In 1965 Garibaldi Lifts Limited began developing a four-person gondola from Creekside base to mid-station, on the south side of Whistler mountain. It’s thanks to their innovation that we can now enjoy adventures in the alpine at the drop of a hat.
One of Whistler’s most popular quick-stop alpine adventures is the interpretive loop at the peak of Whistler Mountain. Loved by locals who want to fill their lungs with fresh alpine air between shifts; photographed by day-trippers on a quest for epic vistas; and meandered along by old-friends looking for a lunch spot among the wildflowers – no matter how much or how little time you have, make sure you spend some of it (or all of it) up here.
Here’s our photo journal of our afternoon hike on the Whistler Summit Interpretive Walk
Duration: 2.5 hours round-trip from the valley
Whistler Summit Interpretive Walk: 1 hour
The huge pieces of rock in this bolder field were deposited here as the glacier receded tens of thousands of years ago. It left behind these giant rocks, but also a fine-ground and fertile glacial till in which alpine plants can grow. Pink mountain heather (above) is a small, slow-growing alpine shrub that can thrive in the harsh alpine conditions for more than 20 years.
Partridge foot is an alpine wildflower that grows in the wetland areas, and if you visit more than once you may not recognise it the second time. In the summer the plant has these beautiful cream-coloured flowers, but in the fall the flowers transform into golden seed pods ready for reproduction.
Layers and layers of coast mountains, as far as the eye can see. This view is from the Peak Chair looking north towards the town of Pemberton, with Wedge Mountain and Armchair Glacier on the right, and the white-capped Ipsoot Mountain on the left.
As you step off the Peak Chair look to the right where you’ll see the iconic Inuksuk statue. You might recognize the figure from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, but this stone giant is a replica of one of the first navigational tools originally used by the Inuit and other native peoples from the Arctic region of North America.
It is thought that Inuksuk were used as navigational aids to mark points of reference, travel routes, fishing places, camps, hunting grounds, and food caches. It’s very fitting that this Inuksuk marks the trail head for the Whistler Summit Interpretive Walk.
The Whistler Summit Interpretive Walk is considered an easy trail and is marked in green on the trail map. There are some short steep ups and downs, but the trail is very well maintained with obvious signposts. Although the trail is a loop, there are a few variations that all meet back up together.
As you climb the trail to the highest point look to your left and see history, literally, carved into the landscape.
As you gaze out over the valley you’ll notice that some peaks are rounded and some are pointed and jagged. This is a result of the receding glaciers mentioned earlier. A little over 10,000 years ago, this whole region was submerged beneath solid ice so thick that only a few mountains were tall enough to poke out of the top. The tallest peaks that were above the glacier stayed jagged as the glacier moved, but the smaller peaks beneath the glacier’s surface were ground down to rounded tops.
Just a few of the peaks you’ll be able to see include Brandywine Mountain, Rainbow Mountain, and Mount Cayley.
Local knowledge: Do not forget your camera! The view from the high point of the trail is a breathtaking 360º panorama.
Like the landscape, the weather in the alpine changes dramatically. Sometimes you can experience all four seasons in just one day. We always recommend wearing sunscreen, taking a pack with water and snacks, as well as a light waterproof jacket.
The highlight of the Whistler Summit Interpretive Loop (for us) is always the unobstructed view of Black Tusk. Another extraordinary example of the region’s natural history, few know that Black Tusk is a dormant stratovolcano in the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt that forms part of the pacific Ring of Fire.
Buy Whistler Blackcomb summer sightseeing tickets
To get up into the alpine you will need to buy a Whistler Blackcomb summer lift ticket. This will give you access to the Whistler Gondola, the Peak Chair, and the legendary Peak 2 Peak Gondola.
Tickets can be purchased at any Whistler Blackcomb kiosk or sales desk in Whistler Village, the Upper Village, and in Creekside. Or you can buy them in advance from their website: whistlerblackcomb.com/purchase/tickets-and-passes.
Happy hiking and good luck!