Green Lake is one of the five easily accessible lakes around Whistler. It’s named after its vivid, fabulous turquoise hues, and it’s right by the Sea to Sky Highway, so it’s impossible not to notice. The highway runs along the lake, so you get pretty views even from the road, but it makes for a rewarding stop, as well. There are great things to do at Green Lake – that’s what the rest of this post is about, so keep on reading!
More hiking trails and sights in the area:
Why is Green Lake so green? Is it so all year?
Unlike the alpine lakes at high elevations, Green Lake at 633 meters is accessible (and easily so) all year, though you can’t see its color when it’s frozen over (roughly from November to May). It’s fed by Fitzsimmons Creek and The River of Golden Dreams (this is a real name, yes), and you can probably tell by its color that it’s a glacial lake.
The River of Golden Dreams is a slow river coming from Alta Lake. Fitzsimmons Creek on the other hand is fast and powerful, coming from Fitzsimmons Glacier. So Fitzsimmons Creek carries rock flour to the lake from the glacier, and the tiny particles remain suspended in the water, reflecting light and causing those dazzling blue colors.
Best things to do at Green Lake in Whistler
Stop at the lakeside pullout along the Sea to Sky Highway
Green Lake appears along the road on your right as you drive past the village of Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway. There’s a paved pull-out viewpoint where you can enjoy the view of the lake, with Wedge Mountain, Blackcomb Mountain and Whistler Mountain in the background.
Walk on the Valley Trail along the shore of Green Lake
The Valley Trail is one of the coolest outdoor attractions in Whistler all year. It’s a car-free, paved trail that connects Whistler’s neighborhoods, lakes and viewpoints, and you can choose to walk, bike, run, skate or rollerblade the 46 km network of trails. Certain sections of it are maintained for walking, cross country skiing and fat biking in the winter months. And our favorite section of the Valley Trail is the piece that runs along the southern shore of Green Lake!
It’s only 1.3 km long, and the Valley Trail leaves Green Lake after the seaplane port, heading towards Lost Lake. However, you can continue walking to the sandy beach where Fitzsimmons Creek flows into Green Lake. (Don’t let the word “beach” misguide you though, it’s a glacial lake, hence very cold! Beach is not equal to a swimming beach, but it’s nice to walk there.) You can see the walking route we recommend on this map. This is a walk we’ve done and loved in every season, and we can’t decide which is the best.
Summer brings the brilliant turquoise hues of Green Lake. Fall comes with frosty days and a decorative blanket of snow on the surrounding mountain peaks. In winter the lake is frozen and covered by snow, and it doesn’t fully thaw until mid-spring or late spring. The lakeshore is walkable in any season, you share it with bikers in summer and cross country skiers in winter.
Even though you can’t see the color of the lake in the cold months, early sunsets bring magical colors instead:
You need to wait until late for summer sunsets though. Sunset is around 9:30 in July.
To access this walking route directly, you can park in the small parking lot at Golden Bear Place. It has room for about 10-15 cars, but we’ve never found it too busy.
Arrive by seaplane
There’s a small seaplane harbor on Green Lake, and seaplanes land there regularly in the summer months. If you want to take a unique route to Whistler, book a seaplane ride from Vancouver. Longer tours give you time to look around the lake or even go for a hike (there are many, as you might have already guessed).
Launch your canoe from Green Lake Park
One of the small Whistler neighborhoods lies on the shore of Green Lake near the highway. Cute little houses line the lakeshore, and a small park is tucked between them: Green Lake Park. It’s a waterfront park, with boat access to Green Lake, but it’s easy to miss if you’re not actively looking for it.
Green Lake Park doesn’t have much: a washroom building, a tiny forest with picnic tables and the rocky lakeshore with the views. The views – they are the best! If you bring a canoe, you can paddle around Green Lake from here.
Parking is limited, but there’s room for a few cars just off Lakeshore Drive.
Explore the trail to Parkhurst Ghost Town
Parkhurst Ghost Town is directly across Green Lake Park. It was an old logging town between the 1920s and 1950s (before Whistler existed), then it was abandoned. It’s a popular, quirky attraction these days. You can access it either from the water or on several hiking trails, which can get confusing without a map. But the good news is that any of these trails are great any time of the year. We found it especially magical in winter, with the lake, the collapsed houses and abandoned, wrecked trucks under a pretty white blanket of snow.
