Squamish is a town of about 20,000 people (2016) in the Sea to Sky region of British Columbia half-way between Vancouver and Whistler. Squamish calls itself the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada due to the abundant rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, golf, fishing, kayaking, bouldering, white-water rafting, horseback riding, scuba diving and other activities readily available in the area.
The town of Squamish had its beginning during the construction of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in the 1910s. It was the first southern terminus of that railway (now a part of Canadian National Railway). The town remains important in the operations of the line and also the port. Forestry has traditionally been the main industry in the area, and the town's largest employer was the Western Forest Products pulp mill. However, Western Pulp's Squamish Operation shut down in 2006. Before the pulp mill, the town's largest employer had been International Forest Products' (Interfor) sawmill and logging operation, but it closed a few years prior to the pulp mill's closing.
Squamish has become popular with Vancouver and Whistler residents escaping the increased cost of living in those places, both less than one hour away by highway. Tourism is an increasingly important part of the town's economy, with an emphasis on outdoor recreation.
Squamish is one of the wettest inhabited locations in Canada, with over 2,200 millimetres (87 in) of rainfall per year, often falling in long stretches through the winter.
Located at the head of North America's southern-most fjord, glacier capped mountains rise from the Pacific waters to create stunning views from the protected waters below. Steady, predictable winds practically assure a great day of sailing every day between May and Sept.
Squamish is on Highway 99, 60 km north of downtown Vancouver (about a 45-minute drive). The town is also served by bus:
- Perimeter Bus, ☏ . Runs direct from Vancouver's airport to Squamish with their YVR-Squamish Express service. 6 daily departures in winter.
- YVR Skylynx, Direct bus service from Vancouver International Airport and Vancouver City Centre to Squamish. Between 4 to 8 daily departures depending on the season. $65 one-way; $110 round-trip.
Private aircraft can fly into 1 Squamish Airport.
Squamish sprawls over a large area for a town its size, so a car is the easiest way to get around.
BC Transit provides public transportation in Squamish.
- 1 Eagle Run, Government Rd, near the Easter Seal Camp (turn west off Highway 99 at Garibaldi Way -- a right turn if coming from Whistler; left turn from Vancouver -- a Petrocan, 7-11, and Husky mark the corner. Turn right on Government Rd at the T-junction 30 m later, and wind down the road about 1 km. There is ample parking next to the Easter Seal Camp/Camp Summit area). Between mid-November and late February, Squamish hosts hundreds of Bald Eagles who winter here and feast on the plentiful salmon coming up the rivers to spawn. The most popular viewing area is Eagle Run on the Squamish River. There are a number of interpretive displays and seats in the viewing area. Eaglewatch volunteers usually staff the viewing area on weekends from Dec to early Feb and may set up telescopes at the interpretive centre. Free.
- 2 Shannon Falls Provincial Park, Highway 99 & Shannon Falls Park Rd (turn at the lights 2 km south of Squamish). Shannon Falls are the third highest falls in British Columbia at 335 m. The main trail is a paved ten minute walk from the parking lot to a viewpoint at the bottom of the falls. Another, steeper trail (also about ten minutes), leads to a second viewpoint. There are also other hiking trails in the park and some rock climbing routes.
- 3 West Coast Railway Heritage Park, 39645 Government Rd, ☏ . 10AM-5PM. A treasure trove of old train paraphernalia reflecting Western Canada's Heritage. The star attraction is "The Royal Hudson", a steam train that is being restored there, but there are a variety of cars and locomotives to see and tour. The 3-km miniature train ride is good fun for kids of all ages. Student $10, senior $12, adult $15.
Sea to Sky Gondola
Sea to Sky Gondola is closed until further notice due to major lift incident.
- 1 Alice Lake Provincial Park, Alice Lake Rd (access road is 11 km north of Squamish where Squamish Valley Rd meets Hwy 99). Park set amidst forests, four lakes and mountains. The day use area at Alice Lake has a good number of picnic tables, a playground, a kids bike skills park, and two sandy beaches with swimming areas that are popular in summer. Boat rentals are also available daily on Alice Lake during the summer months. There is a variety of hiking trails from fairly flat and wide around Alice Lake to steeper climbs to viewpoints. Mountain biking is permitted on some trails within the park and a large number of trails outside the park's boundary. Day use area is free. Canoe, double kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals are $28 for the first hour and $40 for two hours. Single kayak rentals are $19 for one hour and $32 for two hours.
- Rafting - Squamish has amazing rafting on the Elaho and Squamish Rivers 40 km (25 miles) north of the town in the Squamish Valley. The rapids are class 3 and 4, including the spectacular "Devils Elbow". Canadian Outback Adventures is the primary outfitter in this region.
- Rock climbing - Squamish is world renowned among climbers. The towering granite monolith, the Stawamus Chief, serves as the primary draw. There are over 600 established routes in the area, most of them traditional in nature, requiring the placement of gear for protection. There are many sport routes in the area with fixed/bolted protection though the majority of sport climbing in the area is along the Squamish-Whistler corridor. The boulders located at the base of the Stawamus Chief are starting to attract many climbers. This is to be partially attributed to the climbing DVD Rampage starring Chris Sharma. There are several quality guide books available for the established climbers as well as several commercial guides for hire.
