One at a time the peaks surrounding us begin to glow, first Wedge Mountain then Parkhurst and Rethel, when at last, the sun peers over Wert Mountain and the overhead Armchair Glacier. Soon the entire Wedgemount basin is basking in the sun, the morning light show complete. Our bodies warm, the lake glistening and the mountains glowing, we finish with sitting contently in our sleeping bags, silently sipping coffee. It’s time for adventure once again.
Our trip to Wedgemount Lake (locals often call it Wedge or Wedgemount for short) started the previous afternoon. With long and late June days in our favour, we opted for a later start than normal in hopes of timing dinner with sunset. Our crew of seasoned hikers set a quick pace, thanks to our practiced and agile footwork, through the various terrain that gives the Wedgemount Lake hiking trail its grueling reputation.
The last push up Wedge is a mental and physical battle but one that is met with the sweetest reward. The final steep and loose scramble behind us, we weaved through the rolling bench section as the ravishing Wedgemount Glacier appeared. Above its alluring ice, the peak of Wedge Mountain was highlighted with alpenglow. We spotted the hut while the lake revealed itself, still holding onto winter, pieces of broken ice floated across the surface. It was a welcome sight.
We’d set up camp by the fading light of dusk and were eating dinner by the glow of our headlamps as I thought to myself, “Ah, I’ll sleep well tonight with a tired body, surrounded by nature’s beauty”. The crisp air lulled me to sleep quickly.
Know Before You Go
Yes, it’s worth the hype, but let’s be real, Wedge is a relentlessly steep hike and suited for experienced hikers only. Now that that’s out of the way, know that it is seriously stunning. Ice crashing into the glacial blue lake, floating icebergs and alpine peaks staring down at you in all directions, the Wedgemount basin is a mountain-lovers paradise. But one you must prepare for, here’s how:
Wedgemount Lake Access
To get to the trailhead, head north of Whistler on Highway 99. After you pass the heliport on the left-hand side of the road you’ll see a brown BC Parks sign for Wedgemount on the right. Turn right here and go across the bridge. The road will quickly come to a T after the bridge, turn left. Stay on this main road, ignore tempting intersections. You will arrive in a large gravel parking lot with an information sign, park here and walk along the road to the new trailhead marked with flagging tape.
Please note that the road off the highway is not paved and it is bumpy. It can be accessed by car with careful driving, but an AWD vehicle is much more appropriate.
Wedgemount Lake Hiking Trail Info
One way, this hike is 7 kilometres with an expected 4 – 6-hour time allotment, due to its intense vertical gain of 1200 metres. Round trip, this hike is 14 kilometres and is an all-day hike. With that said, make sure you’re prepared to be outside all day – extra layers, lots of water and snacks are a must. The technicality of this hike is rated as “difficult” so be prepared physically and with the appropriate gear before attempting this hike.
Hiking to Wedgemount Lake
Upon embarking on the Wedgemount Lake trail you’ll enjoy a few evenly spaced switchbacks before getting into the depths of the trail. Roots and rocks provide steps for the Stairmaster section of the hike. Around halfway you’ll be greeted with welcome flat(ish) reliefs and just beyond halfway, you’ll find the beautiful boulder field, it’s a perfect water and snack spot.
The next push gets visually entertaining as you’re no longer completely submerged in the steep, treed canopy. Look up when you hear the roar of the Watemount Falls to see glimpses of this powerful 300-meter waterfall. Nearing the final section, you’ll make your way through winter avalanche paths that usually show evidence of a lively season. The bent and cracked trees are a humbling reminder of Mother Nature’s power, and proof that hiking this trail while the slopes are still coated in snow puts you in avalanche danger. Hiking Wedge in spring and early summer should only be attempted with the proper gear and education.
A steep drainage scramble is the last hurdle before reaching the big reward. Careful footing in the steep, and sometimes slippery, drainage will take you to where the trail crests and reveals multiple glaciers, plus the sought after Wedgemount Lake. Regardless of whether the current alpine conditions are foggy or clear, you’ll be impressed by the sight of the lake. For the full experience, take in the views from the lakeside rocks before utilizing the outhouse and venturing on to the small lake that meets the toe of the glacier (slightly beyond Wedgemount Lake), before returning down the trail or pitching a tent for the evening.
Camping At Wedgemount Lake
Camping must be reserved before 5 PM daily on the BC Parks website. There are 20 camping spots around the lake, some are wooden platforms and others are levelled gravel spots. A few tent pads are easily spottable next to the hut and the rest are closer to the north shore of the lake. All spots, including the small hut, operate on a first-come, first-served basis, but permits are required for all overnight stays. There is a new food hanging tree near the hut and an outhouse, please utilize both of these amenities to protect the park for future use.
Tips for Visiting the Wedgemount Area
- Bring plenty of water. It’s a steep and long one, you’ll thank yourself (eventually) for packing the extra water weight. And you’ll seriously love yourself (or your friends will) for bringing extra energy-boosting snacks.
- Pack it out. There’s no place for trash or recyclables on the trail, at the trailhead or at the lake, so please be responsible for your own waste.
- If you’re leaving a vehicle in the trailhead parking lot, make sure you lock any wildlife attractants (defined by the Whistler bylaw as food, seed, oil, antifreeze and more) securely inside the vehicle
- Hiking Wedgemont is no joke, it’s a large hiking objective. Please check-in with you and your group’s mental and physical state before starting out, and at various times during the hike. Welcome a premature turn around if necessary, the alternative of pushing through could be hazardous.
- Be prepared for the backcountry and tell someone (not in your group) where you are going and when you plan on returning. Always carry a first aid kit and supplies to deal with blisters too! See this checklist for more essential items.
- Carry bear spray and remember that domestic animals are not welcome in Garibaldi Provincial Park
- Sunrise is the most stunning looking forward at the lake as the sun spills over Mount Wert. Breathtaking sunsets seem to last forever as Rainbow Mountain glows across the valley.
- Those whistles you might hear aren’t from other hikers, keep your eyes open for hoary marmots lounging on rocks in the sun
- There are many scrambling objectives accessible from the lake. If scrambling makes your heart sing, pick up a copy of Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia at Escape Route Whistler.
Equally notorious for its beauty and the effort required, Wedgemount Lake is a Whistler classic hike for a reason. Its stunning beauty will be etched into your mind long after you check this stunning location off your hiking bucket list.
Source: The Whistler Insider