Nestled in British Columbia’s Coastal Mountains, just north of Vancouver, the Squamish to Whistler area is home to an incredible array of stunning mountain peaks, gorgeous alpine lakes, stunning water, and an accessibility factor that rivals few other places in North America. I’m particularly fond of hiking near Whistler, as the views take your breath away.
My first trip was in the summer of 2018, and I barely scratched the surface of excellent hikes near Whistler. Then, five years later, I had the opportunity to explore Squamish to Whistler in the winter, which was also excellent. While we didn’t do much hiking in Squamish, we did enjoy the Squamish Gondola (Sea-to-Sky), which offered breathtaking views of the city and landscape. So, taking the gondola up should be a priority, taking the gondola up should be a priority for those going for a quick weekend of the Squamish things to do.
This most recent trip jostled the memory bank, and I remembered just how beautiful, welcoming, and lowkey this part of BC is. While many people think of high-end luxury, when thinking of Whistler, that’s true. But there’s also plenty of wilderness, generosity, and fun without breaking the bank. So I hope you come away from your trip awash in great memories, whatever your budget limits.
Download my free Backpacking E-Book
An Ultimate Trip Planner To Squamish and Whistler, British Columbia
Pack your bags. Book your flights. Fill up the tank. However you’re getting to the Coastal Mountains, including Squamish to Whistler, it’s time to put your adventure hat on and get rolling! And read to the bottom to get my four-day Whistler itinerary.
Adventures on the Sea to Sky highway
The sixty kilometers spanning Squamish to Whistler are riddled with ridiculous hikes, waterfalls, and things to do. Below we’ll dive into all the hiking near Whistler, hiking in Squamish, and other activities you can do in the region to ensure your trip is one you remember for a while.
Getting to Squamish
The drive to Squamish from Vancouver or Seattle is about as easy as it can be. There’s only one way in and out of the town, which is not a far drive. From Vancouver, it’s between a 45-minute and hour-long drive along one of the most beautiful coastlines in BC. If you’re starting in Seattle, it’s around a 3.5-hour drive which could be longer if the border checkpoint is busy.
Be sure to drive with caution on the Sea to Sky Highway. It’s winding and, at night time, is exceptionally dark, with blinding lights coming from oncoming traffic.
Squamish Things to do
Shannon Falls Provincial Park
A short yet beautiful hike through a lush forest before you appear at Shannon Falls. There are two areas to view, including one that is wheelchair accessible. I’d give you 30 minutes to enjoy the scenery and breathe fresh air. What captivated me was how clear the water was. This is now one of my favorite Squamish things to do.
Alice Lake Loop
This easy hike takes you around Alice Lake, a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by mountains. The 4 km loop is an easy option for hiking in Squamish, is suitable for families, and offers scenic views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
Sea to Sky Gondola
A must! The Sea to Sky Squamish Gondola is a MUST-DO for anyone visiting. In less than 10 minutes, it takes you from the sea to over 3,000 feet into the mountains. From here, you have Nat-Geo-level photo opportunities, hiking, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing. It’s fun for the entire family.
Talk about a ride! In ’18, this was our trip’s first activity, and seeing the mountains on a clear day was surreal. The icing on the cake was a full day of white water rafting plus a salmon lunch. So if you like a thrill, I highly recommend spending a day on the water.
Stawamus Chief Trail
This iconic hike takes you to the top of the second-largest granite monolith in the world, offering breathtaking views of Squamish and the nearby mountains. The walk is a moderate 7.5 km round-trip with a 700-meter elevation gain. The trail winds through lush forests and offers stunning views of the town and Howe Sound.
Best Stops Between Whistler and Squamish
A brilliant lake and backpacking opportunity is Garibaldi LakeThanks to Panorama Ridge’s draw, its fame has risen over the years, but the lake area is just as grand. To give you an idea of when’s a good time to plan a trip, I camped here in early July of 2018. There was still snow on a handful of snow-covered sites, but the trail to the lake was all dry. The final half mile to a mile was in the snow to get to Panorama Ridge, but nothing tricky.
