Leaving Nanaimo via BC Ferries will put you in West Vancouver. From there, Squamish is only a 40-minute drive north, making it a perfect day trip destination from Vancouver Island.
Here are the best things to see and do in the area.
Best Things to Do in Squamish
Location: Along the Sea to Sky highway, 10 minutes south of Squamish
I remember going to the museum when I was quite young, and have fond memories of panning for gold. So I was pleased to find out that this activity is still in service.
As an adult, I was able to appreciate the entire wonder of the museum, and both hubby and I were extremely impressed with every exhibit and activity this National Historic Site offers.
- The underground tour is fun yet informative.
- The seventeen industrial and residential buildings provide you with insight and a better understanding of what life was actually like when the mine was in full operation.
- The Britannia A to Z Historical Exhibits allows you to dig even deeper into the Britannia community as a whole with personal stories, photos and artifacts.
- The Machine Shop explains what each machine, tool and equipment was used for during mining operation.
- And, the Visitor Centre provides many hands-on exhibits, as well as an award-winning film tracing Britannia’s mining heritage.
However the BEST part of the entire museum, in my opinion, is Mill 3.
Mill 3 gives you access to where the ore used to be processed. We were completely wowed with the enormity of this industrial building.
For up-to-date information regarding ticket prices and operation hours, visit their website.
Location: 2 kilometres south of Squamish, directly on the Sea to Sky Highway/Hwy 99
The 10-minute ride in a cushy 8 passenger capacity gondola takes you to the Summit Lodge located at 885m above sea level. Once at the top you are free to roam about at your leisure. There are numerous walking and hiking trails, viewing platforms, and the remarkable Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge.
The gondola is open year round, and both summer and winter offer different activities for you to enjoy.
- Snowshoeing – there are five marked snowshoeing trails as well as access to endless terrain if you are equipped for the backcountry.
- Winter Walking – rent some crampons and poles from the Summit Lodge and walk the trails. If walking in snow isn’t your thing, the suspension bridge and Summit Lodge deck are always cleared.
- Tubing – with four lanes of varying sliding levels, the old-fashioned tube park offers sliding fun for all ages.
- The tube park is an additional charge of $5.00 per person
- Open from 10:00am – 4:00pm (last tube rental is at 3:45pm)
- Lanes are open as weather permits
- You are required to walk back up the hill after you have tubed down
- Hiking – there are eight main hiking trails of varying range and difficulty accessed from the top of the gondola.
- Walking Trails – there are several easy walking trails to enjoy
- Front Country Trails – offers two easily accessible walking trails starting right from the top of the Gondola. Both are graded trails and are relatively level with no steep climbs or descents.
- The Panorama Trail – is a 1.6 km long loop trail that takes you on a journey through the coastal forest.
- The Spirit Trail – is a 400-meter long loop that takes guests on an interpretive journey through the history of the land.
- The Lookback Loop – is a 15 – 20-minute single track loop that begins off the Panorama Trail and goes out to a granite cliff that overlooks Goat Ridge, as well as the upper reaches of the gondola.
- Rock Climbing – there are two locations identified as rock climbing areas
- Wrinkle Rock – offers a range of easier routes that are a combination of crack and slab affair.
- Klettergarten (Ultraviolet Cliff) – is now one of the easier accessed cliffs in Squamish, as it is located only 200 metres above the gondola’s top station. This cliff offers eight fully cleaned routes with bolted anchors.
There are also three venues that offer a variety of snacks, drinks and meals.
- The Summit Restaurant and Edge Bar – is the only place you can dine 885 meters above Howe Sound.
- Serves fresh local cuisine
- The bar serves a variety of local beers, BC Wines and spirits
- The Summit Tea House – offers grab and go food service and an excellent selection of tea.
- The Basecamp Cafe – located at the base of the Gondola, the cafe offers hot and cold beverages, baked goods, gelato and snacks.
As you can see there is plenty to do for the outdoor enthusiast at the Sea to Sky Gondola, but it is also just a great place for the family to hang out for the day (or a few hours).
You can check out their website for current Gondola rates and operating hours.
Location: Shannon Falls Provincial Park, located 2 km south of Squamish on Hwy 99
Shannon Falls is the third largest falls in BC, and well worth the stop!
Around the base of the falls, you’ll find a well-maintained boardwalk and trail network that allows you to explore some of the area’s towering trees. The trail to the falls is an easy 350-metre walk.
This Provincial Park does get busy, especially during the summer months. However, if you ask me, the prime time to visit is in the spring or fall when you get to experience the high water levels from the rain and snow-melt which makes for a thunderous waterfall!
Location: Stawamus Chief Provincial Park – located 2 km south of Squamish
The Stawamus Chief is the second largest granite monolith in the world and renowned for its rock climbing.
If rock climbing is your thing (or on your bucket list), Stawamus Chief is an international climbing destination, with opportunities for climbers of all skill levels.
For those that want a good sweat (and burn), the Peaks Backside trail leads to the summit of the Chief. The hike is strenuous, and the weather is very changeable, so please go prepared!
Whether hiking or climbing, those who reach the summit are rewarded with spectacular views of Howe Sound. The cliff faces of the Chief provide critical nesting habitats for the endangered Peregrine falcon. The Falcons can sometimes be seen at the day-use area as well.
Alice Lake (Provincial Park)
Location: A 10-minute drive north of Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway. (Parking lot is on the right).
Alice Lake is a great family-friendly location and a popular place to camp in the summer. The lake has nice sandy beaches, and you are surrounded by breathtaking mountain views, dense forests, and grassy areas.
Alice Lake is popular for kayaking and canoeing, and during the summer months, you can rent gear at the main beach.
Due to the popularity of the campground, reservations are definitely recommended. You can reserve through the Discover Camping website.
There are lots of great trails within the Provincial Park. Top recommendations are:
- Four Lakes Trail – 6 km loop around all four lakes
For fewer crowds, explore the 4 Lakes Trail and visit Stump, Fawn, or Edith Lake. Dogs aren’t allowed on the main beach of Alice Lake, however, you can take them on the trails and to the three smaller lakes.
- DeBeck’s Hill Trail – 3km round trip
Climbing 274 meters from the trailhead, this is a fairly strenuous hike. The trail access is from the parking lot at the south beach area. Walk past the yellow gate and there is a small sign at the beginning of the trail. Go to the right and follow the old logging road up the hill. This road will take you to the high point above and outside of Alice Lake Park.
Other Tranquil Swimming Holes
Cat Lake – located just after Alice Lake on the right
Brohm Lake – the entrance to Brohm Lake is just after Cat Lake (on your left)
So tell me, have you been to any of these locations? Or maybe you have a few other recommendations for the Squamish area!? Let me know in the comments below.
If day-tripping it seems like too much of a chore, you can always stay at one of many Squamish accommodations.