Whistler is well known for being a snowy wonderland with some of the best skiing and snowboarding in North America. A winter destination, Whistler generally speaks for itself. Except when it is speaking to those of us who hate the cold. Like, euw, cold.
That is why I almost exclusively go to Whistler in the summer, when the sun is shining, and there is nary a budding frost in sight. Plus, I’m far more into the warm weather Whistler activities than cold. My idea of winter fun is laying in bed eating Cheezies and watching Zac Efron movies.
But Whistler in the summer is an absolute blast, and just because there is no snow, doesn’t mean it should be ignored. I am lucky enough to have a few pals who live in Whistler, so I get to skip the crazy expensive hotel room rates and sleep on pull-out couches, because that’s how I roll. We budget travel folks need to make it work, am I right? Oh that dirty floor is totally Emily shaped…
So up to Whistler I went and fun I did have!
How to Get to Whistler BC
First off, Whistler is about 90 minutes to 2 two hours away from Vancouver by car via the Sea to Sky Highway. The Greyhound and the Pacific Coast Line buses run regular buses up the highway, stopping in Squamish along the way. You definitely don’t need your own wheels to get to Whistler.
That said, Whistler is a small town with small town vibes, so a lot of people post for rideshares, and hitchhiking is not entirely uncommon. Another bonus of summer travel is that both of these options are far more likely given the lack of snow gear you will be travelling with and that you are less likely to be sopping wet.
But I am a BC gal, so with my own wheels I drove the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway, enjoying the views of the Howe Sound and then the mountains as I cruised.
Traffic can back up long this route, especially if the weather is foul, if you are travelling on a long weekend, or if there is a major event brewing. I went on a long weekend and about 90 minutes before I drove the Sea to Sky, the traffic was brutal. Then I came along and sped right along, so it’s a fickle beast.
Funny enough, the radio DJ kept saying how bad the roads were as I was cruising along, so I called into the station and let him know what was up. Throw out old information buddy!
Whistler is split up into small neighbourhoods all connected by the highway. Most of the Whistler hotel accommodation is located in Whistler Village, but anybody who opts for AirBnB will probably end up outside of the village.
My pal Bridgit lives in the northern end of Whistler, in an area called Emerald. She lives right across the street from Green Lake, so it’s a pretty blissful kind of spot. It’s a glacier fed lake so even in the summer it is brisk, but it does make for a perfect place for kayaking or canoeing in the summer!
All of the neighborhoods are within a 15 minutes drive of each other. If you have your own ride, you can stay anywhere easily. If you are without transport, the village is probably your best bet, as the Whistler bus system leaves something to be desired. Just ask Bridgit and I at 2am waiting for a bus that never showed up. Awesome.
Whistler Summer Activities
Keeping in mind that Whistler and the surrounding area is an epic British Columbia ski area, one can easily suppose that those same hills are equally awesome in the summer with no snow. Folks who make their way to Whistler in the summer find boundless hiking, mountain biking, and dirt-biking opportunities, and that is just up on the mountain!
Summer Hiking in Whistler
There are a ton of great trails around Whistler, ranging from easy walk in the nature to full blown 10 hour treks. Brandywine Falls and Ancient Cedars trails are beautiful and pretty accessible. If you’re up for the challenge there are Black Tusk and Mount Garibaldi that are all well known, though difficult hikes in Whistler that are only accessible during the summer months.
The hike that will claim most folks hearts is actually not to the peak of a mountain but to Joffre Lakes. Known as one of the best hikes in British Columbia, the 10km Joffre Lakes hike has one heck of a beautiful end point, and is marked as intermediate, so probably won’t kill you.
The hike takes you through Joffre Lakes Provincial Park and can be pretty busy on weekends, so try going mid-week. The parking lot can fill up, so go early!
Mountain Biking in Whistler
Biking of all kinds is huge in Whistler during the summer months. Folks risk all kinds of life and limb, flying down a mountain and over trials on two wheels, so why shouldn’t you?! Notice I didn’t say that I do such things.
But we are allowed to disagree on how we want to die, so if a dirty trail and mad speed blows your skirt up, there are a few excellent places to try it out. Plus, Whistler is of course beautiful, so you may as well enjoy the views at the top before flinging downwards.
Bridget informs me that her favourite place to bike is the Lost Lake Trail system. All of the trails around Lost Lake are well marked and easily navigated, plus the trails are close to the village so access is no problem. There are tons of places to rent bikes in the village, or byo!
