Situated at the head of Howe Sound and surrounded by mountains, Squamish is cradled in natural beauty as only a West Coast community can be. 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.
Before the white man came to the Squamish Valley, the area was inhabited by the Squohomish tribes. These Indians 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.
Squamish means Mother of the Wind in Coast Salish, which is testimony to the winds that rise from the north before noon and blow steadily until dusk, making Squamish a top wind surfing destination, and host to annual PROAM sailboard races.
The Stawamus Chief, the second largest freestanding piece of granite in the world, has made Squamish one of the top rock climbing destinations in North America.
Location: Squamish is located at the head of Howe Sound on Highway 99, (the Sea to Sky Highway), midway between Whistler and Vancouver. South of Squamish are the communities of Britannia Beach and Lions Bay.
West Coast Railway Heritage Park: Rail and railway history is showcased at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park, with over 50 vintage railway cars and locomotives displayed in a setting of unmatched natural beauty. Climb aboard cabooses and snowplows, view a superbly restored 1890 railway business car, or appreciate the only surviving Pacific Great Western steam engine.
Shannon Falls Provincial Park is where visitors can find the park’s namesake, BC’s third-highest waterfall, a magnificent cascade that drops over 1,000 feet, right above the Sea to Sky Highway.
Ice Climbing: While Shannon Falls is a popular stop for naturalists and rock climbers during the warm seasons, every few years Shannon Falls freezes over in the winter, attracting thrill-seeking ice climbers, who scale the frozen Shannon Falls.
Squamish Estuary provides extraordinary birding, with over 200 bird species identified. The estuary is a great place for an afternoon walk along the trails and boardwalks. Wind your way over streams and through tall reeds, keeping your eye out for birds, waterfowl, and other wildlife. The estuary also provides great views of the Stawamus Chief.
Golf: The 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.
Windsurfing: Oregon has the Columbia Gorge, Squamish has the Spit, a long breakwater located at the mouth of the Squamish River. Although not as well known, the Squamish Spit is the launch pad for windsurfers who rely on its predictable wind, known as a squamish, which blows each afternoon.
Brackendale Eagle Reserve, just north of Squamish, has one of the highest concentrations of bald eagles in the world. 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. Squamish set the world record in 1994 with an astounding 3,766 eagles counted in one day! The month-long Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival is held in January, drawing crowds from around the world.
The Sea to Sky Gondola starts your adventure with a 10-minute gondola ride to the Summit Lodge at 885 metres (2,900 feet) above sea level. The ride up in the 8-passenger gondola cabin provides sweeping views of Howe Sound fjord, the majestic coastal forest, Shannon Falls, and the famous Squamish Chief climbing area. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows enhance the views. At the top there are interpretive loop walking trails with viewing platforms, the spectacular Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, rock climbing, numerous hiking trails, and access trails to backcountry routes. The Sea to Sky Gondola terminus is located 2 kilometres south of Squamish, directly off the Sea to Sky Highway 99. UPDATE SUMMER 2019: The Sea to Sky Gondola is CLOSED for the foreseeable future due to a major lift incident in August 2019.
Stawamus Chief Provincial Park is extremely popular amongst rock climbers. The Stawamus Chief is the second largest granite monolith in the world, providing a fabulous site as you travel the scenic highway from Vancouver to Whistler. There’s a provincial campground, and hiking trails to The Chief’s three summits offer rewarding views of Howe Sound, Squamish, and the surrounding mountains.
Hike around Alice Lake Provincial Park, 13 km north of Squamish 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.
Garibaldi Provincial Park: 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.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, 36 km north of Squamish, is girdled by Hwy 99 on the west and the BC Rail line on the east. The vehicle/tent campsites here are in constant use in warm weather, but once snow falls, the campground closes for the winter.
Porteau Cove Provincial Park provides great scuba diving, with over 100 marine species to be viewed. This is a wonderful place to enjoy the spectacular views of Howe Sound while watching wet-suited divers enter or emerge from the cold waters of the sound. As this is the only provincial campground on Howe Sound, campsites are in constant demand from late May to early October. There’s a charming sense of formality where an open lawn is laid out beside the cove, and a small bridge spans the narrow backwater.
Camping space is limited along the shores of Howe Sound, although Forest District campsites are located throughout the Squamish-Lillooet Forest District. Spiffy drive-in and walk-in campsites are provided at a provincial campground at the base of Stawamus Chief Mountain. The forested campground is located at the south end of a rough road that hugs the base of the mountain. Wherever you decide to camp overnight, be prepared to share it with sounds from the nearby highway and railway.
Outdoor Activities: Good hiking, horseback riding and golfing are offered in the Squamish area, and snowmobiling and backcountry skiing in winter are also gaining fame. The varied terrain of the Vancouver, Coast and Mountains region of BC accommodates every outdoor recreation known to man.
The Squamish River, Cheakamus River, Elaho River and Mamquam River range from beginner floats to intense whitewater for both kayaking and rafting, as well as prime habitat for fabulous fishing.
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. The stars of tomorrow race on a short course specially designed for kids.
Squamish Days Loggers Sports celebrates the forestry history of Squamish, with international competitions testing strength, spirit and skill in North America’s premier loggers sports show. Experience the spirit of Squamish during this three-day extravaganza in July, which includes the Lullaby Festival, the Haulback Hoedown, and the Gearjammers Ball. There are music events, children’s activities, a parade, wacky bed races, a pancake breakfast, and a 10-km run.
Annual Events in Squamish: Exciting summer events include the Squamish Open Annual Regatta Sailboat Race and the Thunder in the Streets Squamish Car Rally.
Britannia Beach: Stop at the National Historic Site of Britannia Beach and explore BC’s fascinating mining history at the BC Museum of Mining. The mine boomed in the late 1920s and early 1930s, becoming the largest producer of copper in the British Empire. See how the Gold Rush affected the mine’s history, view rock and mineral displays, transportation methods, and artifacts from the past.
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. Skiing & Winter Activities and Helicopter Skiing in Squamish and Sea to Sky area.
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.