Knowledge of Whistler’s Train Wreck is spread almost exclusively through word-of-mouth, so when Mom and I spent a couple of nights in Whistler, it was only at the urging of one of her friends that we ended up on this little adventure.
There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on the story of this place; all anyone knows is sometime in the 50s, a train carrying lumber derailed and its box-cars were dispersed throughout the forest. No one bothered to clean up the mess. Since then, the box-cars have become art canvasses and mountain bike ramps, and from the looks of it, they’ve also played host to some pretty great parties.
The train wreck isn’t marked on any official visitors maps, so finding it is a bit of a challenge. The easiest way isn’t legal, but involves following the train tracks about 8km south of Whistler Village. This is obviously a bit dangerous, and it means missing out on some amazing viewpoints throughout the trail.
Mom and I opted for the trail, as described by Whistler Hiatus. The instructions were next to impossible to follow; we ran into our first issue finding the trail head from Function Junction. What’s not mentioned in the instructions is that you need to cross the highway in order to find Flank Trail.
From there, it doesn’t get any clearer. But that’s part of the fun. At some points of the train, the river is so loud you probably wouldn’t know if a train was going by. When the river got especially loud, we wandered off the trail and found ourselves looking at a spectacular waterfall. The river changes all the way along the trail, and any chance you get to sneak over and look down at the water, you’ll get a different, but equally-spectacular view.
Continuing along the trail, you end up zigzagging up and down from the train track. At a certain point, the trail seemed to disappear, so we continued along the train track. We met a few people on their way back who were following the track home. They told us we were close, and that there were arrows painted on the track in bright blue to indicate where to cut back into the forest to find the box-cars.
From here, we climbed down the slope leading back into the forest, and set off towards the train wreck. The first indication was that there was a lot more paint and graffiti in this part of the forest, all over different trees and rocks.
There are supposedly eight box-cars in total, although we only found seven. They were scattered all over the forest absolutely covered in graffiti, surrounded by DIY bike ramps and remnants of the clearing’s last party.
You can climb inside some of them, and the insides don’t disappoint; some of the graffiti is even more elaborate from the inside as long as you have a flashlight to light it up.
My favourite were a few box cars pushed up over the side of a cliff. One of the cars sits halfway off the cliff but has managed to stay put over the past fifty years.
There’s a special feel about this place – something between eery and beautiful. It’s the site of a massive train crash, but it’s turned into something pretty spectacular, and definitely worth the hike.