Whistler may be known for its epic skiing and luxurious resorts but there’s certainly more to this mountain town than snow and spas. Whistler, home to some of the most gorgeous alpine lakes and epic mountain biking trails in the world, is an outdoor wonderland perfect for the hardcore downhill bikers, the casual hiker, and everything in-between. It is no doubt one of our favorite destinations in the whole world and I never stop loving the cobblestone village and epic mountains surrounding Whistler.
Getting To + Around Whistler
Whistler lies only a two hour drive from one of BC’s largest cities, Vancouver, making it really cheap and easy to fly into Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and get a short ride up to Whistler.
Since Whistler is such a bike/pedestrian friendly community, you could easily enjoy a trip up here without a car. If you don’t need to rent a car there are a few different ways you could get to Whistler.
Flying into Vancouver
Vancouver is a massive hub for international travel and with so many airlines going in and out of YVR, cheap flights are usually easy to find. We always use Skyscanner to find cheap flights. Use the search box below to find flights to Vancouver.
Buses to Whistler
There are many different buses that run out of Vancouver International Airport and many of them are pretty cheap and convenient.
- YVR Whistler SkyLynx – The SkyLynx Bus runs from the airport to Whistler 8-12 times a day and includes free wifi, washrooms, and spacious seating on the bus. The best part about this bus is conveniant drop off locations at 3 different hubs of Whistler. Standard bus tickets cost $65 CAD One way or $110 CAD Roundtrip.
- Epic Rides Express Bus – Since Whistler is a part of the huge network of Epic Ski Resorts, one of the easiest ways to get to the resort is by talking the Epic Rides Bus. This is one of the cheapest options to get directly to Whistler with Standard Bus tickets costing $24 CAD one way ad $34 CAD round-trip with no extra fees for skis, bikes, or luggage. The bus runs 6-9 times per day (depending on the season). The only negative with Epic Rides is that you don’t get a refund on cancellations.
- Whistler Shuttle by Ridebooker – The Whistler shuttle is similarly priced to the SkyLynx and is priced at $64 CAD one way but does not provide a discount on roundtrip rides. The benefit of the Whistler Shuttle is that drivers will drop you off directly at many popular accommodations free of charge. If you are staying at a private condo or hotel that isn’t listed they charge an extra $20 CAD per person. Bikes are allowed at an additional cost as well. This service seems to nickle and dime you more than the other services however it’s more suitable if you don’t want to haul your luggage to where you are staying.
If you don’t want to ride the bus, there are so many private services to get you to Whistler as well. Ridebooker and Epic Rides both offer private shuttles in your choice of vehicle but there also some smaller companies that offer better prices.
Uber and Lyft, popular carshare services in the US, are not available in Vancouver however there is alternative called Poparide which is almost the same thing.
It’s basically hitchhiking because instead of paying an Uber/Lyft driver to take you were you want to go, on Poparide, drivers share trips they will be taking and you can hop in with them at a super cheap price. You can see how many seats are available and how much luggage (and bikes) is allowed for each driver. Prices start at as little as $15 CAD one way.
Daily/Hourly Car Rentals
Another cheaper option than a bus or private shuttle would be to pay for an on demand car rental like Car2Go or Evo Carshare however, this is only suitable for day trips to Whistler. With these two services you can download an app and on a map you can find where the nearest car is that you can pick and rent for the day. Once you pick up a car you can take wherever you want but is must be returned within 24 hours to the home area, however, they do offer trip packages that allow for longer rentals.
The final option to get to Whistler is of course with a car rental. Search for the cheapest car rentals on Skyscanner with the search box below.
Whistler: Getting Oriented
Though Whistler is still considered a small town, it can be a bit confusing to get around if you don’t what’s what. Knowing where everything is also helps a lot when planning that way you know what things you should do on the same day and what things should be separate. Whistler is made up of many sections but the 3 I’ll be talking about in this article are:
- Whistler Village/Village North
- Upper Village
- Function Junction
To help make sense of where everything is, I’ve included a map of all the things to do in Whistler below. Access this map at any time on your phone with Google Maps.
Adventurous Things to Do in Whistler
1 | Bike the Lost Lake trail network
Whistler’s reputation with its downhill bike park makes it seem a bit intimidating if you visit the town as a beginner/intermediate mountain biker. Let me tell you, Whistler is not a destination for only elite mountain bikers. Whistler is known as a mountain biking town because there is something for everyone and that little something for everyone is best found in the Lost Lake Trail Network, a smooth area of trails that can be accessed right from the village or the Riverside Campground.
Lost Lake Trail Network has a a lot of trails to choose from which can be a little overwhelming but thankfully, each section of trail in this network is less than a mile long and is filled with clear trail signs and trail maps throughout the area. It makes it easy to just go off and ride and figure it out along the way without worrying about straying too far from the trailhead.
2 | Be a Badass at Forged Axe Throwing
While Whistler usually draws us back for it’s gorgeous alpine lakes and smooth flowy MTB trails, the crazy week of rain we had during our last visit had us turning our intention to indoor adventures and I’m so glad we did because we discovered one of our all time favorite experiences on our travels: Axe Throwing.
Seriously, it’s legit axe throwing! Though the name in itself, Forged Axe Throwing, kinda explains what it is, I really didn’t know what to expect here. Despite all my travels, we must live a sheltered life because I didn’t even know ax throwing was “a thing” besides the occasional campfire shenanigans.
Forged Axe Throwing is no doubt one of the most epic and radical things to do in Whistler!
During your hour of axe throwing, an instructor will take you through learning how to throw axes before the real fun begins. The team buildings games and competitions are what make this experience so engaging and unforgettable!
