Canada’s largest ski resort village of Whistler, British Columbia, is known around the world as an epic winter destination for snow sports and its après scene. But did you know? Whistler’s summer season has a surprising amount of amazing active adventures that appeal to visitors of all ages. In fact, there are so many things to do in Whistler in summer that even after 30 years of visits, we’re still finding new and cool things to do in the village and valley.
This comprehensive guide to summer in Whistler highlights some of our favorite Whistler summer activities, including many family-friendly options, that will appeal to anyone interested in a fantastic mountain resort summer holiday in British Columbia.
18 fantastic things to do in Whistler in summer
If you’re driving to Whistler from Vancouver, cross the Lions Gate Bridge from downtown Vancouver and travel north along Highway 99, the scenic Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler. The drive will take approximately 90 minutes, more if you stop in Squamish for brunch at Fergie’s Cafe (recommend), or donuts at Sunflower Bakery (also recommend) in downtown Squamish.
1. Wander the Village
The pedestrian-only villages of Whistler are a delight for walkers and people-watchers. There’s the original “OG” Main Village, Village North and the Upper Village. They’re all connected within 10 minutes of each other by walking and biking trails; cars use external roads to access hotels and parking lots.
The Villages are home to hotels, cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs and lots of retail shops. Village North is home to Whistler Olympic Plaza. Here, you’ll find large Winter Olympic rings and a fabulous green space and children’s playground. The Upper Village hosts a bustling Farmer’s Market on Saturdays during the summer months. Be sure to wander and discover the charms of each one.
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2. Board the Peak 2 Peak Gondola
Enjoy 360-degree views of the Garibaldi Mountains and Whistler Village, via the Peak 2 Peak Gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Access the excellent hiking trails, pack a picnic, or dine in mountain-top restaurants with killer views. Riding the special glass-bottom gondola provides a bird’s-eye view of the forest and Fitzsimmons Creek far below.
3. Try SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding)
The fine art of Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP for short) is very popular in British Columbia. Whistler is surrounded by lakes, making SUP easily accessible and a fun activity for the whole family. Once you get your board balance and ‘SUP legs,’ enjoy a calm and relaxing paddle around Alta Lake or Nita Lake, south of the village, near Whistler Creekside.
4. Mountain Bike on Whistler Mountain
If you’re up for a thrill, rent mountain bikes (and maybe take a lesson) for an exciting white-knuckle mountain bike ride at Whistler Mountain Bike Park. There are runs for every level, from beginner cruisers to double-black trails. Whistler is a mecca for mountain bikers. You will see littles ripping it up, and down the mountain, decked out in biking armour just like the pros.
If you’re new to the biking scene, test some practice loops at the Fitzsimmons Skills Centre. Here, you can practice riding on small features, cornering, jumping and balancing. Don’t forget to film your adventures with a cycling camera to relive your epic day out.
If you’re not up for biking down a mountain, rent a bike in the village to explore Whistler’s extensive network of level and paved valley trails.
5. Canoe the River of Golden Dreams
Enjoy a guided canoe or kayak tour paddling down the River of Golden Dreams. Whistler EcoTours guides can take you across Alta Lake, through the Whistler Wetlands and down a glacial river, all with gorgeous views of the Garibaldi Mountains.
The paddle ends in beautiful Green Lake, with guides pointing out interesting history, plants and animals along the way. This paddling adventure is one of the most unique and beautiful things to do in Whistler in summer. If you prefer paddle-boarding, enjoy a SUP session on Nita Lake.
6. Take a Hike
Lace up your hiking boots and hit one of Whistler’s many walking and hiking trails. The 50+ km of alpine hiking trails on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains can be reached by riding the gondolas on either mountain. You will need a ticket to ride the Whistler or Blackcomb gondola, but the ticket will give you access to both mountains, as well as the Peak2Peak.)
On Whistler Mountain, the 6+ km round trip hike on the Matthews’ Traverse Road is a great, steady uphill climb to Whistler Peak. The route winds around and behind the mountain, revealing the beautiful Garibaldi range, including Black Tusk, as you ascend to 2,200 m to the peak. You’ll know you’re there when you spot the large Inukshuk at the top.
Looking for alpine meadows and lake views? Head to the Decker Loop of High Note Trail if you’re an intermediate hiker. FYI: These hikes are also great to do in Whistler in fall.
The easier and level Spearhead Loop is a 1.2 km loop trail accessed from the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain. Enjoy great views of Blackcomb Mountain and the Peak 2 Peak Gondola going by.
7. See a Historical Train Wreck
The Train Wreck Trail south of Whistler Village is an excellent, easy walk. The ultimate destination is a suspension bridge and an old accident site. In 1956, a train traveling south from Lillooet derailed, spilling engines and twelve boxcars into a narrow passage. Seven of the boxcars were too damaged to salvage; they were dragged out of the way and left behind overlooking the Cheakamus River.
Over the years, a suspension bridge was built to the site and made access easier. Train Wreck has become a favorite destination for graffiti artists, mountain bikers, hikers, and in this age of Instagram, photographers.
8. Walk the Lost Lake Loop
This is an easy and accessible walk just a few steps from the Village. The 6 km trail is level and goes around a lovely and popular lake. You can relax on its beach, take Fido to his/her own special dog beach, and enjoy a refreshing swim in the mountain river-fed water.
9. Enjoy Spa Life
One of our Whistler must-do’s is a visit to enjoy a few hydrotherapy cycles at Scandinave Spa Whistler. The hydrotherapy includes a hot cycle (sauna, hot tubs, steam room), followed by a cold plunge, then relaxation. The beauty of the therapeutic hot, cold and relaxation loop, particularly after a day of hiking, rests the body and the Spa’s silence policy relaxes the mind. Tip: the spa gets very busy so try to go at opening (10 AM) or around dinner time.
