Ancient Cedars & Showh Lakes
Cheakamus Lake and you will marvel at the size, frequency and wonderful aroma of these massive and numerous giant cedars. The Wedgemount Lake trail also has some majestic cedars along the hike. You can even walk through an on the Valley Trail at the north end of the Whistler Golf Club.often gets overlooked by hikers in Whistler. Certainly there are other groves of massive cedars found in other Whistler area hikes. If you hike the short 3k trail to
None of them compare, however, to thehike. They are extraordinarily huge and some are estimated to be a thousand years old. Most of these giants stretch toward the sky, but some lay along the forest floor giving you an even closer grasp of their size. If you bring kids along, they will disappear into the endless, natural playground.
The trailhead to Ancient Cedars is just a short drive north of Whistler. Just past Green Lake on Highway 99, you turn left on Cougar Mountain Rd and drive 4.5k up a bumpy logging road. As logging roads go it is not bad. If you are driving a car you should be OK as long as you take it slow.
Theis well marked and well worn and only gradually uphill for the 2.5k hike, trailhead to ancient forest. At the Ancient Cedars forest there is a short circle trail that takes you throughout the giants then leads you back to the main trail for the return journey.
The whole trail takes you through the tranquil and remote forest that hides up on the far side of Cougar Mountain. Cougar Mountain is home to TAG and Superfly Ziplines. The rows of atv's you will pass while driving up the Cougar Mountain Forest Service Road will belong to TAG. Superfly Ziplines is worth a look here too as they boast the "Longest, highest, fastest ziplines in Canada."
The whole 5k Ancient Cedars roundtrip should take you less than two hours. Unlike most other Whistler hiking trails,is dog friendly. Unfortunately snow makes the road undrivable much of the year, so you can only reliably get up there around mid June to early to mid November.
The main attraction to the Ancient Cedars trail is of course the monster cedars at the end of the trail. The trail itself is scenic and at least a couple times the forest opens up to some great views of the Soo Valley and snow capped mountains beyond. With the trail improvements in late 2013, you will now find more trail signs and kilometre markers. Some interpretive information about the beautiful forest around and above you, as well as some strategically placed benches to sit and appreciate the grandeur of the trees.
The obvious draw of Ancient Cedars trail tends to make hikers overlook the connecting trail to Showh Lakes. After hiking to Ancient Cedars, halfway along the trail take the connecting trail to Showh Lakes(sometimes known as Showh Lake and Cougar Lake).
The trail runs along the left side of the larger lake on your right and then veers left, crosses a creek and circles around the smaller lake on your left where it connects with the logging road and Showh Lakes parking area. You can either follow the road back to your car at the Ancient Cedars trailhead or continue rounding this smaller Showh Lake and rejoin the main trail you came in on and hike back to your car.
Showh Lakes are very remote and wild feeling lakes which certainly ads to their draw as fishing lakes. They are stocked with trout every year and your average summer day will find a couple fly fishermen out on the water floating inside those funny little one-man rubber float tubes having a great time catching lots of fish. Swimming is not the best at Showh Lakes, however, the wonderful remote setting more than makes up for the lack of inviting beach.
History of Ancient Cedars
Back in the late 1980's workers building a bike trail on the lower part of Cougar Mountain discovered a small grove of stunningly enormous Western Red Cedars. Several noted at the time were over 10 feet in diameter. Core samples were taken and indicated that the trees were likely close to 1000 years old. The Douglas Firs in the grove were similarly ancient and estimated to be no less than 650 years old. Suddenly it became evident that word of these monsters would reach the logging companies and the magnificent ancient grove would be turned into lumber.
On March 25th, 1988 a meeting was held in Squamish between the Forest Service(logging interests) and the Pocket Wilderness Coalition(a group dedicated to preserving this ancient forest). The PWC came with two requests: to protect the Cougar Mountain and Rainbow Mountain areas and prevent logging activity, road building and other development on these two mountains. Predictably the local Forest Service Operations Manager, Don Kinnear refused. Kinnear went on to inform the PWC that logging permits have already been issued for Cougar Mountain and logging would commence as soon as weather permits. Worried that Mr Kinnear would speed up logging in the area in order to destroy the ancient forest and therefore avoid further opposition, the PWC asked to be notified when new logging plans were submitted to the Forest Service. Kinnear refused, and some argued that this went against his professed goal of keeping the public involved.
We can be grateful to the PWC's relentless effort. Against all odds it seems, they prevailed. Cougar Mountain, with Ancient Cedars nestled high up in the beautiful wilderness, remains today. The victory was partly owing to public perceptions of usefulness and profitability from tourism from natural wonders, such as this forest. Locals in Whistler recount the steady growth of tourism operators around Whistler's third mountain. So much so, that today the area is home to Ziplines, tree-top adventures, ATVing, snowmobiling, as well as criss-crossed by dozens of hiking and biking trails. All this development and Ancient Cedars has survivived. The bewilderingly huge ancient cedars are protected and we can watch these monsters continue to grow for generations to come.
