The Ancient Cedars Trail is a 5-kilometer hike through one of the oldest and most spectacular stands of forest in the Whistler area. This is a place where perfect growing conditions have allowed some of the oldest trees to endure for over 1,000 years, spared from fire and disease against all odds, and then just barely avoiding destruction by logging before being designated as a protected area by the provincial government.
Like other parts of British Columbia, the Sea-To-Sky area has a long history of forestry. Prior to the explosion of tourism in the 1980s, forestry was virtually the only industry in the sparsely populated region. While outdoor recreation in the area has benefitted greatly from the extensive access to the publicly owned forests of B.C. via forest service roads, unfortunately much of the accessible forests in the region have been logged at one point or another, and the effects of forestry are noticeable even decades later.
The Ancient Cedar Trailhead is accessed via the Cougar Mountain forest service road, about 4.5 kilometers past the base camp for The Adventure Group tour company. The road is bumpy and mostly flat, so while high-clearance is recommended, four-wheel drive is not necessary. There is a small parking area and a toilet, and a noticeable sign and map at the trailhead. You can’t miss it. From here the trail climbs steadily but gradually for about 2 kilometers up to a lookout point with a nice view to the west over Showh Lake. Just past the lookout point the trail crosses a small bridge over a creek and enters the Ancient Cedars. Interpretive signs along the sides of the trail will answer any questions you might have about the history or ecology of the forest as you meander through the giant western red cedar and douglas fir. After about 1 kilometer the trail loops back on itself and a left turn leads back toward the parking lot.
The entire loop should take between two and three hours including ample time to appreciate the forest. If this leaves you wanting more, the 4 to 5 kilometer Showh Lakes Loop connects with the Ancient Cedars Loop for an extended hike. While not nearly as monstrous or impressive as the redwoods of Northern California, these are the biggest and oldest trees you’ll find anywhere around Whistler, and they are definitely worth the hike.