Hiking Checklists for Whistler & Garibaldi Provincial Park
Multi-day hiking expeditions and simple overnight backpacking trips in Whistler and Garibaldi Park require some organized pre-planning to maximize enjoyment and safety. From the obvious to the not so obvious items, having a checklist handy while packing ensures you don't miss anything. A typical, multi-day backpack should accommodate around 65 litres and this should be sufficient to carry what you need for hikes around Whistler.
There are some excellent hiking gear retailers in Whistler with unexpectedly competitive prices. From backpacks to stove gas, they have everything you need and expert staff to help you get equipped. Hiking in Whistler in the summer and fall months can easily be done without proper hiking shoes, however, good footwear is definitely a good idea. In many of the trails you will encounter snow, some have mud and most have rugged terrain. Having a great set of hiking shoes will keep you dry and blister free. Also, the days of uncomfortable and ugly hiking shoes has long passed. Modern hiking shoes are light, waterproof, extremely rugged and remarkably comfortable and even fashionable.
Whistler area hiking trails are very challenging, usually steep and very well marked. Unlike many of the Vancouver area hiking trails, Whistler area trails are easy to follow and difficult to stray from. The exception to this of course is in the late fall, winter and spring months when snow can obscure the trails. Though getting lost hiking is always possible, the instances of lost hikers in the Whistler area is very rare. Regular precautions should be practiced. Cell phone, light, map/GPS as well as telling someone where you will be hiking are always a good idea on any moderate to challenging hike.
Snow often persists on the higher elevation trails well into June. If hiking these trails before July, snowshoes and gaiters may be necessary. For example, the trail to Black Tusk is partly snow covered well into June or even early July and you might find yourself knee deep in snow if unprepared. You can still manage without gaiters and snowshoes, but getting bogged down in snowy patches can be frustrating.
Water is plentiful on most Whistler and Garibaldi Park trails. The steep and mountainous terrain ensures that streams, rivers and lakes are frequently encountered so carrying more than a litre of water is rarely necessary. Though treating or filtering water is almost universally recommended as a preventative measure against Giardia (Beaver Fever) worldwide. In the Whistler area hiking trails however, this precaution is generally ignored and hikers drinking straight from streams, lakes and waterfalls with no ill effects is the norm. Whistler and Garibaldi Park hiking trails generally have good cell phone signals which allow for smart-phone internet access while on the trail.
One often overlooked aspect of overnight hiking in the Whistler area is the cold evenings. High up in the mountains daytime and nighttime temperatures fluctuate quite a lot. Wedgemount Lake for example, can see daytime temperatures in August in the low 20's (70f) and nighttime temperatures come close to freezing. Bringing along a sweater, fleece, jacket, toque and even gloves can make the evenings and mornings more comfortable.
Multi-Day Hiking Checklist
□ Backpack (65 litre)
Navigation & Safety
□ Hiking Stove & Fuel
Food and Drink
□ Meals + Extra Food
All Weather Clothing
□ Long Sleeve Moisture Wicking Shirt
Personal Items & Accessories
□ Camera & Tripod
Whistler from the air is amazing. Just a few metres from the ground and your perspective of an already beautiful place changes dramatically. Well above the treetops and the surrounding hills and distant mountains come into view and people moving about look very strange. Just another way to look at this incredible part of the world.
Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park is a relentlessly exhausting, steep hike, yet it is mercifully short at only 7 kilometres (one way). The elevation gain in that short distance is over 1200 metres which makes it a much steeper hike than most other Whistler hiking trails. Compared with other Whistler hikes, Wedgemount Lake is half the roundtrip distance of either Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, for example, at 13.5k and 15k respectively (one way). Wedgemount Lake itself is a magnificent destination for a day hike or spectacular overnight beneath the dazzling mountain peaks and stars. Many sleep under the stars on one of the many beautiful tent platforms that dot the landscape. Solidly built, wooden tent platforms are everywhere you look at Wedgemount Lake. Strategically positioned, these platforms manage to maintain an amazingly secluded feel despite their numbers. In all Wedgemount Lake has 20 of these tent areas. Most are wooden, but several down by the lake shore are gravel, yet every bit as nice. At a fast hiking pace you can reach Wedgemount Lake from the trailhead in just an hour and a half but at a leisurely or backpack laden pace you will likely take over two hours. The trail is well marked and well used. The steepness of the trail doesn't require any technical skill, however that last kilometre before the lake you will be scrambling on all fours quite a bit. The elevation gain makes a tremendous difference when carrying a heavy backpack and unprepared for the exertion. There is hardly a section of the trail that is not steeply uphill. The first 15 minutes takes you into the deep forest and then across Wedgemount Creek. This crashing creek can be heard from quite a distance and gives you a hint of the steepness of the trail to come. The source of Wedgemount Creek is of course Wedgemount Lake which tumbles down almost 300 metres in the spectacular Wedgemount Falls. You will be able to see Wedgemount Falls around the 5 kilometre mark along the trail. It is far off to the right in the distance. Despite the distance, you will hear it loud and clear and some easy to find and get to areas off the trail give amazing views of it.
