Whistler is a stunningly beautiful resort community 120 km (75 miles) from Vancouver, BC. One of its lesser known but most impressive assets is the Whistler Valley Trail, a network of paved trails linking every part of Whistler. Here’s a short video that shows how the Whistler Valley Trail provides a safe, fun place for cycling and hiking for the whole family.
Getting to Whistler
Whistler is a less-than-two-hour drive on the magnificent Sea to Sky Highway. It can also be reached by bus, and by Rocky Mountaineer trains. Some people actually cycle to Whistler on the Sea to Sky, but it is not safe and is only for the very experienced and the very brave. The scenery is splendid, but it’s extremely hilly. All in all a very challenging bike route – which is perhaps why so many people want to do it! In fact, there is an annual Whistler Gran Fondo, a bike race from Vancouver to Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway – read about the experience of cycling the Whistler Gran Fondo here.
Whistler is a Premier Cycling Destination
Whistler is most famous for its winter sports. However, it is also a premier cycling destination, offering cycling opportunities that range from family-friendly paved paths to death-defying downhill mountain tracks that are suitable only for the bravest and most experienced cyclists. In the summer it offers mountain bike training of all kinds and for all ages.
The Whistler Valley Trail
Whistler’s 40-km paved Whistler Valley Trail is a wide, asphalt-paved network (with some boardwalks as well) that links many of the key destinations (such as beautiful lakes, parks, and neighborhoods) to the Village and the Upper Village, Creekside. The trail stretches from Function Junction to Emerald. From Cheakamus River the trail winds north through Whistler Creekside, the Village, Meadow Park and Nicklaus North, before ending on the shores of the aptly named Green Lake. It offers safe, non-motorized opportunities for cycling, skating, cross-country skiing, walking, running, wheel-chairing or pushing a stroller – and you can bring your dog along, providing he’s on a leash!
The Whistler Valley Trail is suitable for all ages and abilities. I made this GIF which shows a little girl very bravely attempting the hill that winds past Nicklaus North. There are some hills on the trail, and there is no shame at all in ending up pushing! (Even if you are not little.)
At the top of this little hill, you will come across the clubhouse of the Nicklaus North golf course. It offers a variety of dining options, including a patio with a spectacular view.
The Whistler Valley Trail is a free and accessible way for people to see the beautiful scenery without having to be advanced cyclists or hikers. Even people in wheelchairs can access the Valley Trail, so it epitomizes the very best kind of family-friendly bike trail – AAA (All Ages and Abilities). It makes it possible for almost anyone to enjoy Whistler in a safe, slow and scenic way. There are five alpine lakes and many parks within pedaling distance of Whistler along the Valley Trail. The trail undulates most of the time, but there are some steeper hills from time to time. Of course, there is nothing to stop you from getting off the bike and walking!
The Whistler Valley Trail is used by all kinds of riders, from people who are seem to be having their once-a-year vacation bike ride, to packs of very fit and experienced cyclists.
Some parts of the Whistler Valley Trail are quite busy, tending to be busiest close to the village. On a sunny summer’s day, expect to see packs of small children, led by instructors. It’s great to see children that young being taught how to cycle safely! Most of the trail has a yellow line down the center, so the children are already learning something that an extraordinary number of adults don’t seem to know: in Canada, on a shared use trail, keep right!
History of the Whistler Valley Trail
The Whistler Valley Trail was built 30 years ago by forward-thinking locals who wanted a safe way for everyone to get around Whistler – without driving. In 1982, the idea of providing safe cycling routes was brand new to BC. Pioneer Tom Barrett was one of the developers. He says:
“It opens Whistler up. The trail allows anyone to see the wetlands and lakes and forests. It gives you different views of the mountains and lets people who aren’t hard-core hikers or bikers really experience Whistler. … Once the local mothers discovered their kids could ride to each others’ houses without going on the highway the community was behind it all the way.”
Developer Tom Barret points out that the Whistler Valley Trail allows anyone to see the wetlands and lakes and forests.
Each year the Whistler Valley Trail grows and expands, mirroring the growth of the resort. It has turned Whistler into a model of green transportation, as you can get almost anywhere in the area on a quiet trail, on foot or by bike. Of course, it is a lot easier in the summer! When we stayed there we loaded up the recycling in our panniers, then cycled along the trail to drop it off at the recycling station at 8001 Nester Road (the Whistler Valley Trail runs right past the way station). You can’t get much greener than that!
Tips for Using the Whistler Valley Trail
- Share the trail: keep right so that faster users can pass on your left. Most people on the trail are friendly, polite and follow the rules. For those who forget, a little ringing of your bicycle bell will usually remind them to move to the correct side of the path. Nearer the village you may occasionally encounter some slightly less polite users.
- Leash your dogs, and clean up after them. Waste bags and bear-proof bins are provided. It is bear country, so don’t let your dogs roam, except in the designated off-leash areas.
- Motorized vehicles are prohibited.
- Cell phone coverage is good in the area, so take your phone along, in case of problems. The emergency number in the area is 911.
- Take a credit card or money, and a bike lock. There are many places along the way where you may want to stop for a snack or a drink.
- Pick up a map of the Whistler bike trails from the Information Center in Whistler Village. It’s freely available on a tear sheet on the desks. It looks a bit overwhelming at first, but it soon starts to make sense as you explore the trails.
- Note that there are large maps posted at frequent intervals along the trail. These are usually slightly out of date, as new lanes are constantly being built.
Using the Whistler Valley Trail in the Winter
In the winter, a 3.8 km portion of the Trail from Meadow Park Sports Center to Rainbow Park is groomed for cross-country skiing. There is no charge, and your dog can accompany you off-leash! It is also possible to hike along it, if you have good snow boots.
How to Access the Whistler Valley Trail
You can access the trail from almost anywhere in and around Whistler. In fact, the trail winds its way around the edges of the village. However, it’s best to pick up a map of the bike trails from the Visitor Information Center on your way in, and then you can figure out the most convenient access point for you. (To find the Information Center, follow the signs for the Whistler village turnoff from Highway 99, then take your first right.) There are also handy signposts all along the way.
If you are staying in the village itself, the trail exits the village from three different places, so it’s hard to miss. It is also easy to pick up the trail from the day parking lot. Once you start looking for the Whistler Valley Trail, you will discover it’s everywhere!
Other Bike Trails in Whistler
There are many great bike trails in Whistler, offering endless opportunities for a truly memorable cycling vacation in Whistler. Here’s one about cycling from Whistler village to Green Lake – a route which takes you to some of the best scenery on the entire trail.
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