What can you do if you fancy hiking to (or camping at) the beautiful Russet lake, but you don’t want to pay to ride the Gondola up Whistler Mountain? You can hike in via Singing Pass! The trail to Russet Lake via Singing Pass can be a bit of a slog, but it has plenty of large waterfalls, gorgeous forest views and unlike the trails that start from the Whistler gondola; It is completely free. We hiked along Singing Pass on our return from Russet Lake. So, for us it was an easy downhill hike all the way.
Russet Lake via Singing Pass trail map
This map just shows the trail to Russet Lake. Click here for a link to the route we took. We hiked in via the Half Note and Musical Bumps trails, camped overnight at Russet lake, then hiked back to Whistler via Singing Pass.
Russet Lake via Singing Pass – the basics
Distance: 15 km
Elevation gain/loss: 1410 m
For us, this was elevation loss. We only gained 200m near the start.
Russet Lake Campground Elevation: 1880m
Time: 4.5 hours down (I think it would be 5-6 hours up)
What to bring:
Water, snacks and your camera!
The 10 essentials.
There is an outhouse a few kilometers away from Whistler. Then there is an outhouse, bear cache, campground and hut at Russet Lake.
No dogs on Whistler Mountain.
How hard is it?
Intermediate. It’s very easy on the hike down, but it must be exhausting if you take this route up into the alpine.
Map: You should get a copy of the Clark Geomatics map.
Camping at Russet lake
If you do decide to hike up the Singing Pass trail, you will definitely want to camp up at the Russet Lake campground. There are 20 campsite available (and you need to book in advance.) The lake itself is not a crazy glacial blue (like nearby Cheakamus Lake or Garibaldi lake), but the scenery around it is so spectacular that you’ll love it anyway. If you’d like to read (or see) more about Camping at Russet Lake, have a peek at my previous post.
Kees and Claire Hut
If you’re starting at Russet lake and going back to Whistler, the hardest part is right at the start! You need to hike up 100m in elevation gain from the campground at the end of the lake, to the Kees and Claire Hut above the lake.
The views down at the campground are fantastic, but in some ways they are even better up at the hut! You can see glaciers for miles! There was still plenty of snow in July, but lots of it was pink. It’s called watermelon snow and it’s caused by an algae. I normally call it murder snow when it looks super red.
Head down to Singing Pass
The first 3 km to Singing Pass are the best part of this route. You can see stunning mountain views in all directions. It starts off rocky at the top…
and becomes more green and grassy as you inch closer to the pass.
Musical Bumps trail to Whistler
The alternative way back to Whistler is via the Peak Express chair and gondola via the beautiful Musical Bumps trail. There are some great views from the Russet Lake trail over to Oboe Summit and the rest of the “bumps” on the way back to Whistler.
Singing pass itself
As you hike down to the meadows at Singing Pass, you slowly move closer to the forest. The Singing Pass trail turns at the pass and hugs the side of Whistler Mountain.
Once you’ve made into the trees, you’ll always have Whistler Mountain on your left, then a large valley, with a string of peaks that lead to Blackcomb Mountain on your right.
There are quite a few creek crossings along the singing pass trail. They continue the musical theme with each creek reflecting the name of the summit above it. This one was Oboe Creek.
The Singing Pass trail is very easy to follow. It heads slowly down the mountain beneath the super tall trees. The path is straight most of the way.
I really liked Flute Creek. This is the kind of waterfall we normally spend hours hiking out to – but on this trail, hardly anyone even mentions it! I also loved that the creek has created a gap in the trees so you can see over to the Blackcomb ski runs.
I was very grateful that there were good, sturdy bridges over these creeks. I wouldn’t want to wade across that!
Every so often the trail opens out a little (you’ll have great views over to Blackcomb). But mostly the Singing pass trail is in the forest, so you have a bit of protection from the sun.
There is a second impressive waterfall that seems like it goes the whole way up the mountain at Harmony Creek. This creek does not have a bridge, but it is pretty easy to hop over the rocks without getting your feet too wet.
Watch out for mountain bikes
As you get closer to Whistler, the trail widens and sometimes traverses alongside the various bike routes that crisscross Whistler Mountain. If you are heading downhill, it is an easy, pleasant hike. However we met a few hikers who were already struggling to hike up in the opposite direction.
Final slope on Whistler Mountain
You’ll emerge onto Whistler Mountain at the end of the trail. The Singing Pass trail follows one of the main ski slopes. So it is wide, open and has views the whole way down to Whistler’s Upper Village.
This is the busiest section of trail. There still aren’t many hikers, but you’ll see hundreds of mountain bikers zoom, jump and smash their way down the slopes. When we did this hike, there were speakers with loud music as well as quite a few spectators. It was all a bit of a shock after being in the backcountry not seeing anyone for a while!
And (just in case you’re planning this hike in the opposite direction.) this is the trailhead for the Singing Pass trail at the bottom of the Whistler Mountain.
It must be hard work to hike up to Russet Lake via Singing Pass. However it is a really fun trail to hike down. I am really glad we tried both routes; along the musical bumps trail and the signing pass trail.