A few years back we spent a week in Whistler in May. We had planned lots of hiking and time outside and were able to get in a couple of hikes that worked for our young family. Our little guy was nearly 4 at the time and a pretty good little “walker of the woods” (he didn’t like hiking, but walking was ok). Whistler has loads of hiking varying in distance and difficulty and lucky for us one of our favorite hikes wasn’t too far from the village.
Nairn Falls Provincial Park is a 20-minute drive north from Whistler Village (or 32km). The hike will be on the right hand side of the road as you head north and is sign posted as Nairn Falls Provincial Park. Start your hike at the right hand side of the parking area. The hike has very little elevation gain and fun rocky areas to climb on. The trail is just under 2 miles (3.5km) total and so little wanders will do great with it.
When we hike we like to have a little pay off for our effort. Maybe it is an incredible view. Maybe it is a massive train wreck we can explore. Maybe it is a beautiful waterfall. This hike gave us a pay off and the waterfall wasn’t huge at 180ft (60m) high but amazing, powerful and beautiful!
When you come to the large rocky area, walk up to the top where there is a platform. This is your first viewpoint of Nairn Falls where you can see the upper section (the upper section is pictured on the left). Between the falls and where the Green River flows, there appears to be a rocky ledge blocking the flow of water. Years of erosion have created water flows underneath this “bridge” which are not visible.
After that walk down the rocky area towards the chain-link fence below and follow this fence to the left. There is an opening that you can continue down, eventually getting to the lowest accessible point. We opted to stay along the fence with our little guy. The river is very fast and very cold and it felt safer. Here you can see the lower falls tumbling down into the canyon.
Geographically this area is an important one for several reasons. Nairn Falls is a dramatic example of the erosive power of water where you can look for “potholes” created in the rocks as the water from the Green River spins trapped particles in ever-deepening circles. 50 million years ago this area was actually part of the shoreline. Due to the crust pushing up and smashing the volcanos against the shore line, along with other upheavals over times have created the mountain range we see and love today. The area is home to several important species to British Columbia including the rubber boa (one of the most cold-tolerant snake species that grows to roughly 18″ or 45cm long) and a protected mixed forest of western hemlock, western red cedar and coastal Douglas-fir. Also growing here is the western flowering pacific dogwood – the floral emblem for BC and a protected species. You often will see small mammals and birds such as squirrel, raccoon, gray jay, and raven.
Culturally and historically this trail is equally important as it has long been a spiritual site for the Lil’wat Nation, in fact part of this trail is the traditional route used by the Lil’wat Nation to access the falls and Mount Currie.
There is also organized camping in the area which opens for the season from 11 May- 30 Sept. It is closed for the winter months, but is in a fantastic location for activities in the area.
All in all, this hike will take 1-2 hours total depending on how fast your group is moving. We highly recommend it!