Whistler Train Wreck – Whistler Walks

Whistler Train Wreck – Whistler Walks

The trail to the Whistler train wreck is an easy hike close to Whistler that allows you to explore a group of graffiti covered, mashed-up boxcars in the middle of a calm forest. There are two main routes – We did the old route along Miller Creek trail, and then looped back via the Whistler Interpretive forest. I have also added a map to an easier, shorter route if you have less time (or if you’re hiking with young children.) We made the longer option into a loop that was much quieter, full of cool mushrooms as well as a pretty impressive waterfall.

This trail also looks fun in winter if you bring microspikes or snowshoes.

Whistler Train Wreck map

I found out after we did this hike that you are not meant to cross the train tracks, so the way we went is actually illegal. Oops. It is probably better to head along the shorter (blue) route. However, I still recommend checking out the path we took along the river as the waterfalls and forest are simply lovely.

Whistler Train Wreck – the basics

Distance: 5-6km (2km for the short route)
Elevation gain
: 90m (30m for the short route)
Time: 2.5 hours (at a super-slow pace)
What to bring:
The 10 Essentials
Facilities:
Cafes and a shop at the trailhead. There are also toilets at the entrance to the Whistler Interpretive forest.
Dogs: Dog friendly – on a leash
How hard is it?
Easy – great for kids as long as they are okay with rooty trails.

Whistler Train Wreck – Getting started

The trailhead is next to a coffee shop in Function Junction.  If that car park is full, you could easily park at the edge of the Whistler Interpretive Forest instead. You’ll know you’re at the right trailhead when you see the large sign with a bit of the history about the train wreck.

The first section of the trail we took follows along Millar Creek. You can peek through the trees into a brewery, so it does not feel much like wilderness yet. You need to turn left on to the main trail by some graffiti covered rocks about half a kilometer into the walk.

Cross the Sea to Sky Highway

There is a bridge over Millar Creek that allows you to sneak under the highway safely.

Next, after following Millar Creek for another few hundred meters, you turn left again to cross the trainline and head into the woods.

Beautiful forest trail

Now you’re away from the road, this trail starts to feel more wild. The Cheakamus River churns along on your left. There are quite a few places where you can look down to the pretty blue waters. Plus the sound of the water drowns out the roar from the highway.

More fabulous mushrooms

We visited in the autumn (after the other fantastic mushroom-filled walks at Shadow Lake and Parkhurst Ghost Town.) We took out time and spent ages looking at the hundreds of cool fungi on the forest floor.

I love the photo Marc took above. It looks like those mushrooms are kissing.

Balls Falls

I was expecting the train wreck to be interesting, but I had no idea this hike involves an impressive waterfall too! My map labels it as Cheakamus River Waterfalls…but my friend that has kayaked down it said it is called Balls Falls. If you’d like to see fab photos of kayak adventures, you can follow him on insta.

The trail we followed allows you to get up close to Balls Falls from both sides of the river. How gorgeous is this? In some places, this would be the highlight of the hike – in Whistler, most people don’t even mention there is a cool waterfall on the way to the train wreck!

Cheakamus River

The trail continues to wiggle through the trees alongside the Cheakamus River. There are loooads of point where you can pop off the main trail to view the river.

We did this on a rainy grey day, and the water was still a beautiful shade of green. This walk must look incredible on sunny days!

Whistler Authorized Graffiti Area

If you come from the Millar Creek Trail, the first sign of the train wreck is a tree that says it is okay to paint here. If you plan to bring some paint to tag the wreckage, please just take your empty paint can home with you. I was sad to see so many empty cans dumped under the wreck.

Why is there a train wreck in Whistler?

This train derailed in 1956 when a freighter heading south from Lillooet was running late. They sped through this area when the tracks were under repair, and one of the engines jumped off the track. So the train crashed into a canyon-like section of the railway line. According to one of the signboards, they were going a double the speed they were supposed to.

Why is there so little damage to the trees?

The actual trainline is further up the hill. That is where the boxcars got stuck. A local logging company (the Valleau family) was called in to dislodge the train with logging machines; D8 Cats. They then dragged the boxcars that were too ruined to repair into the forest here. It’s kind of cool to think that these boxcars have been here long before Whistler! This wreckage is from the same era as Parkhurst Ghost Town, which we’d explored the previous week.

Some of the boxcars seemed to have rolled down the hill. One of them is half dangling off a cliff above the Cheakamus river.

Layers of Graffiti

Nowadays lots of people come to visit the wreckage and many of them bring spray cans to brighten up the box cars. So this quiet area of forest is a large canvas for artists. The thing is, everyone seems to paint over previous layers of paint…so it is a messy jumble of colour.

We quite liked wandering around and looking at all the paint-covered details.

Some of the boxcars have open doors, so you can peek inside. This is looking through the one dangling off the cliff. You can see how wonky it is compared to the trees around it!

There are a total of seven cars dotted around the forest. Most of them are close together, but if you don’t mind trampling through mud, the boxcars further into the woods are a little quieter.