How to access Parkhurst Ghost Town from the water?
Just look for the small pier right across Green Lake Park, dock your canoe and walk around to explore the abandoned structures.
How to access Parkhurst Ghost Town on hiking trails?
There are quite a few trails around Parkhurst, and it can be confusing, because you rarely see trail signs, and some trails overlap. On the bright side: you’ll likely end up in Parkhurst. 🙂 But you want to do so on the most scenic trail.
So what are the choices? The Parkhurst Ghost Town Trail (also called Parkhurst Ridge Trail) has pretty good views, and the Parkhurst Loop at the end is the most special. The Green Lake Loop has some nice sections, and part of the Sea to Sky Trail also takes you there, but it doesn’t offer much scenery (uhm… it’s a gravel road mostly, with power lines above you; not exactly a nice hike). The old road once ran along the southern lakeshore, this is how Parkhurst could have been accessed, but these days the road was turned into a trail.
We did the Parkhurst Ghost Town Trail, and we did it in winter, with microspikes. It’s a well-beaten track, because it’s one of the easiest winter hiking trails in Whistler, and it was quite obvious to follow for the same reason. (Following others’ footsteps sometimes works. Not always though.)
- Trailhead: bridge over Green River, just off the Sea to Sky Highway (Wedgemount Lake turnoff)
- Parking: before or after the bridge leading to Riverside Drive (you probably won’t be able to cross the bridge in winter)
- Length: 3.7 km one-way
- Difficulty: easy
- See the trail map here!
Can you swim in Green Lake in the summer?
I mean, it’s not forbidden, but I doubt you really want it. It’s a large lake, and it’s fed by a glacier. The result: Green Lake doesn’t warm up much in the summer. If you want to swim, visit any of the other Whistler lakes which are much more suitable as swimming lakes: Lost Lake, Alta Lake, Alpha Lake and Nita Lake. Alta Lake is known to be the warmest.
Can you walk around Green Lake?
There’s no loop trail around Green Lake. There’s tiny Green Lake Park, and there’s a short section of the Valley Trail that runs on the lakeshore – they both offer stunning views, but they are not hikes, not even long walks.
There’s Green Lake Loop which might sound like a loop around the lake, but it’s not. It’s a loop south of the lake, and it offers some lake views, but it’s not a lakeshore trail. Part of the Parkhurst Ghost Town Trail also has views of Green Lake and access to the shore.
But there’s no hiking trail all around Green Lake. You can paddle around it. 🙂
What to wear hiking in the summer?
Hiking pants, preferably zip-off pants: mornings and evenings are chilly, so you’ll be happy to wear long sleeve pants, but it’s very practical if you can simply zip the sleeves off in the hottest part of the day, or when hiking uphill. Columbia offers affordable, practical and durable models both for women and men.
Waterproof hiking boots: appropriate footwear is very important to have an enjoyable and safe hike. We recommend wearing hiking boots that provide good traction. Waterproofness is also important, because weather in BC is quite rainy for most of the year, and melting snow makes lots of trails muddy well into the summer. Dry feet are key for a happy hike. This Columbia Newton Ridge Plus is a great option for women, and the Newton Ridge Plus II for men.
Long sleeve hiking top: you can wear a lightweight, long sleeve top with sun protection as a standalone wear on high mountain trails (it never gets too hot up there, but the sun will be harsh on your skin on clear days), or you can use it as an additional layer when it gets chilly in the morning or evening at lower elevations. This BALEAF top for women offers UPF 50+ protection, and NAVISKIN has a long sleeve T-shirt with UPF 50+ protection for men.
Hiking socks: merino wool blends are moisture-wicking and breathable, they keep your feet cozy either when temperatures are warm or cold.
Waterproof rain jacket: a lightweight, easily packable rain jacket should always be in your backpack, just in case. You don’t want to get caught unprepared in a sudden storm. Columbia jackets are affordable and effective for the average hiker, here you find them for women and for men.