Located about a 55-minute drive from Vancouver, Stawamus Chief is a giant piece of rock that’s great for hiking and overlooks the town of Squamish.
Squamish’s Stawamus Chief Provincial Park
Serious climbers (i.e., ones who like to scale cliffs) go up the front face of the mountain with professional climbing gear. The more sane (but still fairly fit) climbers hike up the back.
Squamish is a 64-km (or 40-mile) drive from Vancouver about halfway up the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway on the way to Whistler. The mountain itself is just past Shannon Falls and the Sea to Sky Gondola, and just before the town.
When driving by from the highway, look up at the cliffs (unless you are the driver) and look out for the specks of climbers making their way up the face.
The hike up the back (and easier) route is challenging, but you don’t have to be an expert to do it. You’ll need good hiking shoes, some bottled water and layers of clothing that you can peel off as you get warmer from the exercise.
Stawamus Chief is a very highly recommended mountain to hike and climb – it’s doable for anyone that is fit and it’s very well marked (and even has stairs). It’s in the heart of nature and a hike that you’ll always remember.
Peaks 1, 2 and 3
There are three peaks on Stawamus Chief. Some people just hike to Peak 1. Others hike all the way up to Peak 3. Peak 1 is the lowest and easiest to get to, although the hike up is still pretty strenuous and not for everyone. Further up the mountain gets a bit more challenging. Peaks 2 and 3 are not for the faint of heart!
Camping at the Stawamus Chief
In addition to the beautiful hikes and nature, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park also offers camping opportunities. There are 52 vehicle-accessible campgrounds and 57 walk-in sites less than a 5-minute walk from the parking lot.
All camping sites are located in the heart of the forest, shaded by massive coniferous trees. The campground is well-equipped, with pit toilets, cold drinking water and storage lockers next to the cooking shelter. No campfires are permitted at the campground.
The campsites at Stawamus Chief are smaller than ones at most other provincial parks in the Lower Mainland, and the roadways are tighter. As a result, it’s more of a place for tents than RVs. Smaller campers fit, but not bigger motorhomes.
Tips and Advice
Below are some tips to help you make the most out of your Stawamus Chief experience.
TIP #1: If you like the outdoors but want something a lot less strenuous than hiking to the top of a semi-major mountain, other beautiful places to visit and stroll around (as opposed to the fairly serious hiking at Stawamus Chief) include Alice Lake (which is the best campground in the area) and Shannon Falls.
TIP #2: Hiking down is easier on the heart, but harder on the knees and legs. Expect to be sore the next day, unless you do this regularly. To make it easier on your knees, try to find a good walking stick or bring one with you.
TIP #3: Stawamus Chief can be a good serious climb for children from about age 10 and up, or younger if they like real challenges. It’s a long drop down the cliffs from the top, however, so keep young people close when reaching the peak. The summit lookout is large and perfectly safe – unless you go too close to the edges.
TIP #4: Want to enjoy the spectacular views from even higher than the top of the Stawamus Chief Mountain without having to make the climb? Then check out the Sea to Sky Gondola, with adult tickets costing about $60 for adults on weekends, or slightly cheaper on weekdays or if you buy them online.
To learn more about the park visit the Stawamus Chief Park website.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Sea to Sky Region
- Lower Mainland Parks and Nature
- Lower Mainland Campgrounds
- Outdoor Recreation
- Vancouver on a Budget