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Howler is renowned as one of Whistler's classic loop rides.
This reputation is partly due to Howler's history as a longstanding trail, but as with many long-time classics, newer trails in this area of the Westside are now more popular and en vogue.
Nevertheless, a ride down Howler is a must-do for most enduro mountain bikers visiting Whistler. The ride begins with a stiff climb up a forest service road to reach the Flank trail.
It's a real grind to get up, but all this work leads to a long, consistent descent on the way back down. As you work your way toward the top, you'll find that you have three options for how high you want to climb, and consequently, how much you'll end up descending.
The classic option is shown here, which follows the Flank trail to its intersection with Howler, then turns right to descend.
To cut off almost 500 vertical feet of climbing/descending, you can turn right off the Flank trail earlier onto Prowler to pedal over and intersect with Howler at a lower point.
Of course, you then lose 500 vert of the trail and miss the best views.
Finally, the third option is the extra credit route, which crosses Howler, and then grinds up another 400 vertical feet to get to Upper Howler.
Upper Howler is quite a bit more technical than the main Howler descent, but due to the difficulty of reaching it, it's not ridden nearly as much. Sticking with the classic route, once you get to the junction with Howler, it's time to pull up your pads and get ready to rip, as this descent is relentless! You'll immediately drop into some rocky chunder, but in a couple hundred feet, you'll reach the best views on the trail, where the singletrack swings out onto a rocky outcrop.
From here, you can see Whistler and Blackcomb across the valley while simultaneously spotting a glacier high above you on the mountainside.
This is one of the most incredible views of the Whistler Valley from a mountain bike trail, so it's well worth stopping to enjoy a snack and soak in this majestic vista. Now that you've cooled down and lost your edge, it's time to dive straight into an endless gnar fest that continues all the way down the mountain.
Howler is a chundery, rocky tech trail with essentially no manmade features along it.
This lack of wooden features is itself noteworthy amongst Whistler mountain bike trails. Howler makes up for the lack of wood with constant rock.
You'll rip down some fantastic slabby sections of embedded rock filled with sharp razor-edged ridges that are just begging to shred your tires.
Between the slabs, steep scree-filled chutes can get very loose when dry.
When you leave the slabs and drop into the forest, you'll bounce over a few roots, but mostly the rocks and scree will continue to dominate the descent. The pervasiveness of the rock and scree helps Howler to drain well after a heavy rain, making this one of the go-to trails in the valley for wet weather riding. On the scale of Whistler mountain biking, Howler pegs a solid single black diamond for technical difficulty, thanks to its fairly predictable technical features and consistent challenge all the way down.
It's not the most outstanding or unique descent in the region, but the rock challenge combined with the incredible views up high still makes for a fantastic mountain bike ride!