12 Fantastic Things To Do Outdoors In Whistler This Summer
Whistler, BC is more than just a winter ski resort; it’s a summer mecca for hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. It’s a great deal in summer, too! Here are 12 things to do you should absolutely consider when visiting this adventurous Canadian destination.
Whistler, that well-known Canadian ski resort, is gorgeous in summer time. The air is crisp. The temperature is perfect for getting outdoors. And there are all kinds of things to do outside, on the ski mountains, and amid the surrounding woods and lakes in this surprisingly sustainable destination.
Plus, you get all the advantages of a lively ski village—the hotels, vacation condos, spas, and restaurants—with far fewer crowds and often much lower prices than you’ll encounter during ski season.
Here are some of the best summertime things to do in Whistler.
The ski area includes two neighboring resorts, Whistler & Blackcomb. The first thing you probably want to do on a summer visit to Whistler is explore the mountains and their amazing views.
One tip: Regardless of how warm and sunny the ski village is, wear a fleece and closed-toe hiking shoes. It’s chilly up at the top.
First, grab a gondola on the Whistler side and head up. And up. And up. Once you’re at the top, there are a few different looping hiking trails around both mountains; some quite easy and others with steep ascents and descents.
One thing you have to do is hike down a short way to a chair lift that takes you to the Cloudraker Skybridge and Raven’s Eye viewing deck. The mountains look a lot harder without snow, and you can feel the air getting colder the higher the lift climbs.
From the top, cross the suspension bridge (called Cloudraker for a reason) and take in the stunning 360-degree views from the viewing platform at the other end. It’s not for the acrophobic. Once you’ve taken all your photos, hike down the moderately hard trail back to the lodge, or take the chairlift back and hike the short, steep trail up to the lodge.
Your next activity at Whistler: Take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola across to Blackcomb mountain. It stretches for nearly two miles and is the highest ski tram of its kind. They pack some two-dozen people into each car during ski season, but in the summer, eight people would be a crowd.
You can wait in line for one of two glass-bottomed gondolas, or walk right on to one of the 28 others and possibly have it all to yourself. The views are so amazing out of the large windows on all sides that the glass-bottom (which is a window in the floor, not a glass floor) doesn’t add all that much.
Grab some lunch on the Blackcomb side—its food court is far less busy than its Whistler counterpart and it has a great selection of fresh, cooked-to-order food. Choose from a Thai counter, a grill, and soups and pressed sandwiches options, among others.
If the Cloudraker Skybridge and its ski lift didn’t get your adrenaline pumping quite enough, Whistler has more adventurous things to do in the summer, both guided and on your own.
The Via Ferrata is a four-hour guided hike and climb along an “iron way.” A series of metal handles are drilled into the rock face to let you climb up and around some of the tallest peaks and cliff sides in the area. It’s the experience of rock-climbing without the technical knowledge. You have a safety harness for the truly precarious parts and you’ll hike through some snow, even in summer.
Less physically challenging but almost heart-stopping is the guided Whistler Skywalk. Hike up to a steep ridge, clip your safety carabiner into metal cables, then make your way across a series of “bridges” (think narrow metal beams), platforms, and narrow cliffside trails with nothing below you for a few hundred feet. The views are spectacular and you’ll probably find some snow. This activity is easy enough if you’re exploring Whistler with kids, and also ideal for moderately fit adults who don’t have a fear of open heights.
For a physical challenge without the sheer drops, spend a day on the Skywalk Trail. It’s a 21-kilometer loop with a 1,000-meter elevation gain. Fit, experienced hikers can spend seven to nine hours hiking through old-growth rainforest, into alpine forest, and past several ice-cold lakes. Your effort will be rewarded as you pass over ridges with stellar views.
Fun on Two Wheels
Anyone who hasn’t come to Whistler to hike has come to explore by bicycle. Taking on the cross-country trails, mountain biking courses, and paved bike paths are some of Whistler’s most popular summer activities.
Experienced mountain bikers put their bikes on the gondolas for a trip about halfway up. From there, trails are marked like ski slopes, from beginner to experienced. If you haven’t done it before but want to try, rent some gear and sign up for mountain biking school.
A 40-kilometer network of bike paths leads just about anywhere you want to go around Whistler, Blackcomb, and the area’s lakes and parks. It’s not completely flat riding, but the hills are gentle enough to make this one of the area’s more popular things to do in the summer.
The bike paths intersect with a series of cross-country bike trails. These single-track trails go through beginner and advanced terrain and offer impressive views.
A short but rewarding XC ride takes you over a bridge to the remains of a train wreck that has become a popular spot for graffiti artists. The twisted metal and bright spray paint pictures make an interesting contrast with the quiet woods around them. This trail is popular with hikers, too.
No matter what kind of cycling you want to do, if you don’t have your own bicycle you’ll find places to rent one in the village. You can also buy any clothing or gear you need that you didn’t pack, which you can easily carry in a lightweight daypack.
All that outdoor recreation is bound to bruise your muscles. But no worries: Most of the upscale hotels have impressive day spas and there are affordable places around town if you just want a massage.
For a real treat though, head back up into the mountains to Scandinave, a Finnish hydrotherapy spa for adults only. Use the hot and cold outdoor plunge pools, the sauna, and steam room to soothe your sore muscles. Relax in a hammock or get a massage and enjoy a bite to eat. You’ll feel like a whole new person.
If you’re staying in a place with no pool, or the weather isn’t conducive to enjoying the outdoor pools most hotels offer, head to the Meadowbrook Sports Centre. For a modest fee you can work out the kinks in the hot tub, steam room, and sauna, and also float in the leisure pool or swim laps.
Light up the Night
A summer in Whistler offers all the usual evening activities, enjoying bars, live music, and free summer concerts in the village. Or you do Vallea Lumina. In this outdoor experience, you are a ranger going off in search of a young girl and her grandfather who have set out to find the legendary lost valley. Holograms, innovative lighting, and special effects mingle with rocks and trees to guide you. Once you find the valley, the special effects are truly amazing. Neon fish swim in streams and you dance in sparkling starlight.
Dress warmly and wear practical shoes, you’ll walk about a mile on hiking trails in the dark.
How to Pack for Whistler in Summer
You’ll need to pack clothes for chilly mornings and nights and warm days, plus any technical clothing and gear for activities you plan to do. Aside from a few very upscale restaurants, the village is casual. “Dressy” would be khakis or jeans for guys, and a dress or capris and flats for women. And plenty of people walk into the restaurants and pubs with trail dust still on them.
The 70-liter Caldera four wheel suitcase is the ideal bag for this trip. Its deep main compartment has mesh pockets to ensure smaller items don’t get tossed around, while a separate zippered compartment on the lid keeps important items handy and shoes away from clothes. Hidden straps keep it closed tightly and a strap on top keeps a jacket both secure and in easy reach.
Pack It cubes keep you organized, especially when you want to quickly find clothes for specific activities. And they keep muddy or dusty clothes away from the rest of your things on the return home (which is easiest using a Clean/Dirty cube).
Whistler is a fantastic year-round destination, but summer is particularly magical for outdoor enthusiasts because of the sheer number of things to do and special activities you can’t do at any other point in the year. There’s a ton of wide open spaces, so start planning your trip now.
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By Eileen P. Gunn on May 18, 2020