Description: The Chief (an ancient volcano’s magma chamber) is the world’s second-largest granite monolith, with a massive, relatively smooth face on one side and trails running up to the top (the height of the cliffs is approximately 700 meters). You can do just the South Peak or all three – all offer amazing views. It’s a fantastic hike and the effort is rewarded with spectacular surround views of beautiful scenery including various mountains, Howe Sound, and Squamish. There is also the option to climb the rock face.
Where: Squamish, BC, Canada (near Vancouver)
Cost: Free (if you camp at the base, there is a small fee)
Time: The time required to reach the top varies significantly depending on fitness level. If you’re reasonably fit, expect to take at least couple of hours getting up to the first peak (average times are 2 to 3 hours). If you’re extremely fit and doing this as a workout, you may be able to reach the first peak in around an hour. If you’re going with kids, leave a nice big time buffer for rests along the way.
Difficulty: There is no technical climbing required, just the ability to walk uphill on a sustained basis on a rugged forest path. However, there are a few places near the top where the forest gives way to smoother rock faces and hikers must climb short spans of slanted rock using either a chain, rope, or ladder. These stretches aren’t too difficult when dry, though if it’s been raining, the rock can become quite slippery, so I don’t recommend doing this on a rainy day.
Required Equipment: Comfortable hiking clothing, good hiking shoes, bottle of water, snacks or a picnic lunch for the top
- The trail going up is beautiful and you get amazing views at the top, where you can sit in the sunshine on and share your lunch with a band of chipmunks (these animals appear to live on hikers’ lunch scraps).
- It’s a great workout.
- The trail is well-marked so it’s not easy to get lost unless there’s a thick fog.
- It’s not far from the city – only about an hour’s drive from Vancouver.
- Dogs are allowed on the trail (on leash), though owners are expected to clean up after them and keep them under tight control so that they don’t knock anyone off the mountain.
- There is a campsite near the Chief parking lot.
- You can’t light campfires due to the forest fire risk in the area.
- It’s a hard hike if you don’t have the required fitness – still doable if you’re determined, but it will probably take quite a long time and you should pace yourself accordingly.
- The trails and peaks can get crowded on sunny weekends. The second and third peaks tend to be less crowded, so be prepared to go a little further if you want some space on a busy day.
- Bring plenty of food and water with you (a first aid kit is a good idea too).
- Wear hiking shoes with good grip – smooth-soled runners are likely to slide around in some spots.
- Bring binoculars – this area is a nesting site for peregrine falcons.
- If you’re bringing a dog, keep him on a tight leash. The combination of cheeky chipmunks and sheer drop-offs at the top can be a deadly for a poorly controlled dog.
- If you want to stay in the area but prefer more luxurious accommodations, I highly recommend the Tantalus View Retreat, a gorgeous two-story, three-bedroom cabin furnished with beautiful carved wood accoutrements and featuring an outdoor hot tub overlooking the forest. If you go in a group of three to six people to split the costs, it works out to be less expensive than renting hotel rooms.
- There are lots of additional fun things to do in the area, including the Red Heather Trail LINK for hikers, snowshoers, and skiers, and the Howe Sound Inn where you can try delicious beers brewed right on the premises.
- If you get the opportunity, check out nearby Shannon Falls, a beautiful waterfall in the area.
You can find more information about the Chief at the following websites, including driving directions from Vancouver:
For more activity descriptions, visit the main Activities page.
*Conditions may have changed since the time of this writing.