Aaaah Whistler; The home of some incredible hiking! I am very excited to share my recent trip along the incredible Musical Bumps trail to Russet Lake. This hike is one of those rare chances to skip the slog up the mountain and spend 100% of your hike up in the incredible alpine area of Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park. I have written about the beautiful High Note trail that starts at Whistler Peak. This time (in order to see some different views) we followed the Half Note trail, and then rejoined the Musical Bumps trail via Flute Summit and Oboe Summit all the way to Russet Lake.
Half Note Trail & Musical Bumps trail to Russet Lake map
Whistler Peak to Russet Lake trail – the basics
Distance: 11.5 km
Elevation gain: 556m
Elevation Loss: 802m
Russet Lake Campground Elevation: 1880m
Time: 4-4.5 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 the trail is not too hard. It’s just feels hard when you have a backpack for camping.
Map: You should get a copy of the Clark Geomatics map.
Musical Bumps trail – Getting started
For once we didn’t start early for this hike. We were planning to camp at Russet lake, and we’d done parts of this trail before, so we were pretty confident we could finish it in 4-5 hours. However I didn’t really consider just how long it would take us to get to the start! You need to ride both the main Whistler Gondola as well as the Peak Express. We arrived in Whistler just before 3pm, bought tickets (there was no queue) and got straight onto the gondola up… but it was still around 4pm before we actually got started hiking.
To get to Whistler Peak, 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 $78 on weekdays and $84 at weekends. (Ouch!) If you want to get to Russet Lake without this hefty price tag, you can hike up via Singing Pass.
Whistler Peak Views
Once you make it to Whistler Peak, you’ll want to stop for some photos! The views are incredible in all directions (and there is a huge inukshuk if you have never seen one before.)
High Note trail vs Half Note trail
Before you get started, you need to decide which trail you’d like to start on, to reach the Musical Bumps trail. The High Note trail is a little longer, and feels a little more wild as it follows fun, rocky pathways; While the Half Note trail goes along some wide, rocky ski runs. We previously walked along the High Note trail, so we opted for the shorter option along the Half Note trail this time. Whichever trail you choose, the views are going to be spectacular. The photo below is from the loo by Whistler Peak – not bad for a first view of the hike eh!?
Half Note trail
If you decide to take the Half Note trail; Follow the wide ski run East, away from the chairlift. Follow the signs pointing to Mathew’s traverse.
Whistler snow walls
Each year at the end of the ski season, Whistler Blackcomb clears the access road to the chairlifts, leaving huge canyons surrounded by walls of snow and ice. If you visit in the springtime, you can hike along these snow walls above the Pika traverse. We visited in July, so these had mostly melted, but it was pretty cool (heh- literally) to find large snow walls near the top of the harmony chairlift.
Best bench in Whistler?
I loved this bear bench! You can find it halfway between the Peak Express and the Harmony Express chairlifts. Once there is lots of snow, the height of the bench can be adjusted; So in winter you’d be sitting up high, closer to the bear carvings.
This is the view from the bear bench. Hike along that path to the Harmony Express Chairlift.
Turn off onto the Half Note trail
You have to watch out for the pathway away from the ski runs. We almost missed it (because it was covered in snow.) Start watching out for the turning right after you’ve passed the Harmony Express chairlift.
I love the wooden carvings along Whistler trails. There’s a fabulous eagle at the Overlord Lookout. That huge glacier off in the distance is the Overlord Glacier, on Overlord Mountain.
The Half Note trail crosses the Burnt Stew trail so you get some great view over to Piccolo Summit before you rejoin the High Note trail.
High Note Trail
The High Note trail follows along near the top of the ridge that leads back to Whistler Peak. If you fancy seeing more of that trail I have a post about it here. The views down to Cheakamus Lake were incredible this early in the summer.
There is one dodgy section along the High Note trail. You have to pull yourself up next to a tree, squeeze between a rock, then balance on a metal grid on the edge of the cliff. It’s not easy to do with a large camping backpack – but it is possible!
There were loads of wildflowers on the musical bumps trail. Well to be honest there are wildflowers everywhere in the alpine regions of Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park.
The High Note trail joins up with the Musical Bump trail then climbs straight up to Flute Summit. The trail is normally quieter from here.
I find hiking with a big backpack (that includes camping gear) a lot tougher than normal hikes. The rise up to Flute Summit is only about 80m elevation gain, but I had to stop several times to catch my breath; So I have some fab photos over to Black Tusk from here. If you have to stop for a breather, it’s not bad scenery to look at while you puff!
Once you have reached Flute Summit, the trail heads downhill for quite a long way. So it’s pleasant, easy and gives you a chance to look out to the surrounding mountain views.
As you hike further into Garibaldi Provincial Park, the trail is beeeeautiful.
This is the view over to the next peak along the Musical Bumps trail, Oboe Summit.
Once you reach Oboe Summit, the trail heads straight back down again to some gorgeous grassy meadows. I loved this part.
You can see the trail below. From Oboe Summit, you hike down to Signing Pass, then back up the mountainside in the distance. Russet Lake is just below that ridge in the distance, below Fissile Peak (the pointy, red-ish mountain.)
I love these meadows.
Singing Pass is the low point between Oboe Summit and the next climb up to Russet Lake. There is a trail from here back down to Whistler village. We followed that route the following morning after camping at Russet Lake.
Beyond Singing Pass you are no longer on the Musical Bumps trail but, there is one more bump to climb! The trail climbs through more meadows up to the top of the ridge.
As you get higher, the trail become less green, and more rocky with large patches of snow.
And the views over to the surrounding peaks and glaciers get more and more incredible.
Russet Lake views
At the crest of the ridge, you will finally be treated to views of Russet Lake. If you have reservations to the new Kees and Claire Hut, it sits up here on the hill above the lake. If you are camping (like us!) you need hike down to the far side of the lake to the campground.
We arrived just as the sunlight was turning golden. There were still some patches of ice on the lake, that kept the water still so it could reflect Fissile Peak perfectly. It may be hard work to reach this lake, but isn’t it a fantastic location for a campground!?
This is from the campground at the far end of Russet Lake, looking North East. *Swoons*
As you can probably imagine from scenery like this, I have hundreds and hundreds of photos from this trip. So, I’ll write a guide about Camping at Russet Lake and hiking back via Singing Pass separately.
Panoramas from Whistler Peak to Russet Lake
I’ll finish with a gallery of panoramas from this ridiculously beautiful hike. You can click on them to see them full screen and get a better idea of the fantastic scenery along the Musical Bumps trail.
The hike from Whistler Peak to Russet Lake along the Musical Bumps trail was a complete treat. Click on the pins below to save them.