Geology of Ancient Cedars
What would eventually be known as Cougar Mountain was consumed by ice as two kilometre thick glaciers filled Whistler valley during the last great Ice Age, roughly 10000 years ago. Just the upper reaches of the mountain would have been above the glacier for hundreds of years as the glacier pulverized the valley and carved the terrain all the way to Porteau Cove, down past Squamish! You can stand anywhere in Whistler with a view over the valley and imagine the depth of the glacier that once filled the valley. The alpine mountain peaks, visible by their treeless terrain, are a good marker of where the glacier once rose to. Another indication is the shape of the mountains. Rounded mountain peaks were likely glacier covered, whereas jagged peaks, such as Wedge, Blackcomb, and Whistler were not. Looking around at Whistler's mountains give you a vivid look into the look of the valley thousands of years ago.
Trailhead & Parking Directions for Ancient Cedars
To find the Ancient Cedars trailhead, zero your odometer at Village Gate Boulevard in Whistler village then drive north on Highway 99, towards Pemberton. At 8.4km you will see a logging road on your left, Sixteen Mile Creek Forest Service Road and more recently called Cougar Mountain Road. I you keep your eyes out for the big Cougar Mountain sign on your left, you should spot the turn easily. There is no turn lane, however the highway is wide and safe enough to slow and stop if needed while turning left. Turn here and continue straight for 4.5 kilometres(passing through some busy tour operator areas) until you see the sign for the Ancient Cedars trailhead. This road is very bad with potholes after you pass the tour operators. Though the potholes are very bad, most cars should be fine reaching the parking area as long as you drive carefully and slow. The trailhead to Ancient Cedars is well marked and, unless you have a serious 4x4, the parking lot is as far as you will be able to drive.
There is another parking area at Showh Lakes just a couple hundred metres further up, but if you are hiking to Ancient Cedars this is the best one to use. Also, getting to Showh Lakes requires driving a very bad 4x4 only section. Steep, windy and will big loose boulders. Most decent 4x4's should make it, however, not without some boulder banging underneath. By way of comparison a Jeep Grand Cherokee can get there will little difficulty.
Camping & Bivouacking at Ancient Cedars
There are no dedicated camping options in and around Ancient Cedars, however you can find some very rugged areas to put up a tent well away from the Ancient Cedars trail. The tent shown below is just a few dozen metres off of the main trail and has an amazing view over Showh Lakes. Down at Showh Lakes you will find several good spaces for a tent.. but it takes a little looking, and none are exceptional. The terrain is too irregular and just not ideal for camping, however there is a good clearing in the forest just before you arrive at the far lake. What the lakes lack in flat, tent-friendly ground, they more than make up for with amazing wilderness serenity. With the exception of seasonal engine sounds from atv's or snowmobiles, you will rarely see or hear any hint of mankind. If you are a fan of taking your 4x4 to your campsite, Showh Lakes will suit you as well. Depending on your 4x4, you may be able to drive right to where you plan to camp. If not, you will just have to park a 3 minute walk from where you camp. Either way, it is a very convenient and unexpectedly remote feeling, wilderness setting to camp for free, so close to Whistler.
Another decent place to camp would be back down to the Sea to Sky Highway, turn left(north) and in a couple kilometres watch for the Wedgemount Lake turnoff on your right. Turn here and cross the train tracks and park next to the Green River. There are several places on both sides of the river that are very nice and perfect for a tent. If you are more adventurous, cross the river and turn right. Drive along this bumpy logging road for about 1 kilometre, pass Whistler Paintball on your left and at the yellow gate, park on the clearing on the right. You will see the Sea to Sky Trail head up along the gated gravel road. If instead you follow the old gravel road on the right. After a few hundred metres running parallel to the train tracks, you will come to the Parkhurst Trail, leading to Parkhurst Ghost Town and a very interesting and beautiful place to camp overlooking Green Lake.
Further north on the Sea to Sky Highway you will come to Nairn Falls Provincial Park. This is a huge, pay-to-use campground with plenty of facilities and located on Green River, just a short hike to Nairn Falls. In Whistler, just north of the Village near the south end of Green Lake, is Riverside Resort. This deluxe campground has tent spots on the Fitzsimmons River as well as RV camping, yurts and log cabins to rent. A bit pricey and often crowded in the summer with wall to wall RV's. But if you are OK with that, Riverside is pretty amazing.
Facilities at Ancient Cedars
There is an outhouse across from the trailhead to Ancient Cedars. The tour operators further down towards the highway turnoff may let you borrow their deluxe facilities if you ask nicely. A couple kilometres south on the Sea to Sky Highway, at the entrance Alpine, you will find the closest real washrooms. Alpine Cafe and Alpine Market are just off the highway(south from Ancient Cedars), turn right into Alpine and then immediately right again. The Alpine Cafe has been a locals favourite since it opened in 2004. A small, but very cute and warm feeling cafe with great coffee and lots of cafe style food for great prices. You will want to order everything on the menu. Open everyday 630am to 9pm. There is a small waterfall and several clean mountain streams at Ancient Cedars with fresh, clean water.
Restrictions at Ancient Cedars
Ancient Cedars and Show Lakes are very dog friendly. The hiking trails are less busy than the Garibaldi Park trails across the valley which don't allow dogs. The amazing Sea to Sky Trail is another dog friendly option close by. This 180 kilometre trail cuts right through Whistler and there are several access points. The closest access from Ancient Cedars is just north on the Sea to Sky Highway. Turn right at the sign for Wedgemount Lake, cross the train tracks and bridge over Green River and look for the Sea to Sky Trail signs. For a list of the best dog friendly hiking trails in Whistler try here.
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