10. Treetop Adventure Course
If you’ve ever wanted to play tag in the trees, the Aerial Obstacle Course is for you. This summer-only course includes a series of easy to progressively more challenging elements on this aerial tree course. The course includes suspension bridges, Tarzan swings, zip lines, a climbing wall, and tightropes. The Kids Course is geared to kids aged of 7-13, and includes elements of the main course.
11. See the Bears
As many signs in Whistler Village remind visitors, you are in bear country. There are up to 70 resident black bears in the resort area, and they are active on the mountains. In summer, you can spot them easily on the Whistler Gondola. Gain a more in-depth understanding and peek into bear habitat, (from the safety and comfort of a 4×4) on a guided tour. Don’t forget your camera and binoculars.
12. Get Cultured
When the liquid sunshine arrives, head indoors and get cultured at one of Whistler’s many art galleries. Step into the gorgeous Audain Art Museum for a stroll through large, well-lit galleries. View traditional works of art by the province’s First Peoples. The Museum’s Permanent Collection showcases the Art of British Columbia from the late 18th century to present.
The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre celebrates and shares the cultures of the two First Nations Sk̲wxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation, Coast Salish) and Líl̓wat7ul (Lil’wat Nation, Interior Salish). Visitors gain a valuable understanding of the living cultures through multi-media displays, artwork and interpretive tours.
13. Enjoy Village Festivals
Whistler kicks off the summer season with the GOFest Great Outdoors Festival on the Victoria Day May long weekend. Fun events continue all summer long with concerts and musical celebrations in the Village and on Whistler mountain. The Crankworx Whistler festival takes place over a ten day period in August, celebrating the world’s best downhill, slope style and enduro mountain biking.
14. Experience Vallea Lumina
The forest comes to life with the magical lights and legends of Vallea Lumina. Located at the base Cougar Mountain just 10 minutes north of Whistler, this outdoor multimedia show is an ethereal and entertaining experience for every member of the family. After getting sworn in as a deputy ranger, your night walk follows the stories of two people. Wander through an enchanted forest of lights, music and 3-D projections onto trees, streams and tents. Wear proper walking shoes and prepare to be wandering the 1.5 km walk as the sky darkens later into the evening in summer.
15. Go Ziplining
Experience Whistler from the treetops, zip lining hundreds of feet over Fitzsimmons Creek with Ziptrek Ecotours. Ziptrek operates 11 lines, connected by treetop bridges and tucked in high above the rainforest between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. The SASQUATCH is the longest zipline in North America. Minimum age is 6 years old, and kids under 65 lbs are limited to tandem rides with professionals on the (still awesome) Ziptrek Bear tour.
Superfly Ziplines offers tours at the base of Cougar Mountain, a 10 minute drive north of Whistler. The 4 dual (tandem) ziplines are quite impressive, reaching speeds of up to 100 km (60 m) an hour. The Superfly ziplines have their own braking system, so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. Bonus: the views of the mountain valley are unforgettable.
16. Try Whitewater Rafting
Experience the adrenaline rush of riding the rapids on the Cheakamus, Elaho or Green Rivers. These guided tours combine adventure with the beauty of the mountains, and vary in intensity and length depending on the tour. The Cheakamus River is more family-friendly while the Elaho’s class 3-4 rapids present an exhilarating wet and wild adventure.
17. Hurl Axes at Forged
There’s nothing quite like the competitive sport of throwing axes. At Forged Axe Throwing in Function Junction south of the village, book an hour or two with your fam or besties to hurl some axes and split the wooden targets. The games become competitive very quickly, but the fun quotient remains high. Afterwards, stop for a fresh ale at Coast Mountain Brewing or Whistler Brewing Co., both a few steps away from Forged HQ.
18. Go Golfing
Whistler has four incredible golf courses (designed by four of the world’s top designers) where you can hit the links with epic views of the surrounding mountains and forest landscape. These are all publicly accessible golf courses, just be sure to book your tee-time well in advance during the busy summer season.
Where to Stay: Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre
Whistler has no shortage of amazing hotels and vacation rentals in and around the village. Our family loves to be in the center of the action the we stay in Whistler, close to slopes and gondolas, restaurants and attractions. Our most recent stay was at one of our favorite hotels, the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre.
The Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre is right in the main village. With large all-suite 1 and 2 bedroom rooms that include full kitchens, this hotel property is popular with families who appreciate space, amenities and a central location. The hotel has a large pool and two hot tubs, and offers a choice of complimentary breakfast items included in guest stays.
The in-house The Raven Room restaurant offers a host of great (and witty) cocktails. There’s also a wide variety of cuisine, including delicious vegan and vegetarian menu options. This was a new discovery for us and adds to an already impressive list of dining options in Whistler.
If you’re a pet lover like us, you’ll be delighted to know that the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre is a pet-friendly hotel property that welcomes dogs and cats. The hotel provides special Pet Palace amenity services like treats, food and water bowls, biodegradable waste bags, and a paw print blanket for snuggling. Our furbaby Zuzu was thrilled with her extra special pampering.
Hotel staff can direct guests to dog-friendly trails and hikes, and arrange for local professional pet sitters for in-suite pet sitting or private walks.
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Disclosure: The writer has hosted by the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre. As always, her opinions on enjoying summer activities in Whistler are honest and her own.
Photos: Claudia Laroye; Tourism Whistler