Don’t forget to visit our Whistler hiking page for our guided hikes.
The unmistakable scent of fall is in the air here in Whistler. Leaves are falling, grassy fields turn white with morning frost and bears are coming out to top up their bellies. Winter may be on its way, but there’s still plenty of outdoor adventure to be had between now and when the snow flies. One activity that’s by far the most accessible to the most people is fall hiking. July and August are the months when Canadians are the most likely to get outside, and while summer may get all the glitz and glamour, the best season for hiking is actually during September and early October. Here’s 5 reasons why.
1. Less crowds
Hiking is about getting outside, but also about gaining some solitude with just you, your friend or loved one(s) and a trail under your feet. But popular hiking spots rarely work out that way, especially during the peak months of July and August. For example, a Saturday or Sunday morning on the Squamish Chief or Grouse Grind trails will usually have lots of people in front of you slowing you down and lots of people behind wanting you to hurry up. View points can get busy with folks taking endless Instagram selfies. As great as it is to see lots of people embracing the outdoors, it can kill some of the romance that hikers seek. Fall hiking sees significantly less people, even on the sunny days.
2. Cooler Temperatures
While the chill of the early morning and late afternoon may discourage some, the daytime temperature on sunny day in autumn (around 15-20 degrees C) is perfect for a long hike, sans sweat! It’s still a good idea to bring warmer clothing for when taking breaks and stopping for lunch and having a packable waterproof jacket in the bottom of the backpack in case of rain. It may not be lake-dipping weather, but fall hiking is much more comfortable than sweating it out during the summer. Those chilly morning frosts also help in forcing pesky insects into hiding or migrating until the spring. On the mountains around Whistler you may even get the chance to walk on some early season snow.
3. More Wildlife
Animals can sense the change in seasons much better than we can, so expect to see more wildlife out foraging for food on or near trails during the fall hiking months. In Whistler and the Sea to Sky Corridor, there are common sightings of black bears, white-tailed deer, coyotes, beavers and marmots. Though spotted rarely, arguably the most dangerous trailside creature is the cougar. For advice on staying safe around wildlife, check out this page on Human-Wildlife Conflict from the BC Government.
When fall hiking in Whistler and the Sea to Sky, keep your eyes peeled to the sky as well as there are also migrating flocks of Canada Geese and Common Loon. If travelling off the beaten path, be sure to check if you are hiking through seasonal hunting zones. If you choose to share your trail with hunters, wear bright clothing (best colours are red or orange) and make sure to make noise or conversation as you walk. For more tips on sharing trails with hunters check out this great post by the Washington Trails Association.
4. Fall Hiking Photos
The Whistler and Sea to Sky area has very few trees compared to that of the Prairies and Eastern Canada, so autumn colours are not nearly as prominent during the fall months. However, our mountains still have some swathes of deciduous trees shedding their colourful leaves, particularly around decommissioned logging roads where species of red alder tend to thrive. With the Sun dipping lower in the sky every day, there are more and more chances to capture photos with “golden light” around sunrise and sunset. Just be sure to be carrying a headlamp and warm clothing if staying out in the alpine after dark.
5. Get fit for winter
For many in Whistler and the Sea to Sky, the most exciting part about the fall is the anticipation of winter. With less than two months until Whistler Blackcomb opens its snowy flood gates, plenty of skiers and snowboarders are trying to get their legs ready. You could spend a few more hours a week at the gym, but save those sessions for the rainy days. There’s plenty of clear skies in the current 14-day forecast, so take advantage of exercising outside in the fresh air, while you can. If you want to accelerate your training, sub some of the shorter hikes for a trail run instead.
It’s easy to put off hiking activities until summer comes around again, but why miss out when the best season is right now?
Interested in checking out some of the Sea to Sky’s best hikes and scrambles? Check out our guided adventures here.