Free Summer Outdoor Adventures Whistler
Summer in Whistler is a time to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. No early morning winter wake ups to chase powder, just sunset BBQ’s on the beach. No crazy, long lift lines, only secluded hiking trails around vast peaceful lakes. However, compared to the winter months one of the most relaxing things about the summer season is the relief on your wallet. There are endless free (or really, really cheap) adventures to be had all around town, every one a staple part of Whistler locals’ summer schedule.
Pete Thompson - Whistler Correspondent, YAHglobal.Com
Float the River of Golden Dreams
Alta Lake (entry), Whistler, BC
On a beautiful summer day in Whistler this river becomes as big a party as any of the bars in town. Locals descend on the gentle waters of the river on anything with enough flotation to keep them out of the water. Drinks drag in bags behind them, cooling in the glacier fresh water, and they take the winding 3-hour trip between Alta and Green Lakes.
Many outdoor activity companies in town offer guided tours of the river but if you want a real adventure do it the local way. If you don’t already have a boat or inflatable head to Katmandu Outdoor General Store in the village and purchase Whistler’s vessel of choice, the ‘Explorer 200’, for around $40. Take the bus to Lakeside Park and float across to the river mouth at the north end of Alta Lake.
There are various points where you’ll have to exit the river to avoid bridges so keep your eyes open and it is always a good idea to check the water levels online before venturing out. Other than that it’s all about having fun, making some friends on the river and staying out of the freezing water!
Frisbee Golf aka Disc Golf aka ‘Frolf’
Lost Lake Park, Whistler, BC
Whistler’s golf courses are some of North America’s best, designed by legends of the game such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. However, one course designed and built by mere locals is just as popular and completely free. Frisbee Golf, or Frolf as it is affectionately known, is another key part of Whistler’s summer scene.
If you haven’t encountered Frolf before the basic idea is to throw a Frisbee or disc, in as few shots as possible, so that it lands in a metal basket or hits a tall metal pole, depending on the ‘hole’. There are 27 holes altogether and all the hazards are natural. Dense woodland (don’t play with a green Frisbee), high cliffs, rivers and wandering bears all stand between you and your target and make for some very challenging shots.
As the ‘sport’ of Frolf becomes more popular around the world enthusiasts can often be seen on the course, complete with a bag full of specialist Frisbees. However, you don’t have to be a pro and Katmandu has what you need for less than $20. The course begins just next to the Scandinave Spa parking lot (although they will ticket you if you park there). Take the bus to the baseball field at Spruce Grove and follow signs for a short walk to the course from there.
Although we can’t promise it takes the stress out of golf it definitely reduces the cost and if anything Frolf is a beautiful walk through the depths of Lost Lake Park and a genuine adventure as you scale cliffs and explore forests in search of runaway discs.
Emerald Forest, Whistler, BC
Continuing the ‘cheap alternative to golf’ theme, Wiffle Golf sticks a little closer to traditional roots. Each player grabs a standard pitching wedge and has one shot on each short hole gaining points depending on the quality of that shot. Two points for a hole in one, one point for a shot that lands in the sand surrounding the hole and -1 point for ending up in a water hazard (natural or man-made). Whoever has the most points at the end is the winner.
Like the Disc Golf Course the Wiffle Course was designed and built by locals for anyone to enjoy on a sunny Whistler day. There are a variety of rules that range from standard stroke play golf to using a normal wiffle ball bat, throwing the ball up in the air and hitting it like a baseball. However you play, it’s fun, easy and free.
The secluded location in the Emerald Forest north of the village is perfect for some more free outdoor adventure. Ask a taxi driver to take you out there or it’s impossible to find. Again, Katmandu caters to all your random sporting equipment needs with wiffle balls on sale for a few dollars. Do not forget bug spray as mosquitoes frequent the course!
Rainbow Park, Whistler, BC
On a summer weekend Rainbow Park is packed with locals and tourists alike. Situated on the far side of Alta Lake it is the closest you can get to a beach in Whistler’s mountain paradise. If the sand is too busy with sunbathers then there’s a huge grass area to accommodate the overflow. The best feature of the park, apart from the perfect views of both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains towering over the other side of the lake, are the three beach volleyball courts that always host friendly winner-stays-on-style games.
Rainbow Park is also a great place to launch your expedition down the River of Golden Dreams or if you want to brave the water take a refreshing (freezing) swim out to one of the floating docks.
Valley Trail, Whistler, BC
Black bears are everywhere in Whistler, and are more than happy to be watched (although less so to be touched). You could pay for a tour guide to find you some bears or you can do it the old- fashioned way and just go for a walk. Whistler’s scenic Valley Trail stretches 40km around the valley connecting all the neighborhoods, lakes, parks and sights and is perfect for walking, biking or jogging. Whistler Golf Course is a great place to spot bears and is only a few minutes from the village on the trail. Before you venture out on your search, stop by the visitors centre for a trail map and some tips on proper bear watching behavior, for your safety and theirs.