Marriott Basin Hiking Guide
- 13km round trip to hut
- 430m (1600 ft) elevation gain
Make sure to bring:
- Good boots
- Trekking poles
- Ten Essentials Daypack
- Bug spray
Located about three hours north of Vancouver on the famed Duffey Lake Road, Marriott Basin is a wonderful area which gets much less traffic than it’s southern neighbour, Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. But just because there is less traffic doesn’t mean this place is any less special. In fact, Marriott feels a bit bigger, a bit wilder. And with numerous camping, hiking, scrambling, snowshoeing, and skiing options, it is a truly great backcountry playground.
Now, to be clear, this is not a park. It is true wilderness. You will not find any amenities, and the trail is much less graded and maintained than many are used to. Also, you need to be prepared. This means developing a trip plan, notifying people of your trip plan, carrying the Ten Essentials, and practicing safe wilderness travel. If this seems daunting to you, that’s ok, there are plenty of great organizations that will introduce you to wilderness travel, and trust us, it’s worth taking the time to learn - the payoff is spectacular. But if you’re prepared and you know what you’re doing, have at it!
All hikes here begin at highway 99 at a trailhead that is unmarked, but relatively easy to find. There is a small parking area located across from the green shed, about 7 km up the road (northeast) from the Joffre Lakes parking lot. From your car, scurry up the bluff and you will find a short (200m) trail that connects with a logging road. You can also give the logging road a shot - Cayoosh Creek FSR connects with 99 a bit south of the parking area - but there is limited parking, 4WD is required, and the slow driving and turning around make it impractical for most vehicles. It will only save you 15-20 minutes at most (and that’s time you could be hiking!)
The trail begins as many BC trails do - an old logging road. It’s fine, but kind of boring with the occasional distant peak poking out to entice you. At 1km, the road splits - stay left. A short walk later the road turns into the actual, proper trail. It’s muddy, with gnarly roots and not exactly a straightforward walk, but that’s why we come here! You will immediately drop down and cross three creeks then quickly ascend for a little bit until you reach a trail junction (3.5 km). From here you can hike to Marriott Lake or Rohr Lake.
Going left at the junction (there is a sign that reads WTH or Aspen) you will head up to Marriott Lake and Basin. The hike is longer, but more mellow than the Rohr option. The first section is a bit boggy at times, so make sure your mud game is dialed in. You will also cross Cayoosh Creek, which involves a rudimentary log bridge. Take great care with this, as a spill into the Creek will not end well. Soon, the trail will open up to the majesty of Marriott Basin. It’s really spectacular, and you’re going to stop a lot to take it all in.
Keep heading through the boulder fields (wave to the marmots) and be thankful that it is summer and the looming slopes above don’t, for now, have any avalanches in them. You will shortly meet the lake (around 5.5 km in) and skirt the western edge of it for a short section. From there you will begin another short climb in a northwest heading up the small bluff at the head of Marriott Lake. After this quick climb you will open up again to the Upper Marriott Basin, a place that is truly wild and a fantastic alpine environment.
The trail officially ends a couple hundred meters later (6.5 km) at the Wendy Thompson Memorial Hut, which, like the trail you just hiked, is maintained (and booked through) the Whistler Section of the Alpine Club of Canada. This provides a great basecamp for summer and winter activities in the basin, when it’s open (which, right now due to Covid-19, it is not.)
From here, the alpine opens up into a wondrous collection of peaks, ridges, cirques, and boulder fields - a true alpine wonderland. There are also a number of smaller lakes higher up which are quite nice. But be warned, above The Hut there is no maintained trail, and good scrambling, route-finding, and wilderness travel skills are REQUIRED. If you are keen and have the skills, The Marriott Group to the east is a good place to start.
In all, the hike to The Hut is around 6.5 km one way from the highway, and a 13 km round trip. This includes approximately 430m (1600 ft) of elevation gain.
If you want a shorter, steeper option with a good payoff as well, turning right at the trail junction (sign reads “Rohr”) will lead you up a steep and technical (and very muddy) trail with elevation gain of 365m (1200ft). You will hike the steep forested trail, then it opens into a small meadow, and then you will traverse a technical boulder field to reach the lake. This can be particularly treacherous when wet. It is for this reason that we believe if you are looking for a good, pleasant day hike and an alpine lake, Marriott is a better bet. However, once at the Lake, the Rohr basin is spectacular. Camping, swimming, and loads of objectives are for the taking. For those who are more adventurous and skilled in scrambling and wilderness travel, the imposing Mount Rohr presents a great day hike and peakbagging opportunity.
Though this guide paints a relatively straightforward picture of day hiking in the BC Backcountry, it is still the backcountry and should be treated as such. This means having a trip plan, sharing your trip plan, and carrying the Ten Essentials. If you are not equipped with everything you need to stay safe, we have a great, affordable option here.
This region is public land, and the trail is maintained by the ACC, but it does not have the protection and resources of BC Parks or Parks Canada. Thus, it is especially important to tread lightly in this area. It is a delicate alpine ecosystem and it takes a lot longer to recover from human interaction than the lush forests of the North Shore. Leave no trace, do not burn fires, and be sure to pack out everything you bring in. Yes, even that.
Though mostly a day-hiking area, this area is also a great backpacking destination. Both Marriott and Rohr Lakes have perfect spots for a small tent, and this can provide you with a great (and relatively straightforward) introduction to true backcountry camping. Please keep your groups small, your noise down (others are enjoying it as well!) and again, no fires, so bring a warm jacket!
If you are short on backpacking gear, we can outfit you with everything you need (except food and clothing) for a night or two in the Marriott Basin with our Backpacking Essentials.