Elfin Lakes trail is a sensational and demanding hike that takes you to two beautiful alpine lakes surrounded by jagged peaks. The trail is approximately 22 km (13.7 miles) round trip and takes about 7 hours to complete. Be prepared for a steep ascent to reach the lakes toward the end.
Along the trail, you will walk through dense forests, cross over several bridges, and walk along a stunning ridgeline with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The trail culminates at the two alpine lakes, where you can take a break and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as this area is home to various animals, including bears, deer, and marmots.
A short walk from the parking lot will give you a direct view of Alexander Falls. This is perfect for a quick detour or add-on to your previously booked plans. In winter, the waterfall can freeze, making for a great winter wonderland excursion.
Cheakamus Lake and River Trail
The Cheakamus Lake trail is a beautiful and relatively easy hike that takes you to a crystal-clear lake surrounded by peaks and deep green forests. The trail is approximately 7.8 km (4.8 miles) round trip and takes about 3 hours to complete with moderate elevation gain. This trail is an excellent option for families or those who want a more relaxed hike.
Along the trail, you will cross over several bridges and walk through a dense forest before reaching the lake. Once you arrive at the lake, your jaw will drop at the mountain views. Make sure to spend some time on the sandy beach and enjoy a picnic or swim.
A short hike that packs a punch. Brandywine Falls is a gorgeous waterfall, plunging 200 feet to the rock below. I suggest hitting this on your way up to Whistler, as it’s just outside the village.
How to Explore Hiking Near Whistler
Go up the Whistler Gondola
Taking the gondola up to the top of Whistler Blackcomb and doing the Peak2Peak tram is one of the most extraordinary summer experiences in the area. We loved exploring the top and soaking in its mind-blowing views.
Hike Wedgemount Lake
One of the most mystical and jaw-dropping hikes I’ve ever done. Wedgemount Lake is a brutal ascent (4,000 feet in 4 miles), but the result is mind-boggling. Plan for this to occupy most of your day, as you will want to enjoy the turquoise water for as long as possible. You can also backpack here, which sounds like a beautiful adventure.
Trek inside Joffre Lakes Provincial Park
These glacial-fed lakes are enchanting, and they keep getting better the further you go. While it was much less frequented than it is now (you need a day permit to hike), it’s still worth it, no matter how many people are on the trails. However, I’d suggest getting there and hiking it for sunrise. Lastly, it’s not too difficult a hike for the payoff.
Iceberg Lake via 19 Mile Creek Trail
A classic alpine lake that will make you earn your views. This 9-mile, 3,200-foot ascent brings you through a green valley up to a gorgeous lake. Indeed, this would be perfect for those looking for a tougher day hike.
Rainbow Lake Trail and Rainbow Falls Loop
The Rainbow Lake trail is a beautiful, strenuous hike that takes you to a beautiful lake. The trail is approximately 8 km (10 miles) round trip and takes about 6-8 hours to complete. Furthermore, the trail is a great option for those who want a moderate hike with a balance of challenging elevation gain and scenic views. If you only want to see the falls, the walk is about a mile round trip, with a bit of elevation gain.
Another short yet worthwhile waterfall when hiking near Whistler. Narin Falls is about 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) in total, with a slight increase in elevation. This would be a nice one to do after hiking Joffre Lakes or Wedgemount on your way back to town.
While you’re right next to the bustle, Lost Lake offers a family-friendly way to escape the crowds and find some time in nature. This trail is especially popular in the winter when snowshoers and cross-country skiers circle the lake for fun outside. If you snowshoe, plan about 2.5 hours to go around the lake.
Lodging Options Squamish to Whistler
In Squamish: If you’re looking for a cheaper option, the Adventure Inn is a Hostelling International venue, and they always right a great hostel. Otherwise, there are options, but not that many. Just know that weekends will fill up fast.
