Updated: Apr 3
Whistler is expensive. Everything seems to cost money, and all prices are inflated for tourists. Sometimes, you need a day outdoors that doesn't involve digging into your pockets. Whistler has 5, easily accessible lakes that all connect off of the 40km Valley Trail. The Valley Trail is paved, car-free and maintained in the winter for walking, biking and cross-country skiing. Each lake has its own beautiful mountain backdrop, with a park to sit in and enjoy the view. What is especially unique about winter, is that the lakes freeze over allowing for a whole range of activities compared to the summer landscape. In the summer, tanning, canoeing, swimming, floating and paddle boarding are the main attractions. However, winter brings even more entertainment.
I will explain the lakes from south to north, making it easy to stop along the way if you are coming up from the city. Alpha Lake is located in Creekside, personally my favourite of the 5. It is the least busy lake in the summer (locals secret), with picnic benches, a volley ball and tennis court, bbq's, plenty of grass and sand to lay on and a dock to launch off of. There is also a separate dog park which makes it a very exciting place to be. Once frozen over, you can walk along the lake, taking in all the views, and atmosphere. Alpha Lake is also known for their ice fishing. It is not uncommon to see hockey nets spread across the lake, for friends and rivals to come together and play a match or two. If you carry along the Valley Trail around the lake, there is a series of rocks to sit on, in a very private and serene area. This is a great spot if you need somewhere to get away and be alone with nature.
Continue to head north up the Valley Trail, and just a short walk away is Nita Lake, behind Nita Lake Lodge. This is where my favourite spa is located, as highlighted in Relax, and Unwind, Like a Local. Nita Lake is the smallest of the 5, but is spectacular nonetheless. There are two docks- one private for the Lodge guests, and another for the public. In the summer, you can rent canoes from Nita Lake Lodge and be immersed in the serenity of the lake. In the winter, Nita Lake is best known for the 'ice plunge'. Every year, locals create a small pool near the dock to dip into the cold lake water. The cold water releases endorphins, and increases your heart rate. If you are lucky enough to be a Nita guest, you can run into the hotel hot tub after to warm up, and continue your hydrotherapy experience.
Hop back on the Valley Trail, and in about 20 minutes you will reach the start of Alta Lake. Alta Lake is very popular among both locals and tourists. There are 3 parks, Rainbow, Wayside and Lakeside. Rainbow is the biggest park, with lots of parking, volleyball nets, food trucks, multiple docks, bbqs, grass space and a sandy beach. Wayside is the smallest, with boat/canoe/kayak rentals in the summer and two docks. Lakeside, is mid-sized, with a play area for kids, canoe/kayak rentals, a concession stand, lots of grass space, and multiple docks for boat launching. Alta Lake in the winter, is most popular for winter activities. You will often see friends gathering on the lake for social activities, accompanied by a few beers for hockey games, skating, and even cross-country skiing.
Let's keep going, on route to Lost Lake. From all Alta Lake parks, your walk will be about an hour. An hour goes by fast when you are nestled between beautiful scenery, trees, and mountains. Lost Lake is just outside of the village. In the summer, it is very popular and spacious for all lake-goers. It is the perfect lake for a float, with multiple docks, even a nude dock if you wish. There is also a separate dock for doggo lovers. In the winter, Lost Lake is closed off for Cross Country skiing, as I showcased in Cross Country Skiing, Like a Local.
Lastly, continue north to Green Lake. Green Lake is an hour and 20 minute walk from Lost Lake, located far north of Whistler. It is a large, glacier-fed lake, and admired for its beautiful green colour. It is very picturesque and best known in the summer for being the only lake that allows motorized boats as well as a dock for float planes. In the winter, similar to Alta Lake, you can walk along the lake, skate and play hockey. There is a viewpoint along Highway 99 as you can see in the photo to the right, where you can stop and take in the magic. If you walk to the boat entrance, another 'ice plunge' is located near the dock.
There is nothing more magical than being out on the lake during sunset and I encourage everyone to get outside to take it all in. Summer has its own magic, spending all day at the lake, tanning, swimming, and canoeing, however, winter is paradise. The way the lake freezes over, sun reflecting the snow, connecting all of Whistler from the land to the icy lake, in a way that you never could in the summer. That's something remarkable.