Exploring beyond the Chief in Squamish

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It’s safe to say that when you arrive in the town of Squamish, the Stawamus Chief immediately steals the show. You see it rising out of the Howe Sound shortly after passing Murrin Provincial Park, when coming from Vancouver – it looms over the downtown core. Even as you exit Squamish to continue on to Whistler it’s still prominent on the horizon, picking up the last light of the sun as it sets, long after the rest of Squamish has begun to go dark for the night.

But, while the Chief is certainly prominent, it is definitely not the only location to visit in Squamish if you’re looking to do some hiking, sightseeing or photowalks. Below are some of my favourite spots to walk and shoot, as a Squamish local.

The Stawamus Chief:

A twilight view of the town of Squamish from the top of the Stawamus Chief.

Twilight over Squamish after sunset.

I felt I had to start with the Elephant, or maybe the Monolith, in the room. The Chief is popular for a reason – definitely check it out. Try visiting it at different times of the day, but be sure to bring a headlamp and the 10 Essentials for hiking if staying until after sunset.

Information and directions: Stawamus Chief Provincial Park

The Sea to Sky Gondola

A hiker in a red jacket looking out over the trees and misty fog and clouds on top of the wooden viewing platform at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola.

Above the clouds at the Sea to Sky Gondola.

A new addition to Squamish, the views at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola are amazing. But this place is more than just panoramic vistas. Get onto the trails and into the sub-alpine forests; you might be surprised with what you’ll find. Even on a rainy day, I’ll ride the Gondola and go exploring up top.

Information and directions: Sea to Sky Gondola

The Estuary and Spit

The rocky bluffs of the Stawamus Chief from the Squamish Estuary at sunset with dark stormy clouds above.

Sunset on the Stawamus Chief from the Squamish Estuary.

A popular kitesurfing destination, the Spit is also one of the best places in Squamish to shoot the Stawamus Chief. Visit at sunset for the best light. The Estuary trails are a great way to see the area and spot the many birds and wildlife that call this location home.

Information and directions: The Squamish Spit

The Smoke Bluffs

A rusty truck on a trail at the Smoke Bluffs, surrounded by green trees with mountains in the background.

An old rusty truck found in the Smoke Bluffs Park.

Popular with rock climbers, this park offers many interesting viewpoints over Squamish as well as some interesting rock cliffs and formations. The network of trails is extensive so expect to wander through the forests here for a while, occasionally popping out and seeing Squamish from a different perspective above the town.

Information and directions: Smoke Bluffs Park

Brohm Lake

A female hiker standing on a rock and taking in the view at the Brohm Lake viewpoint in Squamish, with dense green trees covering the ground and mountains in the background.

Viewpoint along one of the trails at Brohm Lake.

Just north of Squamish on the drive to Whistler is Brohm Lake, a popular swimming spot for locals. There is a great network of interesting trails here that head away from the lake and lead to an excellent viewpoint over the Tantalus Range and back to Squamish. Parking space can be an issue, so be sure to get there early.

Information and directions: Brohm Lake

Area 44 and the Pillary

A hiker in a purple fleece holding a giant leaf in front of their face and surrounded by fall leaves and colours near the Area 44 climbing area in Squamish.

Fall colours in the forest near the “Area 44” climbing area.

This area is primarily known to climbers, but even if you don’t climb I’d recommend checking it out. The forest here is incredibly varied and the rock is very different than around the rest of Squamish. The trails offer excellent views down into the Paradise Valley, back to Squamish and across to the Tantalus Range. This is an excellent location to visit in the Fall, when the moss is vibrant green from the rains and the leaves on the many deciduous trees have begun to turn golden.

Directions: 17 km (10.6 mi) north of Squamish (from Cleveland Avenue) towards Whistler is a paved turnoff on the right with parking. This turnoff is the same as the one for the Tantalus Viewpoint. Once parked, cross the highway when it is safe to do so. There is a trail that heads down into the forest about 50 m (164 ft) north of the parking area.

So there you have it. Come to Squamish for the Stawamus Chief, but stay for the many amazing places to explore here. If you’re looking for more ideas, consider Nexen Beach, Alice Lake, Mount Crumpit and Murrin Provincial Park.

Do you know of other great spots to explore in Squamish? Let us know in the comment below!