This is a pretty cool thing to find on a rainy day hike eh!?

The wooden floors of the boxcars looked pretty rotten, so just be careful if you venture inside.

Gorgeous Old Growth

While you spend time exploring the boxcars, take time to look at the trees surrounding the train wreck – there are some stunning examples of douglas fir trees (the super bumpy, multi coloured bark) as well as cedar (the one with the blue heart below.)

New Bridge at the Whistler Train wreck

If you take the more official route to the train wreck, along the Sea to Sky trail, you’ll arrive at the area over this beautiful new (built in 2016) suspension bridge. We took this route for the return journey, then followed the trash trail back to Function Junction.

If (like me) you are interested in the history behind the Whistler train wreck, there is a good article about it here, as well as info from the Whistler museum here.

Marc and I really enjoyed this easy, fun and unique trail in Whistler. It’s not often that you can be sworn at by a squirrel, see a fabulous waterfall and explore brightly coloured train wreck along the same trail! If you like the look of it too, please click on the pins below to save them.

The trail to Whistler train wreck has a fantastic waterfall too - Balls Falls Whistler Train Wreck - Easy hike to see crashed boxcars on forest trails Whistler Train Wreck - a cool historic area in the forest near Whistler

46 thoughts on “Whistler Train Wreck – Whistler Walks

    1. Thank you for such a detailed post. It combines so many of my interests – abandoned places, historical back story, street art, and hiking in beautiful places. When next in BC it’s being added to my list, inspired by your post.

    1. I had a feeling you might like it (Ole too!) There is a Brewery at the start as well, if you want to make it even better. 😉

  1. What a unique hike. The colorful train cars are beautiful. I’d love the old growth forest. We don’t have doug fir so I’d love to see it again. It’s an awesome tree.

  2. Whoaaa, so colorful!! I’ve never actually heard of an authorized graffiti area but I bet it’s kinda cool to see the art changing over the years. (I hope more people take paint cans back though. I’d love to check it out someday!

    1. We went back in the snow a few weeks ago, and looads of it had changed again – there was more actual art this time (rather than just tags.)

  3. Ok, so I can’t decide what I like the most about this hike! The beautiful gorge, the waterfall, the beautiful sections of forest, the mushrooms – or, um, the main event. Love gems like this!

  4. I absolutely love the graffiti! It reminds me of the Cadillac Ranch in Texas where the cars are covered with layers and layers of graffiti, too. But, to be honest, the graffiti covered boxcars pale in comparison to the beautiful river and waterfalls. Fantastic photos – as always, Josy!

  5. You always find such cool hikes, Josy! I really love the idea of a coffeeshop at the trailhead. Also, all the art on the boxcars really gives the wreck site such a cool vibe. It might be cool to go back this summer and see how much the graffiti has changed, especially since there’s official signage indicating that it’s permitted.

    1. It’s funny you say that- we went back in the snow and it was totally different already! This time there was more art (lots of cool faces) rather than so many tags/random shapes.

  6. I absolutely love the cool history behind this unique site. Not to mention the amazing hike and awesome waterfalls to boot. Some of my favorite hikes start near civilization and just wander away into the forest like this one does.

    1. Thanks Zack! Yeah I love hikes like that too. It’s funny how quickly you can wander into the wilderness in North America isn’t it. 🙂

    1. Oooh cool maybe you can take him. We went back and did the legal route, and it is even easier…it’s a fab little walk.

  7. Oh what a fascinating place! I love finind abandoned hidden gems like this! What a cool story about the train cars and how they ended up there. I love that they are covered in graffiti now! They look so colourful! Thanks for sharing this pretty route!

    1. Yeah, Rudy mentioned that one too – I think I would like visiting that area as well – although it’s quite a different setting to the middle of the forest.

  8. It was snowing when we visited Whistler and I was not snow-savvy enough to have snowshoes/spikes so this hike was out for us. But I laughed when I read about your “illegal” route…. this is definitely something I would (and have) done before. I’ll come home and do a bit more research and realise that my hiking route wasn’t the right or legal one.

    1. I guess that is one of the problems with alltrails. This was one of our fall-back walks (when it would have been dangerous at higher elevations.) so I had no idea it wasn’t the normal route.

      We went back in the snow and it was even cooler seeing the trains surrounded by snow. We did need spikes though, so it is probably for the best that you didn’t attempt it.

  9. Oh this is a great find Josy. I would love to do this trail! I love graffiti and waterfalls so doing the Whistler walks would be like hitting two birds with one stone. Plus the coffee shop at the start is an added bonus!

  10. I love the graffiti and art on the boxcars. All that mixed in with a nature walk makes it a well rounded outing for me.

  11. Crazy to think they were travelling at double the speed! Sounds like a lovely hike with something a little bit different to see. Whistler is high on my list of places I’d like to visit, predominantly to go mountain biking!

  12. I really wanted to find this when we were in Whistler, but we didn’t have much time!! It looks so cool. I had no idea they’d been there longer than Whistler itself, that is awesome. Have to admit I had a little giggle at “Balls Falls”…

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