Where: Squamish, BC
Description: The Sea to Summit Trail begins at the base of the Stawamus Chief, overlapping with the lower section of the Stawamus Chief trail and then turning right onto the Upper Shannon Falls Trail, which continues on to the summit. The first bit is steep and requires a bit of scrambling at times (there are ropes at a couple of the trickier portions that you can use to pull yourself up), but the latter section is just an uphill stroll on a wide trail with a mild incline (unless you choose to finish via the more direct Wrinkle Rock route). Total elevation gain is 918 meters (3,012 feet) spread out over 9.8 km (6.1 miles) of beautiful forest, and when you reach the top, you’re rewarded with fantastic views of Howe Sound and various local mountains. There are also some nice open viewing points along the way where you can catch a glimpse of various mountains, kite surfers at play on the water below, and the little yellow gondolas zipping by overhead.
Cost: Unless you want to walk all the way down again, you’ll need to take the gondola, which costs $9.95 for a one way ticket (down only – up is more expensive).
Time: Various sources say to allow anywhere from 2 to 5 hours for a one-way trip, assuming that you’ll take the gondola down. We completed the hike in just over 2.5 hours, going at a steady pace and stopping occasionally for photos (we tend to be on the fast side; most accounts I’ve read listed times of around 4 hours).
Required Equipment: Regular hiking clothes and hiking boots; raincoat just in case; sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat on sunny days; plenty of water; snacks; snowshoes and snow-appropriate clothing during the winter months
- The hike provides a great workout, similar to the Grouse Grind LINK in terms of elevation gain (the Grouse Grind rises 853 meters), but the trail is far less crowded and more varied because it covers a much longer distance (you’ll encounter portions that are flat and even travel downward here and there, whereas the Grind is just a steady uphill slog all the way).
- There is beautiful forest scenery all along the trail and fantastic mountain and water views at the top.
- There are several ways to add variation to the route, such as taking the Shannon Basin Loop or Wrinkle Rock options in the latter portion of the hike.
- There is a restaurant at the top, so you can get food and beverages, and a patio where you can sit outdoors and admire the view.
- If you want to extend your hike, there are more trails at the top.
- Dogs are allowed on the trail (you have to purchase a special pass to bring your dog down on the gondola).
- The Sea to Sky Summit Trail is only about an hour’s drive away from Vancouver.
- Once you complete the hike, you have to choose between paying for a gondola ride down or a long post-summit descent that’s very hard on the knees (the Sea to Sky website recommends against downward travel).
- The rocky sections can become quite slippery during and after rainfall.
- Allow some time to walk around at the summit and enjoy the scenery – there are fantastic surround views and a long suspension bridge overlooking the mountains that’s worth crossing.
- Check the gondola closure times before beginning your hike to avoid being stranded.
- For more information about this hike (including driving directions and parking options), see the Sea to Sky Gondola website’s Sea to Summit page, the Sea to Sky Gondola FAQ page, Outdoor Vancouver’s Sea to Sky Summit and Wrinkle Rock Trails page, Trailpeak.com’s Sea to Summit page, and Stephen Hui’s article in the Straight: Forget the Grouse Grind; Hike the New Sea to Summit Trail in Squamish.
For more hikes in BC, see the Red Heather Trail, Buntzen Lake, Goat Mountain, Rainbow Lake, Sasamat Lake, Stawamus Chief, Flatiron Peak, Seymour Three Peaks, Al’s Habrich Ridge, and Lions (Binkert Trail) pages.
For descriptions of BC hotsprings, see the Hotsprings page.
For general activities in and around Vancouver, see the Stuff to Do in Vancouver page.
For a full list of activities, visit the main Activities page.