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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Discover more great hikes in neighbouring Garibaldi Provincial Park: