Squamish, a mountain town hugging the Howe Sound of British Columbia’s west coast, stands between Vancouver and Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway. Its outdoor diversity is unparalleled—from backcountry skiing and rock climbing to windsurfing on the sound’s waters—allowing for an adventure around every turn.
Elevation 16 feet, Population 19,512
Nestled along the west coast of British Columbia, along the Howe Sound, lies the mountain town of Squamish. This outdoor paradise is located along the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler. What makes this city so unique is its plethora of outdoor activities. From backcountry skiing, mountain biking, rocking climbing, and trail running, to wind surfing along the waters of the sound, Squamish is full of adventure around every turn.
The city is often rated one of the best locations for mountain biking in the world and it’s no wonder. Squamish boasts over 350 miles of designated trails ranging from beginner to advanced.
Next to the city lies Stawamus Chief Mountain, towering at 2,297 feet. This iconic granite monolith is known for being one the largest in the entire world.
Being located along the water, means that Squamish experiences warm summers with moderately cold winters. While it may be raining during the winter months, that often means its dumping snow in the nearby mountains. Wind whips through Howe Sound turning the waters into a kiteboarding and windsurfing paradise.
The city is also a rock-climbing mecca with over 1,200 rocking climbing routes within the area plus an additional 300 routes along the road leading up to Whistler. Squamish is quite simply, an outdoor paradise.
Local Adventure Vibe
With such a plethora of outdoor activities, it’s comes as no surprise that the town full of devoted thrill seekers. One of the most notable organizations in the city is SORCA, a local mountain bike association. At SORCA their mission is simple; to organize races and events, manage the trail network of Squamish, work to expand the trail network, and advocate for the protection of the land. When it comes to trail running, Capra Run Club, helps unite the runners of the city for group runs and local events. Squamish is also home to the well-known ultra-marathon, the Squamish 50/50. The event entails a weekend of races, with a 50 miler on the first day and a 50-kilometer race on the second day. Individuals, or relay groups, can choose to run just one race or the two races back to back to compete for the fastest combined time.
Perhaps the most unique feature of Squamish is the Sea to Sky Gondola that rises above the city. The summit of the gondola provides panoramic views of Howe Sound and the city below.
Squamish is full of outdoor adventure and it happens to be surrounded by eight of Canada’s provincial parks, each offering a unique experience. Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park is home to the wintering bald eagle population of Squamish, which happens to be the highest in all of the world. Pathways through the park allow hikers and fisherman to see the multitude of birds that call this park home during the winter months.
Just outside of the city also lies the iconic Garibaldi Provincial Park. The park totals over 1,950 square kilometers of the backcountry. Spanning from Squamish up to Whistler, the park is home to day hikes, backpacking trips, Elfin Lakes, and Garibaldi Lake. During the winter the park transformers into the ideal place for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing.
Along the Sea to Sky Highway lies Shannon Falls Provincial Park. The 1,100-foot waterfall can be seen from the road and is the third tallest waterfall in all of British Columbia. The surrounding land is home to more than just sightseeing with hiking trails and rock-climbing routes throughout.
Food & Drink
Despite being a smaller town, Squamish if full of cafes, restaurants, breweries, and distilleries. To start the days off both Tall Tree Bakery and Caffe Garibaldi and popular choices. Tall Tree Bakery offers a wide range of delicious pastries along with sandwiches made on their bread, perfect to pack along for a day in the mountains. Caffe Garibaldi is the place to be in Squamish if you’re looking for an artisan cup of coffee. Like many mountain towns, Squamish has its fair share of breweries.
Most notable are Backcountry Brewing and Howe Sound Brew Pub. While Backcountry Brewery only opened a few year ago, it’s quickly become a town favorite. Howe Sound Brew Pub was ahead of the brewery curve and opened its doors back in the 1990s. Besides just delicious food and drink, Squamish also offers restaurants with views that are tough be beat.
Along the Squamish River lies The Watershed Grill, a laid-back bar and restaurant with Canadian eats and expansive views of the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park across the river. Atop the Sea to Sky Gondola Summit lies some of the best views of the region. The Summit Eatery offers casual food and drinks all with views of Howe Sound and the city of Squamish below.
