Just north of Squamish alongside the Sea to Sky Highway is the community of Garibaldi Highlands. Spread over hillside benches boasting great snow-capped mountain views, and distant ocean views, this area is famous for its bald eagles, world-class rock climbing and windsurfing, fishing, hiking, kayaking, golfing, boating and mountain biking.
Before the white man came to the Squamish Valley, the area was inhabited by the Squohomish tribes, who lived in North Vancouver and came to the Squamish Valley to hunt and fish. The first contact the Indians had with the white man was in 1792, when Captain George Vancouver came to Squamish to trade with the Indians near the residential area of Brackendale.
During the 1850s gold miners came in search of gold and an easier gold route to the Interior. Settlers began arriving in the area in 1889, with the majority of them being farmers relocating to the Squamish Valley. The first school was built in 1893 and the first hotel opened in 1902, on the old dock in Squamish.
Garibaldi Highlands makes a good midway stop on the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler Ski Resort.
Location: The Garibaldi Highlands are located on the east side of the Sea to Sky Highway, a 7-minute drive northeast of downtown Squamish, 45 minutes north of Vancouver and 35 minutes south of the ski resort village of Whistler.
From early November through March, thousands of bald eagles gather along the gravel shores of the Squamish, Cheakamus and Mamquam rivers to feast on the eggs and carcasses of spawned-out salmon. In 1994, Squamish set the world record with an astounding 3766 eagles counted in one day! The month-long Eagle Festival is held in January, drawing crowds from around the world.
The Brackendale Eagle Reserve, just north of Garibaldi Highlands, has one of the highest concentrations of bald eagles in the world. In 1994, a world record of 3,766 eagles sighted was established. The Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival in January is a major event in this arts-minded community.
Rafting: The Squamish, Cheakamus, Elaho and Mamquam rivers range from beginner floats to intense whitewater for both kayaking and rafting.
Rock Climbing: The area around Squamish boasts some of the best rock climbing in North America. The granite cliffs surrounding Squamish that includes the colossal Stawamus Chief, the world’s second largest granite monolith, draw climbers from around the world. The Little Smoke Bluffs, Murrin Provincial Park, Comic Rocks and Cheakamus Canyon offer a multitude of one and two pitch climbs of all difficulties. Peak climbing months are between April to October but climbers can be seen year rounds.
Golf: Squamish Valley Golf & Country Club is a semi-private championship course on Mamquam Road, south of Garibaldi Highlands, with immaculately maintained greens and panoramic mountain views off every tee (18 holes, Par 72, 5,639 yards). Garibaldi Springs Golf Resort in Squamish is impeccably maintained, demands skill and accuracy, and falls nothing short of brilliant. The 4,700-yard, Par 64 course is set in stunning surroundings, showing great respect for the environmentally sensitive habitat. To the north, The resort village of Whistler provides a number of world-class golfing opportunities, and south of Squamish the Furry Creek Golf & Country Club in Lions Bay is considered by many to be the most scenic golf course in BC. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Snowmobiling: The upper Squamish Valley and Brohm Ridge, northeast of Squamish, are popular snowmobiling areas. Main use occurs on logging roads and alpine ridge and bowls. A local snowmobile club leases two chalets in the area, and provides a trail maintenance service at a small cost.
Fishing: This area has long been renowned is a great destination for anglers. The Mamquam, Cheakamus, Squamish, and Elaho Rivers have been known to run thick with all five Pacific species of salmon, as well as Dolly Varden char and cutthroat trout. Visitors interested in fishing must have a license and a book of regulations for a list of restricted areas and waters.
Windsurfing: The Squamish Spit located at the mouth of the Squamish River, where it enters Howe Sound, is considered by many windsurfing aficionados to be one of the top 10 windsurfing locations in the world. In the summer when the sun shines, the thermal winds blow, allowing windsurfers to reach speeds exceeding 60 km/hour. Novices perfect techniques on one of the many local lakes. The best time for boardsailing is from 10 am to 6 pm between May and September.
Mountain Biking: Mountain bikers of all ages and abilities can test their mettle at the annual Squamish Test of Metal held in June, a gruelling 67-km mountain bike race with more than 1,200 metres of climbing and 35 km of singletrack bike riding. The race is part of the Squamish Mountain Bike Festival, and is regarded as one of the premiere cross-country mountain bikes races in North America.
Hiking trails abound in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Other trails head to Elfin Lakes, great for hiking and backcountry skiing, and Singing Pass for more high alpine hiking.
Swimming: A number of good freshwater swimming spots are located along the Sea to Sky Highway. Swimming Spots in the area.
Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort has the largest ski area on the continent: over 28,000 hectares (just over 7,000 acres) of skiing area, with over 200 marked trails and 12 massive Alpine bowls. More information on Skiing and Winter Activities in the Whistler and Sea to Sky area.
Cat Lake Recreation Site is a popular 36 tent walk-in site with a beach on the small Cat Lake near the Cheekeye River. Access is by two-wheel drive vehicle on a narrow road to the parking area, and a five-minute walk to Cat Lake. No powerboats are permitted. Good fishing, swimming, picnicking and mountain biking. Opens approximately May 15.
Hike around Alice Lake Provincial Parkk, just north of Garibaldi Estates and surrounded by open grassy areas, dense forests, and impressive snowcapped peaks. A hush prevails over this lushly forested campground. In part this is due to the thick canopy of western hemlock that shelters much of the park. If you’re lucky, one of the sites near both the lake and the hot showers will be vacant. The Four Lakes Interpretive Trail connects Alice, Edith, Fawn and Stump Lakes, making it a favoured destination for hikers, anglers, canoeists and windsurfers.
Camping at Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park is restricted to two designated areas – Taylor Meadows and the west end of Garibaldi Lake. Tent pads and a covered cooking shelter are located at each. When water levels in Garibaldi Lake are high, be prepared to wade a short distance along the shoreline to reach the campsites on its west side. There are also wilderness campsites at three locations on Cheakamus Lake in the park. The easiest one to reach is at the west end of the lake, while those at Singing Creek and Castle Towers Creek are more remote. You’ll need a boat (and a couple of hours paddling) to reach the primitive site at Castle Towers from the launch at the lake’s west end, which almost guarantees that you’ll usually have the site to yourself. Elsewhere in Garibaldi Provincial Park, there are alpine hut’s and wilderness campsites at Russet and Wedgemount Lakes.
For climbers (and those who cheer them on) there’s a provincial campground at the base of Stawamus Chief Mountain in Squamish. You’ll find spiffy drive-in and walk-in sites in Stawamus Chief Provincial Park. The forested campground is located at the south end of a rough road that hugs the base of the mountain.
North of Garibaldi Highlands (30 miles/48km) is Whistler, the world-famous ski resort recognized as the Top Ski Resort in North America for 6 years in a row. Central to everything in the resort is Whistler Village, with its shopping areas and après-ski restaurants bordered by squeaky-clean streets. The skiing is… well… maybe the best anywhere! Whistler and Blackcomb mountains have over 200 runs and 33 lifts combined.
South of Garibaldi Highlands at the head of Howe Sound and surrounded by mountains is the community of Squamish. Growing in fame as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, visitors will discover the abundance of attractions, activities and opportunities to explore in the community of Squamish.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on a driving Circle Tour. Head north out of Vancouver for the scenic Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, or stay on the intensely scenic Sea to Sky Highway, passing through the magical winter resort town of Whistler and Coast Mountains Circle Tour. To explore the rural farmlands and forests of the fertile Fraser Valley, take the Fraser Valley Circle Tour, travelling outbound on the scenic route north of the historic Fraser River, returning westwards along the Trans Canada Highway 1 to Vancouver. Circle Tours in British Columbia.