The other main option for mountain biking in Whistler is on Whistler mountain itself. During the summer, the ski hill is free of snow and therefore self-transforms into a mountain biking park. Lift tickets can be bought for the day or multi days, or opt for a seasons pass if you’re around for more than 5 days.
White Water Rafting in Whistler
White water rafting is a major activity for anyone looking for a bit of a rush in Whistler during the summer. Various rafting companies run day trips, and depending on the river you sign on for the water will range from barely white to VERY white.
Be warned though, most of the rivers these trips explore are glacier fed, so when you get wet, which you will, that water will be… refreshing.
Kayaking and Canoeing in Whistler
White water isn’t for everyone and can get exhausting. I personally love a lovely paddle down a calm river or across a placid lake. Kayak and canoe rentals can be had from many places, so check around for a good deal.
Definitely check the conditions before pursuing any of the above. Just because it’s sunny, doesn’t mean that the rivers are not running high or that the trails are in great shape. British Columbia gets a lot of rain and that can have an effect on water levels and trail conditions.
Why do I bring this up? Oh maybe because last year when I was in Whistler with my Mom we ended up paddling down the River of Golden Dreams (yes, that is it’s real name) with Bridgit and that Dream runneth over. The river was high and fast, and my inexperience navigating a canoe in anything less than ideal conditions faltered. We went around a bend and tipped right over, sinking the canoe, and dousing ourselves in the process.
Don’t worry, all was well in the end, but still, it was super cold!
RZR Tours on Cougar Mountain
Bridgit has lived up in Whistler for a few years now, so we wanted to do something that she had never done before. Which is tough when all your friends work in tourism and you get free tickets for all of the awesome activities.
But one thing Bridgit had not done was the RZR tours up Cougar Mountain with The Adventure Group Whistler. In fact neither of us really knew what RZR’s were, but we signed up for it anyways and figured it would be awesome regardless. And it was.
RZR’s (pronounced like the things I rarely use on my legs) are basically high powered, 4-Wheel drive, dune buggies. They are open air, seat two people, are basic and unadorned in terms of comfort, but pack one hell of a power punch when it comes to getting up and over debris, rock, steep inclines, and holes in the ground.
We arrived at the TAG headquarters on Cougar Mountain, which is north of the village, and got suited up with helmets and goggles. I looked super duper cool wearing my glasses under the goggles. #nerdalert After a run through of how this mega car actually worked and how best for us all to stay alive while in it, Bridgit and I strapped in!
Since I didn’t love the idea of driving through clouds of dust, I gripped the handrail in the passenger’s seat while Bridgit drove that RZR like the fearless female she is. Following our guide who was on an ATV, we zigzagged up and down inclines that I wouldn’t’ even want to walk up, over jagged rocky roads that would destroy most tires, and finally up to a gorgeous lookout from the top of Cougar Mountain.
The view from the top was of two separate lakes with Blackcomb Mountain in the background. It was a beautiful clear day and emerging from the dusty road to such a vista was ultimately incredible.
We were also incredibly dirty. It had not rained in Whistler for 2.5 months, leaving those very rough unsealed roads variable dust bowls kicked up by aggressive tire spinning. But hey, we don’t mind getting dirty! Not when there are adventures to be had!
Despite it all, the inner laziness inherent of a hot summer day overtakes us all, despite the endless activities that Whistler provides. The main Whistler lakes, Alta Lake and Lost Lake, both have public beaches for lounging and swimming. Or if you have an awesome local friend who has many local connections you may just end up on a private dock… like me!
We spent a lovely afternoon on a private dock that offered not only a great place to chill, but a beautiful place to sit back and enjoy the epic views that are at every turn all over Whistler.
Eating and Drinking in Whistler
Whistler is famous for having some of the best dining options in Canada. Famous, and expensive, restaurants are located all over the village and the foodie culture of Vancouver has definitely migrated into the mountains.
Whistler also has one of the best nightlife’s to be found in Western Canada. Some of the bars are definitely geared towards the younger seasonal backpacker types, but there are some excellent bars and lounges for folks over the age of 22.
My first night in town we hit up the Fitzsimmons Pub and drank mounds of craft beer and then later ate awesome pizza by the slice. My kind of night!
My Favourite Things to Do in Whistler
Honestly, the best part of being in Whistler is just generally being there. Everywhere you look, there is beautiful scenery, the air feels fresh and clean, and there is something about it that just makes you want to be outside and be active. I ran twice while I was there and felt amazing!
Whistler has a friendliness that rivals any other small town and despite the massive tourist industry, somehow manages to retain a bit of small town charm. A very expensive charm, but charm nonetheless.
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