The Sea to Sky Gondola is an attraction that includes a gondola, hiking trails, suspension bridge and amazing views of Howe Sound and the Squamish Valley.
It is one of the Lower Mainland’s newest attractions, as well as one of its most spectacular.
The Sea to Sky Gondola is closed for the foreseable future due to a “major incident”.
At 4:30 am on the morning of Saturday, August 10th, 2019, the haul rope for the gondola collapsed. As a result, almost all of the attraction’s thirty or so gondola cars fell to the ground, resulting in significant damage. Fortunately, no employees or visitors were on the gondola or injured.
The RCMP are investigating and have deemed the incident an act of vandalism. The gondola will need extensive repairs and isn’t expected to reopen until the spring of 2020.
We at Vancouver’s Best Places were actually at the Sea to Sky Gondola on the evening of August 9th (so almost exactly ten hours before the collapse)! Glad it didn’t happen when we or anyone else was there!
Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish
The Sea to Sky Gondola is located at 36800 Highway 99, also known as the Sea to Sky Highway, just 2 km south of Squamish and close to an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver. Its basecamp and parking lot are right next to the highway, and the gondola terminates 885 metres or 2,950 feet above sea level.
The Gondola Experience
The Sea to Sky Gondola attraction includes a gondola ride up; views, bar, cafeteria, hiking trails, suspension bridge and free optional guided tour at the top; and then a gondola ride back down.
In winter, the attraction also includes snowshoe trails, a tubing park and access to back-country skiing (which is where you hike out with your equipment to find new snow).
The Gondola Ride
The Sea to Sky Gondola attraction begins with the ride up in the gondola which seats up to 8 people per car, takes about 10 minutes and ascends some 850 metres. The views from the gondola are stunning and whet the appetite for the even more spectacular sights at the top.
The Sea to Sky Gondola Trails
At the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola are a number of well-laid-out trails, including the 1.6 km Panorama Trail that leads to a viewing platform overlooking the Stawamus Chief Mountain and entire Squamish Valley.
There are other great trails as well, including the 1.6 km Wonderland Lake Loop, but if you only have time or energy to do one, then make it the Panorama Trail. Both are fairly level and family-friendly.
Other trails also exist at the top, including the short 400 m Spirit Trail just behind the lodge, and other more serious ones that go further up the mountain or into the back country.
From the base of the Sea to Sky Gondola, back close to sea level by the highway, there is also a hike up, which is comparable to the hike up the Stawamus Chief, but longer, and infinitely more scenic than that of North Vancouver’s famous Grouse Grind.
Top to bottom, the hike up the Sea to Summit Trail is about 7.5 km and takes between 2.5 and 5 hours, all depending on your level of fitness and how fast you go. The hike is rated intermediate/advanced and downhill travel is not recommended; people (and their dogs) pay just $15 to descend by gondola.
The Suspension Bridge
The Sea to Sky Gondola has an impressive suspension bridge. It’s not as long as the one at the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver, but it’s less wobbly and the views are equally as impressive, if not more so.
Sea to Sky Gondola Guided Tours
Free educational guided tours take place a couple of times each day. They last for about 45 minutes, take place along the 400 metre long Spirit Trail, and include information on the local history and natural environment. They are excellent and highly recommended.
TIP: Don’t miss the free guided tours – they are included with the price of admission and are highly informative and educational. You won’t be disappointed!
Sea to Sky Gondola in Winter
In the winter season, in years when there’s snow, the Sea to Sky Gondola offers snowshoeing (along the summer hiking trails), tubing in their tube park and access to some incredible back-country skiing.
The cost for tubing is just $5 and includes tube rental and unlimited tubing during park hours for the day, snow and weather permitting. Snowshoeing is free and snowshoes are available for rent for about $20.
Admission to the Sea to Sky Gondola isn’t cheap, but if you go on a sunny day, join the guided tour and stay for at least a couple of hours, it’s still good value. The views are truly spectacular and world-class.
Approximate admission prices at the ticket window are the following (with online prices being a few dollars less each):
- Adults: $48
- Seniors: $44
- Youth (13-18): $30
- Children (6-12): $20
- 5 and Under: Free
- Families (of 2 adults and 2 youth): $116
For people wanting to hike up but catch a ride down in the non-snowy months, the cost is about $15 per person. For $15 dogs can also go down on the gondola, but can’t catch a ride up.
TIP: If you purchase your tickets online at least 24 hours in advance you can save about $4 per person. Family tickets still offer the best savings for families of four with at least one youth, however, and are available only at the gate.
The gondola is stroller and wheelchair accessible when there isn’t snow on the ground, as is the lodge and its viewing platform. Some of the nearby shorter trails are wheelchair accessible if you have a heavy-duty wheelchair and a strong motor or person to push.
Trails are gravel, so okay for strollers, but only ones with good solid wheels.
The main parking area is at the base of the gondola and it’s free. There is a 3-hour parking maximum, however.
For most people 3 hours of parking is adequate. If you plan to do extra hiking, spend a big chunk of time in the tubing park in wintertime or just don’t want to be rushed, however, then you’ll need to park 500 metres away at the Darrell Bay free parking area.
What’s in the Area
Within a short distance by car of the Sea to Sky Gondola are a number of the Lower Mainland’s top parks and attractions including Porteau Cove Provincial Park, Britannia Mine Museum, Shannon Falls, Stawamus Chief (the mountain and provincial park), Alice Lake and the West Coast Railway Heritage Park, all of which are well worth visiting while in the area.
Squamish itself proclaims to be the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada” and the region is famous for its mountain biking, hiking, fishing, scuba diving, windsurfing and kite surfing.
For more information on what’s in the area, check out the Sea to Sky Region. It’s an amazing part of the Lower Mainland.
Advice and Suggestions
Below are some tips and advice to help you make the most out of your visit.
TIP #1: There is a lot to do in the area, so make your visit to the Sea to Sky Gondola a day trip and combine it with at least one or two other attractions. The region is truly a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
TIP #2: While in the area be sure to check out the Britannia Mine Museum. It’s very interesting.
TIP #3: The Sea to Sky Gondola is worth visiting any time of the year on a clear day. If it’s overcast, raining or a day with poor visibility, however, it’s not nearly as interesting. It’s the amazing views that you’re paying for.
TIP #4: The Sea to Sky Gondola can be a crazy busy place, with up to 4,000 people on a good day. The gondola goes quickly, so the lines move fast, but weekdays outside the summer season are best times to go if you want to avoid the crowds and lineups.
TIP #5: Again, join the guided tour. It’s free and adds to the experience.
For more information about this popular Squamish attraction, check out the Sea to Sky Gondola website.
If you like your Sea to Sky Gondola experience and want to see other places like it (but not completely the same), then you’ll love Whistler which is just an hour further up the Sea to Sky Highway and has its own gondolas and fabulous mountain views. Also, closer to Vancouver, is Grouse Mountain on the North Shore.
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