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The Whipsaw Trail

Updated: Aug 8, 2021

The Whipsaw is one of BC's most iconic off road trails, and for good reason. With its alpine views, crystal clear lakes, and numerous trail obstacles, the Whipsaw is an off roader's paradise.

Route Overview

Adventure Rating: Epic

Trip Length: 63 miles, 2-3 days

Season: June - Early October, but always check on trail conditions near the start or end of the season (snow). To avoid mosquitoes, August and September are the best months. Locals have been known to take on the trail during the winter months, but only experienced winter overlanders should attempt this (expect a lot of snow).

Technical Rating: Blue. This trail is rated as moderately technical but has numerous go arounds and options for the various obstacles along the track.

Typical Terrain: Graded forest service roads, lots of bumps and slow going jeep tracks, loose and steep and rocky jeep tracks, water crossings and mud pits.

Recommended Vehicle: High clearance 4x4 (2" lift) with all terrain tires.

Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s are not recommended.

Alternative Routes: n/a

Adventure Badge: Get your Whipsaw Trail adventure badge at our online store.






 


Route Details


The iconic Whipsaw Trail has a bit of everything, which is why it's become a favorite among off road enthusiasts, hard-core wheelers, and overlanders alike. Set in southern British Columbia, the Whipsaw is roughly a 4-5 hour drive from both Vancouver and Seattle, and in 2007, it was the first Canadian trail to be listed on BF Goodrich's Outstanding Trails program, and for good reason. Set in the lush Coastal Mountains of British Columbia, the track combines the perfect combination of alpine views, crystal clear mountain lakes, water crossings-- paired with the numerous trail obstacles along the route, visitors are all but guaranteed a memorable experience. The route can be done in either direction, but locals say if you want to challenge yourself, then travel in clockwise manner starting in the south and ending near Coalmont. It should also be noted that the vast majority of obstacles feature go arounds, and in many cases, there are more than two options, which may range from easy to extreme. At times, due to the numerous trail braids and options, it can be difficult to follow the "main route", and using a GPS added app/hardware is recommended to stay the course. Every winter small groups of hard-core locals tackle the trail in the deep snow (and only experienced winter off roaders should attempt this), but most will take on the Whipsaw during the warmer summer months once the snow has receded. The later summer months are recommended, as the mosquitoes can be suffocating in the first half of summer. With the increased snow melt and run off, the earlier summer months tend to see high prevalences of mud bogs and pits.


The Hudson Bay Company was first European based industrial entity to establish trails in the region, and the Whipsaw incorporates some of these trails and does pass the HBC Heritage Trail (DP8) about mid-way through the trail. And while the Hudson Bay Company had forged trails for the sake of the fur trade, like many places in the mountain west, precious minerals and metals were discovered and numerous mines were setup to exploit the riches hidden deep within the mountains and their various waterways. Adding another layer of intrigue to the Whipsaw are a number of old homesteads, mining operations and ghost towns that dot the route. And while most of these mining operations ceased decades ago, there are still a number of large industrial mines in the vicinity that continue to operate to this day, including the massive Copper Mountain strip mine on the east side of Highway 3. Most traveling the Whipsaw will complete the entire trail in 2-3 days. You might ask why it would take 3 days to travel just over 60 miles. Even without the dozens of obstacles along the route, the alpine vistas alone are enough to slow the rate of travel. Also consider, that once you leave the graded forest service roads at the beginning of the track, the trail is seldom level, with your tires constantly undulating slowly over the constantly evolving terrain below you. And then there are the many obstacles-- it's not uncommon to try and push the limits of your own driving skills as well as your vehicle. You see, the Whipsaw is an off roaders playground, and people take full advantage of that, and one pass through an obstacle may not be enough. Some of the better known obstacles along the route include Memorial Rock (DP12), Falcon Hill (DP9), and the numerous water crossings and mud pits that can be round along the track. And while the Whipsaw can be hard on vehicles, those that prefer to take it slow and choose the easy go arounds, shouldn't have much to worry about. But if you want to push your limits, the Whipsaw definitely has you covered! Just remember to tread lightly and always stay on developed roads and trails. One could easily spend 3+ days on the Whipsaw especially if you find yourself sessioning its various obstacles for hours on end, but most will complete the trail in 2 days. Regardless of the direction traveled, Wells Lake (DP10) is the unofficial half-way marker for the route, and a popular place to camp given the picturesque alpine lake setting. Those that wish to complement their off road travels with on-foot travel, will be happy to find out there are numerous hiking trails (like the HBC Heritage trail) that can be easily accessed from the Whipsaw. Most of the hiking trails are along the western side of the route and head west towards the Tulameen River. The best views along the route can be had along the higher elevation sections, especially at locations like Skaist Mountain (DP15), Granite Mountain (DP13), and Lodestone Mountains (DP7).


Camping Recommendations

Some of our favorite places to camp along the Whipsaw (and there are many!), include KVR Camp, Wells Lake, Iron Mountain and Skaist Mountain. Dispersed camping is also permitted along the trail.

Discovery Points

  • DP1 - Kettle Valley Rail Trail

  • DP2 - Tulameen River Bridge

  • DP3 - Coalmont

  • DP4 - Granite Creek Ghost town

  • DP5 - Blakeburn

  • DP6 - Lodestone Lake

  • DP7 - Lodestone Mountain

  • DP8 - HBC Heritage Trail

  • DP9 - Falcon Hill (Obstacle)

  • DP10 - Wells Lake

  • DP11 - Wells Lake Shelter

  • DP12 - Memorial Rock (optional obstacle)

  • DP13 - Granite Mountain

  • DP14 - Dick Holdings Cabin

  • DP15 - Skaist Mountain

  • DP16 - Corral Creek Barn & Cabins

 

Maps + Navigation


>> Always check with local land managers for road closures and conditions.


Recommended Maps

  • Google Maps

  • Gaia GPS (Gaia base layer)

Download GPX & KMZ files


 

Resources


Land Managers

 

Gallery



Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on Overlandtrailguides.com, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by Overland Trail Guides, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.



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