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Whistler Snowshoe Trails

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Parkhurst Ghost Town - Whistler Snowshoeing Maps and DirectionsThe extraordinary Parkhurst Ghost Town can be reached by snowshoeing the wonderful new section of the Sea to Sky Trail that runs along the far side of Green Lake.  The trail starts at both ends of Green Lake.  One end is near Whistler Village close to Lost Lake and the other is north of Green Lake at the turnoff to Wedgemount Lake from the Sea to Sky Highway.  In the winter the Lost Lake area has a entry fee and the Sea to Sky Trail can only be accessed from that end by going through Lost Lake.  The far end of the Green Lake section of the Sea to Sky Trail is free to enter and closer to Parkhurst Ghost Town.  It is easy to find.  Just north of Whistler, past Green Lake you will see the Wedgemount Lake sign on the highway.  Turn right and park where you can.  Just across the bridge over Green River you will see a Sea to Sky Trail sign.  The trail goes both left and right here.  Following the Sea to Sky Trail to the right takes you to Parkhurst.  Keep your eyes out for the obvious Sea to Sky Trail signs and it would be a good idea to print out the map above as the trail that leads to Parkhurst from the Sea to Sky Trail is unmarked.  It is however, quite well worn and if you are looking for it, you should spot it easily.  Keep in mind that snowshoeing is slower than hiking so expect to reach the Parkhurst turnoff at about 2.7k in about an hour from where you started.  The town was once a thriving logging community, but when logging stopped here in the 1950's so did life in the town.  As recently as a decade ago there were several old houses still standing, however, heavy snow and the wet climate have flattened almost all of them now.  Still, it is a wonderful glimpse of the past and remarkably untouched.

Why should you snowshoe to Parkhurst Ghost Town?

The snowshoeing route to Parkhurst takes you up to some great views over Green Lake.  The trail is challenging, but not overly difficult and the 7 kilometre roundtrip can usually be done in 3.5 hours.  Parkhurst itself is located in quite an amazing setting on Green Lake.  Part of the ghost town is high up on a ridge above Green Lake, and another part of the town edges on Green Lake itself.  If you get a taxi to the trailhead (less than $20), you can snowshoe back to Whistler Village via the amazing Sea to Sky trail (8 kilometres/5 miles) in about 3-4 hours.

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Rainbow Falls - Whistler Snowshoe TrailsRainbow Falls is a fantastic way go get yourself into some deep snow quickly from Whistler Village.  The trailhead is located just a couple hundred metres from Rainbow Park on Alta Lake which is another great place to snowshoe in Whistler.  The Rainbow Falls trailhead is the same as the Rainbow Lake trailhead, located halfway along Alta Lake Road on the far side of Alta Lake.  The Rainbow Falls Trail is short, varied and relatively easy.  This well used trail never goes in a straight line and goes up and down through a beautiful and deep forest.  There are no signs to Rainbow Falls and you will just see signs for Rainbow Lake and Madely Lake.  To find Rainbow Falls you just follow the Rainbow Lake trail from the trailhead for about a half kilometre until you reach the water treatment building (Rainbow Lake is Whistler's water source).  Just before the building the trail forks.  Take the right fork which branches off of the Rainbow Lake trail.  Within a couple minutes you will hear the falls.  There is a bridge that goes over the river where you can see some of the falls.  But further along, without crossing the bridge, you will come to the falls and end of the Rainbow Falls trail.  This area is fairly popular even in Winter so the well marked trail is easy to follow and the snow on the trail usually well packed down.  Some parts are steep, but the shortness of the trail makes it suitable as a family snowshoeing trail.

Why should you snowshoe/hike to Rainbow Falls?

Rainbow Falls is just 15 minutes from Whistler Village and is an easy trail through some very wild and deep forests.  You can get close enough to touch the falls.  Though they are not large, they stretch for some distance and can be viewed from various vantage points.  Try to pick a sunny day as the trail reflects the light magnificently and you feel as if you are in a winter wonderland, which of course you are.

