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A Short Guide To A Long Day Hiking Whistler Alpine Trails

A Short Guide To A Long Day Hiking Whistler Alpine Trails

by Jeremy Postal
August 20, 2015

Of my favorite summer adventures on Whistler is to go for a long hike. Whether during the snow wall melt, during the wildflower bloom, or as Summer starts looking towards Fall, a day hiking Whistler alpine trail networks is not easily forgot.

Ranging from short family-friendly hiking loops to long days strolling mountain meadows, scrambling steep rocky climbs, traversing lakeside and gazing out over ancient glaciers and mountain peaks, hiking Whistler’s 50km+ of alpine trails is amazing.

A Short Guide To A Long Day Hiking Whistler Alpine Trails

8 Tips For Hiking High Note Trail, Whistler BC

Of the 15 hiking trails available on Whistler Blackcomb, High Note trail is my favorite. Accessed via the Peak Chair, an average hiker should plan to be on trail for 3-4 hours of this 9.4km hike.

1. Start With Coffee

This should be obvious, but the start to any day should include a cup of finely roasted coffee. There are many great coffee shops in the Whistler Village but, to make matters simple, grab a cup of coffee at either The Lift or Garbo Bike n’ Bean located right at the base of the Whistler Gondola.

2. Purchase Your PEAK-2-PEAK 360 Pass

The gondola opens to hikers and sightseers at 10am. If you're looking to get on the first gondola, beat the morning line-up by arriving early to purchase your pass. I recommend the 360 Pass as it provides the best deals in town and allows you to use Whistler Blackcomb’s new Timed Hiking feature. More info here

3. Stretch & Sip

I’m not much for yoga and I hear coffee dehydrates you, so you might want to use your gondola time to rehydrate for the day and begin to softly stretch out your legs and shoulders. Also, this is a good chance to start making your après-hike plan, a plan that should include high calorie food & drink, an apple, and a trip to Scandinave Spa

4. Choose Your Direction

At the top of the gondola you'll arrive at the Roundhouse, a peculiar name as there is nothing round about it (though the original 1967 Roundhouse was actually a roundish building that looked like a flying saucer).

From here, start your hike by heading uphill to the left of the Roundhouse towards Harmony Bowl or right of the Roundhouse towards the Peak Chair where you’ll upload to the peak of Whistler.

My recommendation: If you are beginning your hike in the morning, start by heading up the Peak Chair and don't rush your day. If you begin hiking sometime after lunch, hike out towards Harmony and finish at the Peak taking care to watch your time. You don’t want to miss the last gondola down the mountain.

5. Marmots and Other Wildlife

Whistler, formerly named London Mountain, picked up it’s new name mid-1960’s in honor of the numerous alpine marmots often found sunning themselves on the south slopes of High Note trail. They have a distinct whistle, are incredibly photogenic, and are a welcome sight along the way.

A Short Guide To A Long Day Hiking Whistler Alpine Trails

Other wildlife found in our mountains, of course, are black bears. Though not a common sight in the high alpine of High Note trail, should you come across a black bear ensure to give them plenty of space (at least 100 meters), do not feed them, and be a good neighbor by packing out any food or food attractant you've packed in, i.e. don’t liter banana peels as this attracts bears, changes migratory patterns of birds, and it’s just a terribly slippery slope. Safe bear viewing tours are also offered here.

6. Sights Along The Way

From the moment you begin hiking your eyes will feast on the grandeur of the Coast Mountain range, its rugged peaks, valley floors, and (receding) glaciers. Black Tusk, the large pointy mountain, is in view most of the hike as is the Cheakamus glacier, its neighbors, and a sweeping view of Garibaldi Provincial Park.

A Short Guide To A Long Day Hiking Whistler Alpine Trails

At your feet is a marvelous display of alpine wildflowers, some that stay in bloom late into summer/fall (especially near creek crossings) and 5000 feet below that is the turquoise waters of Cheakamus Lake. On the other side of the mountain you'll spot the Whistler Valley and its’ five lakes (from south-north: Alpha, Nita, Alta, Lost, and Green lakes).

A Short Guide To A Long Day Hiking Whistler Alpine Trails
Viewpoint overlooking Cheakamus Lake

7. Speaking of Lakes

Pack a swimsuit in your pack and take advantage of the couple places to dip into small alpine lakes along the trail. The better of the two is back in Symphony Bowl and is probably not as busy if you’ve forgotten your swimsuit. And be prepared: the water is cold!

Another lake accessible from High Note trail is Russet Lake located below the peak of Fissile, a mere 9-10km detour (one way). You’ll probably want to pack a tent with your swimsuit if you plan to cool off in Russet.

A Short Guide To A Long Day Hiking Whistler Alpine Trails
Hikers on top of Flute enroute to Russet Lake. Black Tusk in the background.

Barring your detour to Russet, you’ll soon find yourself back at the Roundhouse satisfied with your hike, hash tagging your favourite photos, and eating gelato or sipping wobbly pops. If you happen to hike on Friday-Sunday, plan to stick around for the Mountain-top BBQ and finish your day by catching the sunset and a late gondola down to the village.

8. And Don't Forget The Usual Stuff

Bring plenty of water, wear sturdy shoes, and carry a small pack for food, your camera, sunblock, and a timepiece. Obey all signage, don’t go sliding down ice fields as they can be dangerous, and cliffs are bad to fall off of. Also, weather in the mountains has a tendency to change at a moments’ notice, so be prepared with appropriate clothing.

I truly hope you enjoy High Note trail as much as I do. The alpine hiking trails found on Whistler and Blackcomb mountain’s are not to be missed and should be included in any summer travel plans into the Sea-to-Sky region.

Happy Trails!

Jeremy Postal is a wedding officiant in Whistler BC who loves life in the mountains and loves helping couples celebrate their wedding day by hand crafting custom ceremonies, just for them. Meet Jeremy in this video and find him on Instagram @JeremyPostal.  Email Jeremy to book your Whistler wedding – whether you plan to celebrate in a luxury hotel, lakeside, or somewhere high in the Whistler backcountry.

A Short Guide To A Long Day Hiking Whistler Alpine Trails

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