The High Note trail in Whistler has to be the prettiest walk we have done this year. Most hikes finish with a good viewpoint, but this walk has fantastic views the entire way. The terrain is pretty varied, but it is almost all above the treeline, so you’ll see glacial lakes, impressive glaciers and if you’re lucky you might get whistled at by a marmot. I thought I was pretty serene in my enjoyment of this walk, but Marc told me I made almost constant “squeee” noises at the views!
If you are visiting Whistler in summer, and only have time for one hike, make it this one.
High Note Trail Map
High Note Trail Whistler – the basics
Distance: 9.5 km
Elevation Loss: This trails goes up and down a lot!
You finish 455m lower than you start.
High Point: 2182m
Time: 4-5 hours
What to bring:
Water, snacks and your camera!
Loads of money or a lift pass
The 10 essentials. This walk is high in the alpine so you need to stay safe!
You take a gondola (and then a chairlift) up Whistler Mountain, so there are lots of facilities at the top. Restaurant, cafe, loos, shops, water fountains…anything you need!
No dogs on Whistler Mountain.
How hard is it?
Intermediate. There are a couple of difficult moments, but there were plenty of children and slow-hiking tourists on the trail. You might just take longer.
Map: You can pick up a free map of the trail from the gondola ticket office. If you want to keep going into Garibalidi Provinical park, you should get a copy of the Clark Geomatics map too.
To get to the start of the Whistler High Note trail, you need to take the gondola from Whistler village, and then take the Peak Express chairlift right to the top of the mountain. This will cost $64 if you book in advance, or $69 on the day. If you have an Edge Ski Pass, you’ll get one free summer lift ticket, so we used that.
We made it to the top of Whistler Mountain at the same time as the clouds. There is a suspension bridge right at the top, so you start the High Note Trail by traversing that. Just be aware, this is not a good spot if you hate heights. The bridge is quite wobbly and you can see through the mesh down to the glacier (and cliffs) below. The views are pretty great though.
High Note Trail Whistler
Next you can get started on the main hike. The fantastic views start right from your first step onto the trail! The walk starts with a steep-ish descent.
You will be treated to views over to the Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park, as well as all the surrounding mountains, and views down to Whistler village.
It was a little cloudy on our visit, but that didn’t spoil the scenery at all. If anything, it made things look even more dramatic.
After the initial drop in elevation, the trail crosses a gravel path and continues through some trees into a gorgeous (flat) path along the edge of the mountain. At this point, the walk is easy, but the views continue to be spectacular. Earlier in the summer there will be loads of wildflowers, but there were still a few at the end of August.
Cheakamus Lake View
After a while the path starts to climb a little, and you will be treated to some gorgeous views of Cheakamus Lake. The lake changes colour as you see it from different directions, but it is always some shade of glacial-blue. When you see it with your own eyes, it looks a little bit fake.
High Note trail – the tricky part
There is one difficult section of the trail where you need to scramble up onto a rock, then lower yourself onto a metal walkway. There is a rope to help you keep your balance, but you can see through the walkway, so it might be scary if you’re not keen on heights. If you bring children on this walk, be extra careful and help them at this section.
There is one crossroad along the High Note Trail where you can take a mini detour to climb up to the Peak of Flute Summit. I can never resist a detour to the top of a mountain, so we took this path. This is the view over to Whistler Peak from halfway up Flute Summit. The High Note trail started at the top of that mountain in the photo below (Whistler Peak).
It’s pretty cool up on Flute Summit. There is sign (rather than a cairn) at the top, but it is designed to be seen in winter, so it is reeeally high up.
The Musical Bumps trail
Once we made it to the summit and saw the path into Garibaldi Provincial Park, we were too excited to stop. So we took a bit more of a detour to explore the start of the musical bumps trail. This trail takes hikers up and down over several music-themed mountains, Flute, Oboe and then Piccolo. I am pretty sure we’ll have to come back and try this trail via Singing Pass.
I used my zoom lens to take a few photos of the glaciers while we stopped for lunch. They are so impressive.
The photo above is the Black Tusk from Flute Summit on our return journey.
Back on the High Note trail
We descended back down to the main High Note trail. It was fun to see the ski slopes we had braved in the wintertime. The area close to Flute summit is known as the Symphony amphitheatre, and the ridge we were about to climb up to is Harmony Ridge. They are some of my favourite skiing areas in Whistler.
The landscape looks completely different in summer when you can see the rocks, trees and flowers. We even found a beautiful tarn (called Symphony Lake).
Prepare your knees
I loved every minute of Whistler’s High Note trail, BUT I have to admit that I found it pretty hard on my knees. The trail loses 455m in elevation, which may make it sound easy, but in reality, the walk undulates, so there are also several climbs. Your knees have to cope with hefty amount of downhill. It might be that I have tried too hard this summer, but my knees were really starting to ache. I was so happy to see the climb up to Harmony Ridge!
The main part of the trail is pretty busy, so you are unlikely to meet any bears, but keep your eyes peeled for pikas and marmots.
Whistler got its name from all the whistling sounds the marmots make. So it seemed extra appropriate that we met this suave little fella on Harmony Ridge. Marmots are basically huge ground squirrels that live at the tree-line in burrows, munching on grasses and flowers.
How busy are Whistler hikes?
I just realized that the photos I have chosen make this walk seem pretty empty. However it is a very busy trail (apart from the detour to Flute summit and the musical bumps.) Luckily most people seemed to have good trail etiquette, so there was very little litter, and when we visited there was only one obnoxious lady blasting terrible music from speakers as she walked.
Once you have climbed up to Harmony Ridge, you take one small dip down to Harmony Lake. After that, there is a final mini hill to climb to get you back to Whistler’s Roundhouse and the Gondola back down the the village.
It is hard to describe just how happy this amazing (and not crazily difficult) hike made me. It might seem like cheating to take a gondola up the mountain, but it is awesome to be able to stay high up with spectacular views for the whole day. I hope you like the look of it too! You can click on the pins below to save them.