More on Snowshoeing to Rainbow Falls in Whistler >>

Rainbow Lake - Whistler Snowshoe TrailsRainbow Lake is a tough and beautiful snowshoeing trail 8k, high up in the mountains across the valley from Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.  The trail is generally well marked and easy to follow, however some sections are tricky to follow as the heavy snow bends the bushes down obscuring the trail.  The trail is a constant, fairly steep ascent and you may notice ski tracks along the route.  A somewhat popular skiing attraction in Whistler is to get heli-dropped on Rainbow Mountain and skiing back to Whistler.  Rainbow Falls is a nice detour near the beginning of the Rainbow Lake trail.  When you come to the small water purification building you will see a distinct fork in the trail and a sign directing you to Rainbow Lake turn left.  If you go right however, in just a few hundred metres you will come to the beautiful Rainbow Falls as well as a nice picturesque bridge over the river.  You of course have to backtrack to get back to the Rainbow Lake trail.  Though Rainbow Lake is only 8k from the trailhead, on snowshoes it will likely take nearly four hours to get there.  You can snowshoe around up there for quite a while so you have to be careful with the time as in the winter the sun goes down before 5pm.  The Rainbow Mountain trailhead is easy and close to Whistler Village.  You just need to drive to Alta Lake Road on the far side of Alta Lake, just a 15 minute drive away.  There is a big sign for the Rainbow Lake trailhead on your right if coming from the neighbourhood of Alpine.  The trailhead is about 200-300 metres from the Rainbow Park parking lot.

Why should you snowshoe/hike to Rainbow Lake?

Rainbow Lake is a tough but rewarding snowshoe hike through a thick and beautiful forest.  There are several viewpoints looking across the valley to Wedge, Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains as well as Whistler Village.  It certainly is a good idea to combine this snowshoeing hike with a look at Rainbow Park and Rainbow Falls as both are nearby.

More on Snowshoeing Rainbow Lake in Whistler >>

Rainbow Park - Whistler Snowshoe TrailsRainbow Park is one of the hugely popular swimming beaches in Whistler in the summer.  In the winter it is a spectacular vantage point across Alta Lake to Whistler and Blackcomb.  The beautiful, artistic ski run lines snake down the mountains and by December Alta Lake is usually completely frozen.  Hockey games occur at various spots on the lake and the Valley Trail leading to and from Rainbow Park is buried in snow and unplowed all winter.  When the heavy snow of December comes, the valley trail becomes a snowshoeing and cross country ski trail.  It can still be hiked, but once you reach Rainbow Park you will be knee deep in snow.  The piers that are so well used in summer are frozen in place and, like everything else are buried in snow.  Rainbow Park is a very easy, less than 1 kilometre trail from the parking area at the dead end of Lorimer Rd to the park.  It is a relaxing trail that doesn't change in elevation.  It runs for a while along the River of Golden Dreams then crosses the river on a cute little bridge giving you your first view of Alta Lake.  Just past the bridge on your left you can walk to a viewing platform over the lake.  Back on the trail it is just another five minutes to Rainbow Park at the wonderfully beautiful setting on Alta Lake.

Why should you snowshoe/hike to Rainbow Park?

Rainbow Park is fantastic anytime of the year.  Easy to snowshoe, easy to get to, and beautiful, very beautiful.  It is also very close to the Village and about as family friendly of a snowshoe/hike as you can get.  Just a 5 minute drive from Whistler Village to the end of Lorimer Rd and the free parking next to the Valley Trail which runs in three directions from here.  Rainbow Park, Whistler Golf Course and Meadow Park all can be reached from this three-way trailhead.  There is no camping fees in the winter and you will likely have the whole valley to yourselves.

More on Snowshoeing in Whistler's Rainbow Park >>

Taylor Meadows - Whistler Snowshoe TrailsTaylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake are amazing places to snowshoe in the winter in Whistler.  Beautiful snowy meadows surrounded by mountains everywhere you look.  Black Tusk towering in the distance so close and blanketed in wonderful, beautiful snow.  Garibaldi Lake is accessible as well on this snowshoeing hike.  The Taylor Meadows trail forks partway up, left goes to Taylor Meadows, right to Garibaldi Lake (the trail joins again at the far side of both campsites).  Garibaldi Lake, so massive and dramatically beautiful in the winter, a huge frozen valley.  The downside to this hike is the length of hiking to get to the beautiful parts.  In the summer it's not so bad as the trailhead is a moderately difficult 9k from Garibaldi Lake.  In the winter however, the trailhead parking lot is unplowed almost down to the highway.  So just to get to the trailhead requires about a 2k uphill snowshoe slog.  If you are not troubled by a lot of exertion then it's a wonderful snowshoe destination.  Like Joffre Lakes it is frequented by skiers just enough to ensure an almost constant track throughout the winter so you can concentrate more on the scenery then keeping from getting lost.  Another nice attribute of this hike is the fact that you can snowshoe through the beautiful Taylor Meadows on the way up then across to Garibaldi Lake on the way back, therefore doing a little snowshoe circle route before doubling back to your car.

Why should you snowshoe to Taylor Meadows?

