Iceberg Lake – Whistler Hikes

Iceberg Lake – Whistler Hikes

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
Bear spray
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:Β No. Dogs are not allowed up to the Rainbow Alpine area, even on a leash.
How hard is it? Moderately challenging.Β 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.

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Gorgeous trees

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.

Waterfalls galore

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.

Fireweed floof

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.

Looking backwards

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

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.

Heading back

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.

Iceberg Lake - a gorgeous glacial lake in Whistler, Canada Iceberg Lake via 19 Mile Creek - near Whistler, Canada Ice Caves near Iceberg Lake in Whitler, Canada

56 thoughts on “Iceberg Lake – Whistler Hikes

  1. This lake is absolutely beautiful! It reminds me of Glacier National Park in a way. I am hoping I could get to Whistler at some point this year. πŸ™‚

    1. Oooh nice! I hope you can! Have a peek at the trails from the gondolas (like the High Note trail or Decker Tarn.) Those are spectacular, and not too hard as the gondola takes you up to the top. πŸ˜‰

  2. I’m so envious of all of these beautiful hikes you get to explore! The view of Rainbow Mountain is incredible! And the ice caves look so cool! Thanks for sharing these beautiful hikes!

    1. Oooh you are right. I can totally imagine this kind of thing in iceland. I guess I just didn’t expect it on a sunny day near Whistler!

  3. Love how you included bear warnings in your post, that’s awesome! I’m not a hiker but after seeing your photos I might just have to!

    1. If you like the views, but would prefer less hard work, there are some pretty epic walks at the top of the Whistler Gondola too – those can give you similar rewards, but with less effort. It’s great for when you’re just getting into hiking.

  4. This place is gorgeous! I love the loo with a view, too. πŸ˜‚ Thank you for sharing all your photos with us. I would love to see this in person someday!

  5. This looks like an awesome hike, the views are stunning! And the ice caves are really cool. I would love to visit, better start figuring out that bear spray πŸ™‚

    1. We’ve never had to use it for real…but it’ pretty easy if you practice when you first buy some…

  6. I could spend a year hiking in that region. Everything is so beautiful!!! I am adding more hikes to my list for my next trip and Iceberg Lake sounds amazing – what great views!!

  7. These scenery shots are unbelieveable!!!! I have never seen anything like those ice caves before. They must’ve been so neat to see in person! I admire your long day hikes. I’m sapped after 3 hours!!!!

    1. We were too when we first started! I guess it’s one of those things that the more you hike, the more you can hike without getting too tired…

  8. Your beautiful photos make me want to head out into alpine meadow and search for a turquoise tarn… of course we’re still in the middle of winter here and it might have to wait another 5 months or so πŸ˜‰ Thanks for the dream in the meantime!

    1. Thanks Megan! It’s still pretty wintery here too…that’s why I am still writing up posts from sunnier days.

    1. Yeah, I was not keen on the idea of that much ice falling on me…but it was really cool (heh) to see up close.

  9. Ok, I feel like I say this every time but this may be my favorite hike you’ve shared! The ice caves, lake, waterfalls and stunning mountain views are incredible. And that loo – what a view!! I’m glad you adjusted your plan due to the bear activity. Not worth the added risk to keep going!

    1. Thanks Susan! This was a corker – I do want to go back for the other rainbow mountain hike too though!

  10. Wow, the ice caves look super cool, but I think I’d be like you and stick close to the entrance. 1000m in elevation? That’s quite the hike. Looks like it’s worth the trek though, that lake is beautiful. Although let’s face it, anywhere around Whistler is always going to be gorgeous

    1. Yep! Whistler is sort of ridiculous for how picturesque it can be! Are you planning more Whistler hikes for 2021? Maybe I’ll see you on the trail!?

  11. Those ice caves look unreal! Wasn’t expecting to see that from this hike report. I love the picture of the perspective from the toilet too I also appreciate a scenic pee spot hah. It does scare me a bit the info about bears. It seems Canadians are less bothered by them though, I remember when I went to Banff we saw bears every day! It was reported that day that one even followed a group of two guys for 20 minutes. They had to join with another group of 4 and the bear still was not afraid. Bear spray is definitely a must, but hope I’ll never have to use it.

    1. Eep! I’m not Canadian so the bears do still scare me…I guess it is more like a healthy awareness of their power! The more we’ve hiked in bear-filled areas the more comfortable I have come with sharing space with them. We are just loud on the trail and careful not to get close if we see one.

