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.
Whistler really is a premier bike destination no matter your skill level. The bike park’s most popular trails like A-Line, Dirt Merchant, and Top of the World Trail are what every experienced mountain biker dreams of riding however that’s not to say there are no trails for intermediate riders. Whistler caters a few trails like EZ Does it and Shady Acres specifically to beginner/inetermediate riders. After riding the easiest trails, practiced riders can advance up to the popular blue rides like B-Line, Crank it Up, and more.
Downhill bike ticket prices vary by by age and the amount of days you want to ride. If you are staying for more than 3 days, see bike pass prices here. Standard single day tickets are priced as follows:
- Adults 19-64 – $76 CAD
- Teens 13-18 or Seniors 65+ – $68 CAD
- Kids 5-12 – $43 CAD
Bike rentals are available all through town and usually include helmets and padding. These run around $120 CAD per day.
7 | Hike on Whistler Mountain
Pro: Hike among the gorgeous alpine mountains and lakes of Whistler.
Con: Requires riding the paid gondola from the Village.
Personally, I would’ve LOVED to do this but we just couldn’t justify spending so much money to go for a hike. The hikes up on Whistler Mountain did look very cool and there are many different trail options to choose for once you ride to the top.
Hiking to High Note Lake seemed to be one of the best trails in Whistler, passing 3 beautiful lakes including a spectacular view of Cheakamus Lake from above. This hike is 9.5 kilometers and while strenuous, it only gains 300 meters. Click here for more info on the hike.
If you’re up for more of a challenge, tackle the entire Musical Bumps trail which is 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) roundtrip and includes High Note Lake as well as Singing Pass, Flute Summit, and Russet Lake. It’s definitely the most epic trek on Whistler Mountain and it’s relatively secluded. Click here for more details.
8 | Ride Alpine Singletrack
Whistler is famous for so much more than just the downhill bike park. Whistler is filled which dozens of epic singletrack trails in varying difficulty.
Experienced riders can’t leave Whistler without riding the iconic rock drops and weaving narrow boardwalks of Out There, Comfortably Numb, Howler, Danimal, and more.
Perhaps the most beautiful in all of Whistler is the moderately new alpine trail system on Mount Sproatt. This trail system is, as according to its name, located in the alpine meadows of Whistler filled with panoramic views and otherworldly beauty. This ride is suitable for intermediate riders as long as you have good endurance because the climb is REALLY hard and really long. This ride gains more than 5,000 feet/1,500 meters over 19 miles/30 kilometers. It’s a solid blue ride with some rocky sections, some rooty sections, and some smooth sections, the perfect ride for cross country lovers who are looking for a challenging, scenic route.
Click here on the following links for more info on each of these popular single track rides:
If you’re interested in experiencing all the beauty of Whistler’s single track trails but aren’t an experienced mountain biker, check out a guided mountain bike tour here.
9 | Hike to Joffre Lakes
This lake trio might be the most famous hike in British Columbia and in all honestly, it deserves the credit. There are VERY few lakes in the world that are as beautifuly blue and stunning.
Joffre Lakes lives up to everything I dreamed it would be however the only negative was the amount of crowds. This area certainly battles an issue of over tourism due to social media and because of that, I highly recommend doing this hike early in the morning or late at night ESPECIALLY if it’s a weekend.
After hiking it once, I would definitely do it better next time and backpack to the backcountry campground at the the top. To stay there, you have to reserve a campground pretty far in advance as it fills up fast but by doing so you’ll get to be in the most pristine area of the lake at the most uncrowded times of day like sunrise and sunset. Click here to make reservations at Joffre’s Upper Lakes Campground.
This is furthest adventure from Whistler but if you make it that far you have to go the extra mile (literally) to get here.
From Whistler, drive north on Hwy 99 for 60 kilometers, passing by the small town of Pemberton. After about an hour you will see signs for the Joffre Lakes Trailhead on your right.
If the parking lot is full (which it often is on weekends) you can park a few kilometers further at the overflow lot and ride the free shuttle to the trailhead on weekends and holiday Mondays.
