Go Chasing Waterfalls
We couldn’t resist – we know it’s over done, but damn TLC your lyrics are catchy. We dropped the “don’t” because the Sea to Sky corridor is filled with breath-taking waterfalls that you absolutely should chase. We’ve got you covered with an insider’s guide to not only Whistler waterfalls, but a whole corridor of local waterfalls to go chase – from Squamish to Pemberton.
Where: 2km south of Squamish, accessed right off Highway 99 (Sea to Sky). Signage will guide you right there!
Difficulty: Easy (drive + 500m walk)
How: Park in the disengaged parking lots and take a quick stroll on the paved walkway that winds to the base of the falls. This trail is family and wheelchair friendly.
Tips: If the parking lots are full, you can easily park at the Stawamus Chief parking and do a small hike to Shannon Falls. There is a beautiful water crossing and the trail allows you to feel fully submerged in the coastal forest. There are plenty of picnic tables and manicured grassy areas to hang out at. If you’re planning on hiking the Chief or going up the Sea to Sky Gondola make sure to add this stunning waterfall onto your day. Its 335m-drop makes it the third longest fall in the province!
Where: Callaghan Valley, 23.5km south of the Whistler Village
Difficulty: Easy (drive to)
How: From Highway 99, turn onto the Callaghan Valley Access Road. Keep your eyes peeled for bears as you drive 8km to the falls. There will be a sign at the falls parking area on your left, roughly 1km before the Whistler Olympic Park.
Tips: Alexander Falls are 41m tall and 12m wide and fall elegantly down the tiered rock face. This area hosts some beautiful and secluded picnic spots. To make a bigger day of it check out Whistler Olympic Park while you’re there or, if you have a 4×4, take a drive up to Callaghan Lake to go swimming, fishing or to hiking!
Where: 11km south of the Whistler Village
Difficulty: Easy (2km round trip)
How: Drive south 11km from the Whistler Village and watch for signage. The parking lot will be on the left side of the highway. This walk starts by crossing the river on a cute covered bridge shortly after leaving the parking lot and continues on a wide, well-maintained trail. There is only one intersection, take a right as directed by the sign and cross the train tracks when it’s safe. This will first take you to a breath-taking viewing platform above the falls. The trail continues on to another viewing area that showcases Black Tusk Mountain and Daisy Lake, well worth the small walk.
Tips: To view the falls in full daylight, make sure you get there in the morning as the canyon below loses light early. The morning sun often creates a rainbow below the falls, making it worth the wake-up. It is possible to reach the bottom of Brandywine Falls, however, while the view is beautiful, it is a difficult trail and not recommended. If you’re the adventurous type, take proper hiking boots, a partner, and follow the trail that extends past the last viewing platform. It will head away from the falls, then descend down a boulder field and finally wrap back towards to the base of the falls. The gates lock daily from 8pm – 8am so plan your trip with that in mind. Brandywine Falls is connected to the Sea to Sky Trail, making for a lengthy list of “add-ons.” Follow the signs to view Swim Lake, Bungee Bridge or the Cal-Check Suspension Bridge to extend your visit to Brandywine Park.
Given their proximity and ease of access, visiting both Alexander and Brandywine Falls makes for a great Whistler waterfall day trip if you’re staying in Whistler village and have a car to take you to those further out locations.
Difficulty: Easy (1.4km)
How: The quintessential Whistler waterfall, Rainbow Falls is located just outside of Whistler village. From the village, drive north on Highway 99. Turn left onto Alpine Way then left again at the stop sign onto Rainbow Drive. Stay on Rainbow Drive for 6.8km; the trailhead will be on your right. When you park you will notice that there are two trails, one on each side of Twenty-one Mile Creek. Choose the trail nearest the large Rainbow sign – when looking up towards the mountain it will be the trial on the left of the creek. While hiking you will encounter two forks on the trail, always stay right. You will be able to hear the river below for most of the hike. You will gain some elevation and then make a short descent to the base of the falls.
Tips: The trail is well maintained but there is only one marker so follow the instructions carefully. There is also no railing or official viewing area so be mindful of slippery rocks. The falls come from the upper Rainbow Lake, which is in the Whistler watershed and also one hefty but gorgeous hike! When you turn around to go back, there is a steep but worn path on the right going straight up. If you take this path it will lead you to the trailhead for Rainbow Lake. Or, for a smaller scenic loop, keep hugging the right and you will pass over a bridge with a gorgeous view of Twenty-one Mile Creek. At the bridge, you can either go back the way you came or keep following the trail over the bridge and down – if you do this it will lead you back to the parking lot, but you will exit via the trail on the opposite side of the river. Read more about Rainbow Falls in our Whistler Local Secrets blog post.
Where: 20 minutes north of Whistler, just before Pemberton
Difficulty: Easy (2.4km)
How: From the Whistler Village head north on Highway 99 for 28km. There is signage before the parking lot appears on the right side of the highway. From here the trail winds along the river towards the falls. It is a very simple hike on a nice trail with a great reward at the end!
Tips: Nairn Falls is not like most waterfalls on this list. It is a series of washing machine drops, with one leading to the next, accumulatively dropping 60m in a well-worn rocky canyon. Its unique shape and emerald green water are stunning. Not far from the falls, there is a large camping area that hosts a great place to swim!
Not So Easy or Well Known Whistler Waterfalls
- Joffre Falls (Moderate): When hiking to Joffre Lakes, the falls are located in-between the second and third lake. There is a marker and a nice spot to stop for lunch or photos.
- Cheakamus River Falls (Moderate): From the Whistler community of Cheakamus Crossing, take the trail named “Trash Trail” that hugs the Cheakamus River. When the water calms you will see a large drop over the smoothly worn rocks. The trail is a root-filled and can be pretty muddy, but it also has some smooth rock rolls. Be cautious of fast-paced bikers and the unmarked falls, but enjoy the view of the rushing glacial blue water because it’s gorgeous!
- Nineteen Mile Creek Falls (Difficult): On route to Iceberg Lake (see our Whistler alpine activities blog about hiking to Iceberg Lake) there are two sets of waterfalls that the trail will wind past on Nineteen Mile Creek. These are extremely underrated waterfalls. They sit in a very serene setting and are impressive falls!
- Wedgemount (Very Difficult): An advanced bushwhack off the main hiking trail up Wedge Mountain to Wedgemount Lake. Powerful falls that you will likely find mostly by sound.
Although Whistler waterfalls are always most dramatic in the spring and early summer when runoff is in full swing, these are gorgeous spots to check out any time of year. A frozen waterfall is just a beautiful as a running one. Show us your Whistler waterfall adventures with the hashtag #thisiswhistler, we’d love to see what you see!