Places to Stay
There is no shortage of places to stay for your next trip to Squamish, BC. From large mountain homes to a quaint getaway, all can be found within the city. The waterfront cabin is sure to one of the most beautiful stays in the city. Beneath the Sea to Sky Gondola, along the Howe Sounds, lies this oasis. With room for two to stay, the cabin is known for its gorgeous views of the water below and the mountains stretching into the distance. For a more modern feel, the ANR Carriage House has got guests covered. With room for four, the house has plenty of place to cozy up after a long day of exploring. The Modern New Build offers the best of both worlds; a cozy suite for four, along with a breathtaking view of the forested hills and mountains.
Like any great adventure town, Squamish has its fair share of campgrounds. Alice Lake Provincial Park offers family and RV camping along with bathrooms and showers for guests; a cozier spin on traditional tent camping. Nearby Stawamus Chief Provincial Park sits below this iconic rock face, making it the perfect spot to pitch a tent for those looking to be first on the rock-climbing route the following morning. Porteau Cove sits south of the city along the Howe Sound. Campers can drift off to sleep while listening to the waves crash upon the shore.
At the base of the Chief
This area is literally a one minute walk to the Chief (Campground Wall), five minutes to the Grand Wall boulders, and ten minutes to the base of the Grand Wall. The treed ambiance and cooking area make this a nice place to base yourself. It’s about a thirty minute walk into town for groceries, meals etc, and perhaps forty minutes walk to the Smoke Bluffs.
Mamquam River Campground
A campground by dirtbags, for dirtbags. It’s Squamish’s cheapest campground option and is specifically geared toward climbers.
Just across the street from Shannon Falls
Maybe ten minutes to the Shannon Falls climbing and twenty minutes to the Grand Wall. It’s about ten minutes further from town than the camping at the base of the Chief.
This area accepts reservations, has climbing very close by, and is probably a good base for climbing north of Squamish, like at Chek.
With over 1,000 climbing routes located near Squamish, there are seemingly endless options of what route to try next. A few iconic areas have climbers continually coming back for more.
Stawamus Chief Mountain, better known as the chief, has 428 climbing routes along its many faces. Located just south of Squamish, this massive dome towers over the region. Routes along the Chief vary greatly, from slabs, crack climbs, and bolted face routes. Within the Chief region, a majority of routes can be found in the Grand Wall Boulders, the Apron, Apron Boulders, and the North Wall Boulders.
South of the Chief lies Shannon Falls Provincial Park. The park has over 60 climbing routes and is surprisingly not packed with climbers despite the popularity of the falls. After crossing the river, climbers have access to amazing routes all while listening to the nearby falls. The left side of the region is where a majority of the routes are with numerous single and multipitch climbs.
The Smoke Bluffs
Located just minutes from downtown Squamish lies the Smoke Bluffs. The area has 427 climbing routes right in the city’s backyard. Much of the routes are comprised of small crags with a few multi-pitch routes throughout.
Squamish is surrounded by countless trails for hiking and backpacking. In fact, the region is home to some of the most iconic hikes in all of British Columbia.
Stawamus Chief Trail: Climbing to the summit of the iconic dome is no easy feat. The 4-mile route has 2,500 feet of elevation gain. The trail leads hikers to the three major peaks on the mountain. Though beautiful, this hike is not for the faint of heart. The route utilizes chains and ladders to reach the summit. However, once at the top, all the climbing is worth it with panoramic views of Howe Sound, Garibaldi Provincial Park and the city of Squamish below.
Elfin Lakes (Diamondhead): Located within Garibaldi Provincial Park lies Elfin Lakes. This 12.5-mile out and back hike has 2,693 feet, for a challenging day hike or a backpacking excursion. After climbing through the forest, the trail opens up on Round Mountain with views of Mt. Garibaldi and the Tantalus Mount Ranger before reach the alpine lakes.
Browning Lake and Jurassic Ridge Loop: This short 1.5-mile loop hike has 530 feet of elevation gain. The loop trail, circles around part of Browning Lake before rising up onto Jurassic Ridge. From the top hikers look down upon the lake to the east or Howe Sound stretched out to the west.
Paul Ridge: Just north of Squamish lies the entrance to Garibaldi Provincial Park. Up the trail to Elfin Lake Hut lies the local backcountry paradise. Three kilometers along Paul Ridge offers numerous tree lines and open bowls for backcountry skiers. A true Squamish skiing experience.
Garibaldi Neve Traverse: An iconic route of the region is the Garibaldi Neve Traverse. The traverse is 40 kilometers in length along the east side of Mount Garibaldi. The multi-day route can be done as a hut to hut excursion and stretches from Diamond Head to the Rubble Creek parking lot.