It is a challenging, strenuous snowshoeing trail in the winter that is usually easy to follow due to its frequent use by skiers and snowshoers.  If you enjoy winter camping, the Taylor Meadows Campground is a winter paradise for you.  Amazing views all around and you have the option of snowshoeing a different route for part of the way back to the trailhead (via Garibaldi Lake).

More on Snowshoeing to Taylor Meadows in Garibaldi Park >>

Train Wreck - Whistler Snowshoe TrailsDecades ago a train derailed south of Whistler.  Over the next fifty years this wreckage has evolved into an absolutely amazing place to snowshoe, the Whistler Train Wreck.  The cost to clean up the wreckage was deemed too high, so seven train cars were left scattered next to the Cheakamus River.  As it turns out, time and local effort has transformed this mess into a wonderful work of art, an extraordinary bike park in the summer, and a great place to snowshoe in the winter.  The Cheakamus River winds its way, crashing and emerald green along the length of the Whistler Train Wreck, and there are several spectacular river vantage points that shouldn't be missed.  The whole length of the train wreck and Cheakamus River hike is 3 kilometres (each way) and the trails go along the beautiful river as well as several, widely spaced train wrecks.  The Whistler Train Wreck trailhead is best reached by starting at the easy to find, Flank Trail trailhead in Function Junction, just 8k south of Whistler Village.  The Flank Trail trailhead is easy to spot.  A small "Flank Trail" sign sits at the edge of Alpha Lake Road just before Alpha Lake Road bends sharply right.  The Flank Trail immediately runs into the deep forest as it follows the river away from Function Junction.  There trail is easy to follow and well used.  There is only one part of the trail that may get you lost.  About five minutes into the trail you will exit the forest and walk along a wide, clear gravel area.  Keep your eyes out for the trail across the clearing..

Why should you snowshoe to the Whistler Train Wreck?

Easy and beautiful.  One of the nicest, easy snowshoeing and hiking trails in Whistler as you see both an amazing train wreck, turned work of art as well as the amazing Cheakamus River.  Family friendly (easy), and close and convenient to Whistler Village as it is just an 8k drive away.

More on Snowshoeing the Whistler Train Wreck >>

Wedgemount Lake - Whistler Snowshoe TrailsWedgemount Lake is a steep and difficult hike in the summer when there is no snow.  It doesn't require technical skill, but it is just exhausting.  You gain 1220 metres of elevation in just 7 kilometres and hiking with a backpack takes about 2.5 hours to reach the lake.  In the winter, on snowshoes, the Wedgemount Lake trail is considerably harder.  First, the obscured trail is hard to follow, despite the frequent trail markers.  Second, on snowshoes, each step on steep ground is one step forward, half a step backward.  You plod on slowly and with each step slipping back part way.  If you can get past the difficulty of the exhausting winter trek to Wedgemount Lake you will reach an amazing paradise in the mountains.  The Wedgemount Lake Hut is an extraordinary oasis of warmth in the middle of the beautiful Wedgemount Lake Valley.  Anyone can use the hut, anytime.  It can sleep up to 8 reasonably comfortably and consists of two large tables on the lower level and a small loft that can fit four people. Sporadically used by skiers in the winter, though rarely used by snowshoers due to the difficulty of the trail in the winter.  If you do make it up to Wedgemount Lake you will be rewarded with a phenomenally beautiful, snow filled mountain paradise of a valley.  The Wedgemount Lake trail is deep with snow from late December to late June most years.  If you snowshoe it November to mid December or mid June to early July, you will only need your snowshoes partway up the trail.  Depending on conditions and traffic on the trail, you may get lucky and be able to follow previous tracks in the snow, however this is not reliable.  The final kilometre before Wedgemount Lake between the months of November and late June is almost always deep with snow.  This part is very steep and even on snowshoes painfully difficult, so consider that if you plan to go.  Also, losing the trail is always a consideration worth worrying about and having a GPS with you is a very good idea.  At a good pace, when the trail has snow top to bottom, expect to take over four hours from your car to the hut.  Some take as long as 6 hours.  You have to add an extra kilometre or two in the winter as well due to having to park far below the usual trailhead parking as it is inaccessible due to snow December to May.

Why should you snowshoe to Wedgemount Lake?

The sense of achievement in tackling such a strenuous and difficult trail is amazing.  Having the whole Wedgemount Lake valley to yourself is an extraordinary experience.  The Wedgemount Lake Hut in winter is a wonderful luxury in such a hostile place.  Walking out to the middle of the frozen lake and looking up at the amazingly bright stars is wonderfully surreal.

More on Snowshoeing Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Park >>

Best Whistler Aerial Views Cirque Lake

Best Challenging Snowshoe Trails in Whistler

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