Chill Outdoor Activites in Whistler
10 | Train Wreck
While a train wreck may seem like an obscure and somewhat creepy hike to enjoy, the Train Wreck was actually a really beautiful and enjoyable hike in the Whistler area.
The Whistler Train Wreck is more than just a a pile of old metal and random graffiti. Story goes, in 1956 a train was running late from Lillooet to Vancouver so in order to make up time the train sped up. The train didn’t dramatically fly off the tracks into the woods from speed. It actually just ended up getting wedged into a rock cut after going too fast through a section of the railroad that was under construction. The train wreck was then un-jammed from the railroads with the help of logging equipment and was hauled into the woods to where it lies today.
The coolest thing about the Train Wreck is the insane bike park the locals have turned it into (above left photo). There are ramps built on top of the trains for bikers to jump off plus so many more gnarly obstacles. In case you don’t believe that people are actually crazy enough to bike this…
Directly across the highway from Function Junction is Cheakamus Lake Rd. Turn right on Jane Lakes Rd and you’ll come to 2 different parking lots/trailheads. All the trials to the Train Wreck can be hiked or biked. The most popular trail to try is the Sea to Sky Trail however it’s more crowded there so I recommend taking an alternative trail like Trash. Click here to see a trail map for the area. From the parking lots on Jane Lakes Rd, it’s no more than a 2 mile roundtrip hike.
11| Explore a Waterfall
There are 4 awesome waterfalls in the area and I highly recommend visiting at least one on your visit to Whistler.
- Brandywine Falls
- Nairn Falls
- Rainbow Falls
- Bonus: Shannon Falls
Brandywine is definitely the most spectacular waterfall in the area falling a straight 70 meters from top to bottom. The trail to see this waterfall is only a kilometer roundtrip making it more of a scenic overlook than an actual hike.
Bonus: The amazing Sea to Sky trail which connects almost all the way from Whistler to Squamish is a great way to make a trip to Brandywine more active. From the Train Wreck Parking Lot (see number 12), you can bike 8 miles along a green trail all the way to Brandywine.
To get here head 17 kilometers south of Whistler and the Provincial Park will be on your left.
Rainbow Falls actually lies along the same trail that will take you to Rainbow Lake. Getting to the waterfall requires only a short 1.5 km roundtrip hike making it a much easier trek than going all the way to Rainbow Lake. On the other hand, this waterfall isn’t particularly amazing and I would recommend making a day of it and seeing this waterfall on your way to the lake which requires a 16 km roundtrip trek. If you’re not up for that big of a hike, check out Rainbow Park afterward.
To get there, head north north on th 99 from Whistler Village and turn left at the clearly marked junction for Rainbow Lake/Park. Follow the road to one more junction where you’ll turn right just before Rainbow Park and you’ll be at the trailhead.
Nairn Falls, which lies north of Whistler, is more interesting because of the deep, narrow canyon that the waterfall cuts into. This is a more appealing waterfall if you want to hike.
From the trailhead, it’s a 3 km roundtrip hike to see Nairn Falls. The trailhead lies 30 kilometers north of Whistler near the town of Pemberton.
Bonus: Shannon Falls
This waterfall is absolutely extraordinary however it’s really quite far from Whistler. Shannon Falls lies just south of the town of Squamish which is even more amazing town than Whistler in my opinion. Click here to find out all the awesome things to do in Squamish (blog coming soon).
12 | Stroll through the Village
Being a ski town, naturally Whistler Village is as gorgeous as you’d expect. With cobblestone streets that weave between colorful buildings and flowers lining the streets, it’s impossible not to fall for the lush majesty of it all.
Whister’s Village is a prime shopping center filled with every major active + outdoor brand you could think of from Lululemon to The North Face and Arcteryx. While shopping is great if you’ve got money to spend, Whistler can be enjoyed equally as much by just strolling through the streets.
While exploring Whistler village, stopping at Olympic Plaza is a must. Take a photo in front of the iconic Olympic Rings statue from the Winter Olympics that was hosted here in 2010. There is also a nice large grassy area where you can hang out or play games plus a big, fun playground for kids. Olympic Plaza hosts a variety of awesome events year round like the free summer concert series and in the winter, it transforms in a skating rink. Click here to find the latest happenings in Olympic Plaza.
