The Crater Rim Trail is a great hike near Whistler; Come here when you fancy seeing mountain views, but when you don’t want to climb high into the alpine. We explored this hike at the end of May, where there was too much snow for safe hikes at higher elevations.
We followed the route in 105 Hikes, which includes a loop up over a ridge (with a fantastic viewpoint), down to loggers lake, and then a pretty hike through the Whistler Interpretive forest. If you have less time, you could just do the Crater Rim trail including the viewpoint. That would be 4.5 km, and take around 2 hours.
Crater Rim Trail Map
Crater Rim Trail – the basics
Distance: 10.5 km
Elevation gain: 360m
High Point: 912m
Time: 3.5- 5 hours (we took less than 3.5 hours, including breaks)
What to bring:
Make sure you have plenty of water as the trail gets quite steep.
The 10 Essentials
There is a car park with a porta potty and park benches.
How hard is it?
Moderate – the path is easy to follow, but has some steep moments.
Crater Rim Trail – getting started
The trailhead is at Function Junction (what a good name for a turning off the highway!) there is a car park by the edge of the Whistler Interpretive forest. This trail starts on the riverside trail, that has information boards about the forest, so you can learn as you hike. Then, after no time at all, you need to cross the Cheakamus river, then head into a housing estate to reach the main trailhead on Cloudburst road.
Whistler Interpretive Forest
There are three interpretive forests along the Sea to Sky highway. We visited the one at Brohm Lake earlier this year, so learnt that they were set up as outdoor classrooms to help people find out about BC forests and how they are managed. This forest is on the edge of Garibaldi Provincial Park, so it feels like your walking into true wilderness.
The ridge Trail
The start of this hike can be a little confusing, especially when you need to walk through a housing estate at Whistler Olympic Village. However once you’ve found the start of the ridge trail, everything becomes easier. The path is easy to follow, and even though we visited on a Saturday afternoon, it was surprisingly quiet.
As you hike up the rim of the volcano, you’ll start to see some fantastic views back towards Whistler and the other local mountains. There are a couple of areas where the path is covered in rocks, so this is the best spot for uninterrupted views through the trees.
Marc and his brother Tom zoomed up the steep section of the hike, and then relaxed looking out at the views while I caught up. There is a bench (ish – it’s a plank with a second plank to lean on) at the prettiest viewpoint, even though this is not the top of the ridge.
Crater Rim viewpoint
Isn’t this view fantastic? You only need to gain 360m in elevation, but you can see all the way over to Mount Fee and Brandywine Mountain.
As well as the main viewpoint, there are quite a few moments when it is worth stopping and peeking through the trees. The views North are particularly gorgeous with all the snow-capped peaks beyond Whistler.
You even get a good view over to the Black Tusk! I always like to see this iconic spike on our hikes.
Loggers Lake from the Crater Rim
After you start to descend down into the forest, you’ll get a peek down to Loggers Lake, in the center of the volcanic crater. That is where the path is heading next.
The path down to the lake is steep, but pretty gorgeous.
Once you’ve hiked down from the high-point of the crater, you’ll reach this lovely loggers lake.
Someone has chained a tree trunk to the edge of the lake, so you can walk right out onto it. It felt pretty safe to me, so I went out to the end – but Marc didn’t give me the photo, so you’ll have to make do with a less adventurous photo of Tom.
Geology geek moment
When you look up from the lake, you can see these really cool column-shaped rock formations. This just shows we were standing in an ancient volcano. When lava cools into basalt, whatever fracture pattern forms at the cooling surface tends to be propagated down, deep into the lava, forming long geometric columns. I love seeing this kind of thing on hikes!
MacLaurin’s Crossing Suspension Bridge
Once you’ve finished at Logger’s lake, head down towards the Cheakamus river. You need to double back on yourself a little in order to cross the Cheakus River on the suspension bridge.
You can see the river was a little too choppy to consider crossing it without that bridge!
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, turn right and follow the Farside trail (in the opposite direction to where you want to end up!) The trail is close to the river, and has some amazing old growth trees, so it is a fun section of the hike. If you don’t fancy more walking, you could follow the Farside trail in the opposite direction for a speedier route back to the carpark.
We didn’t want to miss any of the trail, so we followed the loop up to the highline trail, and then all the way back to Function Junction.
You may have noticed there are only three of us on this hike, even though we were exploring with Marc’s brother Tom, and his girlfriend, Andreia. Andreia hurt her knee earlier in the week, and so wanted to explore Whistler, rather than join us for this walk. We were all a little worried to leave her, so we zoomed around this trail! I would definitely like to return and hike it at a more leisurely pace! Still, despite our speediness, I hope this gives you a good idea for a fun, intermediate-level hike in Whistler.
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