Blackcomb Mountain Hiking Trails
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. You have two ways to get here and both require paying for access to WhistlerBlackcomb Resort. An adult day pass is $52.95 and a pass good for the whole summer is just $81.95. These give you access to all the chair lifts and gondolas that access hiking trails as well as the Peak to Peak Gondola.
There are two ways to go up or down the mountains and a good idea is to use one way up and another way down to add to the variety. A good way to start up the mountain is to begin by taking the Wizard Express chairlift in the Upper Village. The Upper Village is where you find some of the more luxurious hotels in Whistler. The Fairmont and the Four Seasons are located in the Upper Village. If you are staying in Whistler Village, the Upper Village is just a short and very scenic, 10 minute walk away. Also in the Upper Village in the summer months you will find several kid friendly activities such as trampolines, mini go-carts, a human maze, mini golf, horse riding, and quite a lot more.
The Wizard Express is a beautiful way to get to Blackcomb's hiking trails. Especially on a sunny day, riding a quad(4-person) chairlift up the mountain is like a carnival ride up a beautiful mountain forest. You have wonderful views immediately. Looking back on the Upper Village, you look down on the Fairmont(hotel) and moments later can see beyond the Upper Village to Lost Lake, Alta Lake and Green Lake. To your right you get stunning views of Whistler Mountain through breaks in the alpine forest. The Wizard Express ends only half way up Blackcomb and you have to hop off and walk a couple dozen metres to get on the Solar Coaster Express, another quad chairlift.
The Solar Coaster Express launches you further up Blackcomb Mountain and into the alpine. You will start to feel the cold alpine air on the Solar Coaster Express as you will have gained over 1000 metres or almost 4000 feet since you left the Upper Village. Shorts and a t-shirt, that felt comfortable just a few minutes ago, are now inadequate in all but sunny days up here. Bring a jacket or sweater just in case or buy one at the well stocked store in the Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb.
The Solar Coaster Express drops you off high up the mountain at the Rendezvous Lodge. This is the main centre of activity for Blackcomb Mountain year-round. The Peak to Peak Gondola also stops here. The Rendezvous Lodge is a destination on its own. A small pub, huge restaurant/cafeteria, gift shop and a up scale restaurant here ensure that you have lots to choose from. Christine's is a very nice restaurant perched on the edge of the building and with spectacular views from every table. If you don't stop in this beautiful restaurant for a meal or just a drink, you are missing one of the most amazing and usually overlooked restaurants in Whistler. Though the restaurant looks and feels very upscale, the prices are not... and the views are sensational.
The huge cafeteria style restaurant is very good as well and both the inside and outside seating areas have excellent views as well. With the location of the Rendezvous Lodge, you would have trouble finding a seat without a fantastic view. There are washrooms in the building as well and it should be pointed out that these are the only washrooms you will find. Owing to the relatively short distance of the hiking trails on Blackcomb, there are no outhouses along the trails.
For part of the summer, usually until late July, you will see large buses arriving and departing near the terminus of the Solar Coaster Express. These free buses take you to the 7th Heaven Chairlift which in turn takes you up to the Horstman Glacier and Horstman Hut. Here you will find summer skiing/riding and a surprisingly nice place to eat. This is not an area for hiking and the main draw, aside from skiing/riding is sightseeing.
The 7th Heaven is another beautiful, quad chair that is even more carnival-like that the Wizard and Solar Coaster chairs. Riding the 7th Heaven Chair down is thrilling from the start as you get on and immediately drop off a cliff and then descend through a spectacular valley of boulders and snow. You can take the bus to 7th Heaven, ride the chairlift up, see the sights, ride down and bus back to the Rendezvous Lodge in well under 2 hours. It's worth the time if you have it, but the last chairs down from Blackcomb are usually 5:30pm, so give yourself time.
The other way to arrive or depart from Blackcomb is the Peak to Peak Gondola. It arrives and departs from near the Rendezvous Lodge and currently runs 10:30am to 4:45pm, late May to late September. Whenever you go up either mountain hiking in the summer, ask the lifties when the last ride down is to make sure you don't miss it. The Peak to Peak Gondola connects the Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb Mountain to the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain.
