easy to navigate through the woods, which is always a good thing. It’s the climb that makes it a butt buster and the steep descent can be tough on the body.
The Rainbow Trail is a beautiful hike, taking you through forest, numerous stream crossings, waterfalls and ultimately to an ice covered lake overlooking snow capped mountains. While I was definitely sore afterwards, this hike was absolutely worth it and deserving of its reputation.
3. Whistler Train Wreck
In the 1950’s a freight train crashed in the town of Function Junction. When clean-up proved to be too costly, the boxcars were abandoned. The site is now a graffiti authorized area and all the boxcars are covered in graffiti art. Mountain bikers have built ramps and hikers frequent the area. It makes for a unique, living gallery in the forest. The trailhead is off of Alta Lake Road behind Olive’s Market. The trail can get a little confusing so we took advice from other hikers to follow the train tracks a mile into the hike, then watched for the boxcars on the left side.
Approximately 3 miles out and back, it’s a pleasant, easy hike along the Cheakamus River and beautiful forest. Resources say the trail is dog-friendly, but the sharp rocks along the train tracks would be painful for pet paws. This is a worthwhile jaunt for every Whistler visitor.
4. Stawamus Chief Trail
Oh my goodness. This was gnarly. En route back to Vancouver, we stopped in the awesome town of Squamish and came upon this epic hike. It was a rainy day, but we persisted. The hike starts with a combination of stone and wooden stairs and you just keep going up. There are 3 different peaks that you can reach with panoramic views of Howe Sound below. I learned that a sound is an ocean inlet larger than a bay. So while I called it a lake, it is technically the Pacific Ocean. As illustrated in the video, the heights and stick granite made my adrenaline peak, but it was thrilling.
Regarding the video, the Chumash are the native people of Central California. Squamish is also a native people and the name of this town.
This hike made me feel accomplished. Upon returning to our car, we promptly changed into dry clothes and hit the Howe Sound Brewery.
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