Even if you’re a hardcore adventurer or a budget traveler like us, you can’t miss the good times of axe throwing. Not only will testing your ability to hit a bullseye make you feel like a badass outdoorsmen, but the laughter and debacles of fun competition will also become one of your best memories ever!
3 | Hike Wedgemount Lake
Third times the charm…at least I think it will be. I’ve attempted to hike this trail on two separate visits to Whistler but the universe just seems to not want me to hike it. You see this hike is supposedly “The stuff dreams are made of” and I believe it because, have you seen the photos?
The hike is one of the steepest and most strenuous in the area gaining 1100 meters in 6 kilometers but the views at the top are worth it. For more details on the hike click here.
The problem is that to reach the trailhead, you have to drive on a forest service road, much like most hikes on Sea to Sky, except this forest road isn’t just your typical forest road. It has an 18% grade and the road is barely wide enough for two regular size cars to pass each other. There are potholes but it’s doable with 2WD however there are no pullouts if a large vehicle comes by.
Needless to say, it was a mistake to even try to bring an RV up here. If you’re in a car, you’ll be totally fine to get to the trailhead but RVers will definitely have to pass on this one unless you’ve got a friend with a car or are willing to pay for a carshare like Car2Go or Evo Carshare.
From Whistler, continue north of the village on the Hwy 99 for 10 minutes upon which you’ll pass a sign for Wedgemount Lake on your right, marking the turn. You’ll cross over train tracks, over a single lane bridge, and here there is a huge dirt area that many tent and RV campers spend the night. This area has tons of space to turnaround and can accommodate even large RVs. Past this is where the road gets steep. After 2 kilometers you’ll reach the trailhead.
4 | Cheakamus Lake
Amidst Garibaldi Provincial Park, Cheakamus Lake is one of the most well known alpine lakes in the area. While not as spectacular as Joffre Lakes, Cheakeamus is significantly easier and more appealing to mountain bikers. From it’s trailhead, Cheakamus Lake is only 4 miles roundtrip to the first viewpoint which is also a backcountry campsite. It adds another 4 miles roundtrip to the second campsite/viewpoint but it’s not necessary to go that far, the views at the first are beautiful. There are bathrooms at both the trailhead and the viewpoint.
The trail is extremely smooth which is why we opted to mountain bike it. Rather than just go for a short 4 miles roundtrip bike ride, which is totally cool too, I recommend parking at the interpretive forest trailhead and riding Farside trail first. It’s a 2 mile (one way) beginner to intermediate trail that parallels the river and is super fun and flowy. Take Farside until it ends at the Cheakamus Lake road where you’ll head right up the dirt road for 2-3 miles (don’t worry it goes fast) where you’ll then reach the Cheakamus trailhead where the Cheakamus Lake Trail begins.
More experienced riders can opt to take different variations to get to the Cheakamus Lake Trail. Some alternatives include HiHi, Highline, AM/PM, and Duncan’s.
Biking this Cheakamus Lake Trail is super easy and you’ll actually ride mostly downhill to get to the lake and have to climb on the way back. There are a few rocky sections but super kid friendly and basically a solid green route.
The road to get to the trailhead is dirt and we’re unsure about whether we should drive it with a motorhome after attempting to drive to Wedgemount Lake Trailhead. This road is nothing compared to Wedgemount Lake Road and is totally doable for motorhomes. There are some potholes you may have to take slow, plenty of pullouts to pass cars, and there are few steep hills but nothing unreasonable, plus there is plenty of parking at and near the trailhead. As usual, I don’t recommend RVs going on weekends and large motorhomes and trailers are still discouraged since there isn’t a TON of room to turn around.
5 | Go Climb at Nordic Rock
Sea to Sky highway is a climber’s dream filled with massive well known crags from trad multi pitches to single pitch sport routes but there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of this spot. Nordic Rock is an itty bitty little crag filled with about 20 or so sport routes ranging from 5.8 to 5.12. The proximity to downtown Whistler and the abundance of easy routes are why we love this place so much.
While there are only a few climbs, there are many classic, good routes here like Groovin Mice (5.8), Cheese Grater (5.7), Cat Came Back (5.9), Finntastic (5.10a). Swiss cheese wall was our favorite because we could just hop across the wall doing 4 out of the 5 routes. The Zoo has 2 great top rope/sport routes and main wall is home to 3 classics, In Dog We Trsut (5.8), You Snooze You Loose (5.10d), and Quiksilver (5.11C). Click here for more info on routes.
The climbing area has basically no approach and is just one block off of the Highway in a residential area. Right before you reach Whistler when heading North, turn right onto Nordic Drive then left on Nordic Place and park in the large cul-de-sac. The approach trail literally starts right from the condo’a parking lot, it’s obvious when you’re there. Once you reach the first rock, there’s even a small map showing which crag is which.
If you don’t know how to rock climb, Sea to Sky’s world famous rocks are a great place to test out the ropes for the first time with local guiding services like…
- Whistler Via Ferrata Tour – This is a perfect intro to rock limbing especially if you have a fear of heights. This also more suitable if you want to experience the most amazing views rather than the full rock climbing experience.
- Altus Mountain Guides – Get a taste of what rock climbing is all about in the iconic climbing scene of Whistler and Squamish
- Best Beginner Rock Climbing Shoes
- Intro To Rock Climbing: 3 Ways to Know if Rock Climbing is for You
- Learn How To Rock Climb: Complete Guide To Getting On the Wall
6 | Downhill the Whistler Bike Park
The Whistler Bike Park is easily the most famous outdoor activity in Whistler and probably the most renowned bike park in the world. This park hosts a variety of mountain biking events throughout the summer including the British Columbia Cup and Crankworx.