The Whistler River of Golden Dreams is a 5 kilometre river that flows from Alta Lake to Green Lake. It is one of Whistler’s must do summer activities. The twisting river takes at least a couple of hours to complete and can be done in a canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard. Around every bend stunning mountain views make this one of the most beautiful spots in Whistler. Some also attempt to float down the River of Golden Dream, but the current does make it a bit tricky as branches overhang the river most of the way. Taking a tour is a popular way to traverse the river.
I first saw people portaging their boats on the bike paths along the river. While riding my bike, I knew I wanted to add this to my BC bucketlist!
River of Golden Dreams Whistler
Ecotravel experiences are becoming more and more popular as travelers are looking to travel deeper and to ensure their visit is sustainable. Paddling down the river offers just that! While you may encounter remnants of a Beaver damn or two, you also get to see a salmon ladder, local flora and fauna along the river and may encounter wildlife as well!
While our wildlife viewing were limited to ducks and birds, bears and toehr critters are sometimes near the river as well! Keep your eyes peeled!
Canoe, Kayak or SUP?
Choosing whether to canoe, kayak or SUP is sometimes easy and sometimes hard. It depends on who you have with you! If you want the most “Canadiana” experience, go for the canoe. With that being said, the canoe’s are probably the hardest things to manoever on the tight corners.
If you are solo, a kayak or SUP is perfect. A pair can also enjoy the kayak.
Avoid taking a stand up paddleboard if you are a beginner. Stick to one of the lakes instead!
Why Take a Tour on the River of Golden Dreams?
While to many, it may seem silly to take a tour, for my family it was the perfect August activity. With two young kids, I cannot exactly expect them to do a lot of legwork paddling wise. The river current is quite technical and without steering, you will constantly end up in the branches on either side of the river.
But that was not the only reason we chose to take a tour. Using Whistler Eco Tours, they picked us up at our Whistler Hotel, they provided life jackets, the canoes (you can also use kayaks), and a dry bag, and also picked us up at the end and brought us back to our hotel.
A hassle free day was exactly what I was looking for and that was what we got! Our guide, Chris, taught us how to steer the canoe, and while I have paddled many times before, there was still a lot to learn. The river constantly twists and turns and most of the steering involved being a rudder at the back with strokes that pulled the backend of the canoe.
If you are interested in a tour, contact Whistler Eco Tours on their website here.
How to get to the River of Golden Dreams
If you have your own boat, and a car, getting to the River is easy. Park at any of the parks on Alta Lake and paddle across the lake towards the reeds! The issue with the river is that it is one way only. You will need someone to pick you up at the other end. The boats need to be pulled out before Green Lake. Arrange your pickup from the Meadowtown Sports Centre parking lot!
Things to Pack for the River of Golden Dreams
There are a few things that you are going to want to have with you on the river.
- dry bag to keep your stuff dry. If you take a tour with Whistler Eco Tours, they will provide you with one
- an extra layer of clothing
- life jacket (again if you are on a tour, this will be provided)
If the River of Golden Dreams is your kind of activity, make sure you also read this post on more things to do in Whistler in the summer.
More Whistler Travel Resources for 2023
If you are still in the planning stages, this information will help you plan your visit to Whistler.
Start with how to get from Vancouver to Whistler. If you are from out of town, there are ways to get to Whistler without a car.
Shopping? Whistler Village has plenty of shopping options from clothing, to gear to souvenirs. Make sure you read this post on Whistler souvenirs before your trip!
5 Things to pack for a Summer Whistler Trip
Make sure you have these things packed for your trip to Whistler
- Sunscreen and hat: With plenty of beach and pool time (and hiking time too), make sure you have a hat and sunscreen.
- Bug Spray: depending where you are, the bugs can be bad. If you are headed to the alpine lakes, you will need it for sure. At dusk it is bad on the trails around Whistler village, as well as at the skate park.
- Bathing Suit: Do not forget your bathing suit. Pools and lakes are what make Whistler so great in the warmer months
- Comfortable shoes: Even if you are not a hiker, there are plenty of walking trails in the village. Whistler Village is such a walkable area and with a focus on eco-experiences, park the car and walk as much as you can.
- Bikes: If you are a local, consider bringing a bike! The village trails are perfect to bike to the lakes, and all over the village. Most people will bike to dinner and places like the farmer’s market. This helps limit your car use as well! ALl hotels offer bike valet or bike storage for visitors.
That is far from all, read my Guide to What to wear in Whistler which has a complete packing list for visiting at any time of the year.
Where to Stay in Whistler
Below I have listed some popular properties in Whistler to stay.
Four Seasons Whistler – The Four Seasons is one of Whistler’s luxury 5 star properties. The Four Seasons Whistler has a swimming pool and hot tub. They offer a bike valet that is convenient and safe. In the winter, I love the ski valet option where you can leave your skis at the ski hill instead of having to bring them back to the hotel. Four Seasons is located in the Upper Village near the Blackcomb Gondola. If you are visiting as a family, they offer playpens or cribs and high chairs for guests. They also offer childproofing items, art class, a seasonal playroom, and little luxuries like kids bath robes.
Delta Hotel Whistler – The Delta offers rooms with full kitchens. This is ideal for those who like condo style accommodation but want the convenience of a hotel. There is coin laundry on site which may be needed to dry out wet ski gear. The Delta offers babysitting services as well. There is a heated indoor/outdoor pool as well as a hot tub. The Delta is in Whistler Village close to everything.
AirBNB‘s are another great option as they offer more space. Most are designed for 4 or more people making them perfect for families or trips with friends. You can read more about Whistler AirBNB’s or check out my go-to favorite here. One downside to AirBNB’s is that they are not all in the village.
Lindsay Nieminen is the creator of UncoveringBC.com. She grew up and still lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family. She aims to inspire inform, and educate others about traveling in her home province of British Columbia. She is also the creator of carpediemourway.com which aims to show parents how to seek out adventure at home or abroad, with their children in tow!