Hiking Whistler’s Skywalk North Trail

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Skywalk North: Whistler, British Columbia

I’m so excited about a hike I did earlier this week that I’m taking a short break from my Sri Lanka series to tell you about Whistler’s Skywalk North (better known as one of the trails leading to Iceberg Lake). Despite the clouds and the voracious mosquitoes, Skywalk North was amazing and got me motivated to explore more trails of the Skywalk network. My hiking pals (Morag and Eva) and I love a hike with variety and this one gets top marks: The 23 km lollipop route (a loop with a short repeated section at the start and end) travels through cedar forests, alpine meadows, rocky slopes with dramatic views of the Coast Mountains, and a glacial basin with tumbling waterfalls and the turquoise-hued star attraction— Iceberg Lake.

Hike information

Distance: 23 km (12.4 mi) Resources below specify 20 km, but my readings (confirmed by others) gauge it at 23 km.

Elevation gain: 1050 m (3445 ft)

High point: 1784 m (5850 ft)

Time: 9 hours (includes a lunch stop and short breaks)

Difficulty: Moderately difficult

Signage: Generally well marked, but a few sections have some confusing trail intersections. Note too, that the actual Skywalk North route does not officially start until about 3 hours into the hike (several other marked trails provide access). Use the resources shown below.

Resources: Stephen Hui’s book 105 Hikes and https://www.vancouvertrails.com/trails/skywalk-north-loop/. The latter has a more detailed description of the route, which I recommend printing out before you go.

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View of Rainbow Glacier on descent to Iceberg Lake

Despite the significant length of this hike and the steady elevation gain (and loss on the way down from Iceberg Lake), I didn’t find it to be too strenuous. The trail builders have done a good job zigzagging the route up and down the terrain so that it is not overly steep in most places. It’s not technically difficult but the descent to Iceberg Lake requires extra caution. It’s a short, steep, muddy section with views to die for (which unfortunately might happen if you’re gawking at the scenery rather than watching your feet).

Being Vancouver North Shore girls, we do a lot of hiking in the deep forest (nothing wrong with that but we all crave a little “openness”). I didn’t take many photos (except of the beautiful wildflowers) during the first 2-3 hours of the hike as we pushed up through the forest, but it’s pleasant enough with some nice views down to Whistler and Green Lake.

I really enjoyed the section from Screaming Cat Lake up to the high point of the hike (just before the descent to Iceberg Lake). It meanders through alpine meadows dotted with little lakes and ponds—perfect bear country (though none to be seen that day). Screaming Cat Lake would be a great place for a refreshing dip on a hot day, but it was way too cold and buggy on our trip. Teaser views to Rainbow Mountain and its spectacular glacier made us very excited for what was to come.

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Screaming Cat Lake

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Many pretty meadows beyond Screaming Cat Lake

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Teaser views of where we were heading

Patches of snow still covered parts of the trail as we ascended to the alpine. The clouds partially obscured the mountain views, but it was beautiful nonetheless and made for a dramatic effect. Having said that, I definitely want to do this hike again on a sunny day.

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Large patches of snow remain in mid-July

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Stunning heather meadow

The really epic part of this hike is the descent to Iceberg Lake. Rainbow Mountain and its imposing glacier are right in your face, and turquoise Iceberg Lake—way down below—makes a stunning statement against the whites and greys. Given that it was mid-July, we were surprised that so much of the lake was still under a thick cover of ice—another reason to do this hike again on a sunny day in August or September.

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Admiring Rainbow Glacier before our descent to the lake

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Peek-a-boo view of Iceberg Lake below

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Starting our descent to the basin

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A real beauty spot on the way down to the basin

Once down in the basin, it was an easy walk across the rocks and snowy patches to a little knoll that overlooks the lake—the perfect lunch spot. We spent a leisurely hour admiring the view and chatting with a friendly hiking group from Squamish who call themselves the over-the-hill hiking club. Every Tuesday, they regularly get at least 20 people out on their hikes—impressive!

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The last few steps to Iceberg Lake

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Much of the lake is still ice covered

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It was hard to tear ourselves away from our rocky perch on the lake and continue the hike back to our car (about three hours of downhill). I had low expectations for this last section of the hike after the thrill of Iceberg Lake, but I was pleasantly surprised. The pretty alpine meadows just below the basin were covered with flowers. The views back toward the glacier are phenomenal, and roaring 19 Mile Creek is a constant companion. There are a couple of short trail turnoffs leading to waterfalls views, complete with benches to give the quads a rest.

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View back to the glacier on the way down

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Skunk cabbage and ferns make a pretty picture

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One of the gorgeous cascades along 19 Mile Creek

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That last photo sums it up for me: there’s nothing like a fabulous hike with good friends. In case you’re wondering about the dented bucket attached to Morag’s pack, she was schlepping out stuff that doesn’t belong on the trail.

Next: I’m back in Sri Lanka—Galle Fort and Ella coming up.

 

Categories: Activities, British Columbia, Canada, Hiking, Places | Tags: , , | 70 Comments

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70 thoughts on “Hiking Whistler’s Skywalk North Trail

  1. AndyG

    I’d forgotten that you’d done this hike too – isn’t it superb? I thoroughly enjoyed every step. I think I took exactly the same photo of the paintbrush with the glacier behind it on our hike 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, fantastic hike that I’d like to do again next year and hopefully retake that photo with blue sky. In your “reflections” post you talked about the bad mosquitoes this year—they were awful on this hike—my only negative.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. David Higham

    That looks so incredible! Your pictures are absolutely breathtaking!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. BIT|Hiker 65

    Beautiful! Haven’t hiked in BC yet but hope to soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gorgeous cascade! We are looking forward to seeing them in our planned outing. Hope we get great pictures as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. WOW!! Thanks for sharing information about this hike. The photos are absolutely stunning. Hoping to vacation in BC next summer so this would be a good one to make sure we do. I wanted to respond to a comment you made on my blog about my SAR post. I accidentally deleted I believe so I wasn’t able to say thanks for reading the post and for your kind recognition of what SAR does. Very challenging but I can’t imagine not doing. Cheers and continued happy, safe hiking to you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments. It is a great hike, and the entire Whistler/Squamish area is filled with wonderful hiking. I hope you make it up here next summer. I’m glad you had a chance to read my comment on your SAR post. Being a frequent visitor to the backcountry, I have some idea of how challenging your work is. You guys are the best!

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      • I just did a climbing clinic and one of our guide’s favorite places to climb in the world was the Squamish area 🙂 Yes I really hope we make it there in 2020 as well. Just an example of frequent situations in which we work, last night with temps in the teens (Fahrenheit) and 50 mph winds and snow we were called out at 10:45 PM to look for possible lost people at 13,000 feet altitude. Fun times … but definitely rewarding!!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. These pictures are so gorgeous! I am jealous!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your pictures and nature there is absolutely breathtaking! It looks like a perfect city escape, I’d love to spend few days like this!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Absolutely amazing photos! Thank you so much for sharing!!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This looks divine Caroline. What a great hike. Eva (green top) has a second pair of shoes. Do you all carry a second pair? Is that in case you get wet feet? Or a different type of shoe. Love the bucket story, good on Morag. All the photos are great, love the ones with wildflowers in it. Love the last photo. And Caroline, I concur with Tony – you do a great post. You are definitely up there on my top ten list. Probably even top five! Keep them coming. Louise

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ahh, you just made my day Louise; thank you! You have a good eye to catch that second pair of shoes. Wet feet is a good guess, but in Eva’s case her hiking boots sometimes give her trouble (blisters/rubbing) so she brings her comfy runners along, just in case. This time, luckily, there were no feet problems.
      While I’m anxious for the day I finally get to hike in Nepal (hopefully), I’m happy exploring all this great stuff close to home.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What an amazing and stunningly beautiful place to explore while going on a hike! British Columbia is one of those places I would love to return to one day, thanks for sharing and inspiring 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Vani Ananthuni

    I need to plan this!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Whistler is on our list! Great post, we really enjoyed reading it!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Pingback: Hiking Whistler’s Skywalk North Trail, BC, Canada – FitandFunNow.com

  14. Just wow! I only have one question….what am I???? Doing in Baltimore? Great pics and writing. Enjoyed it throughly. Thx

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks so much! I appreciate your kind comments. I was on a work trip in Baltimore years ago and I remember really enjoying it there.

      Like

      • I think being a “tourist” – even though for work – is usually a fun experience no matter where we go. Living – especially in Baltimore – is an entirely different story. Hiking/walking with my dog and writing about it thankfully enhancing the negative effect of living here. My heart wishes though to move far away from here….

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Caroline, you posted yet another masterpiece: beautifully written and beautiful photos. The scenery is simply awe-inspiring. Thanks for sharing. TT

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your kind words Tony. Hiking is definitely my happy place, and I’m always excited to share, especially when I discover a beautiful new hike. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Like

  16. I’ve been wanting to do this one for a few years now! Thanks for the inspiration to get out there! I’ll have to go soon before we lose those wildflowers. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad the post inspired you. This hike had been on my list for the last two summers, so I’m happy I finally did it. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it (bring bug spray).

      Like

  17. Oh my gosh, those photos are STUNNING!!!! What an amazing hike – it’s definitely going on my list for when I get to that part of the continent. Also, love the name Screaming Cat Lake!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yup, it’s a good one that I’ll definitely be doing again. I really should look into the origins of the name Screaming Cat Lake…perhaps it’s better not to know?

