Whistler is a fantastic spot to be no matter the season. Whether you're looking for some world-class skiing in the winter, or picturesque hiking in the summer, Whistler is one place where you will rarely get bored. For this post, I'm going to discuss getting from Seattle to Whistler in the summertime. I will also highlight some of the best things you can do in and see in Whistler and Vancouver over 4 days.
Driving from Seattle to Whistler is easy and can be done in four hours. From Seattle, you'll get onto Interstate 5 and drive for 110 miles until you hit the Canadian border. Once you cross the border, you'll continue onto BC-99 N, which will take you around Vancouver and over the Lions Gate Bridge before putting you on the Sea to Sky Highway. Once on the Sea to Sky Highway, you'll have an hour and 15 minutes left in your drive before reaching the gates to Whistler.
We did our trip my Seattle to Whistler throughout a long weekend. We took off from Seattle on a Thursday after work around 5pm, and we arrived in Whistler just after 9:30pm. Traffic was a little bad getting through Everett due to rush hour, so make sure you account for traffic when timing your trip. The drive on the Sea to Sky Highway was beautiful. You'll drive alongside the pacific ocean as you slowly proceed into the mountains. You get amazing views of mountains seeming to protrude directly out of the Pacific Ocean, and you'll definitely have the urge to pull over and take a few photos throughout the drive.
We booked an Airbnb in the Whistler village for the weekend, and to our surprise, it didn't break the bank. We had a studio apartment equipped with a community pool hot tub, gym, and mountain views. It was the perfect little getaway spot and served as an ideal home base for our adventures. Now, read on for a 4-Day Itinerary in and around Whistler, along with some tips for visiting Vancouver.
Whistler & Vancouver 4 Day Itinerary (For the Summer)
We woke up bright and early on our first full day in Whistler. Energized and ready for adventure, hiking was first on our list of things to do! We loaded up the car and headed North towards the trailhead for Joffre Lakes. Technically the trailhead to Joffre Lakes is outside of Whistler - it's about an hour North, but trust me when I say this is one of the best hikes you will ever do. It's officially in our top 5, and we've done a lot of hiking.
The Joffre Lakes trail is 4.8 miles round trip and features about 1600 feet of elevation gain. Throughout the hike, you'll start at lower Joffre Lake, hike past Middle Joffre Lake, and a raging waterfall, before finally ending up at Upper Joffre Lake. You get to experience three different lakes on the Joffre Lakes trail, all of which radiate beautifully blue water amongst surrounding glaciers and mountains.
The Joffre Lakes trail is rated as moderate. You follow along a gradual incline for most of the hike; however, right before middle Joffre Lake, you will encounter a steep slope. The trail is well maintained, and there are stairs to help you conquer the incline. The final thing to note about this hike is the crowds, as it can be jam-packed. The trailhead only has limited parking, so be sure to get there early! We ended up pulling into the trailhead just before 8:00 am on a Friday, and it wasn't too busy.
After the hike, we drove back to Whistler to continue our day. We proceeded to grab some lunch and explore the Whistler Village. The Village in Whistler has won numerous awards and is home to outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world, and it is easy to see why. With over 200 shops surrounding the Village, it was easy to bring out our inner tourists and do some browsing.
After some shopping therapy, we finished up our day by walking out to Lost Lake. A short walk from the Whistler Village, Lost Lake hosts a small beach area along with walking trails surrounding the lake. It's the perfect spot to bring a snack or some beverages and wind down after a long day.
Day 1 Summary
Hike Joffre Lakes
Explore the Village - Shopping, Olympic Rings, Lunch
Walk around Lost Lake or hang at the beach
Day 2 - Whistler 360 Experience
On our second day in Whistler, we grabbed tickets for the 360 Experience to get up onto the mountain. The 360 Experience allows you to take the Whistler or Blackcomb Gondola to the top of the mountain. You'll experience breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, glacier lakes down below, and wild-flowers blooming throughout the meadows. Tickets range from $75.00 - $80.00 Canadian, so it is a touch on the pricey side, but you're on vacation, right? It's worth it.
