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36 Hours in Whistler – in the Summer

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear about Whistler? The 2010 Winter Olympics? Skiing on one of the biggest mountains in North America? Snowboarding?

Have you heard ANYTHING about what a great place Whistler is to visit in summer? Well its time you did. It’s a spectacular place and there really is something for everyone.

Here’s my recommendation on how to spend 36 hours in the summer in Whistler.

"Through Cheakamus Canyon on the Rocky Mountaineer"

Through Cheakamus Canyon on the Rocky Mountaineer

Getting to Whistler

First you have to get to Whistler. It’s about a 90 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. There are shuttles from the airport or you could drive the beautiful sea to sky highway. Alternatively I highly recommend a train ride on the Rocky Mountaineer. It will take you longer but it’s a relaxing way to enjoy the scenery. And then you don’t have to pay the $25 or so per night to park your car in a hotel.

If you arrive in the morning in Whistler then you’ve got a full day to try out any number of activities.

Why not try ziplining in the morning. The Ziptrek Eagle tour is one I’d suggest. It takes about three hours and you have the chance to experience five ziplines and four treetop bridges. It’s great for the family too – providing kids are six and older. I took my 14 year old niece last summer and she was all smiles. If the thought of a zipline scares you to death, then I’ll assume that bungee jumping isn’t high on your list either. It’s not on mine.

"My niece on the 2nd zipline in Whistler"

My niece on the 2nd zipline in Whistler

After ziplining it will be time for lunch and there are plenty of places to try. The restaurants in the Village Square are good choices for their location and people watching opportunities. Try the Mix by Ric’s at 4237 Village Stroll or La Bocca Restaurant & Bar at 4232 Village Stroll. Sometimes I just like a great latte and muffin for lunch and discovered The Lift Coffee Company at 4293 Mountain Square. Check them out if you like a good coffee.

An Afternoon in Whistler

If you’ve never been to Whistler before, then take the gondola up to get an aerial view. You have to get off at Roundhouse Lodge – where you have the option of a number of high alpine hikes. If you’re okay with heights then take the Peak 2 Peak gondola over to Blackcomb Mountain. Its the highest lift of its kind in the world with some amazing statistics –

"Peak 2 peak Gondola"

Peak 2 peak Gondola

  • Its high point is 1,427 feet (436 metres) above the valley floor.
  • The distance you travel on the gondola is 2.73 miles (4.4 kilometres).
  • One cabin shows up every 49 seconds.
  • The silver cabins have a glass bottomed floor – though it’s not as scary as it sounds.
  • It takes 11 minutes of travel time between the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
"Group of people at the lookout at Whistler Peak"

Group of people at the lookout at Whistler Peak (Photo credit: Tourism BC/Toshi Kawano)

If you only ride the gondolas and don’t take any time exploring on top then count on a minimum 70 minute round trip – to get back to the base of Whistler Mountain. But there are lots of hikes – off both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains – and some provide prime viewing of wildflowers. You could spend all day up there if you were so inclined.

If a gondola ride doesn’t appeal to you then perhaps an afternoon of fishing, golfing or even horseback riding might. Then there’s always biking. Don’t be put off by the hard core bikers you see hurtling down Whistler Mountain. There’s a very nice, very flat trail called the Valley Trail. It runs for 35 kilometres through all the Whistler neighbourhoods and past all five lakes. You can rent a bike and take it a leisurely pace or walk a section of it. Most of the trail is paved.

"A mountain biker on Whistler Mountain"

A mountain biker on Whistler Mountain

By late afternoon it will be time to check into your hotel room. The Crystal Lodge is an excellent choice – perfectly located in the center of the village with well appointed rooms – complete with kitchenettes. They have a fine onsite restaurant plus you’re just a stone’s throw away from a host of other restaurants. Put your feet up or relax in the hot tub before deciding where to go for dinner.

"Deluxe studio in The Crystal Lodge"

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Dinner in Whistler

There are many excellent restaurants in Whistler. I’ve loved the food at Araxi and the Rim Rock Cafe –  both are pricey but worth it. The Bearfoot Bistro is always in the news and reputedly excellent. I chose to try the newer Alta Bistro at 4319 Main Street. They have one heck of a deal on right now until June 22nd – a three course meal for $19. The menu changes regularly with the focus on sustainability and locally sourced foods. I highly recommend trying it.

After your meal why not wander around Whistler Village, especially since it’s light outside until well after 9pm.

"Delicious starters at Alta Bistro"

Delicious starters at Alta Bistro

On your last morning in Whistler – put on some sunscreen, store your electronics and head for Alta Lake. Here you have the choice of a canoe or kayak to rent. Alternatively you can take a guided paddle down the River of Golden Dreams – which is what I would suggest. The river is easy to navigate with water running just fast enough to make it a wee bit thrilling. It only takes a few hours but it’s another side of Whistler most people don’t see. If you’re lucky you’ll see beavers and bears and hear all sorts of bird-life. Whistler Mountain provides the backdrop and once you get past the power lines, it’s a very scenic outing.

After your morning excursion, head back to your hotel to change and check out. Most hotels will hold your bags so you have the entire afternoon still to explore. Try one of the activities you didn’t have time for yesterday, poke in the shops or put you feet up and indulge in a few hours of R&R time. Better yet, stay a few more days – there are many more adventures waiting.

Whistler in summer is a special place to be. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Disclaimer: Tourism Whistler kindly covered by stay in Whistler and a few of my activities (canoeing and the Peak 2 Peak). Other activities I’ve done on my own over the years.

Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Laurel says:

    Sounds like a fun, action packed 36 hours! I’m guilty of having never been to Whistler in the summer as well, but I’ve heard it’s as much fun as you’ve said it is.

  • Barry says:

    Your post reminds me of a past trip many years ago and provides compelling reasons to visit again. I would like to hike the Black Tusk once more. I have indelible memories of the most beautiful alpine meadow I have ever seen. Next time I will stay at Taylor Campground. It was a bit much for me to do it as a day hike.

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