Garibaldi Park Whistler A to Z: NunatukAdjacent to the huge Caterpillar tractor in Parkhurst is a large disintegrating wooden dock that is a great place to take in the wonderful view of Green Lake.  From the dock if you look to the right you will see a large triangle of deep forest jutting out into the lake.  This is where the Parkhurst Sawmill once operated for thirty years.  Looking at the almost impenetrable forest now, it is hard to picture this area without trees and with train tracks extending into a large building housing the sawmill with an enormous steel chimney several dozen metres tall. 

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From the dock you can walk back along the short trail that leads to the train tracks.  If you turn left, well before the train tracks you can do a little bushwhacking and find your way into the site of the old Parkhurst Sawmill.  Not far from the end of the triangle of land and almost in the middle, you will find the huge, old chimney now laying on the ground in several huge pieces.  You can even locate the solid steel base of the chimney in the midst of a large bewildering clearing devoid of trees.  It takes a little investigating to realize that under about a foot of grass, moss and other forest growth you are standing on massive sheets of thick metal that once was the roof of the Parkhurst Sawmill.  For three decades this would have been the loudest and busiest place in the area, now it is a wonderful oasis cut off from the world by the 65-year-old forest that surrounds it.  Wandering toward the jungle surrounding the clearing you can’t help noticing some very big trees about 50 metres tall, and appear to be fused together at their base.  Called gemels, trees that merge together are not rare, but unusual enough to make you take a closer look.  This gemel conceals something extraordinary that may have caused the two trees to become one a long time ago.  About a metre directly in front of this tree, a strange old metal pipe emerges from the ground.  It is noticeably angled toward the middle of the tree, though deep underground.  Circling around the tangle of forest surrounding the tree you find the source of the pipe and can't help but be astonished that you hadn't noticed it before.  Another huge, old logging tractor!  It appears as though it crashed into this huge gemel and was abandoned.  Of course, the opposite is the case.

Parkhurst Sawmill Map v5

This hulking steel monster was simply left here, almost certainly in a wide open clearing in 1956 when the Parkhurst Sawmill closed.  As the forest grew all around, two trees possibly hemmed together by solid steel machinery, fused together into one tree.  Laying deep within the base of this tree must be a considerable amount of iron.  This tractor appears to be a Cletrac BD agricultural crawler.  Oliver Cletrac was a popular tractor manufacturer similar to Caterpillar, and this one dates back to the mid 1940's when Parkhurst was thriving as a logging town. The peculiar pipe that comes out of the ground on the opposite side of the trees is evidently a connection to a plow or something attached to the front.  The trees likely grew on either side of this pipe and they fused together to become one tree. 

Parkhurst Cletrac Pipe Through Gemel

Parkhurst Cletrac Pipe

Hydraulic Pipes to the Missing Cletrac Plow

Parkhurst Cletrac Pipe

Looking up from the metal pipe that disappears into the ground under the gemel and the old Cletrac tractor is almost completely invisible.  More than six decades of forest growth have wrapped around and hidden the old Parkhurst Cletrac from view.  In the picture below you can barely make out a bit of the roof bar of the old tractor.

Abandoned in 1956 in a Treeless Clearing

Hidden Cletrac Behind Gemel

The Parkhurst Ghost Town Cletrac

The Parkhurst Cletrac finally comes into full view when you bushwhack around to the back of it and find another clearing inevitably caused by great big sheets of metal from the Parkhurst Sawmill's roof that collapsed long ago and is preventing large trees from growing.  The old Cletrac may have actually allowed for an opening in the layer of sheet metal by preventing it from layering over the ground immediately around and in front of it.  This may explain how the large aspen gemel managed to grow directly in front of the Cletrac, in an area with hardly any big trees.

The Parkhurst Cletrac Abandoned in 1956

Parkhurst Sawmill Cletrac Side

The old Parkhurst Cletrac still has the cable extending from the cable winch as if the operator stopped for a lunch break and never returned.  Certainly an appropriate feature of a ghost town to have such an abruptly abandoned piece of heavy machinery frozen in time.

Parkhurst Cletrac in Whistler

A closer look at the base of the gemel where the huge tree the Cletrac become one.  It appears that two aspen trees began growing in front of the old Cletrac 65 years ago, possibly in a gap created by the collapsed, sheet metal roof still hidden under the forest floor.  The two aspens grew close together, possibly due to the confined space caused by now missing or unseen Cletrac plow, and the two trees fused together into the large gemel we see today.

Parkhurst Sawmill Cletrac Gemel

Below is a good view of the Parkhurst Cletrac from the only angle that you can get a good look at it.  65 years after the tractor was abandoned and younger trees are finally taking root on the forest floor that covers the massive sheets of metal from the collapsed Parkhurst Sawmill.