Diamond Head: Located above Quest University lies some of the best-known mountain biking trails in the region. This network of trails became more popular after the construction of the iconic Half Nelson route. The wide variety of well-marked trails, make Diamond Head a place that mountain bikers simply can’t pass up. Popular routes include Half Nelson, Pseudo-Tsuga, and Angry Midget.
Alice Lake: The Alice Lake trail system is located between the Alice Lake Provincial Park and the Garibaldi Highlands. Trails in this region range from beginner to expert, offering technical downhill flow sections. Many of the trails in this region were hand built and test rider’s technical skills. Popular routes include Pamplemousse, Rupert, and Entrails.
Valleycliffe: South of Squamish lies Valleycliffe. Though the trails system is as well marked as those closer to town, the region offers numerous single-track routes along with some expert descents. Popular trails include Farther Side, Meet Yer Maker, and Endo.
4 Lakes Trail: Along the shores of Alice Lake Provincial Park lies the 4 Lakes Trail. True to its name, the relatively easy 6.5km trail winds through the park passing along the four lakes. The loop trail offers numerous sections to add extra length to the route or stop and enjoy the scenic views.
Elfin Lakes: This 22km trail is often a day long adventure. Starting at the Diamond Head parking lot, the trail winds through old growth forest before reaching Paul Ridge at 1,660 meters. From the ridgeline, Elfin Lakes can be seen in the distance as the trial descends to the water. The first lake is perfect for cooling off mid-run, while the swimming in the smaller second lake is forbidden.
Mamquam River Forest Service Road: This route leads out of the city and east into the mountains. The 33.5-mile route had 3,681 feet of elevation gain. The scenic route is popular amongst 4x4s, dirt bikes, side by sides, and ATVs. The old road follows along the Mamquam River while dipping through valleys and climbing into the mountains south of Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Kite and Kite Surfing
The unique combinations of wind, water, and land, make Squamish a sought-after location for wind and kite surfing. The main area for these activities is along the Squamish Spit. The Spit, a narrow piece of land, is located where the Squamish River flows into Howe Sound. Here, conditions are perfect for beginners and experts alike. Squamish Watersports, located downtown, helps equip surfers with the best gear and connect them to the perfect location to begin their day out on the water.
Best Guided Adventures by 57hours
If you’re looking for the trip of a lifetime, 57hours has got you covered. The company’s mission is to help you find outdoor adventures and make booking them simple and easy. Their trips are led by highly trained guides, there to help ensure you’re staying safe while exploring the mountains. What’s behind the name 57hours? There are exactly 57 hours from 3:00 pm, Friday, to midnight, Sunday. That gives you 57 hours to pack as much adventure into your weekend as possible.
57hours connects riders with either half-day or full-day guided mountain biking tours in Squamish. All levels are welcome while experts in the field take showoff some of the best routes the city has to offer. Ride down the iconic Half Nelson and Rupert routes or discover lesser known ones the locals love.
Available April through October, day long guided rocking climbing trips are available for all skill levels. Tours offer anything from multi-pitch to boulder along some of the most iconic climbing spots in the region. Climb along the Chief, Smoke Bluffs, or head just south to Shannon Falls with a certified local guide.
Check one of the world’s largest granite monoliths off your climbing bucket list. Towering an imposing 2,300 feet above Squamish and Howe Sound, “The Chief” draws in climbers from all over the world every year. With hundreds of routes to choose from and tons of variety— runout slabs, splitter cracks, bolted face climbs and long, exciting multi-pitches — the Chief’s reputation is well-earned. Take your place among the greats and conquer this world-class mountain.
Thirty minutes north of Squamish lies the hidden gem of Journeyman Lodge within Callaghan County. This guided backcountry skiing trip is five days long exploring the remote Coast Mountains within the Upper Callaghan Basin. Skiers can explore the limitless backcountry routes alongside a ACMG certified guide.
Squamish truly is an outdoor paradise. Warmer summer months offer iconic ultra-marathons, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, windsurfing and off roading while winter months bring some of the best back country skiing in all of British Columbia. Visiting Squamish is likely to be the adventure of a lifetime. Whether you’re looking for local pastries to fuel your day, or a delicious beer to close out the evening, the restaurants are sure to leave any visitor satisfied. Cozying up at one of the many cabins or campgrounds and ensures visitors will have the true Squamish experience. From the Howe Sound to the summit of the Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish is a place full of adventure, that will leave one wondering why they didn’t visit sooner.
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