Whistler’s infamous train wreck trail is a one-of-a-kind experience. Abandoned train cars sit scattered amongst giant cedar and fir trees, as the forest slowly reclaims the twisted metal. Various graffiti artists over the years have left their mark with every inch of the boxcars covered in colourful paint. Located on the Cheakamus River just south of Whistler, the trail is a relatively easy one-kilometer hike from the trailhead. This popular tourist attraction is welcoming to all ages and features signs depicting the history of the 1956 train wreck.
The previously illegal hike to get there has become legitimized recently with a formalized trail and the addition of a suspension bridge spanning the Cheakamus River. In previous years, before the bridge was built, the only access to the abandoned train cars was to walk along the train tracks, which is considered illegal trespassing by CN Rail. The new trail built in 2016 is a wide gravel multi-use pathway with gradual slopes and inclines. Once at the river the suspension bridge takes you directly across to the abandoned train cars. Explore the forest a little further along well-trodden footpaths and you’ll find more boxcars spread out, seven in total. The train wreck trail also meets up with a larger trail network if you are looking to get in a longer hike. The trash trail makes for a larger loop that runs alongside Cheakamus, giving views of rapids frequented by whitewater kayakers eventually bringing you to the beautiful Cheakamus Falls.
For a long time the Train Wreck was a bit of a mystery, how could the train have crashed while the trees surrounding the boxcars remain intact? In 2013 the Whistler Museum uncovered the answer after being approached by long-time local, Rick Valleau. In 1956 the train was heading in from Lillooet when it reached a section of track that was under maintenance. The speed limit in this section was 15mph and the train, after being delayed, was going 35mph! This caused one of the engines to flip a track derailing the whole train. The crash caused loads of lumber to become lodged between rocky outcrops blocking the entire line. Needing to remove the jam quickly the train company approached a local logging business, run by the Valleau family, who were tasked with removing the jammed cargo. Using heavy machinery the train cars and their cargo were removed and dragged into the forest, where they remain today. Any useable cars were salvaged and those in too much disrepair were striped leaving behind only the metal shells of seven boxcars.
The train wreck trail is the perfect combination of history, art, and nature. It’s a quick stop and with the addition of the new trail, it is an easy hike for anyone to enjoy. Please remember while using the trails that you are in bear country, so pack out any trash you bring in and respect the wildlife. The trailhead is only a 9km bike ride from Whistler Village or is also accessible by bus.