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Oh, I miss glorious mountain hikes like this with snow on the ground in the summer, cascading falls and wildflowers dotting the trails. I need some of that in my life right now so thank you for taking me here. Rainbow Glacier and deep blues of Iceberg Lake were icing on the cake,

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m happy you enjoyed the virtual hike Lisa. I’m trying to get into the mountains as much as possible during our relatively short window of good weather and trails that are not snow covered. I’m taking off with a friend tomorrow for another few days of hiking/camping…very excited!

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  19. Envious here – of the crisp weather, the openness of the hike (I also often get stuck in green tunnels, which are beautiful but occasionally confining), the availability of hiking friends, and some good elevation changes! Looks like a perfect outing. Love so many of your photos, most of which show terrain I rarely get to see these days!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had been in a bit of a hiking rut, for a number of reasons, so it felt great to get out on a long, beautiful hike with my hiking pals. I am very lucky to live so close to amazing hikes and have friends to do them with. I hiked another incredible trail yesterday that I’m excited to write about. Lexie, I think I’ve mentioned before…come to Vancouver and we’ll go hiking!

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Despite the cloudy weather the scenery is eye-popping. Definitely a lot of snow but after all this is Canada and it is the mountains.i especially love the photo with the wildflowers in the foreground in contrast with the grass and glacier. Beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s my favourite photo too. We lingered a long time at that spot. The snow makes the scenery look even more dramatic, but I look forward to doing this hike again when more of the ice/snow has melted off the lake.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Oh my goodness, this looks amazing! It reminds me of a combination of Vancouver Island and Glacier!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It definitely has some elements of both places, though I have done mostly coastal hiking on Vancouver Island. My son recently hiked Della Falls and Love Lake on the island’s Strathcona Provincial Park and loved it. So many hikes to try!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. The trail still looks pretty cold to me, and it’s surprising to know that this is in July. This post reminds me of something I love doing but haven’t done for quite some time: hiking. I think the last time I did it was in Bhutan, but that was almost a year ago. It’s dry season now in my part of Indonesia — I’d better think of doing some outdoor activities before the start of the monsoon season.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hiking is such great therapy for me. Every time I get out, especially after a hiatus, I’m reminded of what a joy it is to be out in nature. It was a bit chilly without the sun shining, but that isn’t unusual around here. I’ve learned to carry warm clothing and rain gear just in case. I hope you get in some outdoor activities Bama!

      Liked by 1 person

      • For me hiking is like a love-hate relationship. When I do it I often complain to myself and think ‘why on earth am I doing this?’. But then a few weeks afterward I usually miss that feeling of being surrounded by Mother Nature and can’t wait for another hiking trip.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. What a gorgeous hike! The views look spectacular. Sometimes we forget how beautiful our country is until you return from traveling. The cloudy skies add drama to the setting too!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. The Skywalk North Trail seemed every bit the pleasant hike, not too hard, easy to navigate and uphill to great views. Screaming Cat Lake is quite a name for a lake 😀 The snow capped mountain and glaciers looked stunning. Though it wasn’t a sunny day, from the looks of it the glacier seemed blue. I saw your comment that you weren’t too happy with your photos, but they are amazing with a peaceful vibe. Didn’t look like it was a crowded trail and you and your hiking team must have liked that 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Mabel! You are right, it was a very quiet trail. We actually didn’t meet anyone until we got to Iceberg Lake. The peacefulness made the hike extra special. We were wondering about the name of the lake too—the only thing we could think of was that there had been a cougar (mountain lion) spotted there (and then we got scared!).

      Like

      • In the ‘The last few steps to Iceberg Lake’ photo I thought there were a few people ahead (they seemed tiny from afar but maybe they were not people but rocks lol) . Many more peaceful hikes ahead, and may you discover more places with odd names 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  25. Once again, Caroline, your photos are beautiful. They turned out much nicer than mine!
    Morag

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Morag. I was a bit disappointed with my photos (I think it was the lack of blue sky). As you know, it looks much more impressive in real life. Great hike though!

      Like

  26. Magnificent terrain. Keep on hiking! 👣👣

    Neil Scheinin

    Liked by 2 people

  27. josypheen

    Woooow Caroline! This looks fantastic! I am sooo glad you shared it!

    The waterfall, the lake and all those flowers make it look like a stunning hike! I will add it to my (ever growing) list of epic possible hikes near Vancouver!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I thought you might like this one. Definitely put it on your list, but as mentioned, it wouldn’t hurt to save it until late summer/early fall when more of the lake is exposed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • josypheen

        It looks pretty amazing with the snow and ice too though! Goodness I just love the epic hiking options here!!

        Liked by 1 person

  28. Tim Rooney

    Caroline – You’ve always got the most interesting expereinces to share!

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Beautiful hike!!

    Liked by 2 people

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