Exploring the See to Sky Highway – 7 Must See Spots
Traveling to Whistler from Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway is one of the most beautiful and scenic routes in Canada, perhaps even the world. The highway is breathtaking, and it is worth mentioning that it could be considered a must-do activity in and of itself. Its not just a highway, its a “sea to sky” destination.
As you head from the city on the sea to the tops of the mountains in Whistler, it’s not just the drive that will take your breath away – the highway is lined top to bottom with scenic stops, spectacular activities, and a million ways to maximize your two-hour journey. It offers much more than just transportation to Whistler.
Must see Waterfalls on the Sea-to-Sky Highway
Waterfalls in British Columbia are plentiful and beautiful. With each and every waterfall just as breathtaking as the next, here are a few that you must explore along the Sea to Sky Highway.
Shannon Falls is a great stopping point along the Sea to Sky highway as it is just 58 km (36 miles) away from Vancouver. The falls are visible from the highway and are located at Shannon Falls Provincial Park near Squamish.
This jaw-dropping feat of raging water is the third highest in British Columbia, as it towers 335 meters off from top to bottom. The Shannon Falls Provincial Park is open year-round but if you head there in the winter season, be aware that there will be limited services and access to the trails may be a little more difficult. In the warmer months, there is hiking, picnic areas, restroom facilities, and public transportation if you choose not to drive. If you do decide to drive, parking is free as long as you park in the designated parking areas. Definitely a great place to enjoy a lunch break at a gorgeous picnic spot!
Hot Tip: We recommend heading to Shannon Falls in the rainy season to experience the real power of mother nature.
This 70-meter waterfall is another picturesque distraction along the Sea to Sky highway. The park is just over 24km from Whistler, and the hike is short and sweet, about 20-30 minutes at a casual pace.
Bonus, parking is free and plentiful. It is a great spot to stop along the highway without veering too far off track for this destination.
Even if you are staying in Whistler and you missed this on the way there, Brandywine Falls close enough to make the trip worthwhile from the village. Pack a snack, some good walking shoes and a bottle of water for an escape into nature from the hustle and bustle of the resort. Don’t forget your camera, the waterfall is, of course, an excellent opportunity to snap some breathtaking shots.
Hot tip: Rumour has it that the name for the falls was decided over two surveyors who wagered the height of the falls over a bottle of Brandy.
Located on the Green River, just 20 minutes North of Whistler on the boundary of Pemberton, Narin Falls is the epitome of a must-see waterfall along the Sea to Sky Highway. There is camping available, open from May to October, for $22.00 a night (but this isn’t the only place to camp around whistler).
For those not camping, free parking is available with basic bathroom facilities (pit toilets) on site. This pit stop offers a short meandering hike through the forests of British Columbia. As you hike along the canyon, enjoy the fews of the river from in between the ancient trees. Narin Falls is a gentle hike of only 1.2-kilometer round trip.
Hot Tip: Normally we aren’t one to support a selfie-stick, but in this case, a selfie stick really does improve the final Instagram worthy shot at the end of the hike.
Must See Natural Wonders on the Sea-to Sky Highway
While you can argue that a water fall is a natural wonder, there are a handful of monolithic natural feats of nature scattered along the highway worth the stop – even without the water.
The Chief or the Stawamus Chief, located in Squamish is one of North Americas’ granite monoliths. The Squamish, which are indigenous people to the area have claimed that the area has significant spiritual relevance, and it’s not hard to see why.
While British Columbia is known for its spectacular hikes, this particular natural wonder is a stunner and is much more accessible than many other peaks in the area. It rises 700 meters above the Howe Sound, creating an absolutely breathtaking backdrop and a worthwhile reward at the top of the hike. Hiking can take anywhere between one and four hours to complete the 4-7km trails, depending on route and level of ability.
The park is divided into three distinct peaks that vary in difficulty, and which each present a new sweeping view of the sound. Bring water and good hiking boots as it can be slippery on the granite and the rocks. This is definitely something not to miss especially along the Sea to Sky Highway route.
Hot Tip: While this can be a short hike, it isn’t for the faint of heart. The top is exposed, and the hike up is straight up for its entirety. If you are bringing children or dogs, be mindful as you reach the top of the cliff face.