In Whistler: You really can’t go wrong in Whistler. If you’re going for winter, having a ski-in ski-out option is the best bet. Yes, it’ll be more expensive, but I saw many people walking with their gear, which didn’t look fun.
Food and Breweries to check out!
For breweries, we really enjoyed Coast Mountain Brewery. Its interior is on the small side but does have outdoor seating for the summer months. Additionally, Whistler Brewing Company has some yummy beers. As for food, we packed most of it to limit spending, but we did splurge for dinner and breakfast.
For dinner, we enjoyed a steak at Pepe’s Chophouse. The steak and meal were fantastic. The Old Fashioned was a bit meh, but I like them a bit sweeter and this one wasn’t. Either way, still a great place to enjoy a nicer dinner. For breakfast, we enjoyed breakfast burritos and coffee at Zephyr Cafe. It’s a cute little spot, though there are plenty of good breakfast options on Cleveland Ave.
Squamish to Whistler FAQs
Is Squamish BC worth visiting? Most definitely! Squamish is a cute coastal town of about 25,000 people and offers an abundance of hiking, climbing, and sightseeing. The highlight for me (a non-climber) was the Sea-to-Sky Gondola and white water rafting in the summer months. There’s truly something for everyone in this town! So when you’re looking at the Squamish things to do, you won’t have to look far.
Is Squamish better than Whistler? That’s a personal choice. If you like skiing, then no. If you’re more into water activities or rock climbing, then Squamish is the place to be. Known for its renowned granite climbing, Squamish has been called home by some of the sport’s greatest climbers. However, the genuinely great backcountry camping and hiking are in the middle of the two, so neither town can claim the throne on that topic.
Is the drive from Vancouver to Whistler worth it? Heck yes! The Sea to Sky highway (Route 99) is absolutely gorgeous! Sadly, the winding road won’t allow the driver much time to soak up the views, so try to be a passenger for this part of the drive. It’s honestly one of the most majestic drives I’ve done and rivals any scenic road in the US or Canada. Make sure to stop at the Squamish gondola on your way up!
Which is the best way to get to Whistler Blackcomb, BC, Canada? There are several ways to get to Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada, including:
- Driving: You can drive to Whistler from nearby cities such as Vancouver or Seattle, which both have international airports. The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is approximately 2 hours.
- Bus: Greyhound and other bus companies offer regular services from Vancouver to Whistler, which takes approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.
- Train: The Rocky Mountaineer train service operates a scenic route from Vancouver to Whistler during summer.
- Flying: You can fly into Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and then take a shuttle bus or private transfer to Whistler, which is approximately 2 hours away.
How many days do you need to see Whistler? I would say to spend at least four days in or around Whistler for summer and winter activities. If you’re going in winter, I suspect you’ll spend each day skiing or snowboarding. As you should.
For summer, here’s a 4-day Whistler Itinerary
- Day 1: Arrive in Whistler, explore the town, and take the gondola up to the top. Go Ziplining! Protip: Hostelling International in Olympic Village is great for budget travel.
- Day 2: Go whitewater rafting and get immersed in the beautiful Coastal Mountains. Shorter, 1.5-hour family float. Longer and more adventurous trip. Take a helicopter ride over the mountains and alpine lakes.
- Day 3: Hike Joffre Lakes (moderate) or ascend to Wedgemount Lake (hard) and then go check out Brandywine Falls or Alexander Falls. Both are short hikes.
- Day 4: Hike to Garibaldi Lake (moderate to hard), and if you’re feeling ambitious, add in a trip to Panorama Ridge (strenuous and a long day). Flightseeing experience over the peaks.
This blog contains affiliate links. They cost you nothing but help support this free blog when you click and purchase via the link.
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
New to hiking? My guide will get you up to speed!
Are you an outdoors brand or tourism board and would like to work together? Please take a look at my photography portfolio here.