Whistler has a plethora of incredibly beautiful hiking trails. If you haven’t caught the bug yet, hiking is a fantastic way to explore the wilderness of B.C, get a decent workout, and of course to get dat fresh new insta pic. As summer arrives, the snow around the Sea to Sky Corridor melts away to reveal a world class outdoor playground for mountain bikers, hikers, and climbers alike. From the towering peak of Mount Currie to the mellow stroll to Whistler’s Train Wreck, there are trails for all abilities.
Whistler and its surrounding area is an outdoor lover's paradise. Living here means we’re not afraid to go adventuring in less-than-perfect conditions. However, it is critical to remember that Whistler is wilderness, and those entering the mountains must respect the weather, the rugged terrain, and especially the wildlife. Traveling in the backcountry comes with responsibilities, and when leaving the resort it is our job to be environmental stewards, protecting both the land we recreate on and the wildlife who truly call it "home". Learn more on what to and especially, what not to do when using Whistler's hiking trails with our Hiking 101.
This is a guide to help you get the best out of your hiking experience, and to respect it so that others may enjoy it after you. If you follow these guidelines and enter the wilderness as a responsible hiker, people are more likely to invite you to their lesser-known-super-secret hiking destinations. Also, just be a good person, y'know?
TOP TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE IN THE WILDERNESS
Be prepared. This is perhaps the most important thing to consider. Recognize your ability and understand the risks with all trails. Are you prepared for injuries, delays, changes in weather? Have you told someone where you are going, and when to expect you back? Do you have Search and Rescue's phone number? Have you looked at recent trail conditions? Check out local reports, maps, and a resource such as AllTrails to make sure your route is currently safe. AdventureSmart is a good resource to consult to see if you have The Essentials for hiking in the backcountry.
Be Bear Aware! Whistler has a high population of bears, and our behaviour directly affects their survival. Bear/human conflicts usually end up in a bear being killed, which is often totally avoidable. Here are some steps you can take to reduce human/wildlife interaction:
- Carry bear spray and know how to use it. Bear spray may also help if you run into a cougar (mountain lion), which happens.
- Make noise on the trail to avoid surprising a bear. Call, sing, clap or talk loudly especially near streams and in areas of low visibility. Look out for bears and their scat (poop), and if you come across it consider changing your route and be vigilant.
--Stay together. Hike in groups and don’t let children wander. Larger groups (4 or more) are less likely to have a negative bear encounter.
- Bears can smell REAL good - keep ALL food, garbage, dirty campstoves, toiletries (including facewipes, toothpaste etc) and any other smelly items locked away in a metal bear-proof container provided in the park, your car or hung from a tree away from your campsite.
-Campsites should be free of all attractants whenever you are not present - this means when you go for a hike, a walk to the beach, bathroom, or are otherwise absent from the immediate area.
- Dispose of grey water (water used to wash dishes) in designated areas, away from your camp site.
-Travel during daylight hours. Bears are most active at dawn and dusk.
-When camping, use bear-safe food storage lockers. If there are none available, hang food by a rope system or from a tree branch in an area inaccessible to bears (at least 4 meters off the ground and 3 meters from the nearest tree).
- If you encounter a bear, stay calm. Talk in a low, calm voice as you don't want to surprise it, but you want to make it aware you are there. Back up slowly, never turn your back or run - running can trigger an attack. Do not stare - direct staring can be seen as a challenge. Give it space, make sure you are not between the bear and it's cubs or a potential food source. If it begins to walk towards you, use your bear spray. EVERY group should carry bear spray and know how to use it if you are travelling through bear country.
- If you want to learn more about bears and how your behaviour affects them, check out our Bears page.
photo credit: Vince Emond
Pack out what you pack in. Do not contribute to B.C's growing litter problem by leaving any kind of garbage on your hike. Some people believe it’s okay to leave food scraps because its "compostable/organic/biodegradable”. Nope. Food attracts bears, and food left in the alpine will still be there a year later. I have a poignant memory of finding an outhouse last summer filled with garbage and dirty diapers up in the Callaghan Valley and a momma bear rifling through it. Nobody wants a bear with an appetite for diapers. Further, leave what you find in our beautiful parks. It’s against the law to remove anything at all from a Provincial Park. Leave that pretty rock for someone else to enjoy. When using hut facilities, be sure to check out hut etiquette.
Closed means closed! If a trail is closed, there will likely be a damn good reason. Grizzly bears in the area, washouts, all of these can make trails very dangerous, so if you see a closed sign - head somewhere else.
Respect the fire ban. Every year forest fires devastate massive regions of B.C. and Alberta, and many of these fires are either carelessly or accidentally set off by humans. They spread rapidly and result in the critical loss of natural habitat and human life, often wiping out entire towns. The summers of 2017 and 2018 were the worst on record, with smoke enveloping Whistler for weeks on end. However, taking basic precautions can reduce the likelihood of you starting a fire. First, check whether fires are permitted in the place you are going, and be sure to look at the forest fire hazard. For the high summer in Whistler, there will likely be campfire restrictions in place, as they are the number one forest fire starter. If you start a forest fire by accident due to a discarded cigarette butt, you could go to prison. Educate yourself and act responsibly.
Pooping and peeing! Nothing can destroy a beautiful piece of backcountry paradise like a massive pile of human shit next to your campsite. If there is no outhouse provided, bury your waste in a shallow hole at least 200 feet from any water sources, campsites and trails. Pack out your dirty bog roll in a ziplock bag, or burn it if it is safe to do so. If you must pee, the same 200 foot rule applies. DO NOT PEE NEAR A WATER SOURCE. Water runs downhill into reservoirs where Whistler's drinking water comes from. People refill their water bottles from fresh glacial streams. Please don't contaminate them. It's gross, and this contimination has led to the closure of a beautiful hot spring in the area.
Last but not least - DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS. No, not even that cute, chubby Whisky Jack that you want a photo of on your hand - it's fat from overconsumption of human food. Feeding animals, accidentally leaving food out or not properly disposing of garbage teaches animals that humans provide food. This can cause them serious health problems, not to mention that it makes them lose their natural fear of people and their ability to forage their own. Feeding of wild animals can make large animals (bears, cougars, wolverines...) become much too comfortable around humans. Once these animals learn they can get food from us, they can become a nuisance or a safety risk and get shot. This happens every single year in Whistler. Last year, multiple bears were 'destroyed' after they became a nuisance in Whistler.
Feeding wildlife in a national park is illegal and you can be charged under the Canada National Parks Act. This includes feeding them directly by offering them food, or indirectly by leaving garbage behind for them to find.
A quick note on the growth in popularity of hiking...
People get a lot of inspiration these days from locations they see on Instagram, but avid hikers and long term locals will often not reveal the location of their photos so that the trails remain uncrowded and walked by only those who put proper effort into research them. The lack of respect for the natural environment by people who are often hiking just get a photo at the end has caused a lot of frustration in the hiking community. So, if you're ready to respect the trail and wildlife, and are adequately prepared, this book will teach you about the abundance of hiking opportunities in the Sea to Sky Corridor whilst also giving you detailed descriptions on how to get there.