Your best bet is to take the Whistler Gondola up. Once you're at the top of the mountain, you have a couple of options for what to do next. We started our excursion by taking the Peak Chair to the very tippy-top of the mountain. At the top of the Peak Chair, you'll find the new CloudRaker Skybridge. A metal suspension bridge that spans 425 Feet (130m) from Whistler Peak to the mountain's West Ridge, the Skybridge offers a breathtaking 360 view of the surrounding mountains, while giving you that sweaty palms feeling as you walk high above the Whistler Bowl below. At the end of the Skybridge, you'll come to a large viewing platform that once again offers terrific sights of the surrounding landscape.
Once we had our fill of pictures, we continue with the central part of our day, hiking! Right after you exit the Ravens Eye viewing platform, you'll come to a trailhead for the High Note Trail. High Note is a 5.8-mile hike that winds down and around the backside of Whistler Mountain. Arguably the best hike on Whistler itself, the High Note Trail, gives you excellent views of the famous Black Tusk Mountain and Cheakamus Lake down below. In total, the hike will take about 3 to 4 hours. As you're hiking down and around Whistler, you don't have to worry about much elevation gain as the hike only features about 850 feet of elevation gain, but there is limited shade on the hike, so make sure you have plenty of fluids and snacks.
When you finish the high note trail, you'll end up back at the Whistler Gondola. We then hopped on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola for a relaxing 11-minute ride over to Blackcomb Mountain. The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is the world's highest lift of its kind at 1,427 feet above the valley floor, and it holds the records for the longest unsupported span for a gondola, with 1.88 miles being unsupported by towers. It is a magnificent structure.
Once on Blackcomb, we grabbed some much-needed lunch in the Rendezvous Lodge and recuperated from our hike. Before calling it a day and making our way back down to the Whistler Village, we proceeded the ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola back and forth 3 more times - gotta get your money's worth, right?
By the time we got back to the Village, we were exhausted. We grabbed some dinner and drinks at a restaurant at the bottom of the mountain and called it a night.
Day 2 Summary
Whistler 360 Experience
Take the Whistler or Blackcomb Gondola onto the mountain
Explore the Skybridge from the Peak Chair
Hike the High Note Trail
Ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola
Day 3 - Whistler to Vancouver
After getting our fill of hiking and scenic mountain views, we packed up our little Air BnB and headed south towards Vancouver. For the next two days, we had plans to explore the Pacific Northwest city. During the two hour drive from Whistler to Vancouver, we made a stop along the Sea to Sky Highway to see Shannon Falls. Located just 10 minutes south of Squamish, Shannon Falls is the third largest waterfall in British Columbia, rising over 1100 feet (355m) from the base. There is a small trail that will take you to the viewpoint of Shannon Falls. The path is less than half a mile round trip and is very well maintained, making it very accessible. Shannon Falls is another trendy spot, so be prepared to park across the highway in the overfill lot.
Once we arrived back in Vancouver, we checked into our Airbnb and dropped off our bags. We had a fantastic spot in Kitsilano, just blocks away from the beach. Our first Vancouver attraction was Granville Island. Coming from Seattle and Pike Place Market, it is not hard to appreciate Granville Island. Granville spans a public market with over 275 businesses, 100 of which are day vendors selling produce, food, and other goods. Whether you're looking for fresh food for dinner, a midday snack, or some street entertainment, Granville Island definitely warrants a stop on your trip to Vancouver. The market radiates with cultures from around the world.
Our Airbnb was located about a mile and a half away from Granville Island. We were able to walk amongst the coastline all the way to the market, all while admiring the Pacific Ocean and Surrounding Mountains. What a refreshing experience.
After exploring Granville Island, we hopped on a small Ferry Boat known as the False Creek Ferry to get a lift across the harbor. You'll find a bunch of small Ferry Boats on the docks surrounding Granville Island. They might look like small, floating bathtubs, but they are a great way to travel for a small fee. You can get a round trip ferry ride across the bay for as little as five dollars. We took our Ferry Boat to English Bay with plans to go explore Stanley Park.
