Alpine Delight - Hiking Whistler's Heights
By Steven Hill | Images by Joern Rohde
To access the more than 50 kilometres (31 miles) of hiking trails available on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, you’ll usually have to ride a gondola, sometimes followed by a chairlift, depending on where you want to go. So, pick up or download a trail map before you go up, and plan where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Make sure to check Whistler Blackcomb’s website for the latest lift operation updates and take note of the time of the last ride down.
For the fitness fanatics looking for an extra workout, hike the 6.2 km (3.85 mi.) up Blackcomb Mountain via the Ascent Trails, three interconnected uphill paths with an elevation gain of 1,200 metres (3,937 feet), to experience old-growth coastal rainforest terrain and reach the top of the Blackcomb Gondola.
No matter how you get up into the alpine, you’ll be treated to jaw-dropping vistas of lush green vegetation covering volcanic landscape, surrounded by spectacular snow-capped mountain peaks. And once at the top, you’ll be able to explore alpine lakes, ancient glaciers, forested trails through giant trees, and meadows filled with the aromas of fresh mountain air and blooming wildflowers.
One of the most popular hikes on Whistler Mountain is the High Note Trail. It’s a three- to four-hour hike that starts behind the giant Inukshuk rock figure at the top of the Peak Express Chair. Hikers will be treated to incomparable views of Black Tusk and Cheakamus Lake along the way before finishing at the Roundhouse Lodge for a well-deserved beverage and a snack.
On Blackcomb Mountain, the signature trail is the Decker Loop, which connects from the Overlord Trail, and is also a three- to four-hour trek, but it’s well worth the effort, with mind-blowing views of snow-capped mountain scenes, the Overlord Glacier, and the Decker Tarn, a pristine glacial alpine lake.
Of course, if you’re not up for a half-day hike and want something more gentle, both mountains offer shorter, less difficult walks and trails that are easily accessible for every family member. You can also book private hiking tours for a one-of-a-kind guided experience.
It’s easy to explore all those trails — on both mountains — thanks to the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Located 436 m (1,427 ft.) above the valley floor, it is the world’s highest, and the world’s longest unsupported span for a lift of its kind, at 3.024 km (1.88 mi.), transporting guests from one mountain to the other. The Peak 2 Peak is also the link that provides the world’s longest continuous lift system, connecting three high-speed gondolas.
With so many hiking trail options, there’s always so much more to discover!
Since you’re already at the top, another “must-do” experience is the Cloudraker Skybridge and the Raven’s Eye lookout. You’ll have to take the Peak Express Chair to the Top of the World Summit to access this marvel, which means a 10-minute walk on the gravel Peak Express Traverse to get to the chairlift. Oh, but the views make it so worthwhile.
The Cloudraker’s Skybridge spans a dizzying 130 m from Whistler Peak to the West Ridge, high over the Whistler Bowl. Make sure your camera is firmly in hand for those incredible selfies and scenic shots from the middle of the bridge. Then take your place on the Raven’s Eye viewing platform for 360-degree vistas that’ll blow your mind.
A hike is sure to work up an appetite. Fortunately, you can satisfy your hunger at the Mountain Top Summer Feast every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until Sept. 4., with seatings available from 5:30 to 7 p.m at the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain. This unique dining experience delivers patrons a tasty meal with a selection of entrées, fresh salads, and desserts. In addition, there is often entertainment by local musicians.
Visit whistlerblackcomb.com for more details on this and other on-mountain experiences.