Things to Do in Whistler
North America’s major ski resort focuses on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, attracting up to two million winter and summertime visitors a year.
Linked by the groundbreaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola, the two mountains peer over the pretty alpine town of Whistler Village.
The official skiing venue for the 2010 Olympic winter games, the Whistler and Blackcomb resorts merged in 1997 and together have a total of 38 ski lifts and more than 200 ski runs.
In summer the ski runs transform into mountain-bike trails for nail-biting thrills, and the alpine meadows are crossed by hikers and nature lovers.
From 1900 to 1974, the Britannia Mine was a major copper source on the eastern shore of Howe Sound, and until the railway and highway were constructed in 1965, Britannia was an isolated community. Today, the site's museum, housed in the original mine buildings, is both a National Historic Site of Canada and a Canadian Tourism Commission Signature Experience.
Whether chugging into an early haulage tunnel aboard a mine train or panning for gold (keep what you find!), you'll discover the mine's rich history. It's Mill 3 that leaves most visitors speechless; the massive cathedral-like interior was once considered the heartbeat of the community because it’s where ore was produced before being shipped off to nearby ports.
The mine closed in 1974, and by 1978, it was sold to a real estate company that realized its potential as a tourism attraction along the rapidly developing corridor now known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
Brandywine Falls is a spectacular 216-foot waterfall located just a short hop off the Sea-to-Sky Highway between Squamish and Whistler. The falls are also surrounded by Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, which has tripled in size in the past decade. Measuring 216 feet, the waterfall is nearly 30 percent taller than Niagara Falls, albeit with a fraction of the water volume. A half-mile (1-km) walking trail leads from the parking lot to a viewpoint, and it’s worth venturing a few minutes further down the trail, too, as a second viewpoint offers panoramic views across Daisy Lake. Both the Lava Lake and Sea-to-Sky trails offer short hiking and mountain biking opportunities within the park. The steeper Swim Lake Trail, which starts just before the railway crossing, doesn’t actually lead to a good swimming hole, as Swim Lake doesn't have a dock or beach. However, the trail is worth exploring because it provides the best opportunity to spot the rare and endangered red-legged frog.
The Cheakamus River flows roughly parallel to the Sea-to-Sky Highway between Whistler and Vancouver, but its path is far different than the paved four-lane highway. Much of the river flows through Cheakamus Canyon, where plenty of exciting whitewater rapids and one sizeable waterfall make the river a popular rafting and kayaking route. None of the rapids are too challenging, so the trip is considered suitable for kids and parents alike.
The river is also a favorite spot for local fisherman. Coho and Chum salmon swim upriver between September and December; Bull, Rainbow and Cutthroat trout fishing is strong from late autumn until early spring; and Steelhead season typically lasts from March until May.
Summer or snow, riding the Peak 2 Peak Gondola in Whistler is a must-do highlight. Gliding along the world’s longest unsupported span, the gondola is also the highest lift of its kind. The mountain-top gondola links the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain and the Rendezvous Restaurant on Blackcomb Mountain. The ride takes around 11 minutes, with services departing every minute. The total distance you’ll swing across is 4.4 km (2.7 miles), soaring up to 436 meters (1,427 feet) above the valley floor. The gondola can seat 22 passengers, with stunning 360-degree views of this spectacular mountain setting. Ride the gondola to ski the slopes, hike an alpine walking trail or take tea at the mountain-top restaurant.
More Things to Do in Whistler
Full of ancient forest and surrounded by Pacific Coastal mountains 56 miles (90 km) north of Vancouver, Callaghan Valley is real BC backcountry. In summer, the valley is home to backpackers and hikers looking for a wilderness experience, while in winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing is popular, with over 45 miles (70 km) of cross-country trails and six miles (10 km) of snowshoe trails to explore.
Home to the 2010 Winter Olympics’ Nordic events, the wall of mountains that surrounds the valley creates a unique climate that sees some of the deepest snowfall in the whole of Canada. The ski season is often 150 days long, running right into mid-April.
In spring and summer, Callaghan Valley is all wildflower meadows and wetlands, where you can go lakeside camping, canoeing, boating, fishing and hiking. The 6,590-acre (2,667-hectare) park is also prime wildlife-spotting territory. Look out for bobcats and squirrels, black-tailed deer and moose, black and grizzly bea
Located in the Callaghan Valley, the 141-foot Alexander Falls make for a beautiful day trip destination from Whistler Village. Just be sure to bring a picnic, as it’s a favorite lunch spot for locals and visitors alike. Picnic tables are surrounded by thick forest, and the crashing waterfall adds atmosphere to this wilderness setting that makes it easy to forget it’s only 30 minutes back to the hustle of a major tourist resort.
Alexander Falls is only minutes from Whistler Olympic Park and its cross-country ski trails, built for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, which are open throughout the winter. In the summer, the trails double as walking paths and bike trails. Hiking trails that lead further into Callaghan Valley Provincial Park offer access to more pristine nature, while campsites at Callaghan and Madeley Lake provide a beautiful– and absolutely free–place to spend the night.
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