Trekking the Trails
By Darryl Palmer
PHOTO ANDREW CHEUNG | Rainbow Lake
Undeniably, most of us feel the need to get outside after being cooped up during these crazy times. What better way to do that than getting out for a hike on the trails, reconnecting with nature, and getting a little exercise. Not only do these outdoor excursions have endless mental and physical benefits, but also, walking in nature can even reverse the aging of your brain, according to Shane O’Mara’s book “In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration.” We even see a shift in global thinking, as many begin to embrace ecotherapy projects like the Green Prescription, Shinrin-Yoku (forest bathing), and the Parks Prescription to encourage people to venture outdoors.
This new reality has been spreading quickly, with more and more people exploring the trails in Whistler. In the past year alone, we have seen an increase of approximately four times the amount of traffic on our trails than in previous years. Some trails have even seen up to eight times the growth. As a result, if there were 40 people a day on any given trail two years ago, there are now 160 people using that same trail.
This growth is understandable as Whistler is home to one of the most extensive trail networks in British Columbia, offering opportunities for every level of hiker and walker. We have the paved Valley Trail that meanders from one end of our spectacular valley to the other, offering stunning views and access to many of our crystal-clear mountain lakes that dot the valley. With more than 46 kilometres of the Valley Trail to explore, visitors can spend several days discovering the Village, parks, and neighbourhoods on foot or bike.
PHOTO DARRYL PALMER | Cheakamus River
PHOTO JOERN ROHDE | Lost Lake
Lost Lake is a 15- to 20-minute, leisurely walk, short bike ride, or free bus trip from the Village and offers a great mix of multi-use trails. You can walk or bike the relatively flat, wide, gravel loop on the perimeter of the stunning lake or set out above the lake on various trails that weave through the adjacent forest. Trails are well signed, and there are maps provided along the gravel road to help you find your way.
There are also limitless possibilities to get off the beaten track and venture into our vast wilderness, alone or with a guide. Almost every neighbourhood in Whistler has its tangle of trails ranging from green to black and double-black-rated. Many resources have been put into the signage and rating of these trails to prepare you for the expected terrain and help you find your way. It is essential that you plan for your outing and bring along the appropriate gear. Comfortable hiking shoes, temperature- and weather-suitable clothing, as well as sufficient water and food are all necessities.
PHOTOS MITCH WINTON | Iceberg Lake
For a challenge, several hikes begin at trailheads within a half-hour of the Village. Rainbow Lake Trail is a 16-kilometre round trip with an elevation gain of 850 metres. It leads to one of our most scenic alpine lakes, revealing spectacular views of Black Tusk on your way up and gorgeous wildflowers in late July through August. You should allow approximately six hours for this hike.
Iceberg Lake is another breathtaking hike that is a must-do for those who want to push themselves a little. The hike to this hidden gem takes you into the high alpine, to the base of the Rainbow Glacier. Before the last ascent, you will discover a serene meadow with an idyllic stream snaking its way across before descending into the valley below. Wildflowers are abundant through July, and the lake is sprinkled with floating ice most of the summer. Allow approximately seven hours for this incredibly scenic hike, a 15 km round trip, with an elevation gain of 870 m.
If you feel apprehensive about venturing out on your own, a few Whistler-based companies offer guided tours of many of our trails. Companies like The Adventure Group and Whistler Eco Tours provide various activities, including hiking, and boutique companies like DNA Scenic Hikes offering small-group, personalized hikes for any level. dnascenichikes.com
Whatever your ability or comfort level, Whistler’s trails will not disappoint. A lot of work goes into maintaining these trails and providing signage to keep visitors, ecosystems, and wildlife safe. The Resort Municipality of Whistler strongly encourages responsible tourism and works tirelessly with many organizations to maintain the trails. So, if you are using the trail system in and around Whistler, you have an obligation to follow the rules of the trail.
A great way to start is to visit adventuresmart.ca to help plan your hiking adventure and learn about trail etiquette.
With the added number of guests exploring the trails, it is imperative to heed the words of Mayor Jack Crompton. “From steep singletracks to meandering gravel trails and paved paths, Whistler's extensive network of trails offers adventure to every kind of explorer. As more and more people take advantage of Whistler’s trail system, it is especially important that everyone is adventure smart, respects the environment, and is bear aware. Please stick to the marked trails to avoid damaging the environment, pack out what you pack in, and know the rules for dogs and e-bikes on the trail you are using. By all being respectful and knowledgeable, we can help ensure Whistler’s trail network remains the amazing experience it is today.”
For more information, visit whistler.com/activities/hiking.