If you’d have asked me 16 years ago, when my then-boyfriend sold his mountain bike to buy me an engagement ring, if I thought our future family would go on a biking holiday one day, I’d have laughed at you.
I wasn’t the adventurous type; I didn’t enjoy the crunch of gravel beneath me or the view that came after a tough climb. Maybe it’s that I was never exposed to such things. Still, you never would have convinced me that packing three children and five bikes up a mountain would be my idea of fun. Then again, I’d never been to Whistler.
Whistler, British Columbia may be a world-renowned winter destination, but travellers came for everything summer long before the first ski lift was built. Before 1966, when the snow became the main attraction on the mountain, hiking, fishing, and relaxing lakeside were the most popular pastimes in the area. Today, Whistler Blackcomb is a year-round mountain resort for both outdoor enthusiasts and casual sightseers. But for our family, it is summertime at Whistler that has our hearts. And while we may come for the biking, we stay for the many experiences the mountain offers.
Where To Stay
When our family looks for accommodation in Whistler, we have four pieces of necessary criteria:
- A wheelchair-accessible room that sleeps five
- Bike storage
- A pool
- Quick and easy access to the village
The Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa checked all of our boxes and then some.
Situated at the base of Whistler mountain, The Hilton was just steps from the village while also being set back far enough so that the noise from the village stroll wasn’t a problem. Our family of five checked in to the “Hilton Family Combo”, which consisted of a Premier Studio room connected to a Hilton Superior Double room. To my delight and surprise, both rooms were wheelchair accessible, which is like finding a needle in a haystack in the hotel world.
This combination room had everything we needed. With a kitchen, two bathrooms and a bed for everyone, there was space to store all the snacks required for the insatiable appetites of children, with plenty of room for everyone to unpack and unwind. My only word of warning is that the kitchen didn’t have an oven. Plan accordingly.
The bike storage was convenient and secure. A staff member always accompanied us into the locked storage area and checked our tags to ensure our bikes were safe.
Downtime at the hotel was never truly restful because there was still so much to entertain the kids. A pool, two hot tubs and a large courtyard featuring a tennis court, basketball hoop, ping pong table and corn hole ensured that our beds were a welcome sight for everyone by the end of the day.
Where to Bike
“Are we going to do some blue squares today? Can Daddy take us on some blue squares?”
Understanding the skill level of your biking group and how the trails are rated is important when you decide where to explore. Our crew encompasses a wide range of ages and abilities. We are all over the map, from our 6-year-old beginner and our slightly higher-level 9 and 11-year-old boys to me with my adapted mountain bike and my advanced husband.
We stick to green trails as a family, but my husband will also take the boys on some blue runs. For younger children, something to keep in mind is that you would not want to do more than the valley trail on a bike without gears. Bike rentals are available at many locations throughout the village.
Whistler Valley Trail
The Whistler Valley Trail is a paved, car-free trail network that connects the village with the forests, lakes, golf courses, and neighbourhoods spread over the mountain. With over 45KM of trails to explore, there are endless routes to discover.
We recommend making your way to Green Lake and continuing to Meadow Park, where there is a playground and spray park to enjoy.
Lost Lake Loop
If you’re looking for an easy ride and are ready to ditch the pavement for a more off-road feel, the Lost Lake Loop is for you. This wide, gravel path takes you through the trees around the small lake. There are a few ups and downs but, while I wouldn’t recommend it for a young child on a strider bike, it’s great for the whole family.
The Cross-Country Trails
Branching off the Lost Lake Loop is a network of cross-country trails that take you up above the lake. These trails are narrower, single-track routes that feature more elevation changes and technical elements.
This is where we spend a lot of our time on the mountain. They are great introductory runs for those comfortable on their bikes and ready to try something a little more difficult.
- Favourite Green Runs: Tin Pants and Molly Hogan
- Favourite Blue Runs: Pinocchio’s Furniture and Fountain of Love
The Whistler Train Wreck is one part history, one part modern art and one part old-growth forest. While it’s undoubtedly true that, in 1956, it would have been far better for the train en route from Lillooet to have remained on the track, the boxcars left behind created a unique destination that we, in 2021, are fortunate to be able to explore.
The trail to The Whistler Train Wreck is not a long ride but it is busy. The earlier you hit this trail, the better. Less than 2.5KM round trip, it takes you through the forest and over a suspension bridge across the breathtaking Cheakamus River. You’ll want to leave time to explore the graffitied box cars and ancient trees that surround them before heading back the way you came.
Off the Bikes and Into the Village
Over the span of four days, even our littlest biker had conquered 25 km that included over 620M of climbing. But there is only so much biking we can do. Thankfully there is plenty to keep us busy in Whistler.
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
After spending three days playing in the forest, we walked ten minutes from Whistler village to the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. Whistler is situated on the unceded territory of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations. As we strive to learn and understand Canada’s history, visiting the cultural centre was high on our list of places we wanted to visit.
A traditional song welcomes guests at the top of every hour and kicks off a guided tour that lasts about 45 minutes. The centre is full of traditional pieces of art, interesting facts surrounding the two distinct cultures that share the land and insight into how they integrate old traditions in a modern world—a stunning space to visit.
Peak 2 Peak
Standing at the Olympic rings in the far end of Whistler village, my husband pointed up through the trees. We all turned our heads skyward, following his outstretched arm. “That,” he said, “is the Peak 2 Peak.” We couldn’t see. He said, “Look higher.” One by one, everyone’s eyes went wide as we spotted the gondolas hanging in mid-air between the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
The Peak 2 Peak gondola takes you 4.4 KM between the two mountains and, I’m not going to sugar-coat it; it’s high! But, the views are absolutely breathtaking. At 436M above the valley floor, The Peak 2 Peak broke the world record for the highest lift of its kind. I had a couple of nervous riders, but everyone was thrilled we did it by the end. A little marmot at the top who hung around us for quite some time helped lighten the mood.
Whistler is synonymous with COWS ice cream. I dare you to cross the bridge in the village that takes you to Village North and pass by the sweet scent of their waffle cones that fills the air.
The ice cream is delicious and their punny t-shirts always get the kids giggling. It’s a must-visit every time we’re there.