- 2 Sea to Sky Gondola, 36800 Hwy 99, ☏ . Mid May - mid Oct: Su-Th 10AM-6PM, F-Sa 10AM-8PM; Nov-mid May: 10AM-4PM daily. Climb aboard a gondola for some great views of Howe Sound, the Chief and Squamish. The ride is 10-12 minutes and climbs 885 m up Mount Halbrich. Up top, there is a chalet/restaurant, suspension bridge, some hiking trails and three viewing platforms. The Summit Lodge Viewing Deck is the most accessible (it's next to the restaurant and the top of the gondola) and provides views of Howe Sound. The nearby Spirit Viewing Platform also provides views of Howe Sound, as well as information on the local First Nations people. The Chief Overlook Viewing Platform, with possibly the best views, looks out over the Chief and the Squamish Valley. It is accessed by the 1.6-km Panorama Trail, which is fairly wide and mostly packed dirt but does involve some hilly terrain. From the chalet, there is also access to backcountry hiking, rock climbing and mountaineering. For those who want a workout, you can hike from the base of the gondola to the top and then pay to take the gondola down. $48 adult, $44 senior, $30 youth 13-18, $18 child 6-12. 7% discount if tickets purchased on-line. One-way download $15.
- 3 Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, Highway 99 (1 km south of town). The park provides a number of hiking trails that lead to each of the three peaks on the Stawamus Chief. It takes some effort to get to the top but the views of Howe Sound and the Squamish River valley are outstanding. Hiking times range from 3-6 hours, with the hike to the first peak being the shortest.
- Garibaldi Springs Golf Club (Garibaldi Highlands Golf Club), 40850 Tantalus Rd (from Hwy 99, turn east onto Garibaldi Highlands by the 7-11 and gas stations; after one block, turn north onto Tantalus Rd), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Club house and restaurant.
- Squamish Valley Golf & Country Club (Squamish Golf Club), 2458 Mamquam Rd (from Hwy 99 turn east onto Mamquam Rd by the Canadian Tire in Garibaldi Highlands), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Club house, restaurant and proshop.
- Canadian Coastal Sailing, 37778 Loggers Lane. Group sailing excursions (12 people) aboard a 40 ft (12 m) sailing yacht in North America's southern-most fjord. Reliable winds from May to Sep. Private charters available. $99-139 for a 3-hour sailing trip with a local host.
Along Highway 99 you'll find the usual fast food fare with a higher concentration near the city center exit.
- 1 [dead link] Dragon Terrace Chinese Restaurant, 38037 Cleveland Ave, ☏ . W-M 3:30PM-8PM. Tasty Chinese meals at affordable prices. $10-15.
- 2 Fergie's Cafe, 70002 Squamish Valley Rd (coming from Hwy 99, it's on your right just before the bridge over the Cheakamus River), ☏ . Daily 8AM-3PM. Cute little restaurant with brunch and lunch dishes like eggs benedict, hashes, sandwiches and house specialties like home-made sausages, all mostly sourced from local farms. Part of the charm is the seating — there are some tables inside but most of the seating is outside at picnic tables set on their attractive grounds with lots of room for kids to run around. It's a pricey for a sandwich, but the food is good quality and the portions are a good size. The service can be very slow though when busy. Bunch $16-19.
- 3 Howe Sound Brewpub, 37801 Cleveland Ave (at the Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Co), ☏ . Brewpub known for its in-house beers. The menu has a selection of burgers, pizzas and normal pub favourites. Brunch is served on weekends and holidays. There is also a dining room with a different menu and an inn. $6-15 for an appetizer, $11-15 for a main.
- 1 Chieftain Pub, 38005 Cleveland Ave, ☏ .
- Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company, 37801 Cleveland Ave.
- 1 August Jack Motor Inn, 37947 Cleveland Ave, ☏ . Non-descript on the outside but clean and functional rooms. There is high-speed internet in the lobby and most rooms can access the free Wi-Fi. Some rooms have kitchenettes. $65-75, kitchenette $15 extra.
- 2 Sea To Sky Hotel, 40330 Tantalus Way, ☏ , toll-free: . Choose from standard rooms with two queen beds or one-bedroom suites. Rooms include microwave, mini-fridge and complimentary breakfast. Wireless internet is also available. $139-199.
Visiting other spots in the Sea to Sky corridor holds many sightseeing and recreation possibilities:
- Britannia Beach - 10 minutes south of Squamish by car. It has the BC Mining Museum and scuba diving can be done at nearby Porteau Cove.
- Garibaldi Provincial Park - hiking to beautiful alpine lakes and vistas.
- Whistler - 55 km north of town, Whistler is one of the biggest ski resorts in North America and an all-year playground of recreational activities.
|Routes through Squamish|
|Whistler ← Garibaldi Provincial Park ←||N S||→ Lions Bay-Britannia Beach → Vancouver|