8 Hidden Secrets of Whistler That Nearly All Visitors Miss Out On
Whistler, BC. Home of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the world’s greatest mountain bike competition and the biggest ski resort in North America. There are world class (and world famous) adventures by the hundreds here. But what about the many places you won’t see in the glossy magazines and Instagram feeds?
If you get off the beaten track in Whistler, you’ll find a different world entirely. One full of true wilderness, quirky locals and one-of-a-kind adventures. From discovering hidden gems in the coastal rainforest, to sampling delicious local produce, to throwing axes with the locals, you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll find. If you’re planning a trip to Whistler, make time to try at least one of these Whistler secrets that most people miss out on.
1.Paddleboarding a Lake
Why it’s awesome: Whistler’s lakes are the go-to spot for locals to hang out on a sunny summer’s day. They offer stunning views, perfect picnic spots and respite from the sometimes sweltering heat. But don’t stick to the beaches: grab a paddleboard and go explore. It’s surprisingly easy to get the hang of, and a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon catching some rays.
Go it alone: Alta Lake is the best spot to rent a paddleboard in Whistler, and the vast expanse of clear blue water promises a full day of adventure. Both Lakeside Park and Wayside Park have hourly or daily paddleboard rentals and their helpful staff will teach you the basics and provide safety equipment too.
Grab a guide: If you want a little more guidance, consider booking a paddleboard tour guide too. As well as teaching you to paddle like a pro, they’ll clue you in on the local’s history of Whistler, and help you spy some of the resident wildlife.
Local’s tip: If you’re feeling confident, it’s time to venture away from the still waters of Alta Lake and take on the River of Golden Dreams. Navigate your way through the fast-flowing waters and take in the views as you wind your way to Green Lake. This is a full day adventure, so come prepared and do your research: it can be dangerous when the water is too high.
2. Sample Craft Beers in Function Junction
Why it’s awesome: One of the best additions to Whistler’s apres scene over the last few years has been the birth of a booming craft beer scene. And Function Junction – the up-and-coming industrial neighbourhood at the southend of Whistler – is one of the best places to sample some of Whistler’s finest craft brews. Constantly growing and innovating, the local breweries have a dedicated fan base in Whistler and beyond. If you’re not a craft beer drinker (yet), you’re in for a treat.
What to expect: There are two great local breweries in Function Junction – Whistler Brewing and Coast Mountain Brewing. Both offer an ever-changing rotating cast of beers that has sparked many a life-long love affair with craft brewing. You’ll find them packed with Whistler locals, who may well be happy to share a few more locals’ tips with you once you’ve shared a few tasters with them.
How to get there: Function Junction is 15 minutes south of Whistler village. It can be reached by public transit on the 20 or 20X buses. If you’ve got a bike, hit the awesome bike trails that link the communities.
Locals’ tip: Both breweries are open from around 12pm every day, and close around 10pm (check beforehand, as they sometimes close early on weeknights). The busiest time is around 5pm, when locals leave their offices (yes, there are office jobs in Whistler) and kick back with some a few local brews.
3. Forged Axe Throwing
Why it’s awesome: Throwing axes is as quintessentially Canadian as you can get. But visitors have only recently had the chance to take part in this great Canadian tradition. You don’t need to know how to throw, as axe throwing hosts will teach you all you need to know. Just bring enthusiasm, a few friends, and a little competitive spirit.
What to expect: The concept is pretty simple: you throw axes at a target, and it feels great when they thunk into the wood. Then add a charming axe throwing host and some friendly competition and you’ve got yourselves the ultimate Canadian day out.
How to get there: Forged Axe Throwing is in Function Junction, 15 minutes south of Whistler village (and delightfully close to the local breweries for a post-game beverage)
How to book: Pop over to the bookings page to reserve a spot with your friends. Forged also host’s private axe-throwing parties (perfect for bachelorettes, corporate trips and wedding parties), or you might catch our trailer at events and festivals around Whistler.
Locals’ tip: Everyone is welcome, from kids ages 10+. You can even bring your pooch along to watch. And we promise, axe throwing isn’t just for big burly men. Just ask grandma….
4. Train Wreck Hike
Season: Spring – Fall
Why you should go: The Train Wreck is a quirky part of Whistler history, wrapped up in an accessible hike full of great views. The “Train Wreck” refers to the scattered carriages of a freight train that flew off the tracks many years ago. Since then, the rusting containers have been take over by local mountain bikers and graffiti artists, who have turned the wreckage into a bike park and living artwork. The unique spot begs to be explored, with more to be discovered around every corner. It also makes for iconic photographs, with the dark, coastal rainforest brought to life by the colourful paintwork.
How to find it: Start from the car park by Forecast Coffee (just down the road from Forged) in Function Junction. You’ll see the trail signposted into the forest. From there, look for coloured blazes on trees and rocks which will lead you through dense forest, past crashing waterfalls and finally to the Train Wreck itself.