Panorama Ridge is easily one of the most amazing hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park. The 15 kilometre hike from the trailhead at Rubble Creek to Panorama Ridge takes you through beautiful and deep forests, across countless idyllic streams, through meadows filled with flowers, and past dozens of jaw dropping viewpoints. The amazing views start once you reach Taylor Meadows and get even more spectacular as the trail progresses. Once you arrive at Panorama Ridge and its phenomenal vantage point, high above Garibaldi Park, you will stare in wonder. Mesmerized first by Garibaldi Lake, far below you and looking unnaturally blue, the lake looks amazing surrounded by green, untouched wilderness and snow capped mountains. The Table, the massive and unusual looking mountain with its bizarre flat top lays across the lake with the enormous Mount Garibaldi just beyond. In the distance, where Garibaldi Lake ends, a massive glacier rises out of the blue and jagged crevasses can be seen even from such a great distance. Behind you, Black Tusk lays across the valley. Close to the same elevation as Panorama Ridge, you get this wonderful view of it. Certainly the best and closest viewpoint to this iconic mountain. Panorama Ridge sits, along with Black Tusk in the midst of some of the most popular and beautiful hiking trails in Garibaldi Park. There are two main trailheads for Panorama Ridge, Cheakamus Lake and Rubble Creek. Rubble Creek is the more popular starting point as it is a bit shorter, far more scenic and allows for the inclusion of the trail to Garibaldi Lake and the beautiful Taylor Meadows as well as Black Tusk. The trail to Panorama Ridge from Rubble Creek is not so much difficult as it is long. 30 kilometres makes for a long 8-10 hour roundtrip hike. Staying overnight, therefore is a great idea. There are several excellent options for camping in the valleys around Panorama Ridge. The beautiful though often crowded Garibaldi Lake campsite, the less crowded and also beautiful Taylor Meadows campsite, the seldom crowded and serene Helm Creek campsite (located on the side of Black Tusk).
Blackcomb Mountain has come alive with beautiful hiking trails in recent years. With the 2008 addition of the Peak to Peak Gondola which connects Blackcomb to Whistler, the demand for mountain trails is higher than ever. A dozen years ago, you would just have had some rough hiking trails to follow, and not many hikers to follow them. Now you have mapboards, trail signs, viewpoint seating areas and six popular, named trails to hike. The trails are mostly easy and relaxing, however the Decker Loop Trail at the far end of Blackcomb is very challenging and spectacularly scenic. For the most part, you will find yourself winding through a nice alpine forest scattered with enormous fields of erratics leading to one great viewpoint after another. You can hike for as little as 15 minutes or more than 3 hours, depending on the trail or trails you choose to follow. Blackcomb Lake and Blackcomb Peak that looms far above it are the most popular destinations for hikers and getting there and back can be done in a couple hours. The trails begin at the Rendezvous Lodge at the heart of Blackcomb Mountain. The Alpine Walk trail is your first section of this larger trail. It consists of a 1.6k(1mile) loop trail that takes you from the Rendezvous Lodge to the alpine to view of the Fitzsimmons Valley that separates Blackcomb and Whistler mountains. This easy trail winds through huge fields of boulders and mangled alpine trees to a beautiful viewpoint area amongst the enormous erratics overlooking the valley below. In the distance you will see Whistler Mountain and clearly visible ski runs and snowy mountains beyond. Lots of trail signs direct you to either circle back to the Rendezvous Lodge or continue further along the Overlord Trail. The Overlord Trail continues along the edge of Blackcomb Mountain and the scenic alpine forest that surrounds it. Overlord then runs another 1.6k(1 mile) to the far end of Blackcomb before entering Garibaldi Provincial Park. An unmarked trail continues into Garibaldi Provincial Park, however this route is only recommended for advanced hikers as there are no trail signs and getting lost is very easy here. A better/easier route into Garibaldi Provincial Park is found on the Whistler side, where signs and mapboards direct you all the way. Along the Overlord Trail you will come to two loop trails. The first one is the Lakeside Loop Trail. This moderately challenging trail takes you to Blackcomb Lake, a beautiful little alpine lake at the base of Blackcomb Peak. This crystal clear lake sits at the base of a hostile looking valley of boulders on one side and green meadows on the other. You often see a couple people braving the cold water for a swim and there is a huge erratic out in the lake perfect for laying in the sun. The second loop trail off of the Overlord Trail is the Decker Loop Trail. This is the only steep and challenging trail in the area and takes you high up on the ridge along Decker Mountain. This trail will get you the best views of Overlord Glacier in the distance. The layout of the Blackcomb Trails give you essentially three routes to choose from that you start and finish at the Rendezvous Lodge. The short and easy, Alpine Walk loop trail. At just 1.6k, this gives you a quick and easy look at some beautiful views from Blackcomb Mountain. This route can be done in well under an hour. The second route takes the Alpine Walk trail to the Overlord Trail, then up Lakeside Loop to Blackcomb Lake then back around to the Overlord Trail and back to the Rendezvous Lodge. Moderately challenging, this route is about 6 kilometres roundtrip and takes about 2-3 hours to hike.