Frequently Asked Questions
Find out everything you need to know about Alta Lake, Lakeside Park, The River Of Golden Dream, boat rentals, and conditions. Backroads frequently asked questions have all the answers you may need!
This section provides answers to typical guest questions. Please click on a question below to view the answer. Please feel free to contact us in the event your question is not answered here
DO YOU OFFER GROUP DISCOUNTS?
Yes, Backroads offers group discounts. If you are prepared to gather a group of friends together for some fun, we are prepared to provide you with the benefits of your patronage.
DO YOU OFFER DISCOUNTS FOR KIDS OR SENIORS?
Children (under 12) 50% off when traveling with two adults on the River of Golden Dreams.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A TOUR?
All equipment and a free shuttle (if required) are included in a tour package. This includes equipment such as life jackets, paddles and rain gear. Backroads Whistler has by far the best fleet in the valley.
DO YOUR TRIPS OPERATE IN WET WEATHER?
Certainly! Mountain weather can bring squalls followed by radiant sunshine. Canoe / kayaking down the river in the rain is a very fun experience. Remember the song “Rain drops keep falling on my head…”? You’ll think you’re crazy but once you’re out in the rain you will be loving life.
We are prepared for all kinds of weather. Backroads provides, free of charge, the waterproof jackets necessary to keep you dry and warm clothing to keep you toasty.
IS LUNCH INCLUDED?
Lunch is not included in the tours. Please bring some snacks and water with you. You will be doing physical exercise and most likely will appreciate the snacks and water. This is especially important if you have young children with you.
WHY SHOULD I HIRE A GUIDE?
Many people ask us this question, especially given that nature is out there and ready to be explored if you have the equipment. The best thing about guides is that they know all the secret spots in the Whistler mountains, rivers and forests – like finding that hidden beaver lodge or quiet secluded lunch spot with great views. If you just want to relax and enjoy your tour they can explain what you’re seeing.
If you want to challenge your skills or improve your paddling they can turn from guide to instructor. This is especially true for our river trips. Have you ever been on a lake and the wind comes up only to find you’re going the wrong way or can’t keep the boat into the wind? Our instructors will teach you how to steer the boat so this is never a problem again. You’ll remember this for the rest of your life.
Our guides are first aid certified, certified in their sports and carry industrial quality VHF portable radios should we require assistance.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO GO CANOEING OR KAYAKING?
Depending on the weather and activity we recommend
- Short sleeve t-shirts
- Short pants
- Comfortable shoes
- Suntan lotion
- A hat
- A camera
As mountain weather changes quickly a warm sweater or wind shell and shell pants are a good idea. Food is not included in the tours unless prearranged so consider bringing a light snack and some water.
WILL THE RIVER BE HARD FOR ME TO PADDLE?
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO PADDLE THE RIVER?
DO YOU OFFER CUSTOM OR SPECIAL TOURS?
WHAT IF I CAN'T SWIM?
All our guests are provided with life jackets that are approved by the Canadian Department of Transportation. In the unlikely event that you should fall in the water our jackets will bring you to the surface. Our guides are trained in boat handling and safety as well as some that are trained life guards and instructors in these types of sports
Please let our staff know before departure if you or anyone else going on the trip cannot swim.
WHAT IF I HAVEN'T BEEN IN A CANOE OR KAYAK BEFORE?
DO I NEED A GUIDE?
Do you have some paddling experience? If not you need a guide. Do you find that when you are paddling on a lake you get blown around in the wind? Yes you need a guide. Our guides will teach you paddling techniques that you will enjoy on the river and wherever you may paddle. Little or no paddling experience – Yes you need a guide. Family with small children – Yes you need a guide. Should you complete your guided tour and feel that the guide did not represent value, we will not charge you for the guide.
“I am so glad you recommended the guide for us. It really made the tour special” is the feedback we regularly receive from guests!
DO I HAVE TO PADDLE BACK UP THE RIVER?
WHAT'S THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO PADDLE THE RIVER?
River conditions vary every day. Up here, high in the mountains the winter snow pack and spring/summer/fall temperatures combine to change water levels in the river up to a meter (3 feet) in 24 hours.
In early summer the water can be running quite well, guides are definitely recommended.
Once the winter snow pack has melted (early August) water levels drop considerably and the river becomes very mellow. Still, you never know what’s around the next corner, whether it be a beaver dam to swhoosh over, birds bursting off the water in front of your boat or a bear on the river bank. This is one of the fun aspect of this river, it’s different every time you paddle it and people come back year after year to paddle this river.
ARE THERE BATHROOMS AT LAKESIDE PARK?
There are bathrooms at Lakeside park. The bathrooms are to the lookers left as you walk into the park located beside the concession building.
CAN YOU PURCHASE FOOD AT LAKESIDE PARK?
You can buy pre-packaged snacks, ice cream, and drinks at the Backroads Whistler concession building. In addition to food, you can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards.
WHAT IS A PADDLEBOARD?
A paddle board or SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) is similar to a surfboard but is much larger. Paddle boards are usually 10-14 feet (3-4 meters) or longer and very wide and stable. This makes it easier to stand up and paddle around on the board, making it a great way to spend a day on the water.
WHAT IS A PEDAL BOAT?
A pedal boat is a boat in which you use your legs to propel the boat through the water with a pedaling motion. The pedals turn a propeller that then pushes you forward in the water. Pedal boats are very stable in the water and are easy to operate.
ARE MOTORBOATS ALLOWED ON ALTA LAKE?
Yes, only electric motorboats are allowed on Alta Lake. There is a 12km/h speed limit, so anything larger than a trolling motor is overkill.
ARE SAILBOATS ALLOWED ON ALTA LAKE?
