Trail running’s increased popularity in recent years means that the sport is far more accessible, and has resulted in a strong community of enthusiasts. Whistler’s summer visitors now have plenty of opportunities to explore the beautiful surroundings and get active at the same time, whether for a run around glacial lakes or through flower-filled alpine meadows.
There are a number of local group runs so you can get to know the trails and practice your technique in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. Then set a goal and take part in one of Whistler’s trail running races!
Join a Group
- We Run Whistler: a free, weekly run club and community for those living in, or visiting, Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor. Meet every Wednesday afternoon at 5:44pm at FORLiSE. Sometimes they meet in other locations, so check their Facebook page for details.
- Salomon Trail Running Workshops: free running clinics presented by Salomon and coached by local run guides. Meeting on Saturday mornings through the summer, registration is encouraged. See the Whistler Blackcomb website for details.
- Parkrun: a free 5k run/race around Whistler’s Lost Lake with timing chips provided so runners can track their improvement over the weeks. Parkrun starts every Saturday morning at 9.30am – check their website for information and registration.
- Running High: a free, social group of trail runners that meet Monday evenings, usually in Creekside at Nita Lake Lodge. This group is more suitable for intermediate or advanced runners – check their Facebook page for more information!
Best Trails for Beginners
The beauty of trail running in Whistler is that there are options for beginners as well as advanced runners! If you are just getting started you will want to start on trails that are smoother without too many roots or rocks, that are fairly flat or rolling rather than steep, and that are closer to civilization in case you need to cut your run shorter. The three suggestions below are perfect for the beginner trail runner or more experienced runners that are looking for a straightforward and easily accessible route.
The view at Green Lake Lookout – worth the uphill!
- Lost Lake: an expansive trail system close to Whistler Village. Popular routes include the Lost Lake Loop trail (which takes runners right around the lake with beautiful views of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains) or green bike trails such as Tin Pants and Molly Hogan (which loop around the forest above the lake). The main loop around the lake is a wide, gravel track and the green trails are narrower but still smooth with a packed gravel surface, and are gently rolling.
- Cheakamus River: Check out Farside and Riverside trails for a great loop with a suspension bridge over the Cheakamus river at the half way point. Or drive up to the Cheakamus Lake parking lot and run out along the trail towards the lake (3 km each way). Although often quieter than Lost Lake, this trail system is still popular with mountain bikers so keep your eyes and ears open.
- Sea to Sky Trail: This trail stretches from Squamish to Pemberton, but the best place for beginner runners to experience it is either in Cheakamus or Lost Lake. From Cheakamus, you can park on the side of the road by the trailhead and run the trail as far as you want before coming back. From Lost Lake, parking in the Lost Lake parking lot, and take Molly Hogan trail which joins the Sea to Sky trail for a great view at Green Lake lookout.
Cheakamus Lake Trail
- Flank/Whistler Westside: Get on the flank trail at Function Junction (behind Olives Market), or at the trailhead for Rainbow Lake. You can create some fun loops on the bike trails that head up and down from the flank trail, or head up the Flank on the north side to Screaming Cat lake.
- Blackcomb Base: Try your hand at the new Blackcomb Burn trail from the base of Wizard chair, or you can head straight up the access road starting at the bottom of the ski run. Options for the descent include Golden Boner, Hey Bud or Crazy Train!
- Whistler or Blackcomb Alpine: Access to the Whistler Alpine usually opens first as Pika’s Traverse access road to the peak is cut out, leaving giant snow walls on either side. Depending on snowfall, the full alpine trail system opens in June or July. Routes to try are the High Note trail on Whistler, the Overload and Decker loop on Blackcomb, and for advanced and prepared runners, the Singing Pass trail. Note that running in alpine and backcountry requires significant planning, correct equipment, and knowledge of the trails. It’s best to tackle these adventures with a friend or friends who know the trail.
Running in Whistler’s Alpine
Resources & Equipment
Trail running is accessible for most people due to the fact that you do not usually required very expensive equipment. Having said that, spending on a few key items will make your experience far more safe and pleasant. Here is a quick list of items that are highly recommended for adventures on the trails:
- A trail map: download the excellent app TrailMapps Whistler for an interactive, GPS enabled map of the local area. A backup paper map is always recommended in case your phone battery dies.
- Trail running shoes: these provide more stability, protection and grip than regular running shoes and are especially recommended for alpine trail running. Stores such as Salomon and Escape Route in Whistler can give you advice on your specific needs.
- Running backpack: modern running packs are lightweight and breathable. Look for ones that allow you to carry around 1.5L of water, as well as a warm layer and adventure essentials.
- The 10 Essentials: these should be taken on any adventure run and should fit comfortably into a running pack. See the video below for a demonstration of packing the essentials for trail runners
Trail Running Races in Whistler
If you’ve been training and want to challenge yourself with a race, there are plenty of options in Whistler from 10 km to an ultra-marathon!
- Comfortably Numb: 23 km along one of Whistler’s most famous point-to-point mountain bike trails. With over 800m of elevation gain, this race is definitely a challenge. Luckily there is soft mossy single track and a beautiful sub-alpine forest to distract you.
- Brandywine Boogie: an understated local 11.5 km race along the Sea to Sky trail (see above) from Cheakamus to Brandywine falls. The route is rolling but has a mainly downhill profile, and crosses the raging Cheakamus river twice!
- Valley to Peak: if you’ve been practising your uphill running, this is the race for you. Starting at Whistler Village and finishing at Whistler Peak, this race is all uphill for 22.5 km. New for 2017 is a stunning 10 km loop around Whistler’s alpine trails along the High Note and Half Note trails.
- Whistler Alpine Meadows (WAM): choose from 12 km, 25 km or an epic 55 km! This race from BC’s Coast Mountain Trail Series will not disappoint. Alpine forest, glacial views and electric blue lakes: the ultimate trail running challenge in Whistler!
Alpine flowers along the High Note trail on Whistler Mountain
Katharine Mills is a website designer, digital marketer and trail runner living in North Vancouver. Originally from the UK, she lived in Whistler for two years before making the move to the city. Compared to the UK, she thinks Canada has an incredible lifestyle, but terrible tea. Her favourite things are exploring the wilds of the BC backcountry, racing mountain bikers down the trails of North Vancouver, and Honey’s Doughnuts from Deep Cove.