The old saying is “respect your elders” so why not head into the hills north of Whistler and give a little love to some of the oldest living things in the entire Sea to Sky corridor, the 900+ year-old trees in Whistler’s Ancient Cedars grove.
Hiking in October takes a bit more dedication than in the summer months but autumn is actually the best time of year for the trek up the Ancient Cedars trail because the mossy forest floor comes alive with mushrooms of every size, shape and colour. The hike also offers a couple of stunning snowy mountain views, a hidden waterfall and ends in an inspiring cluster of yellow cedar trees that have been growing since the middle ages (and nearly a half-millennium before Columbus sailed the ocean blue).
Traditionally one of Whistler’s most underrated hikes the Ancient Cedars Trail recently saw a series of trail improvements and signage upgrades thanks to local charity groups. Easy to find and accessible to almost any skill level, the Ancient Cedars is now an instant classic.
And it’s easy to find: drive about ten kilometers north of Whistler, just past Green Lake, and turn left on Cougar Mountain Road. Drive past the base of TAG Whistler and the Superfly Ziplines and continue up the bumpy-but-not-too-gnarly logging road for another 4 km or so. A 4×4 vehicle is not required (but always more fun) and the new parking area and trail head signs are easy to spot.
The hike itself is well-marked thanks to those new signs and navigational posts and while the terrain can be rocky in parts it is fairly easy going overall. It can get muddy in places but for the most part drainage is excellent. Allow 3 hours for the 5-kilometre round trip (although autumn hikers will most likely be stopping frequently to check out all the various mushrooms) and be sure to roam from the main trail at the viewpoint post for an excellent look at Showh Lake and the Soo Valley.
With only about 150 meters of elevation gain to the grove Ancient Cedars is good for hikers of all ages. There is a also a beautiful waterfall just below the wooden footbridge (you’ll hear the rushing waters) and meadows of lush green skunk cabbage and devils club along the final stretches of the trail.
The ancient cedar grove is spectacular, towering trees and excellent photo opportunities with informative signs explaining the difficulties in knowing exactly how old these giants actually are. The trail through the grove is a loop that ends up back at the waterfall footbridge so follow the path right through the main area for more big trees including hemlock and amabilis fir.
Established in the early 1990s, the Ancient Cedars Trail was always amazing but is now even better and more accessible perfect for hikers looking to sneak one last trip out into the wilderness before winter and skiing arrive. The hike is both an awe-inspiring destination and a perfectly meandering journey and the relatively short distance and easy grade makes it perfect for grandparents, kids and anyone else who wants to hug a 900-year-old tree. Respect your elders, but love them too.
Dress in layers and wear decent footwear (runners or hiking boots), dogs are allowed (clean up after them), bring a camera and a macro lens for the mushrooms (don’t eat any of them! Liver failure is a rough way to go) and hiking guides are always available if you want a little extra local knowledge and forest know-how. The Tourist Information Centre in the Whistler Village taxi loop also has daily updates on all of Whistler’s hiking trails and more.