Beautiful Squamish is considered by many to be the outdoor adventure capital of British Columbia. With world-class mountain biking, rock climbing and windsurfing, Squamish appeals to a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts. And, of course, with its dramatic location tucked between a string of impressive mountains and the spectacular Howe Sound (the southernmost fjord in North America) it is not surprising that there are many phenomenal Squamish hikes in the area as well.
We found 22 Squamish trails that are well worth the effort during our very enjoyable month spent in this beautiful coastal city.
While we have not personally hiked every one of the many Squamish hiking trails (that would take years), we did experience most of the highlight hikes and managed to cover a pretty good range, from easy to scenic to unique.
Many of these hikes are outside of Squamish but all are within an hour’s drive, our very subjective distance limit as to what we consider “close”.
Hike details are shown in the format:
Distance / Approx. hiking time / Elevation gain
Squamish Hikes Map
The Best Squamish Hike
1. The Stawamus Chief Hike
6 km / 4-5 hrs / 770m
Hiking The Chief is a Squamish rite of passage that offers the chance to scale three different peaks in one challenging hike, each of which offer a slightly different but spectacular viewpoint. While it starts off on a wide smooth path – the same start point at the Sea to Summit trail, that part soon gives way to steep wooden stairs, then you find yourself on a rough forest trail before reaching the bluffs, where things really get interesting.
It involves some rock scrambling, metal ladders and helpful chains – people who lack agility or aren’t comfortable with heights may want to steer clear.
It is possible to visit each of the Stawamus Chief trail peaks separately as well but even the easiest version involves over 500 metres of elevation gain and some sketchy spots.
For all the gory details, you can check out our Squamish Chief Hike FAQ. It is the most popular of the hikes in Squamish so expect try to get there early. When you are in Squamish, hiking The Chief is a must do.
Easy Squamish Trails
2. Browning Lake
2.5 km / 1.5 hrs / 160m
The Browning Lake and Jurassic Ridge Loop (aka the Murrin Park loop) in Murrin Provincial Park is short and starts off deceivingly gently, with an easy, flat walk around tiny Browning Lake. But soon you head up the ridge and despite the modest total elevation gain it is quite steep, often scrambly and will definitely get your heart rate up.
But you are rewarded with several terrific viewpoints and a lot of fascinating rock formations. An excellent choice just out of town. This is a popular rock climbing area (Woodstocks, Pet Wall) and you can easily extend the hike by adding more of Jurassic Ridge or the Cedars Trail.
This is a great hiking in Squamish choice if you are looking for a shorter trail with views.
3. Smoke Bluffs
2.7 km / 45 min / 120m
The Smoke Bluffs Loop Trail is a nicely varied trail right in town that gets you up to some decent viewpoints with minimal effort. There is a huge maze of trails in the Smoke Bluffs park, many of them used mostly by mountain bikers, so you can mix and match to your heart’s content.
We also did a loop along the outside up to the tower that had nice views from the top but the trail on the east and north sides gets pretty rugged and is not all that scenic. We went for a second hike there where we just randomly picked a trail at every intersection we came to which is a fun way to do it.
There are some pretty wild bike jumps though, if you happen to be around to see them in action. There are also a lot of good rock climbing spots here.
4. Cheakamus Canyon
5.5 km / 1.5 hrs / 170 m
The Cheakamus Canyon Trail has some very cool views of mountains/canyon/river/railway tracks. Based on the reviews we read that suggested the south end of the hike was flat and dull, we decided to hike only the half from the highway down to Starvation Lake and back.
This also meant we could avoid the very rough road to the southern trailhead. We parked in a small rest area/turnout just north of the north end of the trail on the map. From there we followed a trail alongside the highway to the main trail (we only had to walk on the shoulder for about 100 metres).
Then a nice, smooth gravel trail goes downhill all the way to the lake with lots of really nice viewpoints. This hike is part of the Trans-Canada Trail.
5. Four Lakes (Stump / Fawn / Edith / Alice)
6 km / 1.5 hrs / 150 m
The Four Lakes Trail Loop is a nice, easy, undulating loop through lush, mossy forest. This version passes by four lakes that are all glassy and scenic on a calm day. Stump and Alice Lakes, in particular, will offer excellent views with Mount Garibaldi in the backdrop on a clear day.
Plus, I think we saw a beaver.
Much quieter than many of the other trails in the area, it was a bit muddy but considering it had rained all day long the day before, it wasn’t too bad. If you go clockwise you’ll finish up at Alice Lake, which has washrooms and picnic areas.
