A High Note on Whistler Mountain

Not as scary as it looks on Whistler's High Note Trail—C.Helbig

Not as scary as it looks on Whistler’s High Note Trail—C.Helbig

We’re getting a late start to the day (Labour Day weekend laziness). We want to do a beautiful hike but one that’s not too taxing. We love our densely forested North Shore trails, but we’re in the mood for sweeping alpine views. The answer: Whistler Mountain’s High Note Trail. This 9.5 km loop (258 m elevation gain) is a beauty and with its easy lift-assisted access I’m surprised that many locals haven’t hiked it. I’m also surprised that despite the crowds in Whistler Village and the long gondola queue, the trail was relatively untrammeled. Only a hundred meters into the trail, we lost 99% of the crowd and were surrounded by gorgeous alpine wilderness scenery.

A chilly start at the High Note trailhead—C.Helbig

A chilly start at the High Note trailhead—C.Helbig

It was a chilly – 2 C at the top of The Peak chairlift. A very light coating of snow dusted the rocky terrain (hope for a good ski season!). As we entered the trail and descended down the snaky path we made way for weary trail runners who were just steps away from completing the grueling Salomon Valley to Peak Race (20 km, 1600 m elevation gain). Keep this one in mind if you’re looking for a challenge.

Black Tusk seen from High Note Trail—C.Helbig

Black Tusk seen from High Note Trail—C.Helbig

But for us mere mortals continuing on the High Note Trail, we have time to admire the looming presence of distinctive Black Tusk. When I look at this photo I still can’t believe I climbed to the top of that thing on a previous backpacking trip to Garibaldi Park.

The trail descends for a short distance and then follows a gently undulating ridge that overlooks Cheakamus Lake. The next 3-4 km are my favourite as the trail offers awesome views of the turquoise lake far below. While summer brings meadows of colourful wild flowers, fall is equally alluring with stunning yellows and russets punctuating the green of the stunted conifers.

Fall comes early to the alpine on High Note trail—C.Helbig

Fall comes early to the alpine on High Note trail—C.Helbig

At about the halfway point on the trail, a signposted junction directs hikers to continue the loop (ending at the Roundhouse Lodge and Whistler Village Gondola) or head up through Singing Pass in Garibaldi Park. If you’re looking for an amazing backpacking trip I can highly recommend the latter. But for now lets continue past orange-hued Flute and Symphony Bowls. If you’ve only skied these areas it’s quite fascinating seeing their topography minus the snow.

View toward Flute Bowl, High Note Trail—C.Helbig

View toward Flute Bowl, High Note Trail—C.Helbig

The trail meanders past pretty Symphony Lake, before starting the ascent to Harmony Ridge. It’s not long now to the Roundhouse Lodge where a chai tea and sticky bun await. And, how nice being able to take the gondola down after such a pleasant hike!

Enjoy Symphony Lake on High Note Trail before the short uphill grunt—C.Helbig

Enjoy Symphony Lake on High Note Trail before the short uphill grunt—C.Helbig

A Few Tips:

  • Count on 3-4 hours for this hike, which gives plenty of time for snack and photo stops.
  • Dress in layers and bring a warm jacket and hat. The temperature fluctuations during late summer hiking can be enormous.
  • Check Whistler website for gondola/chair operation dates/hours. The gondola operates until October 12 and the Peak Chair until September 20 but there are weekday closures and/or shortened hours. It’s a long walk down!
  • Edge Card holders: if you still have days left from last ski season you can use your pass for summer lift access to hiking.

I can’t resist adding this photo from a summer hike on the High Note trail. I fell in love with the “Dr. Seuss flowers”. Forgive me for not knowing what they are called. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Summer hiking on High Note trail, Whistler—C.Helbig

Summer hiking on High Note trail, Whistler—C.Helbig

Discover more great hikes in neighbouring Garibaldi Provincial Park:

Garibaldi Lake

Elfin Lakes and Opal Cone

Categories: British Columbia, Hiking | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “A High Note on Whistler Mountain

  1. normanchu

    There are so many beautiful hikes in the Pacific Northwest. I’m glad you got in a few, Caroline. Great photography!!! The Dr. Suess flowers are indeed flowers. They are called Pulsatilla occidentalis or Anemone occidentalis, the white pasqueflower or western pasqueflower.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! Since that hike 6 years ago I have come across lots of those Dr. Seuss flowers and have learned their real name last summer at Wells Gray Provincial Park. They are so fun. I’ve also heard them referred to as hippie heads. Thanks for the link.


  2. Pingback: Late Summer Hiking at its Best: Garibaldi Provincial Park’s Opal Cone | Writes of Passage

  3. Your writing is as colorful as your pictures. The views are magnificent and I love the flowers (at first I thought they were the heads of Komondors and wondered where their bodies were until you explained that they are indeed flowers). I checked out Whistler website and have come to the conclusion I wouldn’t survive the gondola ride so it’s a very good thing that I found your blog so that I can partake of your trips virtually via the safety of my computer haha. I so admire those of you who are adventurers at heart and I love reading of your experiences.


    • Hi Steph, yes, aren’t the flowers fun. I love the whimsical look. So you’re not a gondola person! I get it because I have friends who aren’t keen. However, you probably wouldn’t find it as bad as you think. You’ve certainly had tougher obstacles than a gondola! Thanks so much for reading and your lovely comments.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Whimsical – yes, that’s the perfect word to describe the flowers. I still can’t believe they’re real and oh, how I’d love to touch them. It’s so gratifying to constantly be awed at the beauty this world has to offer by way of your blog and other similar blogs.

        The gondola, nah, trust me, if I were on it I’d need a serious sedative haha.


  4. Michael Scott

    Really enjoyed your post. Great Photos and love the writing. My wife and I just completed a journey from Colorado to the Northwest, BC and Alberta and I’ve been blogging about it. The last post was Vancouver Island and the next post will include Whistler and the drive to Bella Coola, hope you’ll check it out.


    • Thanks Micheal! Sounds like an incredible trip. So much amazing stuff to explore between (and including) Colorado and BC/Alberta! I will definitely check it out. I’m especially interested in your drive to Bella Coola as it has been on my list for a long time. I’ve posted on several great hikes in Whistler and BC/Alberta…you’ll have to come back and try them.


  5. It was lovely to go along on this hike with you. Don and I have covered quite a few north shore trails, but not this one at Whistler.


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