As the fall weather brings cooler days and crisp nights to the coast, it’s not uncommon to see a sugar-dusting of snow on the peaks of Whistler’s mountains. While this is always cause for excitement among skiers and riders that winter is in fact coming, the autumn months are actually an ideal time for exploring the Village and its surroundings after the summer crowds have gone home. We’ve picked our seven favorite things to do in Whistler during fall, so get ready to go play outside.
Things to do in Whistler during Fall
1. Go hiking
Lace up your hiking shoes or boots to head out onto one of Whistler’s many walking and hiking trails. The 50+ km of alpine hiking trails on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are accessed via the gondolas on either mountain. You will require a ticket to ride the Whistler or Blackcomb gondola, but the ticket will permit access to both, as well as the Peak2Peak gondola to travel between the mountains.
During these Covid times, masks are mandatory to ride the gondolas and in all indoor spaces on the mountain. Check the on-site map to see which hiking routes are open, and how the trails have been laid out with directional signage to ensure safe physical distancing.
On Whistler mountain, the rigorous yet entirely doable 6+ km round trip hike via the Whistler Gondola on the Matthews’ Traverse Road is a steady uphill climb in the fresh mountain air to the Peak. The route winds around and behind the mountain, revealing the grandeur of the Garibaldi range, including Black Tusk, as you ascend to 2,200 m to Whistler Peak. You’ll know you’re there when you spot the large Inukshuk at the top.
The easier and level Spearhead Loop is a 1.2 km loop trail accessed from the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain. You’ll enjoy great views of Blackcomb Mountain and the Peak2Peak Gondola going by.
For what to see around Whistler in terms of hiking outside of the village, check out the Whistler Trainwreck Trail near Function Junction, the Parkhurst Ghost Town and Ancient Cedar Trails. They are all free but you will need a car to access the locations and forest service roads.
2. Enjoy the spa
Honestly, you know I’m a spa girl in each and every season! So it’s not a surprise that one of the best things to do in Whistler in fall would be to enjoy a few hydrotherapy cycles at Scandinave Spa. 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. If the sun is out and the air a bit cool, it feels even more fabulous to visit the spa during autumn in Whistler.
Scandinave Spa has enacted safety protocols to ensure guest well-being, including the installation of hand sanitizing stations and more frequent cleaning. Guests are asked to follow directional signage and use towels when seated in the sauna, steam room or relaxation areas.
3. Attend Whistler Cornucopia
The annual food and drinks festival will be going ahead in November 2020, albeit with a few Covid safety twists. Expect smaller and more intimate gatherings, tasting seminars and dining experiences for this year’s festival, but certainly no shortage of excellent food, wine and cocktails.
During each weekend in November, Whistler Cornucopia will be offering physically distanced seminars, culinary stage demonstrations and chef table luncheons/dinners with a partner winery. Participating Whistler restaurants will also be providing fabulous dining experiences in their establishments throughout the month of November. More details forthcoming.
4. Go mountain biking
Whistler’s Mountain Bike Park offers an impressive amount of trails for every level of cyclist. The resort rates its trails on a Trail Progression Scale, to assist guests in determining free ride versus technical trails, and their level of difficulty.
If you’re new to the Bike Park or unsure of where to begin, they’ve got you covered. Book a lesson (mountain bike lessons certainly helped me!) and start at the Orientation Centre located at the top of the Fitzsimmons Express, where instructors will help you get comfortable on your bike and learn how to navigate the Bike Park. Afterwards, progress to the Fitzsimmons Skills Centre where you can practice riding on small features, cornering, jumping and balancing.
Helmets are mandatory, and safety padding is highly recommended. Purchase your Bike Park tickets online ahead of time. The minimum age to ride in the Park is 5 years old. Kids under the age of 13 should ride with an adult.
5. Get cultured
As far as things to do in Whistler, fall offers the chance to duck indoors to enjoy arts and culture at Audain Art Museum. It’s a perfect time for a break from all that outdoor activity. Stroll through large, well-lit galleries and 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. Anchoring the collection is James Hart’s The Scream Too, the most significant contemporary carved cedar Dance Screen in the world. Other highlights include an important collection of 19th and 20th century First Nations masks and works by some of Canada’s most celebrated artists including Emily Carr, E.J. Hughes and the internationally renowned photo-conceptualists Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas and others.
Open from Thursday to Sunday. Face coverings required.
6. Go ziplining
Fly like an eagle through the trees and soar across deep mountain valleys with Superfly Ziplines. Located north of the mountain town at Cougar Mountain, these are among the most scenic ziplines you’ll find anywhere in the world.
The four ziplines include two of Canada’s longest at over 1 km long, 200 m high and where you’ll reach speeds up to 100 km/h. The two final ziplines are close enough for two riders to hold hands during the journey, should romance strike. These ziplines will deliver serious thrills and make for a perfect family half day outing.
The orientation, ATV ride up to the first zipline and the guided circuit takes approximately 3 hours to complete. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a hands-free view (if you dare), and leave the braking up to Superfly’s coiled spring braking system, ensuring a smooth ride completion. If you love it in summer or fall, Superfly ziplines also operates in winter! Check out our winter wonderland experience here.
Want to know what it’s really like? Check out Superfly Ziplining video.
7. Learn legends at Vallea Lumina
The earlier nights of fall mean that you won’t have to wait until after 10 PM to view the magical lights and legends of Vallea Lumina. Located at the base Cougar Mountain just 10 minutes from Whistler village, 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 through an enchanted forest of lights, music and 3-D projections onto trees, streams and tents. The 1.5 km walk has some steps and short inclines, so wear proper footwear as you will be walking in the dark.
If you’re visiting Whistler in October, be sure to book tickets before the summer version of Lumina closes mid-month before being transformed into its winter cousin for reopening in mid-December.
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Photo credits: Tourism Whistler, Claudia Laroye, Shutterstock
Disclosure: The writer was a guest of Tourism Whistler and Superfly Ziplines. As always, her opinion and love of mountain hiking and fast ziplines are honest and her own.