A good 2 hours north of Vancouver, along the most scenic Sea To Sky Highway, lie Whistler & Blackcomb, 2 mountains that make up one of the most renowned ski destinations & the largest ski resort in North America. The resort hosted most of the 2010 Winter Olympics events. Outside of the ski season, the lifts take bikers up the mountains and they double as bike park with some spectacular tracks. At the foot of the mountain, in Whistler Village, you can admire the jumps some of the bikers are able to pull off.
So I decided to rent a mountain bike, but I didn't have the guts nor the skills to go up the mountain. Instead, I decided to cycle the 40 km (25 mi) long Valley Trail that runs along all of the picturesque nature in the area. Along the Green Lake, Alta Lake and all those other lakes, rivers, creeks, meadows, parks and forests in between the mountains. And those white-capped mountain peaks provide an amazing backdrop wherever you look: I had no camera gear with me on the bike, but the pictures I took with my cell phone still came out stunning. You just can't go wrong with scenery that nice, and you'll want to stop and wonder at every turn - or have a picnic.
Back in the pedestrian-only Whistler (or Blackcomb) Village, there really isn't much to do. Sure, there are a few shops, restaurants and bars with a good atmosphere is. And this is where the hotels are. But you're really only here to rest in between your activities, or to take the gondola up the mountains. Once you're up there, you'll find another gondola that can take you directly to the other mountain: the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola. If you do decide to take it (and it's not cheap), make sure to wait for the glass bottom cabin to get the best possible view.
As long as you have an appreciation for nature, you'll enjoy the Whistler area. Even if you're not a skier, snowboarder or biker: you can also go ice skating in the winter, or go for a swim in one of the many lakes in the summer (and a water park is in the works.) And did you know that Whistler has 4 golf clubs.
The Whistler region is also perfect for hikes, but I decided to go hike in the Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Most of the area in between Whistler & Vancouver is part of the Garibaldi Provincial Park.
I really wanted to go check out the largest lake in the park: Lake Garibaldi, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. I had done some research beforehand, and had fallen in love with the pictures of this lake's clear turquoise water. I had to see this with my own two eyes so I picked the 18 km (11 mi) long hike from the Rubble Creek parking lot to Lake Garibaldi and back.
I really wanted to hike up to Black Tusk, (a stratovolcano) for the best view over Lake Garibaldi, but at 28 km (17 mi) and 1750m (5 740 ft) elevation gain that one would've been too long - I found all sorts of discouraging reports about doing this in 1 day.
The hike was perfect. It's not too short, but it's laid out perfectly. The hardest part came first, with the 6 first kilometers (3.7 mi) being the steepest. After that, it starts to flatten out until you reach the lake after 3 more kilometers (1.8 mi.) Going back, it's all downhill, and thank god it was. I'm sure I set a record speed those last few kilometers: the thing I was most happy to see this entire hike was at right on the parking lot - the toilet! I had to go so bad that I almost ran down.
Even though my running shoes were useful when I had to run that last part, I wish I had worn hiking shoes instead. The lower 6 km were fine, but that last stretch was covered in snow still. It was melting, unstable and slippery. And although cell reception had been spotty almost the entire hike, I had no signal whatsoever after 6 km so I was extra cautious not to fall!
I reached Lake Garibaldi, but instead of that gorgeous turquoise water, this is what I got. But I think it's still awesome!