The Cheakamus River is a tributary of the Squamish River beginning on the west slopes of Outlier Peak in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
The portion of the river that can be accessed easily from Whistler has a network of dual-use hiking and biking trails running along either side of its banks – making it the perfect place for a sunny afternoon wander.
To get there: drive, bike or take the bus (#1 & #2 south) from Whistler village on Highway 99 for around 8km. Turn left at the Function Junction/Cheakamus crossing. Follow Cheakamus Lake Road a short way until the road bends to the right to cross a bridge. Before the bridge turn left onto the fire service road. At the fork take the left road. You can park at the pull-in on the right and you’ll see Farside Trail running next to you on the right in the trees.
Local knowledge: If the bus turns right into Function Junction, don’t panic. Press the bell and get off at the first stop and walk 1 minute back across the highway.
When you enter the fire service road you’ll come across this fork in the road. Left will take you to the Farside Trail and Cheakamus Lake trail, and right will take you to Riverside Trail and Loggers Lake trail.
Local knowledge: Farside Trail and Riverside Trail are collectively known to locals as the “Riverside Loop” because they join up via a suspension bridge about 2 km up river. Most people start on Riverside Trail, cross the suspension bridge and come back on Farside Trail to this point (above). In total the 4.5km loop takes around 2 hours, depending your pace.
Both Farside and Riverside Trails are wide graded, gravel paths. There are some natural features such as roots and rocks on the trail, as well as steep inclines on Riverside Trail, making it perfect for beginner and intermediate mountain biking.
Both trails are well signposted and will show you directions to other trails and routes for you to explore.
You don’t have to walk along the trail for long before you hear the roar of the glacial-fed river, thundering down from the mountains above.
This part of the river is also home to the annual Great Cheakamus River Kayaking Race at Go Festival. Every May on Victoria Day weekend hundreds of people line the banks of the river to watch the Down River Race and the knock-out head-to-head King of the River.
Riverside and Farside Trails are linked by this suspension bridge, creating a loop that will finish back where you started. All the trails in this area are dog friendly, unlike the Cheakamus Lake trail. This is because these trails are just outside the Garibaldi Provincial Park boundary.
The view looking up-river from the suspension bridge into Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Every time we come here we see something new, like these holes in this tree. They were created by the pileated woodpecker while hunting for its favourite meal, carpenter ants. The largest rectangular holes are likely to be the woodpecker’s nest holes. Once the woodpecker has abandoned its nest holes they become shelter for many species including swifts, owls, bats, and pine martens.
On its journey the river passes through Cheakamus Lake, before exiting and flowing northwest until it turns south and enters Daisy Lake. Daisy Lake can be seen from the Brandywine Falls lookout just off Highway 99.
As you exit Riverside Trail you will walk across this narrow bridge, back towards the FSR where you started. It doesn’t take long for something to be turned into a work of art in Whistler – in this case, “yarn bombing” has given the bridge a flash of colour.
If you’re not quite ready to give up yet, and fancy a taking in a little more, you can also get to the Interpretive Forest trail by turning back up the FSR towards Farside Trail, where you started. On the left you’ll see the entrance to the short Interpretive forest trail.
Go get lost in nature all over again. Have fun!