Whistler. It’s synonymous with world-class skiing and snowboarding. As North America’s largest ski resorts, it’s famed for over 5,000 feet of vertical at both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, and over 8,000 total acres of skiable terrain. But British Columbia locals know Whistler is just as spectacular for warm-weather outdoors sports; namely, mountain biking, cycling, hiking, and ziplining. Autumn is an especially optimal time to visit since temperatures are mild, elbow room is generous, the vibe is chill, the locals are out, and off-season deals are plentiful.
Stroll or trek
Hiking? Primo. The best way to get to know Whistler is from its signature 25-mile Valley Trail — paved, multi-use, and car-free. It meanders in and around the town’s neighborhoods passing lakes, rivers, parks, and the golf course. Amble, pedal on cruiser bikes, run, or rollerblade. Look for browsing bears as you cross bridges. For something more full-power, take the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola almost 1,430 feet up and start from the top or tackle the area’s 31 miles+ of full- and half-day treks. The four-hour High Note Trail is a fave. The hardcore should hit the calf-burning Wedgemount Lake Trail: rising over 3,800 feet in just under four miles. The panoramas of the glaciers are worth the sweat. You’re likely to spot black bears and marmots, too.
Get on the water
Tranquil and secluded, yes, but forest and mountain-ringed Lost Lake is only a 20-minute walk on the Valley Trail from Upper Whistler Village. Rent canoes, kayaks, or stand-up paddleboards. Catch ray the last of the September rays on the sandy beach. Fish for easy-to-catch trout: early AM or PM is best. You can eat your catch of the day, too, just check the regulations and be sure to buy a BC Freshwater Fishing License. “Frolf” (disc golf) is nearby. Canine Cove is the dog beach, where even the piers have pooch-accessible ramps. Bring a picnic and grill at one of the on-site BBQs, or try one of the food trucks up until October. Sunsets here are worth the wait.
Dip, steam, and float to bliss
Maybe you want to hike first, then dive into deep R&R. Or maybe spa-ing is your sport? No matter. It’s all Zen at Scandinave, a sun-soaked, upscale Nordic-style relaxation haven with outdoor hot baths, waterfalls, multiple sunrooms, wood burning Finnish saunas, eucalyptus steam rooms, and cold dips cascading down the tree-lined mountainside over 25,000 square feet. The spa even employs shushers to keep the quiet. In town, unwind at Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa and the Spa at Nita Lake Lodge for massages, facials, manis and pedis. Looking for more ways to relax? Here’s our guide to unwinding, no matter the season.
Top 5 singletrack trails
Many call the mountain bike park in Whistler the best in the world. Extreme fat tire riders flock to Whistler religiously, but you don’t have to be the downhill armor type to enjoy the shredder scene and vast network of ramps and bridges, “flow,” and tech trails. Insiders name these the top must-dos: Lost Lake, Danimal, Cheakamus Lake Trail, No Flow Zone, and Comfortably Numb. The park is open til mid-October. If you come back in summer, catch the action at August’s Crankworx. Look for Stay-and-Ride packages to make the most of it.
New perspective? Try ripping over old-growth forest, creeks, and chasms some 600 feet below. Zipliners launch from treetop platforms, harnessed and clipped into pulleys suspended under steel cables. It’s not all about adrenalin, though: some tours crisscross suspended bridges, trails, and bridges in the rainforest canopy, touching on ecology and wildlife. Superfly Whistler Ziplines does side-by-sides so you can watch your buddy tearing along with you. Ziptrek Eco Tours offers eco tours, combo, and multiple tour options. Their one-and-a-quarter-mile Sasquatch line is the longest single line in the U.S. and Canada.
Whistler Tasting Tours
Clearly, you’ll need to refuel after all that outdoor action and Whistler delivers. Dine at the best hot spots or hit the top restos all in one night with Whistler Tasting Tours. If you visit in November, indulge in Cornucopia, an 10-day food and drink extravaganza of seminars, gala tastings, winery dinners, mixologist cocktail how-tos, oyster shucking contests, cooking classes, and chef showcases.
To be honest, Whistler in autumn is a bit of an under-wraps thing. Insiders know it’s primetime for spectacular changing leaves, juicy huckleberries, and outdoor fun—and now, you’re in on it.
There’s actually much more to do outside in Whistler before the snowflakes fall. Get great ideas and info at Tourism Whistler’s site.