Parkhurst Sawmill Cletrac Back

Below is a picture of the old Parkhurst Sawmill as it was in the early 1950's, not long before it was closed in 1956.  The Cletrac was abandoned in the clearing roughly in the middle of the picture below, almost certainly in the fall of 1956.

Parkhurst Sawmill 1950's

Parkhurst Sawmill Site in Whistler

Parkhurst Sawmill IconThe Parkhurst Sawmill operated on the triangle of land that juts out into Green Lake and also extended along the shore between the train tracks and the shore.  The old sawmill was almost certainly crushed under heavy snow in the years following its closure in 1956.  With the town abandoned there were no caretakers to maintain any of the old structures and the crushing weight of spring snow eventually flattened all but two of the old houses and the old sawmill.

Parkhurst Sawmill Tent

Today, when you wander around where the old sawmill was you will notice a strange lack of trees growing in certain areas.  After a bit of poking around you realized that under the forest floor layer of dirt, moss and grass are huge sheets of metal that once covered the roof of the Parkhurst Sawmill.  Some of these can still be seen where there once was a covered area over train tracks that branched off from the railway we see today and extended to the sawmill near the end of the point of land.  With some digging you may uncover the old train tracks under all the collapsed debris, but it seems likely that the tracks were removed and salvaged.  The giant steel chimney from the sawmill is still easy to find sprawled across the forest floor in a few pieces.  The brick building that housed the furnace is now a pile of bricks crumbling around the old furnace.  Also in the forest you will encounter yet another abandoned tractor.  An old Cletrac tractor, similar to the the Caterpillar RD8, but newer, smaller and lacking an enormous plow.  As with the Caterpillar RD8, the forest has consumed and hidden it quite well.

Parkhurst Ghost Town in Whistler

Parkhurst TrailParkhurst Ghost Town is a beautiful and comparatively quiet place to hike in Whistler.  An ever increasing network of hiking and biking trails over the years have made it quite an accessible place to get to from either the Sea to Sky Trail/Green Lake Loop from Lost Lake near Whistler Village or via the Parkhurst Trail at the far end of Green Lake.  A short drive from Whistler Village along the Sea to Sky Highway past the north end of Green Lake takes you to the trailhead for the Parkhurst Trail and the short hike to Parkhurst.  The highlights of Parkhurst Ghost Town are not just the interesting old relics of the abandoned town, but the gorgeous views of Green Lake from several places along the Parkhurst Ridge Trail.

Parkhurst Map Complete v14

The Parkhurst Loop Trail

Parkhurst Loop Trail EasyThe Parkhurst Loop Trail is roughly a triangle with each side about 300 metres long.  This trail runs through the now deep forest where most of the houses once stood in Parkhurst.  Part of the loop trail was once an old gravel road which explains how the various wrecked vehicles managed to get there.  Wrecked, old trucks from the 1950’s, an old car from the 1970’s and dozens of collapsed houses lay rotting along this trail.  It is fun to wander through the forest here as you can never tell what you will find around the next bend in the trail.  The triangle shaped loop trail surrounded by deep forest is strangely disorienting.  You find yourself wandering for a while in a direction you are sure is away from Green Lake, only to suddenly emerge from the forest just steps from the water.  Unlike other hiking trails in Whistler where you have a set destination, at Parkhurst you have a non-stop series of curious structures, beautiful sections of forest and endless great lake views.

Parkhurst Loop Trail Map v3

Trailhead & Parking Directions to Parkhurst

Trailhead Directions Parkhurst WhistlerThere are several ways to get to Parkhurst, but the access from the Wedgemount Lake turnoff on the Sea to Sky Highway is the most direct if arriving on foot or bike.  If you zero your odometer at Village Gate Blvd in Whistler Village and drive north on Highway 99, at 11.9 kilometres you will see the Wedgemount (Garibaldi) turnoff on your right.  Turn here, cross the train tracks and then the bridge over Green River, turn right and follow the gravel road for a few hundred metres.  You will pass Whistler Paintball on your left and then see a yellow gate and a sign for the Sea to Sky Trail.  Park on the clearing across from the yellow gate and walk straight ahead along the old gravel road, passing the yellow gate, road and Sea to Sky Trail on your left. Biking or hiking the 10 kilometres to Parkhurst from Whistler Village is a very nice option as well.  Biking from Whistler Village to Parkhurst takes only about 20-30 minutes and follows the beautiful Sea to Sky Trail up around Green Lake.  Hiking to Parkhurst from the Village will take the average hiker 2-3 hours each way.

Parkhurst Whistler Directions Map v5

More Parkhurst Ghost Town Info

More Whistler & Garibaldi Park Hiking A to Z!

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