Local’s tip: Tie together the Train Wreck, a trip to Forged Axe Throwing and a visit to Whistler’s local breweries for a full day exploring the little-known delights of Function Junction.
5. Secret Mountain Stashes of Powder
What to expect: It’s hard to pick just one favourite spot in Whistler’s 8000+ acres of terrain. So here are few little gems that are worth hunting out, whatever your ability.
Intermediate: To get a taste of that west coast pow, without overstepping your limits, do some quick laps under Whistler T-bar. The pitch is steep enough to be fun, but not scary, and you can ski several different lines down the wide, open bowl.
Advanced: Even late in the day, some of the best snow can be found in Blackcomb’s Secret Bowl. Head up Seventh Heaven chairlift, then traverse left along the cat track. Straight ahead is the hair-raising Saudan Couloir, but a little lower you can choose from a few more straightforward descents: Pakololo, Secret Chute and Cougar Chutes. You can’t make a bad choice.
Expert: Not for the fainthearted, Spanky’s ladder gives access to four bomber alpine bowls: Ruby, Garnet, Diamond and Sapphire. They all offer steep faces, narrow chutes and drops galore. For experienced powder enthusiasts, these are laps you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Local’s tip: Before you head out, ask for some tips from the friendly locals you’ve met. Whistler Blackcomb is big, and can be unforgiving. Don’t ruin your holiday by getting into an avoidable, sketchy situation.
6. Local’s Favourite Breakfast
Why it’s awesome: Everyone in Whistler knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You simply can’t adventure without it. With that in mind, there are almost endless excellent breakfast options available.
But, if we had to choose, we would have to say our favourite is the Southside Diner. This old-school diner just oozes with Canadian spirit, and evokes memories of road trips from years gone by. Oh, and their menu is on point. Offering their own twists on Canadian classics, Southside has something for everyone.
How to get there: You can find Southside Diner in Creekside, about 10 minutes south of the village on Highway 99. Get there on the 20, 20X, 21 or 25 public transit buses. Or stop by on your way up from Vancouver before hitting the slopes.
Local’s tip: Get the Breakfast Poutine (poutine is always a great idea) or the Big Ass Pancakes. They’re seriously big. And delicious. Top it off with one of their signature Caesar’s and you have yourself a very good start to the day.
7. Learn to Fly Fish
Season: Summer (though in winter you can try ice fishing instead)
Why it’s awesome: With so many adrenaline-pumping activities to try out in Whistler, the more serene pursuit of fishing is often overlooked. And that’s a huge shame, because the fly fishing here is world class. With boundless alpine lakes, an almost pristine environment and diverse species of fish, Whistler is a fly-fishers paradise.
Go it alone: If you want a introduction to fly fishing in Whistler, start at Lost Lake. There you’ll find a healthy population of Rainbow Trout and custom-made floating docks to fish from. Plus, Lost Lake is one of the warmest lakes in Whistler, so you can always take a dip in between casts.
Local’s tip: For the best Whistler fly fishing experience, we’d recommend hiring a guide. There are several fishing guides in Whistler, and all boast experienced, local staff who know the area like the back of their hands. They’ll take you to the best spots, choose the best equipment and help you make that elusive catch. Some of the best include Whistler Fishing Guides, Pemberton Fish Finder and Valley Fishing. They all offer full day or half day trips, and tailor the experience to the season, conditions and your interests.
8. Discover Loggers’ Lake
What to expect: Logger’s Lake is the definition of a hidden gem. Although it’s actually quite accessible from Whistler village, you won’t find the crowds here. This great little lake is hidden in the forest high above Cheakamus. In the summer, it’s small size means it warms up quickly, making it the perfect spot for a long day lazing in a floatie. In winter, grab snowshoes and experience a frozen winter wonderland, all to yourself.
Why it’s awesome: Loggers’ Lake is nestled in an unlikely spot, totally surrounded by forest and in the crater of an ancient volcano. From the lake you can explore a huge network of hiking trails where you’ll barely see another soul, despite only being 20 minutes from the bustling heart of Whistler.
How to get there: Logger’s Lake is accessible via the Cheakamus Forest Service Road. Most cars can make it up, although it isn’t paved, so a 4×4 is recommended. You can park just a short walk away. Or, park earlier and extend your hike along the Riverside trail on the banks of the Cheakamus river, before turning off to Logger’s Lake. In winter, the road is not ploughed so you will need chains, and to check the latest snow report before going.
Locals’ tip: Whenever you head out in the backcountry (especially in winter), make sure you have right gear, knowledge and fitness. The wilderness is close by in Whistler, and it pays to be prepared.
Why it’s worth getting off the beaten track in Whistler
There’s so much to do in Whistler that you can easily fill a whole trip with world-famous hot spots. But take a step off the beaten track and you’ll be rewarded. There’s magnificent views, intriguing stories and one-of-a-kind adventure around every corner. And if you ask around, us locals are more than happy to share a few more Whistler secrets that will make your vacation even more memorable.