The Peak to Peak Gondola is quite an amazing ride between the mountains. It holds the world record for the longest free span between rope-way towers at over 3 kilometres(1.88 miles). Overall the Peak to Peak is 4.4 kilometres(2.73 miles) long and takes 11 minutes to cross the enormous valley separating Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. If you have not been on the Peak to Peak Gondola before, do it, it is fantastic. Your lift pass to access the mountains hiking trails includes the Peak to Peak Gondola as well.
Both the Rendezvous Lodge and Roundhouse Lodge are similarly equipped with restaurants, gift shops and washrooms. The Roundhouse on Whistler is in turn connected to the Whistler Gondola which takes you directly to or from Whistler Village. This 22 minute gondola ride is similarly scenic as the Blackcomb chairlifts, however, riding a chairlift on a sunny day is far more enjoyable than a gondola.
You will find that on weekends during the summer, that the Whistler Gondola is open later than the Blackcomb lifts. This is to accommodate the "Mountain Top BBQ Series" that runs all summer on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. You have to pay extra for the BBQ dinner, however, riding the gondola up or down later is no extra charge. This opens up the hiking trails late into the evening on Whistler Mountain and enables you to hike on Blackcomb for much of the day, then on Whistler later in the day. The sunsets on Whistler are of course amazing and a good way to end a day of hiking.
If you started hiking early, have lots of day left, and the weather is nice, you should take the Peak to Peak Gondola back across to Blackcomb and ride the chairs down. Going down the mountain on chairlifts is even more fun than riding them up as you get a whole new view. Also, on a hot day, the gondola can get warm and having to look through windows isn't as fun as an open chairlift.
The hiking trails on Blackcomb Mountain begin at the Rendezvous Lodge and are immediately beautiful. Dozens of sightseers will be snapping photos right from the start of the trail. Mapboards along the trails give you an indication of the mountains and lakes you can see in the valley below and beyond. The Blackcomb hiking trails run in a linear route and the different trails are basically sections of one large trail. In short, you hike in one direction, but have the option of making the trail longer or shorter as you go.
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 route 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. This is the very old and very loved, Singing Pass trail that begins next to the bus stop at the base of Whistler Mountain(close to Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub).
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. This is a very popular route as it not too short and not too long.
The third route is to take the Alpine Walk Trail, continue onto the Lakeside Loop Trail, then down to the Overlord Trail, then up along the Decker Loop Trail, then return by the Overlord Trail. This is moderately challenging except for the very steep Decker Loop section is about 9.5 kilometres roundtrip and takes about 3-5 hours to hike. This is popular trail for those looking for a longer hike to the best views. Challenging and very scenic.
Garibaldi Provincial Park continues where Blackcomb Mountain ends. Just beyond the Overlord Trail you can find several excellent places to put up a tent. Garibaldi Park is enormous and this is a quiet and mostly forgotten corner of this massive wilderness. Occasionally people camp out overnight at Blackcomb Lake. There doesn't seem to be a resounding prohibition against it, however, as the area is popular with day hikers, having a tent set up in sight of hikers would be unusual and in bad taste. If you do plan on spend the night, arriving late, leaving early, and leaving no trace would seem to be considerate.
This is quite easy to accomplish as with the narrow chairlift opening hours dictate when hikers arrive and depart. So realistically, with the chairlift opening hours of 10am to 4pm you won't likely see people until 11am or after 3pm.
Access to Blackcomb Mountain Hiking Trails
Blackcomb Mountain hiking trails are accessible with a WhistlerBlackcomb lift pass. With a lift pass you can take the Wizard Express(quad chairlift) and then the Solar Coaster(quad chairlift) to the hiking trailhead at Rendezvous Lodge. At the Rendezvous Lodge look for the huge mapboards and trail signs. The trails and trail junctions are so well laid out that you don't need to bring a map. Each junction has a mapboard and direction signs complete with estimated times to hike. You can also access Blackcomb Mountain via the Peak to Peak Gondola that connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. From Whistler Village, take the Whistler Gondola to the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain. Next to the Roundhouse you will see the huge Peak to Peak Gondola building. The Peak to Peak Gondola takes you directly to the Blackcomb hiking trails at the Rendezvous Lodge.