Nestled in a valley and surrounded by pristine, old-growth and ancient rainforests filled with alpine meadows, crystal clear lakes and meandering rivers, Squamish offers a wide range of hiking options for outdoor enthusiasts of all levels.
From easy and low-impact walks along scenic forested trails to hardcore hikes into the backcountry to experience Mother Nature’s backyard in all its untouched glory, few destinations can even compare. And with the opening of the Sea to Sky Gondola last year, allowing easy access to previously hard-to-access terrain, Squamish can truly be called a hiker’s heaven.
“For the trails up at the Sea to Sky Gondola, I’d definitely recommend the Panorama Trail,” said Stephane Perron, an avid hiker and president of the Squamish Trails Society, a group of local advocates and advisors who work on community and neighbourhood trail connections, maintenance and quality. “It really is a must-do for anyone visiting Squamish. People just rave about it.”
The 1.6-kilometre loop trail takes you on a scenic journey through coastal forest, Alaskan Blueberry bushes and granite outcroppings.
“And the lookout and Stawamus Chief viewing platform found on the trail just blows everyone away,” he said. “It’s a very easy trail, too.”
“… the lookout and Stawamus Chief viewing platform found on the trail just blows everyone away.”
For intermediate hikers, Perron said Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail is another favourite route more people can enjoy, thanks to the gondola.
“It offers some beautiful granite features, as well as waterfalls, old-growth forest and some amazing views of the Howe Sound,” he said, adding the half-day excursion was worth the time and effort.
Back down in the valley, Perron recommended the Four Lakes Trail found at Alice Lake, just five minutes north of Squamish.
“It’s a relatively easy hike that just requires a bit of stamina,” he said. “But you get to see four different lakes and pass by a river. It’s a very popular hike and you can even go for a swim along the way.”
The six-kilometre trail takes you through Douglas fir, western red cedar and other coniferous and deciduous trees, and you’re likely to spot a variety of birds and local wildlife along the way.
“The High Falls Trail is another great hike, but it isn’t as well known,” said Perron. “It is located along the Squamish Valley Road, just a few 100 metres after the Hydro station. I took an old timer out there once who had explored all the trails in Squamish, but he didn’t know about the High Falls Trail and he was amazed. Of course it is an advanced to intermediate trail as you will be walking along the edge of a deep canyon.”
Advanced hikers will also like the Echo Lake Trail, but Perron warned the journey takes a bit of preparation.
“The trail is located on the other side of the estuary,” he said. “So that takes a bit of organization to get across the Squamish River. You’ll need to know your way around a canoe or kayak. But you’ll get to see spectacular waterfalls, and you’ll come across the biggest trees I’ve ever seen in Squamish, before getting to a beautiful lake.”
Of course, the climb up the Stawamus Chief is also high on Perron’s list of must-do hikes in Squamish.
“The Chief is a must,” he said. “Everyone has to get to the First Peak and take in that view. I took my sister up when she first moved here… it was her first hike in B.C. She said she felt like a real B.C. resident now that she’d hiked the Chief.”
You’ll find information, trail maps, advice and guided tours of these and many other area hiking opportunities at the Squamish Adventure Centre.