6. Cat Lake Loop
1.5 km / 20 min / 25m
There are two good options at this picturesque little lake, a party/camping hotspot on summer weekends. The Cat Lake Loop is exactly what it sounds like, an easy stroll that gives you an excuse to snoop on the rest of the campers around the lake.
7. Cheshire Cat Loop
5 km / 1.5 hrs / 180m
The Cheshire Cat Loop is a challenging mountain bike trail leading out from Cat Lake that doesn’t seem nearly so difficult on foot. Once you get out of the trees there are some outstanding views of the surrounding mountains. The two Cat Lake trails share one side of the lake and are easily combined.
8. Mamquam Falls
3 km / 1 hr / 100m
This easy stroll takes you down to a trail along the Mamquam River to the dam and Mamquam Falls. Close to the river the trail gets a little bit narrow and muddy but should be manageable for most people. The falls are particularly photogenic early in the morning with mist hovering over the river.
As this is a lesser known Squamish falls there shouldn’t be too many people around.
9. Shannon Falls Lookout
1 km / 15 min / 20m
Very short and practically flat, the Shannon Falls hike barely qualifies as a hike but considering how incredible the view of these massive falls is from both lookouts, it seemed worth adding to the list. There are also some good views looking back up the river.
Just off the Sea to Sky Highway, in the Shannon Falls Provincial Park, the tallest of the Squamish waterfalls is definitely worth a stop.
10. Estuary Trail
5 km / 1.5 hrs / flat
The Estuary Trail is pleasant and easy and one of the only hikes in Squamish. It has nice views of the estuary, mountains and Echo Falls. You can either do it as an out and back trail or turn it into a small loop using an inland trail and a couple of quiet streets.
11. The Spit (Estuary Chelem Trail)
2 km / 30 min / flat
A handful of easy little trails make their way through the trees on either side of the Spit road, just across the water from the longer and more popular Estuary Trail. This is a quieter alternative and worth tacking onto a drive out to the end of the Spit (which you definitely should do at least once).
12. The Squamish River Dike Trail
2 – 8 km / 30 min – 2 hrs / 50m
Also known as the Mamquam Spawning Trail, this flat, raised path running along the Mamquam River is located right in Squamish next to the Squamish Valley Golf Club. There are nice river views and you will even get a few glimpses of this scenic golf course (be alert for flying golf balls). You can make this walk/hike as long or short as you want as it passes a number of access points and bridges.
Moderate Hikes Near Squamish
13. Tunnel Bluffs
12 km / 3.5 hrs / 520m
The Tunnel Bluffs hike from Lions Bay is another popular hike about halfway between Squamish and Vancouver and it is all about the big viewpoint.
Almost all the elevation gain comes in the first 2 kilometres, then it is a pretty pleasant stroll the rest of the way other than a bit of rocky scrambling right at the end. Then from the rocky ledge at the top you are treated to a phenomenal look at Howe Sound with Bowen, Gambier and Anvil Islands.
On a clear day you can see all the way to Vancouver Island.
The rest of the hike is pretty much in the trees the entire way – pleasant enough but never more than just a hint of a view. The main trailhead parking lot now has a 30-minute limit to leave room for people stopping in to enjoy that viewpoint, so hikers need to start from Lion’s Bay.
This makes the hike a bit longer and finding parking much more difficult. There is a small pay parking lot at the trailhead ($3/hr) or you can (and probably will have to) park along the street farther down. Between May and September the closest few streets are permit-only so you’ll have to park well down. The rest of the year you may only have to walk a few extra blocks. For all the details to help you plan your hike, check out our Tunnel Bluffs Hike FAQ.
14. Red Heather Hut (Elfin Lakes Trail)
11 km / 3 hrs / 550m
In late April, the roads were completely clear but the snow started right at the trailhead in the Garibaldi Provincial Park. The trail as far as the Red Heather Hut had deep snow but it was well-packed and perfect for spikes.
You walk up a fairly nondescript forest trail/road for first 3-4 km, then it opens up onto a scenic ridge with views of the Tantalus Range. From there I followed the poles of the winter route which actually bypassed the Red Heather Hut (even after exploring the area I never actually saw it).
I recommend continuing up the hill past the end of the route shown on AllTrails toward Round Mountain for stunning 270 degree views. I considered climbing up to the summit of Round Mountain but there was no decent trail and soon gave up.
It is probably much easier in summer. Anyway, I’m sure the rest of the Elfin Lakes Trail is spectacular also but if you don’t want to take on 20 km in the snow to reach a still-frozen lake, this shorter version still offers amazing views and a good workout.
