Via the Valley Trail
Exploring Whistler’s Neighbourhoods, Parks,
and Lakes on Foot or by Bike
By Steven Hill | Images by Joern Rohde
Whistler has undoubtedly earned its reputation as a year-round, world-class resort, offering visitors from all over the globe an unmatched mountain experience with adventure activities galore. Those include skiing, snowboarding, ziplining, bungee jumping, pretty much heli-everything, and much, much more.
But for those who aren’t adrenaline seekers or if you need a quieter day after pushing your limits, Whistler also offers an often-overlooked but unique and simple way to get to know the resort in a way that’ll make you feel like a real local: the Valley Trail.
One of the great things about the Valley Trail is that you don’t even need a car to help you explore Whistler’s scenic landscape, just your feet or some wheels. Plus, it’s completely free.
Developed in the early 1980s, Whistler’s Valley Trail is a car-free, paved trail network connecting Whistler’s neighbourhoods, lakes, viewpoints, parks, and picnic spots. It offers visitors more than 45 kilometres of trail to walk, bike, run, or rollerblade. You’ll easily find cruiser bikes, fat-tire bikes, and e-bikes to rent in the Village if you haven’t brought your own, so it is always a convenient option.
As a part of the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s Summer Experience Program, more people are encouraged to bike as a means of transportation to get to the Village, Rainbow Park, and Lost Lake Park. So, if you visit on weekends and holidays and bike to these locations, Whistler Bike Valet has added free, secure, attended bike parking at Whistler Olympic Plaza and the aforementioned lakes.
Here are some of the highlights of the Valley Trail, but this is by no means a complete list.
Around the Village
If you don’t want to stray too far from the Village or are looking for a short stroll, the Valley Trail will take you to many of Whistler’s restaurants and cafés, as well as shops and cultural venues, and along the serene fairways of the Whistler Golf Club. Wander from the famed Village Stroll, through Skiers Plaza, and on to the Upper Village. Along the way, you can stop for a bite to eat in Marketplace or visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre for a fascinating peek at local First Nations culture. Then, explore the 4 km loop around the Whistler Golf Club, and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. The manicured grass is always a favourite of Whistler’s bear population. Finally, finish off at Lost Lake Park, where you’ll find a popular sandy beach and kids’ area, plus picnic tables, a concession stand, and food trucks.
South of the Village
If you are heading south on the Valley Trail, you should take it to Whistler Creekside, the original site of the base of Whistler Mountain, its first Village, and the location of the first Whistler (now Creekside) gondola. The neighbourhood is laden with history from the early days of the resort, and it boasts a bit more of a relaxed and laid-back family atmosphere. Then, if you venture a little further, stop by the Function Junction neighbourhood. The area has traditionally been Whistler’s light industrial and commercial area but has blossomed over the years into a vibrant destination that includes specialty shops, breweries, and eateries.
For beaches and parks, the southern leg of the Valley Trail will lead you to Alpha Lake, with a lovely sandy beach, dock, volleyball, and tennis courts. You will also find Wayside and Lakeside parks on Alta Lake, offering similar amenities and scenic splendour, as well as canoe and kayak rentals. Finally, on the opposite shore of Alta Lake is Rainbow Park, the site of the historic Rainbow Lodge built by Whistler pioneers Alex and Myrtle Philip.
The trail’s southern end also gives you access to Nita Lake, a small body of water close to Creekside that features a small park and picnic tables with a stony beach. Bring your fishing rod to Nita Lake if you’re an angler, as it is regularly stocked with rainbow trout.
North of the Village
Taking the Valley Trail north will ultimately lead you to Green Lake, between the Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates neighbourhoods. Here you will find breathtaking views of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, as well as the pristine, stunning blue-green, but icy glacial waters of the lake. Watch the boaters out cruising on the lake, or maybe you’ll catch a floatplane making a splash as it lands. On the way to Green Lake, you’ll also pass the Nicklaus North Golf Course, designed by the Golden Bear, golf legend Jack Nicklaus.
Paddle the Resort
If you don’t feel like walking or biking to explore Whistler’s landscape, you can always hop in a canoe or kayak and paddle the famed River of Golden Dreams, a 5 km stretch of serene, winding river that connects Alta Lake and Green Lake. Backroads Whistler offers boat rentals and guided tours of this popular river. Canadian Wilderness Adventures and Whistler Eco Tours also offer guided tours. There are separate launch locations for each company, so for more information, visit backroadswhistler.com, canadianwilderness.com, or whistlerecotours.com.
Staying Safe On
the Valley Trail
As with any activity in Whistler, you’ll have a much better time if you keep a few things in mind:
• Keep Right
The Valley Trail is multi-use and does get busy on some sections, so follow the same rules as you would when driving — keep right and give plenty of warning if you plan to overtake walkers or slower bikers.
• It’s Not a Race
Remember, you’re on vacation, and so are other folks, so take it easy on the Valley Trail. It’s designed to be enjoyed at a slow, scenic pace.
• Keep Dogs Leashed
We love dogs in Whistler, but they must be kept on a leash and under control on the Valley Trail.
• Watch for Wildlife
Whistler boasts an abundance of wildlife, and you may encounter anything from a bear or coyote to a bold squirrel or a family of geese. So stay alert and keep your eyes on the trail ahead.