Whistler Day Trippin’ to Squamish
Whistler Day Trippin’ to Squamish
Located at the north tip of Howe Sound on the Sea to Sky highway is the picturesque town of Squamish, snuggled between Vancouver and Whistler and just a stone’s throw away from both from Whistler and from Vancouver. It’s close enough for a quick Squamish day trip. If you can’t decide between all the quick day trip options from Whistler, Squamish makes a great first start.
Consisting of rivers, ocean, alpine forest, and mountains including the Stawamus Chief, (claimed to be the world’s second-largest monolith), Squamish’s landscape makes for a great outdoor playground.
It’s one that rivals that of Whistler.
Not that we are allowed to say things like that about our hometown, considering there are tons of excellent outdoor opportunities in Whistler, too. With a friendly atmosphere and mountain backdrop virtually everywhere you look, it’s not difficult to find peace and solitude in Squamish, whether you’re a thrill-seeker or simply looking for a relaxing escape.
Activities to Pack into Your Squamish Day Trip
Known as Canada’s outdoor recreation capital, Squamish offers a multitude of opportunities for adventure sports that include climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting, and kiteboarding. Not so much a fan of extreme excursions? There are plenty of great sightseeing and tour activities that can be done at a more leisurely pace, from hiking and camping to dining and shopping, there’s a little somethin’ for everyone.
Begin your Day with the right Fuel
A good starting point for the day is The Ledge Cafe Community Coffee House. It has a spacious seating area and walls lined with work of local artists, creating a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere for a social date or getting some work done. If you’re here on a weekend you may even catch a bit of live music or open mic performance on their indoor stage.
A local fave, satisfy your sweet (or savoury) tooth one of their tasty waffles or choose from a variety of scrumptious fresh-baked pastries alongside a superb cup of locally roasted coffee. If you’re extra hungry, go for a fresh sourdough sandwich and bowl of hot soup to fuel your body for the day’s activities.
Squamish Rafting Company
Welcome to Squamish’s exciting whitewater scene! With several rivers to choose from, the professional and enthusiastic guides at Squamish Rafting Company will take you on a fun and invigorating adventure. With their experience and meticulous safety procedures, you can expect to enjoy expansive and stunning views as well as a bit of adrenaline.
Reward your hard paddling work with a delicious gourmet BBQ lunch (available for full-day trips) or light picnic provided on half-day excursions. Don’t worry if you’re not exactly a full-blown whitewater enthusiast; they also offer a mellow float down the Cheakamus River providing equally stunning scenery that kids can enjoy, too (check out many more family-friendly options).
Climbing with Rock Solid Adventures
Squamish is a world-class climbing destination with climbers venturing here from all parts of the globe. Home to endless climbing possibilities, the most notable is its giant granite dome, the Stawamus Chief. Named after the First Nation village of St-a-wamus, the Chief towers at 700m. With various routes up its faces, its base also offers a garden of bouldering options.
Whether you’re new to climbing and looking to explore the sport or an experienced climber wanting additional skills, there are several resources in Squamish to look into. A great place to start is Rock Solid Adventures, with their highly experienced and certified guides.
Choose from a selection of one-day programs that include introductory courses in basics, top rope anchors, rock rescue, sport, trad, multi-pitch, and aid climbing along with alpine rock techniques. If you have more time to dedicate, they also offer two day and week-long courses for various levels and skills. Discover the inner spider monkey in you!
Squamish Day Trip Hiking
Not surprisingly, with such a fruitful landscape there are countless trails for hikes and trail runs. A few of our favs are the Stawamus Chief hike, Sea to Summit Trail and Four Lakes Trail.
The iconic “Chief” is located just off the Sea to Sky highway about two kilometers south of Squamish. To get there, watch for signs for Shannon Falls or Stawamus Chief Provincial Park (you can park for free here). Being a gigantic rock that it is, and so close to the highway, it’s hard to miss.
The trailhead begins near the park’s campground and is well marked with signs and diamond-shaped trail markers on trees. Hiking the Chief is an intermediate challenge as it’s steep and a bit technical in certain parts (there are fixed chains and ladders near the top to assist you in more trickier sections). Depending on your pace, this hike usually takes one to three hours round trip to the first peak and back. Highly rewarding (both in terms of scenery and exercise), it’s a hike that’s sure to get your blood pumping from start to finish.