15. Mount Crumpit
4.7 km / 2 hrs / 300 m
Mount Crumpit is mainly a mountain- and motor-biking area but works for hikers, too, with some awesome views of the Chief, Smoke Bluffs and more distant peaks. There are a lot of variations you can choose but if you do the AllTrails loop shown here we recommend going counter clockwise so you are climbing up on the steepest, loosest sections.
There are several good viewpoints on the way up (some actually better than those at the peak) and you can marvel at some of the suicidal bike routes along the way. There are some steep spots coming down the other side but it is mostly gentle and then basically flat once you get back to the creek.
Also, after seeing around 100 other hikers at Tunnel Bluffs the day before, we saw exactly no one on the higher parts of this trail (and just a couple of joggers on the flat area at the bottom).
16. Shannon Falls Pools Trail
2.5 km / 1.5 hrs / 240m
While the lookout is just a short stroll from the parking lot that anyone can do, the Shannon Falls Pools trail, on the other hand, was much more difficult than we expected. It is just a nice forest path at first but soon gets very steep, involving a fair bit of scrambling using ropes in some parts.
You end up very close to the Upper Shannon Falls, though, with great views to Squamish and Howe Sound.
The rocks around the falls were very slippery so a lot of caution is needed. A slip here would not end well. On the way up or down, you should take the small detour (just to the north from the bottom of the washed out ravine right before the top) for some spectacular views out over the sound that rival those from Tunnel Bluffs.
17. Brohm Lake Loop
8 km / 2.5 hrs / 500m
Since we couldn’t get a parking spot in the regular lot (a common occurrence) we ended up parking south of the Cat Lake turnoff and doing a partial Brohm Lake Loop. A nice forest walk with a lot of up and down, reaching pleasant and calm Brohm Lake at about the halfway point.
On the way back on your Brohm Lake hike you can (and should) take the short spur trail to the Tantalus Mountain range viewpoint, then follow the outer loop for more great views (and more climbing, however).
18. Crooked Falls
5.5 km / 3 hrs / 550m
The climb to Crooked Falls is a classic “hard work, big payoff” hike. There is only one nice valley viewpoint on the steep slog up through the trees but the close-up look at the expansive Crooked Falls is very impressive (and wet). And the hike up is through very enjoyable forest.
There are a few good spots offering different angles of the Crooked Falls, Squamish and it is certainly worth the effort.
Hikes Around Squamish: Closer to Whistler
Once you include gorgeous Whistler and surrounds the list can start growing pretty quickly but here are just a few good choices that are easily accessed from the Sea to Sky Highway.
19. Whistler Train Wreck
2 km / 45 min / 30m
The pleasant little forest stroll to the Whistler Train Wreck takes you across a fun suspension bridge to the heavily graffitied remains of a major 1956 train crash. The cars are strewn wildly about in the forest, deemed beyond restoration and simply left where they landed.
It makes for a fascinating place to visit and the area is also popular with mountain bikers, with some of the jumps and obstacles incorporating the train cars themselves. Not for the casual cyclist, that’s for sure.
20. Cheakamus Riverside / Farside Loop
7 km / 2 hrs / 200m
The Cheakamus Riverside/Farside Loop follows the same route as the Cheakamus Ridge Trail along the west side of the river then cut across the river partway and follows the Farside Trail back. It is a nice trail but there are surprisingly few river views for a “Riverside” trail and there is a lot of construction happening on the west side and then logging on the east side.
The best views are from the suspension bridge and toward the north end of the Farside trail, right before you get back to the village. We felt a bit like trailblazers for awhile until we ran into the woman in sneakers with a baby strapped to her chest and her French bulldog running point.
Based on our experience, it appears that the French Bulldog is the main trend in hiking accessories for 2021, despite being so genetically unsuited for mountain trekking. They always look happily bewildered, though.
21. Nairn Falls
3 km / 45 min / 100m
Nairn Falls features a very unique waterfall, pool and rock bridge at the end of an easy hike along the river. Unlike many waterfall hikes that are mainly in the trees this one features pretty nice scenery all the way along. And then some prison-level fencing at the end to protect us from ourselves.
22. Brandywine Falls
6 km / 2 hrs / 160m
This smooth, gravel trail starts right off the Sea to Sky Highway and leads to a set of pretty amazing waterfalls. If you only go as far as the falls the hike is just 1.3 km return. It is worth adding another 4.5 kilometres, though, by continuing on the Brandywine Trail for more great scenery ending at the Cheakamus River.
The park gate is usually closed for the winter but there is still room for a few cars to park in front (and are usually ignored by the authorities).
