[Travel Advice] Whistler

Random Observation/Comment #424: When Chinese parents get older and more health conscious (obsessive), they love vacations with a lot of leisure strolling and fresh air.

see lemons bear family

I planned a full 6-day trip for my parents and my aunt to Whistler + Vancouver to get an overall mix of nature and culture. Verdict: it wasn’t a typical bear trip, but we certainly balled out and made some amazing memories together.

Things Whistler does well:

  • Nature. If you know me, you know I either suggest Interlaken or Schliersee near Munich as my favorite outdoor locations. I hadn’t found something close to these outside of Europe until Whistler. The hiking trails along the lake and rivers are an outdoor enthusiast’s delight and the difficulties vary for beginners to advanced. I highly recommend Lost Lake and the Whistler Interpretive Forest for easy 2-hour trails.
  • Fresh crisp air. This could fall under nature, but I’ve put it separate to emphasize what crappy air conditions we have in cities by comparison. I was able to hike for 8 hours straight without any loss of breath compared to just 2 hours and feeling drained at Stanley Park in Vancouver. There were probably other factors, but those trees are certainly life savers.
  • Beautiful driving. The Sea to Sky drive up route 99 was the most amazing drive of my life. The downhill bits revealed this vast mountain range that you can just imagine flying through.
  • Scenic stops along the drive. There are so many hidden gems like Shannon falls and small picnic lakes in Squamish along the way. A normal 2 hour drive took 5 hours and it was totally worth it.
  • Great infrastructure. Not only was the view spectacular, but the roads themselves were wide and completely pothole free. There were lots of twists and bends, but still gave room on the shoulder for bike riders.
  • Crazy bike riders. I get riding is fun and exhilarating, but the route 99 hills are absurd and people riding on them is just ridiculous. The biking trails we used for hiking are also dangerous in many ways with 10 grade slopes and scary drop offs with sharp turns. Kudos to you crazy mofos.
  • Friendly and laid back culture. People really take their time to explain things to you and those on line behind you are just as patient. They don’t have jam packed schedules of activities; they just go and explore. The experiences in the process are so much more emphasized than the destination. I think we can all learn from this…

Our Itinerary:

  • Day 1 –
    • 1pm landed in Vancouver
    • 2pm got car rental ($326 for 3 days – upgraded Camery with full insurance coverage) and drove nearby for a quick noodle/congee lunch
    • 3pm drive up route 99 to Whistler (driving through Vancouver city was full of traffic)
    • 4pm stopped at Shannon falls for our first hike
    • 6pm checked in at Whistler village
    • 7pm dinner at Caramba ($10 for pizza + salad)
    • 8pm explored around Lost Lake to do research for sunrise hike
  • Day 2 –
    • 5am Lost Lake sunrise hike (beautiful and easy hike!) – better to do this the first day because we were still jetlagged
    • 6am lost at Lost lake and kept hearing grouse sounds
    • 9am zip lining ($100/person) – highly recommended!
    • 12pm deli lunch at Ingrid’s (cheapest and best lunch place for a quick sammie)
    • 3pm oysters at Araxi ($1/oyster)
    • 5pm drive up to Pemberton, Nairn falls walk
    • 6pm dinner at One Mile Eating House (must-go if you’re in Pemberton)
    • 8pm random drives to find a sunset (Do not stray from Route 99!)
    • 9pm sunset at Alta lake
  • Day 3 –
    • 10am up black comb mountain on spring pass ($35/person) – not recommended if you go skiing/snowboarding since you’re just sitting at the top drinking expensive hot chocolate. On the other hand, highly recommended if you don’t ski and have never been up a mountain.
    • 12pm ATV tour for 3 hours ($140/person)
    • 4pm Whistler interpretive forest hike to Cheakamus Lake (highly recommended)
    • 7pm lost Lake trail to Green Lake outpost (beautiful view)
    • 9pm beers at Dubn Linn Gate Irish Pub (great selection of on-tap Irish beer)
  • Day 4 –
    • 9am left Whistler and drove to Richmond for dim sum
    • To Be Continued on Vancouver blogpost

Lessons Learned:

  • Sunrise and sunset views from the top of the mountain in May are not possible. I went all over the place to look for a great view and just kept finding sunrises being blocked by mountain ranges. Lake views were nice, but I never got high enough just from walking up trails in the morning.
  • Spring skiing looks awesome. I didn’t get to go skiing this trip, but it looked so amazing to ski with sunscreen and a t-shirt. The slopes were relatively clear and it’s also a perfect time for beginners to learn as well.
  • Go during off season. The May to June time we went in the Spring lull was quite beautiful. We were the only ones on the trails and the tours we took. I’m sure you have to book ATV and ziplining a few days in advance if you’re going during the summer.
  • Ask the locals. Since people are so friendly, it’s easy to start a conversation and ask for suggestions. They are more than happy to let you know their secret areas and give you some ideas on where to hike.
  • Loud womp-ing noises are not bears. While we were hiking in Lost Lake, we kept hearing this loud WOMP-WOMP-WOMP noises from the bushes. We later learned that these are grouse. Pretty scary if you don’t know what it is.
  • Chill out and enjoy the fresh air. Most importantly, don’t be too stressed out about what you’re going to do. We packed our vacation with a lot of activities, but it could have just as easily been fun doing 2 or 3 things a day instead of 5 or 6. In fact, if we had more time, it would have been nicer spreading out our list of activities over 6 days instead of 3.
  • Bring a date. This is a great vacation spot for families and friends, but I think a romantic date here would be perfect. There’s so many beautiful trails and walking paths that make this a perfect dating vacation.

Overall, Whistler is so cool. Friendly Aussies are everywhere and the Whistler village is just adorable to wander throughout the day with great restaurants and great company around every corner. I’d certainly come here again.

~See Lemons Love Whistler