Toward the northeastern end of the world-famous Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99), spectacular, turquoise Seton Lake is a sight to behold. Gorgeous from lake level as well, it really stands out from one of the viewpoints high above. Of course, there is more to Seton Lake than just an extraordinary postcard photo, and people willing to stay for night or weekend will be rewarded with some great activities and plenty more terrific views.
Seton Lake is 22 kilometres long, an estimated 500 metres deep and surrounded by picturesque mountains. It is a natural fjord lake filled with magnificent glacier runoff that is a popular destination in summer for swimming, boating, fishing, kayaking, hiking and just hanging around, enjoying a picnic and a bit of sun. Interestingly, it is just 8 kilometres west of the town of Lillooet, far closer than beautiful Lillooet Lake is to its namesake (by nearly 80 km).
The Lillooet area is famous for being one of the hottest and driest places in the country, often reaching high 30’s and even low 40’s in summer. And, although the lake itself is naturally formed, BC Hydro has built a dam at the eastern end that provides electricity for much of the region.
Seton Beach – Seton Lake Recreation Area
Lovely Seton Lake beach may not have any soft sand but the stones are nice and smooth and it is still a great place for summer fun in the sun. The water is clean and astoundingly clear, perfect for swimming (if you can handle a little cold, of course), there are several picnic tables and a handy cluster of acacia trees for shade. The trees were actually planted in 1942 in honour of casualties during World War II.
There is a boat launch and dock but the swimming area is well away from the boat traffic. There is also a nice café for snack time, a place to rent canoes and, depending on the day, you may even see the Lillooet Rowing Club out practicing.
Parking at the beach is rather limited, although there is another small lot at the top of the hill next to the highway. Pets are not allowed on the beach from April to October and must be kept on a leash the rest of the year.
Seton Lake Hikes
Seton Lake Viewpoint Hike
Just 1 kilometre return, this short jaunt is a must-do whether you are spending the weekend at Seton Lake or just passing through and want to take a break from driving to stretch your legs. While it does involve around 80 metres of elevation gain, the trail is still easy and obvious, leading you up to a terrific viewpoint down to the beautiful blue of the lake with the snaking switchback of the highway in the foreground (known as Duffey Lake Road U-Turn). You can also see Cayoosh Creek and Seton Canal. Oh, and a horizon filled with mountains, of course. Tough to beat.
There is a large parking area on Highway 99 just west of the main switchback (Latitude 50.6625 / Longitude -121.9909). From there you should be able to see the trailhead just across the road (on the south side). The trail heads into the trees for a bit then runs along the edge of a cliff for the last while (with several good photo ops) until you reach a rocky bluff that you can explore for different angles.
If you want to be sure you’re headed in the right direction you can use this AllTrails GPS map: Seton Lake Lookout. However, don’t bother with the righthand spur shown on the map, it just ends at a small clearing where any potential views are blocked by trees. If you have more time you could try following one of the faint trails to the west for eventual canyon views but I didn’t personally have any luck.
Upper Bench Loop Trail
Starting from the same parking lot, this nice, wooded path leads the other direction and provides some awesome views of Cayoosh Creek, the valley and Seton Powerhouse.
This short, gravel trail leads from the viewpoint parking lot down to the lake, offering some pretty nice looks at the blue water along the way.
The 4-kilometre Cayoosh Creek Dam hike is mostly flat, following the creek slightly upstream until it reaches a nice waterfall. Along the way you can enjoy some remarkable creek and valley scenery and in the wetter seasons the waterfall can really be raging (although not so much in the dry summer season).
Seton Lake Fishing
While Seton Lake is not especially known for its fishing, like seemingly every lake in British Columbia there are still plenty of fish there for the taking if you know where to look. The fishing is usually best in the spring and fall and local anglers have reported the most success near the rivers, channels and tributaries leading in and out of the lake.
In the lake itself, you might find rainbow and bull trout, whitefish, sturgeon and guitarfish. In season, watch the river for kokanee, pink, chinook, soho and steelhead salmon.
Seton Lake Camping
Seton Dam campground has 45 sites open from May 1st to October 31st, all available on a first come, first served basis (no reservations). Each site has a picnic table and fire pit and drinking water is available, as well as firewood (for a fee). A nice little trail leads from the campground to the beach.
Kaoham Shuttle Trail Train Trip
This might be one of the most scenic train trips in the world, running back and forth from Lillooet along the shore of Seton Lake to Seton Portage just before Anderson Lake. With the lake on one side and sheer cliffs soaring above on the other, this short rail journey is a spectacular experience.
Although popular with tourists, its main purpose is as a commuter train for people travelling between the two towns (who are given priority). It is operated by the Seton Lake Indian Band and you can call (250) 259-8300 to confirm the latest schedule and possibly reserve a spot. Depending on the times, you might be able to arrive at Seton Portage early enough to spend the day at the lake, then take the train back again.
Seton Lake Directions
Seton Lake and the town of Lillooet are a very scenic 4-hour drive northeast from Vancouver along the Sea to Sky Highway. Two hours in the other direction is the main interior transport hub of Kamloops. This trip along parts of Highway 99 and 97 may not be quite as scenic but still has some very nice stretches and impressive lakes.
Highlights Between Vancouver and Seton Lake
If you are coming from Vancouver, we highly recommend setting aside as much time as possible to enjoy the many great sights along the Sea to Sky Highway (from several hours to several days). Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton all have a wide range of hotel options, or if camping is more your thing we suggest checking out the best (and worst) Squamish campgrounds and all the rustic Pemberton camping options.
Meanwhile, there are many top destinations to visit along your Sea to Sky Highway journey north from Vancouver:
Bowen Island makes a great day trip, featuring an outstanding viewpoint at the end of a hike up to the panoramic summit of Mount Gardner, plus a bunch of good beaches, a lighthouse, a number of bayside restaurants and bars and a short hike to a mysterious, hidden driftwood mastodon.
Adrenalin-seekers might want to check out the cliff jumping at Lions Bay, where a variety of rock ledges loom over the Howe Sound.
Tunnel Bluffs viewpoint has phenomenal views of Howe Sound and is a very popular spot reached by a moderate hike from Lions Bay.
Porteau Cove is a quick, easy stop with some great viewpoints, a nice short hike and plenty of picnic areas.
It is a short stroll to the main Shannon Falls viewpoints, or you can tackle the strenuous and tricky climb to the spectacular viewpoint at the Upper Pools.
“The Chief” hike near Squamish is the most famous hike in the area. It is a strenuous climb up featuring stairs, rocks, roots, scrambling, ladders and chains to reach three different viewpoints, all of which are amazing.
One Mile Lake is a popular spot for swimming and picnicking.
Everyone should drive the entire Sea to Sky Highway at least once, and stunning Seton Lake is the perfect place to plan a stop. Whether you set aside a few hours to explore on a day trip or stay for a night or two, this wonderful mountain lake won’t disappoint.
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