Stop and Smell the Wildflowers: Whistler Alpine Hiking
For a town full of thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies Whistler gets pretty hyped up when the alpine wildflowers start to bloom. And this year, thanks to an incredibly warm and sunny start to the summer, they’re blooming a couple weeks earlier than usual. With all of Whistler’s mountaintop hikes now snow-free and open it’s literally the ideal time to run to the hills, then stop and smell the flowers.
The Coast Mountain colour scheme is typically lush green forests and azure blue lakes so it is pretty amazing when the alpine meadows light up with deep purple Fireweed or the crimson flowers of the Indian paintbrush. Mountain wildflowers are special because you usually can’t find them in your local florist shop. They’re ephemeral and they don’t travel well and the only place to really bask in their awesomeness is to hike up a mountain.
Or you can ride the gondola up. Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are home to a variety of alpine hiking trails for any skill level. And the best of them all is the High Note Trail, a 9.4 KM loop from the peak of Whistler Mountain out around Symphony Bowl, Harmony Ridge and back to the Whistler Roundhouse. Along the way the trail provides stunning views of Black Tusk, Cheakamus Lake, Overlord Glacier and more than a few fields of colourful alpine wildflowers. It’s like walking through a living, breathing piece of artwork.
The High Note hiking trail is well marked but it never hurts to study a map before heading out (or you can hire a guide). From the top of the Peak Express chairlift the trail heads south-east all the way out to Piccolo Ridge before turning north and looping back through the Symphony zone, Singing Pass and joining with the Harmony Lake trail back to the Roundhouse atop the Whistler Village Gondola.
The loop is 9.4 KM (5.8 miles) and should take the average hiker 3-4 hours to complete (more if you’re constantly stopping to smell/photograph the flowers.) Be sure to bring sunscreen, water, snacks and a warm layer. Despite the weeks of sun we’ve enjoyed so far, the weather can change pretty fast in the alpine and smart hikers are always prepared. Wildflower enthusiasts can also download this handy Whistler wildflower guide to help identify the flowers you’ll find along the way.
Keeners looking to add extra distance can zip out into Garibaldi Park along the Musical Bumps trail to Oboe and Flute summits then backtrack back to High Note loop.
These days more than ever it’s important to build a connection with the earth and to teach our kids the value of being outside and enjoying the simple pleasures of nature. A day hiking in the alpine with the scent of wildflowers in the air is a perfect way to appreciate the natural beauty of Whistler and get inspired to appreciate it more. Have fun.