Mountain biking and canoeing in Whistler

“Pedal and paddle” – mountain biking and canoeing in Whistler, British Columbia. When I saw this activity listed as one of the activities on the itinerary of my recent trip to British Columbia, I couldn’t possibly NOT go for it. Admittedly, the other options for our only morning in Whistler were quite enticing, too (a spa in the mountains, ziplining in Whistler, hiking to Nairn Falls or playing golf, just to mention a few), but having two sporty outdoor activities in one and guilt-tripping myself over lazing about in a spa when I’m in a gorgeous place like Whistler had me choose mountain biking and canoeing almost instantly.

Choosing our bikes for the pedal and paddle tour with Whistler Eco Tours

Choosing our bikes for the pedal and paddle tour with Whistler Eco Tours in Whistler, BC

Almost, because I was wondering what level of fitnesswould be expected; visualizing the mountains I was getting a bit anxious as to what mountain biking in Whistler actually meant…; it’s British Columbia, it’s proper mountains, after all (the Coast Mountain range, to be precise).

Mountain biking in Whistler

But, to my relief, Whistler Eco Tours were not expecting participants of Olympic calibre. I joined the group behind the Fairmont Chateau Hotel, where our tour guide was already waiting with all the equipment. One after the other, we were fitted with helmets, given our bikes and were briefed on how to adjust our saddles and use our brakes. Obvious, you would think, but apparently which brake controls the front and the back wheels is exactly opposite to how it works in Britain! Who knew! So as to avoid involuntary somersaultsoff the front of our bikes, we all tested our brakes until we felt comfortable, and then headed off through Whistler Village towards the park.

Whistler Village

Whistler Village. Photo by Tourism BC

Whistler golf course, British Columbia

Whistler golf course, British Columbia

What about bears?

Of course, most people in the group being from Britain, the topic of bears had to be discussed before we got anywhere near a bush or tree. Our guide told us that sometimes bears could be spotted from the cycle path. But since he took the lead and rode ahead, he would get eaten first warn us in good time so we could take a detour or head back in the opposite direction. That whole discussion made me imagine dirt tracks and wilderness to the extent of having to wrestle tree branchesand riding through the thick undergrowth, when the route we took was actually quite a comfortable ride through residential streets to start out with, then paved bicycle paths through the woods, the park and around the lake. Still relatively at the start of our bike ride we took a first stop at the golf course to gather everyone and take a scenic picture break, of which as many as we wanted were to follow. There is lots of golfing to be done in Whistler – it has four (!) championship golf courses.

Canoeing on Alta Lake

Whistler Alta Lake canoeing

Alta Lake canoeing, Whistler

How to paddle in a canoe

How to paddle in a canoe

Shortly after, we ditched our bikes for canoes. Again, brief and to the point instructions on lifevests, how to paddle, and how to steer. And for the lucky ones like me, how to relax in the middle seat and take pictures. Not that I needed any instructions on that. And out on the lake we went.

Whistler Eco Tours on Alta Lake

Starting the canoe trip on Alta Lake

Alta Lake in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Christina canoeing in Whistler

Out on the lake

Out on the lake

We took an epic tour of Alta Lake, paddling out in the sunshine, with big smiles on our faces. We paddled all across the lake, stopping here and there to take in the views of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains – you could even see the peak-to-peak gondola. The peak-to-peak basically links the summits of the two mountains, and it’s great for skiers and snowboardersas they can travel to the other mountain in just 11 minutes! I’d like to try that on my next trip, snowboarding there in the winter. But back to summer sports: we paddled into the nooks of the lake to watch some wildlife and had a heated debate on what lakeside properties were the most beautiful. It’s a tough choice!

Excellent insight into all things lakes and mountains from one of our guides!

Excellent insight into all things lakes and mountains from one of our guides!

Beautiful home at the lake, Whistler

My personal favourite. Just gorgeous, this house!

We paddled back to Wayside Park, where we had left our mountain bikes, and devoured the yummy muesli bars our guides distributed. Soon after we hopped back on our bikes and cycled the Valley Trail, heading to our next destination, Rainbow Park, which even has a sandy beach.

Biking around Alta Lake

Happy biking around Alta Lake on the Valley Trail

Signs of bears

Bears in Whistler, BC

Bears in Whistler

This sign at Rainbow Park is quite encouraging – if you are looking to find bears. Makes it seem like they are regulars. But alas, none to be seen sunbathing on the beach. So after another brief stop to take in the beautiful scenery, we hopped on our bikes to complete our tour and cycle back to the Fairmont. And just when we though that was as close as we would get to a bear, we saw this:

A clear sign of bears

Fresh scoop of bear poop!