Sailboats are allowed on Alta Lake. The Whistler Sailing Association has lessons and learn-to-sail programs.
HOW DID GREEN LAKE GET ITS NAME?
Green lake got its name from its color. The bright green of Green Lake is created by the glacial till disrupting the lake’s floor. The many glacial rivers that flow into Green Lake enhance the green color as well.
HOW WARM IS THE WATER IN ALTA LAKE?
Alta Lake is Whistler’s warmest lake. The Temperature in summer sits around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (~21 degrees C), perfect for swimming.
DOES IT COST MONEY TO GO TO THE PARKS ON ALTA LAKE?
All of the parks surrounding Alta Lake are free to access and recreate in. Some amenities at the parks may cost a fee, such as parking, bus shuttle, or food and beverage.
DOES ALTA LAKE HAVE LEECHES?
There are leeches but they are rarely an issue in Alta Lake. Their habitat is usually in still water. Alta Lake has a slight current flowing north to the mouth of the River of Golden Dreams. The flowing water keeps leaches away.
ARE DOGS ALLOWED IN ALTA LAKE?
Dogs are welcome at all parks in Whistler. However, in public areas, they must be on a leash. There are designated dog parks at Rainbow park and Blueberry Docks for all of your dog’s off-leash activities.
WHEN IS ALTA LAKE OPEN FOR SWIMMING?
Alta lake is open year-round for swimming! Even in the winter, people regularly cut holes in the ice of Alta Lake for cold plunges.
WHAT KIND OF CANOES DO YOU RENT?
Backroads rental canoes are the Clipper Canoes, Yukon. Backroad uses only the best equipment to ensure safety and reliability. The Yukon is one of the most reputable canoes on the market. The fiberglass body and foam core ensure comfort and strength.
WHAT KIND OF WHAT ANIMALS WILL YOU SEE ON THE RIVER OF GOLDEN DREAMS?
You can expect to see a range of animals and birds of all sizes on the River of Golden Dreams. You can find out where to see black bears, beavers, and herons in our wildlife on the River of Golden Dreams article.
WHERE DOES THE RIVER OF GOLDEN DREAMS FINISH?
The River of Golden Dreams finishes at Green Lake. Backroads offer a shuttle service to pick you and your canoe up just before Green Lake at meadow park sports center and bring you back to the village or Lakeside Park where you started your journey.
HOW WARM IS THE WATER IN THE RIVER OF GOLDEN DREAMS?
The water in the River of Golden Dreams can be very cold throughout most of the year. The river is fed by glacial rivers from the mountains above running into it, keeping the water chilly.
ARE THERE BATHROOMS ON THE RIVER OF GOLDEN DREAMS?
There is a Porta Potty at the beginning of the portage, about halfway down the river, and at the end.
WHERE IS BACKROADS WHISTLER LOCATED?
Backroads Whistler is located in beautiful Lakeside Park on the shores of Alta Lake, just minutes south of Whistler Village. When exiting the village onto highway 99, turn south toward Vancouver, pass under the traffic lights at “Blueberry” and make your next right on Hillcrest Dr. There is a sign at the intersection that says “Alta Vista and ‘Lakeside Park”. Follow the signs to Lakeside Park.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET TO THE LAKE?
Where appropriate, the Backroads Whistler complimentary shuttle service is offered. The following times are a general guideline based on driving time:
- 4 minutes to the water front
DATES OF OPERATION
HOW DO I GET TO WHISTLER?
By Plane, from Vancouver: Contact Whistler Air ( 604-932-6615) and fly in style in a float plane and be here in 30 minutes.
By Rental Car, from Vancouver: Drive on Highway 99 North to Squamish/Whistler. Pass through Squamish and head on up to Whistler. Distance 142kms. Duration: 1hr 40mins. Try Hertz or Thrifty car rental services.
By Bus / Taxi / Limousine: There are a variety of bus lines and limousine services which operate from the city and the airport, which can drop you off at the bus loop in the center of Whistler Village. Sometimes a limousine is cheaper than a bus if you are traveling in groups of 5 or greater.
HOW MANY LAKES ARE IN WHISTLER?
Five lakes line the Whistler Valley. Starting from the south and then moving north, there is Alpha Lake, Nita Lake, Alta Lake, Lost Lake, and Green Lake.
HOW DO YOU GET AROUND WHISTLER?
There’s a public transit bus system that takes you from Function Junction to Emerald. The bus routes stop in all of the neighborhoods in the Whistler valley. In addition to the bus system, there is a taxi service, and you can commute by bike on the valley trail.
HOW HOT IS IT IN THE SUMMER IN WHISTLER?
On an average sunny summer day, the temperature ranges between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius. However, Whistler is in the mountains, and the weather can fluctuate day to day depending on weather fronts and wind direction.
DO I NEED TO PAY FOR PARKING AT LAKESIDE PARK?
Yes, there is paid parking at Lakeside Park. You can pay using PaybyPhone #42262. If the parking lot is full, there is free street parking nearby.
HOW DID WHISTLER GET ITS NAME?
Whistler’s original name was Alta Lake, but the developers would constantly hear the high-pitched whistles of the marmots throughout the valley, they decided to change the town’s name to Whistler.
HOW OLD IS WHISTLER?
Whistler Mountain opened to the public in 1966. The town of Whistler was not incorporated until 1975, making the town 47 years old.
HOW MANY PEOPLE LIVE IN WHISTLER?
The population of Whistler is just under 12 000 people. With many more visiting for vacations and working holidays. The Whistler hotel’s capacity sleeps nearly 35 000 nightly visitors.
HOW LONG IS THE VALLEY TRAIL?
The valley trail is nearly 40kms long. The valley trail connects Function Junction to Emerald. It has multiple splits to take you into neighborhoods and different parks and recreation areas.