It was so cold that I could see my breath in front of me, my feet and legs ached and I was standing at the bottom of the black diamond trail looking up at what I had in store if I accepted this challenge. I hadn’t seen a single person for over an hour and the way looked a bit precarious but did I really want to leave Blackcomb Mountain without doing the climb with the most rewarding views?
British Columbia’s Whistler, about two hours from Vancouver, is known for its winter culture of skiing and snowboarding, but neither of these activities has ever appealed to me and besides it was September. Thankfully, this resort town is also home to many fantastic hiking trails, both on and off the mountains. My goal every day was to leave the winter sport capital of Canada with its countless shops, bars and restaurants and slip into nature. Each day I left in a different direction eager to explore the wilderness, breathe in fresh air, smell the pine and wet leaves, and maybe even encounter wildlife – getting a little exercise didn’t hurt either. I was never disappointed; hiking in Whistler is nothing short of amazing and there are trails for everyone at all levels of ability.
My first day in Whistler was sunny without a cloud in the sky so I decided to head to scenic Lost Lake. Armed with a map, water bottle and Clif Bar, I found my way out of town and into the woods. Just after passing the bike rental shop, I saw my first “bear warning” sign, giving a list of instructions of what NOT to do, which included no food. My thoughts immediately went to two things: the Clif Bar I had with me and the experience Mindy and I had in Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park when we came upon the cutest black bear eating berries next to the trail. The juvenile was just as startled to see us as we were her/him. We both took off in opposite directions and even looked back at the same time to see if we were being followed.
Having come to the conclusion that I did not wish to have a close encounter with a bear that morning, I wondered if bears like Clif Bars. I decided not to risk it and so I ate the entire bar right there before taking another step. After a few minutes of futzing with the bear-proof trash can, I was finally on my way again.
I loved the feeling of my lungs filling with the fresh morning air and the smell of all the pine. Even without the lake, I was already enjoying myself. Little did I know that my hike would get even better once I reached Lost Lake. Feeling truly like I had discovered a secret, I arrived to the lake alone save for a woman and her dog who were swimming across the water.
The scene of Lost Lake is something I won’t soon forget: crystal clear water with lush green trees all around it and tall mountains as a backdrop. What a perfect way to spend a morning! As I began walking on the path right next to the water, my mind drifted to our honeymoon in the Rocky Mountains, where we watched a moose calmly come to the water’s edge of the alpine lake, in which we were canoeing, to get some water as the sun was setting.
And so I enjoyed reminiscing in combination with my current surroundings and before I knew it I came to a bench that overlooked the water where I decided to rest while taking in as much of the area as I could. Suddenly, I felt compelled to go swimming and if I had thought for even a second about it, I might not have done it for so many reasons: the water was cold, I didn’t have a towel, someone might see. Thankfully, I did not allow myself to be concerned with any of that or I might have missed out on what became one of the highlights of my trip to Whistler. I quickly stripped and within an instant I found myself pushing my naked body through the brisk water. Floating on my back I could see how perfectly the water matched the blue of the sky and I was lucky enough to be sandwiched in between.
As I got dressed (and just in time before a couple came down the path too), I thought about how this location would be the perfect place for Mindy and I to renew our wedding vows for our 10th anniversary. A few days later we did just that.
Blackcomb Mountain Trails
An absolute highlight of hiking in Whistler was on Blackcomb Mountain. After riding the gondola up to the top, I began on the Alpine Loop. At first I shared the trail with some others but as the Alpine Loop led to the Overlord Trail and Dekker Loop I had the mountain completely to myself. It was cold and it rained for part of the time but I just kept going wanting to experience more of the panorama. I walked through forests full of birds and open fields with wildflowers and crossed over streams.
Dekker Loop was my favorite with stunning views of Whistler Mountain and I even got to see a marmoset, a small beaver-like animal native to the area. In spite of my aching legs I kept wanting more of the mountain so I took the Lakeside Loop which led me to a beautiful alpine lake. It was then that it began to snow creating such a beautiful spectacle. I must admit that I did consider swimming in this lake too but thankfully, my common sense got the better of me as the temperature had dropped quite low.
Even with my sore muscles, I forced myself to walk the Marmoset Trail as well, which led me up, up and more up as it continued to snow. At some points I was walking through complete fog not able to see more than a few feet in front of me. My mind was left to imagine what amazing views must have lain behind the thick cloud.
Every morning Mindy and I took advantage of our jetlag (the 3 hour time difference between the east and west coasts of North America) and were up early to go for a walk on a section of the Valley Trail which was only a couple minutes from our hotel. Somehow the brisk air and the richness of the trees helped me forget that we were sandwiched between a highway and a golf course. At that time of day, we often saw the mountains rising out of the fog-covered fairways making for some wonderful photos. One morning we saw bear poop filled with little red berries, which was a good reminder that we were not alone.
One day, tired from hiking on the mountains, I walked the entire Valley Trail, which encircled the golf course. It was a good way to give my sore muscles a bit of a break while still enjoying nature.
Alta Lake and Rainbow Park
To be perfectly honest, the path to Alta Lake and Rainbow Park was a bit too suburban for my taste as the completely paved trail passed through residential areas, crossed streets, was adjacent to many wires and was shared with bicycles. Rainbow Park was very manufactured with volleyball nets, a dock and picnic tables. Wanting a hike in the wilderness, this was not my ideal choice.
All was not lost, however, as the smell of the woods still perfumed the air and sitting on the dock provided some gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains.
Now THIS was the kind of hike I was looking for! The paths were rather short but the forest was filled with lots of big tall trees, a lush blanket of ferns on the ground and rich shades of green everywhere. I felt like I was walking through a fairytale! I walked in the Emerald Forest two days in a row and enjoyed letting myself get lost.
These trails are but a portion of the trails Whistler has to offer. I look forward to returning to my favorites and exploring new ones, some of which have already been added to my list.
Being Vegan in Whistler
Whistler is not exactly the most vegan-friendly town but you can manage. There is a small grocery store that has several vegan options, including limited fresh vegetables, frozen foods, nut milks, cereals, Clif Bars and a small selection of freshly prepared items some of which were vegan. There are unfortunately no vegan restaurants in Whistler but we did find the Green Moustache, which is a vegetarian restaurant with many vegan options, located in town on Lorimer Road.