The Iceberg Lake trail via 19 Mile Creek is one of the many incredible hikes that can take you up into the alpine meadows near Whistler. The hike finishes half way up Rainbow Mountain, right under Rainbow Glacier where parts of the Glacier melt into a bright blue, iceberg-filled lake. This is a moderately challenging hike, with almost 1000m elevation gain. But it is a pretty easy to follow path, and you’ll be treated to gorgeous forest, plenty of waterfalls, and oodles of wild flowers if you go in summer or blueberries if you go in the fall. The rewards for this adventure are definitely worth the tired legs at the end of the day.
Iceberg Lake trail map
Iceberg Lake – the basics
Distance: 15 km
Elevation gain: 990 m
Highest Point: 1640 m
Time: 7-8 hours (It took us 7 hours including breaks)
What to bring:
The 10 Essentials
Swimming things if you fancy a dip in freezing water
There are loos close to Iceberg Lake (before you scramble up the the last rocky section)
Dogs: No. Dogs are not allowed up to the Rainbow Alpine area, even on a leash.
How hard is it? Moderately challenging. The lower section can be easy to get lost, it feels quite long, and the scramble up to the lake might be challenging if you are used to following obvious trails.
Iceberg Lake Trail – Getting started
You can park at the end of Mountain View Drive, in the Alpine Meadows area of Whistler. Read the signs. If you park on the wrong side of the road it’s likely that you’ll get towed! In the end, we actually parked on Valley drive instead (there was an easy to follow trail over to the start.) Once you’ve found a safe parking spot, follow the 19 Mile Creek trail straight up into the forest.
First gorgeous Whistler Views
Once you have hiked up for about 20 minutes there is a great viewpoint looking down to Green Lake. You’ll be able to look over to the pointy shaped Wedge Mountain, as well as the back of Blackcomb. We visited at the start of October when parts of America were on fire, so it was still a bit smoky.
There were so many gorgeous trees. If you look up when you drive along the Sea to Sky highway in autumn, you’ll see stripes of bright yellow leaves (possibly balm poplar!?) The trail passes through a few copses of golden trees, so you can see them up close. You’ll also go past several giant old growth cedars and douglas fir trees.
Be bear aware
This area of Whistler is the home of both black bears and grizzly bears. If you want to hike on the Skywalk trails, or the Rainbow Lake trails check the wildlife reports before you go, and respect closures if there are any. I should mention that our original plan had been to hike to Rainbow Lake. We had change plans when that trail was closed due to grizzly activity. If you hike in this area, bring bear spray, and learn how to use it. I personally would not want to hike in this area alone.
19 Mile Creek Trail
This (and all the Skywalk trails) are maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada’s Whistler Chapter. They have done a fantastic job. There are well made bridges over 19 Mile Creek and boardwalks through the boggiest areas.
There are several (at least 5) waterfalls along the route up 19 Mile Creek. Some are small, cascading down the creek. As you get higher, the waterfalls get more impressive. Once you reach a steep section of trail (5km into the walk) listen out for rushing water and look out for a short side trail to the right. There is a bench and a viewpoint out over a thunderous unnamed waterfall. This must be a great view earlier in the year before the snow has all melted!
Another mini waterfall will greet you as you emerge from the trees into the blueberry-filled meadows below Rainbow Mountain.
Rainbow Mountain views
There is a nice open area with fantastic views of Rainbow Mountain and the Rainbow Mountain glacier. I took this photo on our descent as the light was turning golden. If you don’t want to go the whole way to the lake, this would make a fabulous picnic spot.
Whistler’s best loo with a view?
I know, I know…I post way too many picturesque places to pee. But you have to admit, the loo with a view below Rainbow Mountain is a great one. I included the actual view from inside. There are tent pads from when hikers could camp here, but camping is no longer permitted (due to the grizzly bear activity in the area.)
There are some great views from these meadows in the other direction too. You can see the Weart Glacier (on Mount Weart) shining in the sun off in the distance.
Beautiful alpine meadows
Then, this is where we were heading next. We needed to scramble up that rocky slope to a flat area (about half way up to the glacier.)
You’ll also see the ridge where you can continue to walk along the Skywalk North trail. I would love to hike that longer route next time. We were a bit out of shape for this visit as we had to hide inside for a month to avoid the smoke from wildfires.
This view is from the edge of the meadow, looking up at the rocky area you need to hike up. There is another impressive waterfall that drains off the water from Iceberg Lake. You need to aim for the top of that waterfall.
Have you ever looked closely at fireweed in the autumn? In the summer, these rocky slopes must be bright pink with all the fireweed. However when we visited in October, the flowers had all turned into these incredible fluffy plants.
It is a bit of a slog up to Iceberg Lake, so it’s likely that you’ll turn around to see the view. Even with the summer smoke, the mountain views from here are gorgeous. We could see the Weart Glacier, Wedge mountain (the pointy one in the middle) as well as Phalanx Mountain to the right (and Blackcomb Peak to the far right.)
Iceberg Lake itself is a stunner. It remains half frozen well into the summertime. So you probably won’t see it with less snow than this (it started snowing again a couple of weeks after our visit.) There were lots of hikers (around 50 people) up at the lake while we were there. But there’s more than enough room for everyone to spread out, so it didn’t feel too busy.
As always, I was mesmerized by the beautiful colour of the glacial waters. It’s also cool to see the mini icebergs floating around and spinning in the water. There were people swimming in the lake (brrr) and even climbing onto the icebergs. I was content to eat my lunch while taking in the views.
Ice Caves at Iceberg Lake
If you keep going around behind the rock pile next to Iceberg Lake, you might find some ice-caves. There wasn’t much ice left in autumn, but the caves were still large enough to peek inside.
The caves melt slowly, one drip at a time. This leaves interesting patterns inside them as they slowly hollow out to reveal the mountain views.
Be super careful
These ice caves can collapse, dumping heavy sheets of ice on top of you. Don’t go inside them if there is any sign that they are unstable. I was super paranoid about this, so never strayed from the entrance for very long!
It was really fun to sneak in and see the world from the point of view of an ex-glacier though!
This is the view out from the edge of the ice caves. That pile of rocks has been left by the glacier as it recedes. This teeny second lake provides some fantastic reflections.
We returned on the same route that we’d hiked in. Through the golden meadows and down along the shady forested trails. The hike back is basically downhill the entire way. The path is so good that it is possible to run lots of the way (we find running downhill is easier on our knees than walking.)
Iceberg Lake Panoramas
I’ll finish with panoramas of the spectacular views we saw along the way to Iceberg Lake.
Other Gorgeous Alpine Hikes near Whistler:
If you like the sound of this, but want some other ideas; Take a peek at my Canada page for a map of possible walks in BC. Or, here are a few other suggestions:
- The High Note trail – The Whistler gondola does the hard work for this one, so you can spend your time soaking up epic Alpine views.
- Blackcomb Burn – This is a challenging hike up the ski slopes on Blackcomb that leads to gorgeous views above the clouds.
- Possibly the most epic hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park; Panorama Ridge, looking down on Garibaldi Lake.
I wasn’t expecting to hike up to Iceberg Lake on the day we did this hike, but both Marc and I really loved this beautiful and varied walk. Do you think you’d like to give it a go when you visit this part of BC? Let me know what you think in the comments below. Or, click on the pins below to save them for later.