Did you know that in addition to the fabulous ski runs on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, there are a bunch of maintained cross country ski runs and snowshoeing trails in Callaghan Valley? These trails are not free; But once you have purchased a pass, it gives you access to over 35km of snowshoe trails in both Callaghan Country (Ski Callaghan) and Whistler Olympic Park. I loved how varied the possible routes were! We snowshoed through wetlands, pretty forests to Olympic facilities. We also challenged ourselves to hike up a hill to a viewpoint as well as see the spectacular half-frozen Alexander Falls.
If you fancy a brilliant day out snowshoeing near Whistler, this is the perfect place to start.
Whistler snowshoeing – the basics
Distance: As long (or as short) as you fancy. We did 12.6 km
Elevation gain: 370m (for the route we took)
Time: We were there for 5 hours
What to bring:
We brought the 10 Essentials (and plenty of snacks)
You’re not supposed to hike on these trails without snowshoes (you can rent them at the start of the trail)
What to wear:
You need to bring plenty of layers when you’re snowshoeing as the weather can change and freeze you to your core. However I often find that I get super hot on snowshoe adventures. I had moments in my t-shirt, as well as times with multiple layers, including my puffer jacket. If you have them, waterproof trousers or ski-pants are great as you can bum-slide without wetting your bottom. Also, bring dry socks for the way home!
Facilities: Car park with a lodge, coffee bus, loos and equipment rentals.
Cost: $16.50 – This covers all the trails in both Callaghan Country and Whistler Olympic Park
Dogs: Dog friendly on lots of the trails – this is a list of the doggo friendly trails.
How hard is it? Easy to challenging! Lots of the trails were flat and easy, but there are also some larger hills that will get your heart pumping. Just choose routes depending on how epic you feel.
Ski Callaghan and Whistler Olympic Park snowshoe map
You can find the maps for the snowshoe trails for both Ski Callaghan and Whistler Olympic Park here. I recorded our adventure to give you an idea about possible routes (below), but you can easily take a map when you buy your ticket, and just follow that!
Callaghan Valley Snowshoeing – getting started
The area is about 30 minutes drive from Whistler (down Callaghan Valley Road) or 40 minutes from Squamish, and you don’t need a 4×4 as the road is in great condition. We parked in the Ski Callaghan area. There are a bunch of buildings (for snowshoe rentals, the loo, and a double decker bus that looks like it’s a coffee shop.) If you need snowshoes, you can rent them from here; You’re not meant to go on these trails without snowshoes. Then, you can head straight in and get walking.
Is this good for beginners?
If you have never been snowshoeing before, don’t worry! It is basically the same as hiking, you just strap snowshoes onto your feet that stop you from sinking into the snow (or post-holing.) The snowshoes have spikes on the base to help you grip onto icy areas. If you look carefully on my snowshoes below, some of them also have a tab that you can lift up to support you on steep hills. I had never bothered to use that feature, before this trip but it makes things sooo much easier uphill!
We started off by snowshoeing over to Alexander Falls, as that is one of the more famous trails in Callaghan Valley. I have a whole post with the details about that part of the walk. Alexander Falls was easily the busiest snowshoe trail of the day. Once we left that area, we hardly saw any other snowshoers.
After visiting Alexander Falls, we decided to hike over to the Whistler Olympic Park. We started with the Madeley Explorer trail along Madeley Creek. It’s around 2.5km through a pretty forest full of large cedar trees.
I like the way the Whistler Olympic Park snowshoe trails are just off the main Cross Country ski runs. It meant we were out of the way of the skiers, but we could watch them zoom past every so often. We had this trail all to ourselves.
Watch out for skiers
Sometimes the snowshoe trails cross the ski trails, and sometimes they share bridges. When that happens, try not to let your snowshoes ruin the tracks for the skiers, and keep out of the way if they are zooming past!
I really loved looking down at Madeley Creek from the bridge. The creek was just starting to melt with the first signs of spring.
Stadium Explorer trail – Biathlon range
Once we’d made it to the end of Madeley’s Explorer, we could see the Biathlon range; So of course we went over to take a peek. Biathlon is a race where each athlete skis around a cross country course, stopping to shoot their rifle at a target along the way. If they miss the target, they get time penalties added onto their race time. It sounds like a tough sport!
Olympic Legacy signs
One cool thing about snowshoeing in Whistler Olympic Park is that they have put up signs to help you learn about each of the winter sports as you explore the trails. Also all proceeds from their ticket/pass sales go directly towards “growing sport and supporting Nordic athletes”.
We continued along the Stadium Explorer trail. The area has some really pretty views and the trail is pretty flat and easy.
Can you tell that the Winter Olympics happened here back in 2010!?
Ski Jump Hill
My original plan was to hike up next to the ski jump hill (I thought the views would be great from up there.) But that trail was closed, so we hiked past the base of the ski jumps instead. The steepness of the ski jump hill looked pretty suicidal to me!
Look Out Explorer
We still had a bit of energy, so we continued on to the Look Out Explorer trail. This trail started off pretty flat. We could see plenty of skunk cabbages popping up where the snow had started to melt, and we met a sweary squirrel,
You may have guessed it, but any trail with Look Out in the name is bound to have some uphill sections! We snowshoed up a few steep-ish hills to find the shelter at the Top of the World.
The views were pretty fantastic from up here! We could see great views of Metal Dome and the back of Brandywine Mountain.
Once we’d hiked back down the hill from the Look Out, we returned to the car park via the Wetland Wanderer trail.
This area of the Whistler Olympic Park would be perfect for a first snowshoeing adventure. It was pretty flat, but had more fantastic views of the surrounding mountains.
Doesn’t Metal Dome look fantastic from here!? I would love to come back and hike up there in the summertime.
Snowshoeing safety tips
These Callaghan Valley trails are well maintained, and great for beginners BUT you still need to be careful in the snow.
- Snowshoe trail conditions can change quickly in winter, so have plenty of layers (as well as the the 10 Essentials)
- Watch out for hazards. These are things like tree wells (hollow areas around the base of trees where you can fall in and get trapped), falling ice from trees, soft snow, icy sections.
- They are pretty, but stay well back from creeks and open water. Be super careful around snow bridges too!
- Snowshoes are great going uphill, but they do not always have good grip on descents. If it is icy, I often remove my snowshoes to go down steep sections. I bring microspikes in my bag for those moments.
- The snowshoe trails are mostly just off the ski trails. If you need to cross a ski trail, watch out for skiers, and try not to step on the ski tracks.
- If you walk on a multi-use trail, stay on the right side of the ski tracks.
The Rental shop closes at 4pm
Tim (our friend) had hired his snowshoes, so we had to rush back to the Callaghan Country rental shop for 4pm. We were a few minutes late, but they were still there waiting for everyone to return gear. The lady there was on the phone, trying to give directions to other snowshoers who were lost. If you rent your gear, give yourself plenty of time to get back before they close!
So although snowshoeing to Alexander Falls was a highlight, we really loved all the trails we visited in Callaghan Valley and Whistler Olympic Park! I really hope we can come back to attempt cross country skiing as well as go snowshoeing on more of these pretty trails! Do you like the idea of a snowshoe adventure like this?
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