What to Take
It is always important to be prepared when venturing out hiking, especially in the mountains. Obviously, long, challenging hikes require more advance planning and safety gear but even for short hikes you still need to be properly equipped.
Dressing properly will make the experience much more enjoyable and carrying useful safety supplies can ensure you are prepared in case mishaps take place (as they tend to). Here is a quick checklist of items we alway carry, wear or use while hiking:
A good day pack is essential. We have recently become big fans of Gregory packs and would recommend the Gregory Miwok 18 for short hikes or when your gear is split between two people. And the Gregory Optic 48 for longer hikes. I know 48L sounds big but it is a super-light and comfortable pack that cinches down smaller when it isn’t full.
Water is obviously important and we go back and forth between using a Camelbak bladder and just a couple of water bottles. We also keep a few Aquatabs with us at all times just in case we ever run low and want to treat some river or lake water.
They are tiny and every now and then come in quite handy. It is always a good idea to carry some snacks as well. It never hurts and sometimes hikes end up taking longer than planned.
Laynni always hikes in compression leggings that she swears by for the extra knee, hip and muscle support.
Layers, baby! You never know what kind of weather nature will throw at you so it pays to be ready for anything. Obviously, the forecast might change what you carry but if there is any doubt (and there almost always is in the mountains), bring extra.
And just in case we are so impressed by the scenery that we decide it’s worth a photo with both of us in it we always carry the tiny, extremely handy octopus tripod.
Of course, a comprehensive first-aid kit is key to make sure those “mishaps” are simply inconvenient and don’t ruin your whole day.
Other useful items that we sometimes carry and sometimes don’t, depending on the hike:
Well, that probably covers most of it, although somehow we have even more to say on the matter in our Day Hike Packing List post. Check it out if you’re looking for even more detailed info.
How to Get to Squamish
To get from Vancouver to Squamish is only a 1-hour drive from downtown Vancouver along the wildly scenic Highway 99, better known as the Sea to Sky Highway. Once you have followed the highway out of the city through West Vancouver and past Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, you really can’t get lost. Just keep heading north and try to keep your eyes on the road despite all the amazing views along the way.
It is also possible to take the YVR Skylinx Whistler shuttle – 2 hours from the airport to Squamish or 1.5 hours from Pacific Central Station. It usually runs twice per day and costs $20 one-way or $30 return from downtown Vancouver (or $30 / $50 from the airport).
Where to Stay in Squamish
There are a lot of excellent campgrounds around Squamish (and some mediocre ones, too) but if you are more interested in four walls and your own shower, here are some good choices:
The Mountain Retreat has an indoor pool and hot tub, a fantastic on-site restaurant and a very convenient location right in the centre of town, just off the highway.
Also just off the highway right when you enter Squamish from the south, Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company has nice rooms, some with mountain views, as well as on-site sauna and massage services. Most interestingly, though, they offer tours of the brewery with free samples.
Right in the centre of it all (and very close to the Goat Pub), the Crash Hotel Squamish is very popular with adventure seekers who want to be close to all the trails and rock climbing routes.
Finally, the Squamish Highlands Bed & Breakfast is a highly recommended (and reasonably affordable) luxury option located up in the hills above town. If you have your own wheels this is a terrific choice, known for the outstanding views, fabulous breakfast and friendly, helpful hosts.
Places to Visit Near Squamish
For a very challenging adventure you can try to get to Echo Falls. Visible from town, reaching this trail requires a boat to cross the river and then navigating a very steep, difficult climb. We weren’t able to do it since the boats weren’t running but it is supposed to be pretty wild. For less strenuous pursuits, you can check out the beach and viewpoints at Porteau Cove, the nice day-use area at Browning Lake and the impressive Nch’Kay viewpoint. At the other end of the spectrum, maybe cliff jumping at Lions Bay or Brohm Lake is just what you need to get the adrenalin flowing.
Closer to Vancouver, the Eagle Bluffs hike on Cypress Mountain was the most impressive of many good trails in North Vancouver.
Bowen Island is a great place for a day trip, although it is also possible to fill several days exploring this great little island, especially if you want to check out a few of these terrific Bowen Island hikes.
In the other direction, lovely Lillooet Lake is worth checking out for some scenic camping or just a nice day trips.
Squamish and the Sea to Sky Highway feature an extensive, varied and impressive collection of hikes. With so many great options within an hour’s drive, avid hikers could easily spend months working their way through the list without ever getting bored. Mix in some mountain biking, rock climbing and water sports and it’ll seem like there aren’t enough days in the week for all this outdoor fun.
Other useful articles you may want to check out: