Located adjacent to Shannon Falls Provincial Park, alongside the Sea To Sky Highway 99 in Squamish, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park is extremely popular amongst rock climbers, and those who cheer them on. 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. Established in 1997, the 517-hectare park provides rock climbing opportunities of international significance.
Hiking trails to The Chief’s three summits offer rewarding views of Howe Sound, Squamish town site and surrounding mountains. This park has opportunities for camping, hiking, rock climbing and scenic viewing atop the Chief.
At last count there were 180 routes to climb on Stawamus Chief Mountain in Squamish, all of which begin from the base of one the largest free-standing granite monoliths in the world. Estimated to be 93 million years old, the Chief is one of the senior members of the local landscape, parts of which were laid down as lava a scant 12,000 years ago. Advanced and novice climbers alike look for appropriate routes on ‘The Chief,’ ‘The Squaw,’ and ‘The Apron,’ which together form the main climbing area.
The best barometer of the Chief’s international reputation is to check the wide range of licence plates on the cars parked in the climbers’ lot at the base of the mountain, and to eavesdrop on the languages being spoken here in the staging area, where as many as 25,000 climbers gather annually. The climber’s parking lot in Stawamus Chief Provincial Park is located on the east side of Hwy 99 at its junction with the Stawamus River Forest Road, just north of the Stawamus Chief roadside viewpoint.
Stawamus Chief Mountain is a strenuous, 4- to 7-mile (7- to 11-km) return hike, depending on which of three summit routes you choose. There are several approaches to the base of this mass of granite. For the first, leave your car in the lot beside Shannon Falls Provincial Park’s Logger’s Sports Area. Look for the orange and red markers affixed to a large cedar tree by the Federation of BC Mountain Clubs at the north end of the sports area, which point the way.
Travel time to the base of the Chief is 15 minutes on this 0.6-mile (1-km), well-maintained trail, which features several good viewpoints and close encounters with the cool, smooth rock face where the trail runs beside it.
An alternative approach allows you to drive to the base of the Chief itself at the interpretive viewing area on Hwy 99 just north of Shannon Falls. Take the dirt road that leads up the embankment in the middle of the viewpoint (it’s not as badly eroded as the others). It links up with a section of the old highway that runs north and south as it hugs the base of the Chief. When you stand next to the Chief here, you look up and up at a wall of smooth granite. It’s awe-inspiring. You can see why this monolith has become internationally famous among climbers and has graced more than its share of magazine covers.
To reach the trailhead, turn south onto the old road above the viewpoint, continuing on to its end. Hiking from here to the Chief’s south summit is a 2-mile (3.5-km) ascent and takes about 90 minutes; add another hour if you choose the longer Centre and North summit route (3.5 miles/5.5 km one way). Both routes share a common beginning, then divide above Oleson Creek. (Note: The trail from Shannon Falls joins this approach at Oleson Creek, a short distance uphill.) Altogether there is a 1,980-foot (600-m) elevation gain on this hike; you will be climbing almost constantly until the top. This trail is the most popular with hikers (upwards of 50,000 a year), but it is only one of several possible routes on the Chief. Even if you don’t plan to hike, be sure to stop at the Stawamus Chief Mountain viewpoint on Hwy 99 in Squamish, a short distance north of Shannon Falls Provincial Park. An interpretive display will acquaint you with the mountain and some of the history of the region. Get out your binoculars and scan for climbers high up on the sides of the Chief.
This park offers several vehicle accessible campsites on a first-come, first-served basis – campsite reservations are not accepted. Vehicle sites are not suitable for large RVs. The remaining sites are walk-in sites. There are 63 sites in total. Sites are very shaded with mature second-growth coniferous trees. There is parking for extra vehicles in the day-use parking lot, available for a fee. The gate is locked between the hours of 11pm and 7 am, and during the winter season. Walk-in camping is available when the gate is locked. If there are no staff members available to direct you to a site, find a site that is not occupied by equipment or a valid camping permit. Campground fees are to be paid in cash at the entrance of the campground through a self registration envelope system. The park has winter camping opportunities; however, the gates are locked in the winter, so camping is walk-in only, and no services are provided.
Stawamus Chief Provincial Park is located just south of Squamish off the Sea to Sky Highway 99, adjacent to Shannon Falls Provincial Park off Highway 99. The forested campground is located at the south end of a rough road that hugs the base of the mountain.
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