Sea to Summit Trail offers just as much (maybe even more) of a challenge as it is quite steep (just over 900 m.). The trailhead begins at the Sea to Sky Gondola parking lot and joins with the Stawamus Chief Trail, eventually splitting off, but there are clearly marked signs to direct you.
In addition to the breathtaking scenery, at the summit, you’ll find the Sea to Sky Gondola’s Summit Lodge twhere you can enjoy light refreshments from their self-serve restaurant. Rest your legs after the three to five-hour hike on their spacious patio and soak in epic mountain views of Howe Sound. To get back down, take a scenic gondola ride back for $15, where you can purchase either at the summit or the base before your hike.
If you’re looking for a less taxing hiking experience, there are many to choose from, like our suggested Four Lakes Trail in Alice Lake Provincial Park. It’s an easy 6.5 km loop that provides beautiful views as it brings you to four mountain lakes in the area. You can start the trail across the street from the entrance to the Alice Lake Campground in the Stump Lake parking or directly from Alice Lake. There is the option of returning to the parking lot at Stump Lake or continuing onward to the next three lakes. The trail is well marked and suitable for children.
For more detailed information on hiking trails in Squamish such as maps, guidebooks, safety info and suggestions, you can visit Squamish Adventure Centre. We’ve got you covered on bear-advice, if you need it for the backcountry.
Talking Trees Indigenous Tour at Alice Lake
Walk amongst ancient, tall trees as you gain cultural insight of the Skwxu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish) people’s history here. On this 1.5-hour walking tour, listen to legends told by an indigenous guide and stories that have been passed down from generation to generation and learn how the First Nation’s people utilized local plants in their everyday life. You can book this tour through Aboriginal Eco Tours, but hurry, this popular tour books fast!
With a burgeoning tourism industry, Squamish’s colourful food scene is keeping up to please the palettes of many. From a variety of interesting food choices combined with beautiful outdoor views, here are a couple of our favourites.
The WaterShed Grill
We love this pub-like restaurant not only for its ridiculously tasty food, but being settled right on the beautiful Squamish River, the views are pretty hard to beat. A local favourite, The WaterShed Grill serves up a wide-ranging menu that includes dishes from around the world, as well as traditional Canadian favourites.
Nibble on an appetizers like steamed mussels, poutine, and spring rolls while you wait for your main. If you’re a burger fan, (Is there such thing as not being a burger fan?) choose from their selection that uses locally-sourced organic meats to create mouthwatering taste-bud pleasers (like the salmon and wasabi mayo burger). The eclectic menu includes other scrumptious mains like street tacos, linguini, butter chicken and fish and chips.
And of course, a meal isn’t complete without a classic Caesar. You can even make a small meal out of one by ordering the deluxe version, complete with a cheeseburger slider, pickles, carrots, asparagus and green beans. And while you enjoy your spot-hitting lunch, you can watch the game on tv or look out at a pristine mountain backdrop and glistening river bed on their open patio.
Howe Sound Brewery and Inn
Located in the town centre, Howe Sound Brewery and Inn is known as one of British Columbia’s best brewpubs. Started in the mid-90s, the brewery design was helped with by Canada’s “micro-brewing grandfather,” John Mitchell. Being eco-conscious, the brewery works to minimize their environmental impact by utilizing reusable bottles when possible and sending spent grain to local farms for animal feed and compost, as well as using some of the grain in the kitchen.
Their menu is packed with finger-licking meat, vegetarian and gluten-free options like spicy cauliflower ‘wings’, yam and black bean tacos or pulled-pork poutine and fried calamari. From their fire bread pizzas and stuffed sandwiches to hearty salads, there’s something for every taste preference with vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian and meat options available. They also strive to source from local farms and fisheries. Compliment the meal with one of their classic award-winning beers or choose from one of their 24 seasonal brews on tap.
What makes this popular spot extra special is that it’s also an Inn! An excellent choice if you’re thinking of extending your trip for a full 2 days in Squamish. Relax in peaceful, cozy rooms and wake up to beautiful mountain views. Go on a tour of the brewery, wake up to a continental breakfast and enjoy live bands after dinner on weekends. The location makes it a perfect base for your daily excursions.
These are just a few of many pleasures this little nature haven has to offer. Dive into the outdoor lifestyle that continues to draw so many here, you might even stay for a full 2 days in Squamish! Replenish your endorphins before getting back to the hustle bustle of everyday life. An absolute must day trip during a visit to Whistler!