Early season hiking in Whistler can be tricky. In May and early June it’s not uncommon to start up an incredible hike only to get turned back halfway by knee-deep snow left over from another great winter. The Whistler Information Centre usually keeps really up-to-date information on what local hikes are snow-free but part of a great hike is the adventure so yesterday The Whistler Insider team decided to just go for it and see for ourselves– Destination: Cheakamus Lake.
The best thing about Cheakamus Lake is that almost anyone can handle the hike in. The trail head is way up the top of an old dirt road so elevation gain over the 3km trek to the lake is almost nil. Meandering through old growth cedar and fir trees, the trail can get a bit wet this time of year but for the most part it is relatively smooth sailing.
The sunny, warm Spring Whistler enjoyed this year has translated into lots of great flora poking out a long the trail– lush green skunk cabbage, blankets of moss and spiny, scary stems of Devil’s Club line the trail while the Cheakamus river rushes through the valley below.
Mellow terrain (watch out for roots on the path) mean your average person should reach the lake (along with an outhouse) in under 2 hours but the trail continues along the North shore for another 4km for hikers looking for a bit more distance. This extra jaunt and offers plenty of beautiful beaches upon which to stop and soak in the sun and incredible scenery of Garibaldi Park gets better the further you go. There is another set of campsites at the 7 km point.
The Insider team didn’t even come close to hitting the snowline and other than a few sloppy sections created by the previous day’s rainstorm the trail was clear of winter deadfall and ready for summer. This hike through the forest is beautiful, the views from the lake are stunning (there are fish in there too) and at 2-4 hours return-trip with minimal elevation change Cheakamus Lake really is the ideal early season hike to get your legs back, get the blood pumping and enjoy the fresh air. Have fun, take a hike.
GETTING THERE: This is an easy hike almost anyone can do. Head south from Whistler Village for about 8km and turn LEFT at the stoplights at FUNCTION JUNCTION. After about 300 metres turn LEFT before the bridge (if you see houses you’ve gone too far) and follow that potholed, dirt road right to the end (about 8 km). Parking is free, there’s an outhouse at the trailhead and please remember you are in Garibaldi Provincial Park so no dogs are allowed. Also, pack out what you pack in, camping at the lake is ten bucks a night ($5 for kids) and other than that just have fun and enjoy some of Whistler’s most easily accessed natural beauty.