High Note Trail Whistler

High Note Trail Whistler

High Note Trail Whistler - such a fun trail at the top of the worldThe 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!
Facilities:
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!
Dogs:
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.

Peak Express

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.

Cloudraker Skybridge

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.

Flute Summit

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!

Whistler Wildlife

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.

High Note Trail Whistler - such a fun trail at the top of the world High Note Trail Whistler - fantastic views of Cheakamus Lake from the trail High Note Trail Whistler - jumping on top of Flute Summit

44 thoughts on “High Note Trail Whistler

  1. One of the best days out we ever had! We walked exactly the same route along the High Note Trail and loved every second of it. Such amazing views and incredible scenery. Would so love to go back and do it all again someday. Great memories and wonderful photos.

    1. Yay! I am so glad to hear it wasn’t just us that loved it!

      Don’t worry, if you come back this way, I can recommend some other amazing hikes, so you’ll be able to see new gorgeous scenery! I still have quite a few Whistler hikes on my list for future adventures!!

  2. Such a detailed article on the hike! I love hiking guides that give me a good idea about what I’m in for and you clearly did this. Thanks for mentioning the trickier parts where there’s some rock climbing and rope holding involved. I love that there are so many different types of terrains on this hike. The lakes, alpine trees, wildlife and even glaciers. Crazy! Looks like the highlight might be that view of Cheakamus Lake.

  3. Beautiful pics and love the marmots. Those little guys are so cute. Did you find this hike was less busy because of the cost of the lift to get up there? I find that some trails and hikes in BC can be quite busy in the summer but this looks really quiet and with amazing views to boot

    1. No, surprisingly it was quiet early in the morning, but still very busy later in the day! I think Whistler attracts a lot of rich hikers(!)

      We did the Blackcomb Burn earlier in the summer which was crazily quiet, but it was the same once we reached the top – looooads of tourists come for the easy trails on the peaks.

      There is a shorter trail (called the Half Note trail) that starts on the same path as the High Note trail. That was the busiest section.

    1. I looove them! Seriously, at the start of the day, my only wish was to see a marmot. When that little dude ran out and stopped to pose I was sooo happy!

  4. This looks awesome! Wow those glaciers are incredible. How do you think the weather would be a bit later In the year, like October? I was thinking of doing a trip to whistler this fall.

    1. It is hard to say. The last couple of years October was still pretty warm, so you’d be find to hike in the alpine. But even if it is a bit colder there are other lower trials that are beautiful.

      Have a look at the crater rim trail, or the lava lake loop if it has snowed and you don’t want to be high up!

      If you are used to hiking in the alpine, this trail would still be gorgeous with a little snow, as long as you have microspikes and plenty of layers!!

      p.s. If you come during Canadian Thanks giving, Whistler has amaaaazing discounts on winter clothes and equipment. It’s called the turkey sale. 😀

  5. Absolutely stunning photos. You really do have fantastic views the entire way on this hike! Not sure I would go on that wobbly bridge with the mesh though. Great post on the High Note trail in Whistler.

    1. Thaaank you!

      The bridge might be less wobbly if you go early before there are many people on it! If not, don’t worry, you can easily go around and avoid it.

  6. Wow – that water is so crystal clear and blue! Thanks for the tip on this hurting your knees. Sounds like hiking poles would be helpful if I do it because my knees can’t handle the ups and downs like they used to 🙂

  7. I like that you can take the gondola up to the top of the mountain and then do the High Note Trail from there! Great views and bathrooms are always a must for me on hikes. The view from Harmony Ridge looks superb.

    1. I know right!? It takes the effort out of the first slog up the mountain so you can concentrate all your efforts on the fantastic views at the top!

  8. Love your photos. And commentary. You’ve just really reminded me that I need to get out and hike more now that we have cooler weather coming. Not sure my knees would handle that trail but in flat Florida, pretty sure it’ll be fine!

  9. The views here are incredible! Were you scared at all when you walked across that bridge? I think that would take so much mental strength for me to do 😮 I’m scared of heights – both rationally and irrationally lol. Also, are you permanently based out of Vancouver or something? I’m moving to Kelowna in November and think it would be so fun to meet up for a hike one day! 🙂

  10. That is so cool you could see glaciers from the trail! Such a stunning place to go for a hike. I love that the lake looks different depending on the angle you’re looking at it. So beautiful!

  11. You’re making me dream so much with all these beautiful hikes! So can’t wait to be in Vancouver and try all these!! It looks like the scenery is amazing all along the hike.

  12. I’m glad you mentioned that this trail is actually quite popular and busy. I, too, choose the prettiest and most picturesque photos, aiming to leave lots of hikers out of the frame. It’s good to note the actual trail conditions – thanks for another great post about hiking in Canada!

  13. Wow, this hike looks epic! After reading this post, I really need to get to Canada! The photos were stunning with those views and really liked your tips to make the hike more enjoyable. Like you, my knees tend to struggle on the down hill so that is good to know ahead of time. Thank you!

  14. How do you always find so many amazing hikes? I wish we had more hiking trails near Orlando, but even our limited trails don’t have views like these. Thank you for another hike to add to my list!

  15. Wow this is a beautiful hike! I love how everything has musical names. Cheakamus Lake looks really gorgeous, great photos. I had no idea that Whistler got its name from marmots. And I didn’t know that marmots whistled! Whistler looks like such a beautiful place to hike in, it’s nice to see what it looks like without snow!

  16. This hike looks STUNNING! I went to Vancouver a while back and did the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish and this reminds me so much of that. What beautiful scenery, and I’ve heard so many good things about Whistler!

    1. It really is a stunning one isn’t it!? Just a bit of a shame it is so pricey to get up there to start it.

      I saw photos from last week when it had a sprinkling of snow. It looked even more gorgeous.

  17. Awwww, we visited Whistler in late November/early December a few years ago and didn’t get to go on any hikes. We obviously need to come back in Spring or Summer to get the full experience!

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