  12. I’ve only been to Whistler for the skiing so really good to know about everything else to do. Planning return trip soon!

    1. I looove skiing in Whistler, but I think I like it in summer/fall just as much – it is all so full of flowers and epic views! I hope you can make it back.

  13. Josy!! This hike is incredibly beautiful, and I am so impressed that you did a 6-8 hr hike! The longest I’ve done was around 4-5. We typically do the shorter hikes so we’re able to do a few in one day. Do you prefer longer/or shorter?

    1. That is such a tough question! I guess I prefer the longer hike because they often lead to more remote/epic places.

      I mean, I do love short sweet hikes too, especially when they still reach good views. It’s just my best memories are from the longer treks (maybe partly because we’ve had to work for the payoff!?)

      It took us a while to work up to it, but our longer hikes are sometimes 10-12 hours in the summer.

  14. oh my gosh! The water, the ice caves, the views?! Heaven. Let’s get those borders OPEN!!!

  15. Amazing place! I don’t know if I could deal with the bears though. Those elevation maps that you guys have of trails are so useful. We don’t have them in Finland. Oh wait, maybe that is because there is no elevation? Anyway, I’d like them as they tell you exactly how challenging the trail is. No need to guess what easy-moderate-hard actually means.

    1. Yeees I know what you mean. Easy/hard can be very subjective, so I find it much easier to imagine a trail looking at topo/elevation maps.

      I am from Cambridgeshire (in the UK) originally so I totally understand what it’s like to live somewhere that is very flat! I am not even sure why I love mountains so much as I didn’t see many growing up!

  16. Wow, Josy, the photo of the melting ice cave is spectacular. I love it. Like you, I would have never ventured into them for more than a few feet.
    You write: “the scramble up to the lake might be challenging if you are used to following obvious trails.”. So, how do you know you are on the right way and not getting lost?
    Now, I like to thank you for confirming that I am not the only person on this planet who thinks that going downhill in a light jog is easier than going up: “we find running downhill is easier on our knees than walking”.

    1. Yaaay! I totally agree Rudy. I don’t understand the mechanics of it, but running downhill really does seem to help.

      For your other question, there are little piles of rocks called cairns that help show the way up through the rocks. It’s just they are a little more tough to see than the more obvious trails through the forest.

  17. Every time a read one of your posts, I wanna hike that trail. Until this line though, “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.”

    Yea…nah. I’m good πŸ™‚

    1. That is fair enough! Especially as there are lots of bears near here. You just need to hike in a group, then you’d be fine. They really don’t like groups of humans.

  18. Wow, this looks like a gorgeous and amazing hike! Definitely the perfect length for a full day hike. The little glacier cave is very cool as well. I have heard great things about Whistler from some of my friends, and I might finally be convinced I have to visit!

    1. If you like hiking or biking in summer (or skiing in winter) you will LOVE Whistler. It’s such a nice resort town.

  19. This is gorgeous! I really need to go up to Whistler in the summer or fall because this is much more up my alley than skiing. The meadows are stunning, although that last little rocky section to make it to the top of the waterfall looks a little daunting. However, the color of Iceberg Lake really is unique. Also, I’ve never seen ice caves like that! At first, they looked like they might be low to the ground so I was surprised to see how big they were when ventured a little ways in for the second photo!

    1. I wonder if you have similar hikes in the Cascades near Seattle? I bet there must be similar epic ones on your side of the border before things reopen.

  20. I always feel sorry for the person who has to report the grizzly bear activity! That’s a scary thought to me. I’ve seen bears on hikes before, but luckily they were at a safe distance.

    1. Yeah that is a good point. I think on this occasion the bear had followed some hikers…that would be very stressful! We have only seen grizzlies from a veeery safe distance!

  21. Your photos are gorgeousssss! <3 I have so many places now that I want to go to once it's more ok to travel again! I love waterfalls + the mountains are so beautiful!

  22. I would’ve turned back at the Grizzly Bear sign. That’s one thing that freaked me out in Canada. I’m cool with snakes but have no idea how to deal with bears because there are none on my side of the Earth. :oP

    I do love the random no name waterfall.

    1. I totally understand. We were really worried about that too when we first moved here! To be honest, if you are in a group and make noise it isn’t normally an issue. They don’t want to be anywhere near us!

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