Things to do during Whistler’s Off Season
Whistler is located in British Columbia Canada, and is most well known for its exceptional skiing, snowboarding and mountain ranges. There are two off seasons or shoulder seasons in Whistler, where the resort slows down and their famous gondolas up the mountain peaks are closed. A lot of hiking trails with mountain views are located at the summit, easily accessible by the Whistler Gondola, the Blackcomb Gondola, or by the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola that connects both peaks. The two shoulder seasons are from mid April to mid-June, and from late September to late November, and things get pretty quiet. We found ourselves in Whistler for a day in mid- October, disappointed that we couldn’t do the hikes on our wish list due to the gondolas being closed. Yes, it is possible to scale the mountain sans gondola ride up, but honestly, we did not have the correct gear, length of time or skill level to hike up to the summit ourselves. Whistler is still a beautiful place to be surrounded by nature and mountain views without the gondolas though! If you ever find yourself in Whistler during the shoulder season like we did, we have some easily accessible ideas of things to do below:
Nairn Falls Provincial Park
The Nairn Falls trail is a lovely trail located in Nairn Falls Provincial Park, about 20 minutes drive from Whistler centre, and about 5 minutes from Pemberton town centre. This is an out-and-back trail that takes about 1.5-2 hours to complete. The trail is relatively even, with no junctions, following the Green River the whole trail to the waterfall. I’ll admit, we probably took longer than 2 hours on this trail because the path was sprinkled with so many unique looking mushrooms! Mushrooms are so whimsical in the forest and we love finding them on hikes. I took SO many photos of mushrooms that day haha. We even found a fairy circle- which is when mushrooms grow in a circle. In fairy folklore, it is said that they are formed by fairies dancing, and can bring good luck. This was my first ever fairy circle that I have found, so that was quite memorable to me. Also, look how cool it is- that orange colour is stunning!
The trail was also framed in moss covered trees which just made everything more magical. We spent so much time marvelling at all the little details and wonders found at every turn. There were even views of the mountains poking through the trees- SCORE!
Once you reach the waterfall, there will be two look out points overlooking the upper falls, flanked with chain link fences to keep onlookers from falling into the rushing water. The falls are quite impressive and powerful, even creating a whirlpool against the rocks. We admired the waterfall for some time, just in awe of the sheer power of the water crashing down its narrow path to the river. It should be noted that the platforms are on top of rock that can become quite slippery. We came across a group of hikers that had someone in their party slip and fall on the rock. We later saw paramedics hiking in with a stretcher to rescue the injured hiker! Yikes! Falls can happen anywhere of course, but extra care should be taken on the rocks.
Train Wreck Trail
Over the river and through the woods.....you may just find and abandoned train wreck!? When we heard about the train wreck trail and were intrigued. In 1956 a freighter derailed after entering an area of the track that was in repair. The cars were dumped in the forest nearby to get them out of the way- and there they stayed. The area used to be off limits due to having to follow the train tracks to get to the site which was of course dangerous. However, it is now a unique hiking trail and tourist attraction after the new suspension bridge was added to cross the Cheakamus River and connecting it to the Sea to Sky trail.
This site is loved amongst hikers, mountain bikers and street artists. The rail cars are adorned with layers of graffiti art and spray paint, making it quite the jarring site to see in the middle of an old growth forest! This place was quite the interesting to explore, with an almost eerie feeling! I also spy Dan modeling our Great Lakes Neck Gator found on our etsy shop!
Despite the gondolas being closed, we still wanted to find a spot to admire the mountain ranges-unobstructed by power lines, trees and buildings. The Tantalus Lookout just off the Sea to Sky highway was the perfect spot. The fog cleared, to reveal amazing views of the mountains that we couldn’t see at all earlier in the day. We felt so lucky to be able to get this view before leaving Whistler. Cameras of course can’t do this view justice, but wow it was stunning!
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