A 1,000-acre park rated as the 'Top Park in the Entire World' by Trip Advisor, Stanley Park is a staple within the city of Vancouver. The park holds a mix of beaches, forest trails, lakes, bike paths, and even the Vancouver Aquarium. The park is so densely populated with trees that you'll forget you're actually in a city.
Once we got off of our short False Creek Ferry Ride, we grabbed a couple of share bikes from one of the many share-stations that you'll find around the city. With our bikes, we had plans to bike around Stanley Park. Known as the Seawall Bike Path, you can bike 6 miles around Stanley Park. The Bike Path offers spectacular views of the ocean, mountains, and Lions Gate Bridge - a giant suspension bridge that you will likely drive over while going to Whistler. Before biking around Stanley Park, it is essential to note that the trail is a one-way bike path. The path winds around the park in a counter-clockwise fashion, so make sure you don't start going the wrong way! There will be many fellow bikers on the path, so just go with the flow once you get to the park.
Once we finished our ride, we celebrated a good day with some beers at TAPshack in Coal Harbor. A cute spot that allows you to sit outside right near the waterfront. If you've still got some daylight left after TAPshack, continue walking down the waterfront until you hit Canada Place. You'll see 5 large sails off in the distance from TAPshack, you can't miss it. Canada Place is home to Vancouver's Convention Center and Cruise Ship Port. If you're lucky, you'll see a ship coming in or out of the bay.
Day 3 Summary
False Creek Ferries
Bike Around Stanley Park
Beers at TAPshack in Coal Harbor or Granville Island Brewery
Day 4 - Vancouver
Our last day in Vancouver consisted of a half-day. We had to check out of our Air BNB by 10:00am, but that doesn't mean we didn't get our fill of adventuring in before leaving town. We woke up bright and early to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Spanning 460 feet in length and 230 feet high, the Capilano Suspension Bridge presents an exciting opportunity to walk high above the valley floor below on a stable, but swaying structure. Capilano is one of the most popular attractions in all of Vancouver, and it is easy to see why. Because of this, we made sure we go to the park early, just before opening. After purchasing our tickers, which run about $40.00 per person, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we were the first ones in the park. We quickly took advantage by snapping a few photos on the empty bridge while enjoying our coffees, the morning sun, and the breathtaking views.
Outside of the Suspension Bridge, Capilano Park also features 7 suspended footbridges amongst the forest canopy. The bridges are set 110 feet above the forest floor and allow you to experience the surrounding canopy from a different perspective.
The park also features what they call a cliff walk. A narrow structure wraps around a cliffside along the Capilano River, the cliff walk opens up new viewpoints of the valley and even features some glass floors to give you a little adrenaline rush.
Pro Tip: If you want to experience a similar suspension bridge without the cost, check out Lynn Canyon. The bridge is smaller, and you don't get the Footbridges or Cliff Walk, but the overall experience is similar (and cheaper!)
Our final excursion before making the drive back to Seattle was a part of Vancouver called Gastown. A very historic part of Vancouver, Gastown boasts a collection of old, unique buildings, cobblestone roadways, vintage lamposts, and a famous Whistling Steam Clock. Built-in 1977, the Gastown Steam Clock still runs solely on steam and uses whistles to tell the time. You'll hear it go off every hour, and you will usually see a crowd surrounding it before it goes off.
Gastown is full of breweries and pubs and represents a great spot to get a bite to eat. We grabbed some food at the Steamworks brewery before officially packing the car and heading south.
Day 4 Summary
Capilano Suspension Bridge (Early before the crowds)
Gastown - See the Steam Clock
We packed a lot into our four day trip from Seattle to Whistler and Vancouver. Overall, our trip was one of the highlights of our summer, and I hope this post helped give you some ideas and tips for your next adventure to British Columbia. If you're from Seattle and you haven't made the trip to Whistler or Vancouver, make some room for it! You won't regret it, and it's all too easy to drive from Seattle to Whistler. Happy Adventuring!