5 Places to Stop Along the Sea-to-Sky Highway

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It’s about the journey. And if you subscribe to this philosophy, then you are in luck with BC’s cliff-hugging Highway 99, which winds in and out of Howe Sound’s steep fjords from Vancouver’s North Shore up to Whistler and the farm-filled Pemberton Valley. Lauded as one of the most gorgeous in the world, the Sea-to-Sky Highway is a drive to savour. How else can you catch sight of a bald eagle floating on air currents, a pod of orcas breaching or a climber scaling the 702-metre (2,303-foot) sheer granite face of The Chief? Sure, you can beeline to Whistler in an hour-and-a-half. Don’t. Pick up a picnic or pause for a café lunch, pack for an outdoor adventure and enjoy these top stops along the way.

 

Tantalus Range | @Outdoorexplore1 via Twitter

Tantalus Range Lookout, Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest

Instead of the southbound lookout, take the northbound pullout for a view in quiet solitude at the darling of climbers, filmmakers, and photographers. This one comes up fast north of Squamish, plus there’s not a huge amount of signage. So look for the alternate parking lot just opposite the main turnoff and prepare to stop—the Tantalus Range is a truly heady sight. Even a world-weary globetrotter can’t help but be captivated by the jagged, narrow range of white glaciers glinting in the sun. Crowned by Mt. Tantalus at 2,603 metres (8,540 feet), the range towers above the Squamish River.

West Coast Railway Heritage Park | Tourism Squamish

West Coast Railway Heritage Park, Squamish

Fans of vintage trains will thrill at an up-close look at the (operating) Classic Royal Hudson, a globally significant steam locomotive. This heritage park is an open-air museum that’s home to western Canada’s largest assemblage of historical railway rolling stock, including artifacts, paraphernalia, and collectibles dating to 1890. Ride the 3-kilometre (1.9-mile) mini railway, amble around the 12 acres, walk in and around restored passenger, freight and dining cars, plus cabooses. Peruse the roundhouse, recreated town centre and authentic post office car, which operated into the 1960s. The park hosts seasonal events, too, such as the spring and winter arts and crafts fairs.

Nairn Falls | @cvdb_photos

Nairn Falls, just north of Whistler

Hike, mountain bike, fish, rock-climb or camp along the Green River and Canadian National Railway line at Nairn Falls Provincial Park. Or just follow the easy 2.4-kilometre (1.5-mile; round-trip) trail for a look down into the steep rock canyon channels of churning green water below. Heading left from the falls past the campsites is an idyllic spot along a wide bend in the river for a swim and picnic on the sunny beach fringed by thick forest. Visit year-round, though hiking here is best March to December.

Scandinave Spa | BC Ale Trail

Scandinave Spa, Whistler

Hike or no, you’ll want to unwind at serene indoor-outdoor Scandinave Spa, just south of Whistler. This Nordic-style haven is all about soaking in the fresh alpine air and lounging in sun-warmed atriums year-round. Picture a series of outdoor hot and cold pools, rushing waterfalls and quiet nooks nestled along an artfully landscaped mountainside. Cocoon in the solarium, nap on a chez by the fire pit or get a massage and gourmet lunch at the stylish full-service spa. Splurge on an entire day of R&R—or at least an afternoon.

Peak 2 Peak Gondola in Whistler | Blake Jorgenson

PEAK 2 PEAK, Whistler Blackcomb

PEAK 2 PEAK smashed Guinness World Records figures as the longest and highest lift anywhere—the only one connecting two mountains—when it debuted in 2008. The innovative gondola linking Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains spans 4.4 kilometres (2.7 miles) at 436 metres (1,427 feet) up. Top-of-the-world 360-degree panoramas take in 8,100 acres of lush BC rainforest, sawtooth volcanic peaks, and glaciers. If you can, wait for the special glass-bottom gondola. In summer, meadows of wildflowers are often dotted with some 60 browsing black bears.

Please note that the Sea-to-Sky corridor is extremely popular among locals and visitors, and it is very busy in the summer. Spring and fall can be the best times to visit.