13 | Swim at Lost lake
If biking isn’t your thing, Lost Lake is still an absolute must see in Whistler. Whistler is filled with many beautiful lakes but I found this one to be more pristine since there are no buildings lining the shore.
One side of the lake, the side by the parking lot, is a bit touristy being so close to town however there’s is a wide, gravel path the goes all the way around the lake making it easy to find your own area to sit and relax, unless it’s a popular weekend in Whistler.
On a sunny day, I highly recommend hanging out and going for a swim or if it’s cloudy, a hike or easy bike ride around the lake is still worth checking out.
The lake can be reached from any part of town via the Valley Trail bike path. At Lost Lake there are bike racks, bathrooms, large grassy areas, floating docks in the water, and even a seasonal cafe.
14 | Kick Back at Alpha Lake Park
Among Whistler’s many shores to relax on, I personally think Alpha Lake’s are the best. Alpha Lake seems to draw more of a local crowd and I like how it’s away form the hustle and bustle of the Village.
There is a large grassy area, restrooms, pre-rigged slacklines, multiple docks in the water to jump off of, sandy shores for wading, and plenty of room to SUP or kayak.
You could spend anywhere between a short 30 minutes to a full day here depending on the weather (and the person). I recommend seeing this as a part of a full tour of Whistler on the Valley Trail (see number 6).
Alpha Lake is the southernmost lake in the Whistler area. The lake lies just off the highway with a sign marking the junction. The parking is mostly in residential area making it possible to bring an RV here.
You can also choose to bike here from anywhere in town via the Valley Trail (See number 15).
15 | Explore the Valley Trail
One of Whistler’s most amazing features is the incredible network of bike paths that can take you to all parts of town. Whistler is no doubt one of the most bike/pedestrian friendly towns in the world. It’s a nice luxury to not have to worry about parking and traffic plus every single area of the path is surrounded by amazing trees and nature.
If you’re traveling to Whistler with bikes, you can easily get around town without ever having to drive. In addition, a bike ride in itself is enough of a reason to visit.
With more than 40 kilometers of bike paths covering the whole Whistler are, I highly recommend making it a big adventure of riding the whole town from north south (or vice versa).
Recommended Bike Route:
Whistler contains 4 absolutely beautiful lakes lying south to north respectively: Alpha Lake, Alta Lake, Lost Lake, and Green Lake. You can ride the Valley trail to all 4 of these lakes. The route can be accessed from any part of town and is super well marked so no need to be checking your phone’s map every 5 minutes.
Pro tip: The section of the Valley Trail between Whistler golf club and Blueberry Hills has beautiful lanterns that light the path. Time your trip right to experience the magic of riding through this section at night.
Recommended starting points:
- Riverside RV Park
- Whistler Interpretive Forest/Function Junction
- Whistler Village
- Meadow Park Sports Center or Cranked Coffee
Though it’s not really necessary since Valley Trail maps can be found all throughout Whistler, you can click here to download a map of the Valley Trail yourself.
Where to Eat in Whistler
16 | El Furniture Warehouse
Neighborhood: The Village
Located at the corner of one of the most lively cobblestone courtyards in Whistler, El Furniture Warehouse is the go-to eatery when you’re in town. The exterior reflects it’s interior and from the bar seating to the large group tables and the patio, El Furniture has a radical, upbeat ambiance in the inside and out. The customer service holds true to the rest of the restaurant’s vibe and you’re sure to receive a top of line Whistler experience.
El Furniture Warehouse is perfect for a quick bite, a stop for drinks, or a full dinner. Their menu includes a variety of cuisines from tacos to burgers to noodles, sandwiches, and nachos. I highly recommend the Braised Beef Dip Au Jus, the BLT, the Chaing Mai Bowl, and the Beet + Goat Cheese Salad. P.S. Vegan and gluten free options available.
And the best part is, everything in the menu is $5.95, all day every day! This makes it totally affordable for families or for the lone traveler who wants to load up on a 3 course meal.