On clear days, you can see Black Tusk in all directions. The highest point is at its peak rises to 2,319 meters above sea level. One of the many remarkable sights along the Sea to Sky highway, it can be enjoyed by anyone – no hiking required. Unlike the other peaks in the area, its shape and volcanic rock face make the summit a distinctive postcard-worthy image. Stop at one of the many safe viewpoint pullouts along the highway to snap that photo, and learn a little about the history of the peak and the area in general.
Want to hike? The Black Tusk trail is South of Whistler; the trailhead is about 17 miles from Whistler Village. Experienced hikers can typically hike the Black Tusk in roughly about 8-10 hours depending on pace. There is free parking, and if you are spending the night, you have the option of taking a side trip to camp at Garibaldi Lake. If you have an extra day while visiting Whistler, and you are up for an all-day hike, this is a place that you must visit to connect with one of British Columbia’s must-see natural wonders.
Hot Tip: To see this peak in all its glory, go on a clear day. The mountain range tends to disappear from view during inclement weather.
Must See Attractions on the Sea-to-Sky Highway
Add more activity into your sea to sky journey with a pit stop at one of the many attractions. Soak up the landscape and the history of the region with a little boost from one of the many sea to sky destinations on route. Sometimes you van get more out of your adventure with a lift and a history lesson.
Sea to Sky Gondola
When you think of attractions in British Columbia, you’ll first think of the natural beauty which surrounds this great province. Our motto is after all, “Super-natural.” If you are traveling on the Sea to Sky highway, no other pit-stop puts this beauty on display quite like the Sea to Sky Gondola. The gondola gives you a fantastic opportunity to see Howe Sound as you ride up the valley floor, to experience the alpine forests, and the snowy peaks surrounding the area. The 10-minute ride will give you some of the most accessible views of the region – all within a 45-minute drive from Vancouver or Whistler.
Once at the summit you can enjoy the 100-meter Sky Pilot Suspension bridge which you might recognize from some of the many Instagram posts it has inspired. You can enjoy a meal at the Summit Lodge, explore the many short trails through the woods, or why not part take in one of the many activities?
Tickets range in price. For those 19+ a day ticket is $41.95 when purchased online and $43.95 when you buy from the ticketing window. Operating hours range vary by season, from 10 am – 4 pm or 10 am to later in the summer. The last ride down usually around an hour later than closing time, check in advance to confirm. From October 29th – November 30th the gondola is closed for scheduled yearly maintenance.
Hot Tip: If you want a bit of a workout, that comes with a reward, why not hike to the top of the gondola? The hike, which takes between two to five hours depending on ability, flows nicely along the mountainside, ending with a cold beer and stunning views from Summit Lodge. Plus, you’ll only have to pay for your gondola down!
Britannia Mine Museum
The Britannia Mine was once the largest copper mine in the British Empire. It is one of the most historical steeped and unique attractions along the Sea to Sky highway. The Britannia Mine Museum offers a museum and guided tours of the mine that last around 45 minutes.
The mine is located roughly 45 minutes North of Vancouver and about 15 minutes south of Squamish along the way to Whistler. Tickets for entrance to the museum and the mine range between $18.95 and $29.95 depending on age. There is free parking available and if you do not want to drive there is daily tours available from Vancouver from May-September.
The Britannia mine has a small indoor display, with spectacular rock specimens, and a large outdoor (but usually covered) interactive area filed with mining equipment and history. The best part of any trip to the mine is the tour, which takes you deep into the heart of the mine and includes a ride on the mine train! Learn about how miners lived and worked inside the mine, and see amazing demonstrations of their equipment.
Hot Tip: This activity makes a great rainy-day option for the kiddos. Its open rain or shine and the tour takes place (mostly) out of the weather.
The Sea to Sky Highway – Our Bottom Line
There is only one way to travel between Whistler and Vancouver, the Sea to Sky Highway. And while we might curse its road conditions in a snowstorm or traffic jam, its part of what makes our region one of the most breathtaking trips in the world.
Every turn brings a new landscape, no matter the season. The trip from sea to sky is a perfect introduction to the spectacular natural landscapes surrounding Whistler, Squamish, Vancouver, and Pemberton.