This cycle path has “I was here” written all over it, in bear writing. Apparently this is what bear droppings look like. Especially surprising to the German in me; Germans refer to liquorice as “Bärendreck” (bear droppings). There’s your cultural insight for the day 🙂

Golf course next to the cycling path, Whistler

Cycling next to the golf course in Whistler

We completed our tour with a very scenic ride along the golf course with Whistler and Blackcomb mountains in the backdrop.

To be fair, this tour is definitely on the leisure side of things, not the full-on mountain bike fitness challenge, and thus also suitable for people with a lower level of fitness, or those that prefer having a recreational few hours of casual cycling with plenty of opportunity to take in the scenery and enjoy nature at a slow pace. There are no real mountains involved – there is a bit of downhill in a residential neighbourhood, but the track around the lake is flat and only before you reach the lake and at the end of the tour there are short bits where you need to go slightly uphill.

If you’re looking for a more adrenaline-fuelled mountain biking adventure, this won’t be your chosen tour, but you could go downhill mountain biking in Whistler Mountain Bike Park that ends right in Whistler Village, or choose one of the more challenging tours offered by Whistler Eco Tours.

Whistler Mountain Bike Park, BC

Whistler Mountain Bike Park

I’m almost sad that my next trip to Whistler will be in the wintertime. I am sure the snowboardingwill be great, but I have gotten to know Whistler as a summertime destination and really liked it.

Getting to Whistler

Virgin Atlantic fly to Vancouver from London four times a week. Whistler is approximately a 2.5-hour drive from Vancouver airport, along the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway.

Disclosure: This activity was part of my #WhyYVR competition win. My trip to Vancouver was courtesy of Virgin Atlantic and Tourism British Columbia. However, all opinions are my own.  Very special thanks to Tourism Whistler, Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Whistler Eco Tours for their hospitality.

Have you been to Whistler? What would you want to do there?

Christina Hegele

About the author: Christina Hegele runs Sandal Road, a blog on her favourite destinations. It just so happened that 95% turned out to be about New Zealand. Follow Christina and her blog on Twitter, like her blog on Facebook, and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Alternatively, subscribe to her email newsletter at the top right of this blog.

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  12 comments for “Mountain biking and canoeing in Whistler

  1. 2 July, 2012 at 17:56

    Would love to do some biking at Whistler, but I might be a little nervous seeing those bear droppings. Someday, I’d love to go skiing at Whistler, but it would be fun to go there any time of year. Gorgeous place.

    • Christina
      7 July, 2012 at 13:04

      It is really beautiful. I always thought of it more as a winter destination myself, but that is a mistake – wouldn’t want to miss out on the beautiful summer there. Yes, those bears make me nervous too, but it’s hard to escape them in western Canada. I guess if you go in a large enough group (at least four people, apparently), you’re very unlikely to end up as their lunch.

  2. 3 July, 2012 at 08:38

    Looks like a whole lot of fun! We LOVE Whistler but have always only gone there for skiing/snowboarding in the winter months. We definitely need to consider Whistler for a summer getaway soon!

  3. Christina
    7 July, 2012 at 13:11

    Hey Shirlene, don’t know where you’re based now but yes, it’s very much worth it going there even just for a long weekend in the summer. Or include it in a roadtrip – that sea to sky highway was stunning. I was so jetlagged and hadn’t slept in 36 hours but I still didn’t fall asleep on the bus going up the highway… too distracting 🙂

  4. 7 July, 2012 at 19:13

    I always see canoeing and kayaking options in big cities and I haven’t tried it yet. It seems like this would be one of the most scenic settings to go kayaking.

    • Christina
      8 July, 2012 at 01:39

      Canoeing in Whistler was a real treat. There was also an option of kayaking on False Creek, so next time you’re in Vancouver, you could try that and tell me how you liked it 🙂 Unfortunately couldn’t take part in that one.

  5. 8 July, 2012 at 07:32

    Heading out on a Canadian canoe in British Colombia is one of my life travel goals – it will happen. Looks like you had a load of fun in Whistler 🙂

    • Christina
      8 July, 2012 at 16:17

      Tons of fun, thanks Natasha. Considering your travel extravaganzas, I have no doubt you’ll make the Canadian canoeing happen!

  6. 10 July, 2012 at 16:23

    Beautiful area, I’ve never been to Whistler, but would love to go sometime. Having a little bit of a cold-snow-phobia, I think I would enjoy the summer here best!

    • Christina
      10 July, 2012 at 22:22

      Mark, I know you’re all about warm climate and great food, both of which you can find in Whistler in the summertime. I don’t think you’re allowed to eat the bear though. Plenty of other tasty things tho 🙂

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