sea to sky highway sunset squamish to whistler

The best places to see near Squamish and Whistler

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. This also offered some fun snowshoeing in the winter months.

So, taking the gondola up should be a top priority for those going for a quick weekend of the Squamish things to do.

On my most recent trip, it 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 for the Whistler area, you’re not wrong. But there’s also plenty of wilderness, generosity, and fun to be had without breaking the bank.

I hope you come away from your trip awash in great memories, whatever your budget limits.

howe sound squamish things to do sea to sky gondola
Howe Sound Above Squamish

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An Ultimate Trip Planner: Squamish to 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.

squamish things to do squamish gondola
Sea to Sky Gondola – Things to do in Squamish

Getting to Squamish and Whistler

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.

For winter travel, the snow risk is not that bad going from Vancouver to Squamish. This is because you’re hugging the bay almost the entire time, which keeps the temperatures from plummeting. (Still, bring necessary gear.)

But when you head up the mountain from Squamish to Whistler, this is where the snow can accumulate, and you’ll have icer road conditions. Make sure to prep and bring supplies.

Squamish Things to do

Shannon Falls Provincial Park

shannon falls provincial park hiking in squamish things to do
Shannon Falls – Hiking in Squamish

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

sea to sky gondola bridge squamish things to do
Squamish Gondola – Bridge

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.

Whitewater Rafting

squamish things to do whitewater rafting

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

squamish things to do chief mountain hiking in squamish
Chief Mountain Trail – Hiking in Squamish

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 Squamish to Whistler

Garibaldi Lake

garibaldi lake hiking near whistler
Garibaldi lake – hiking near Whistler

A brilliant lake and backpacking opportunity is Garibaldi Lake. Thanks 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

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.

Alexander Falls

alexander falls near whistler british columbia
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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.

There are also a few picnic tables here that would make for a great lunch spot. Plus, it’s just before the old Olympic Village. We took 5 minutes to drive through, and there’s a campground inside that might not be well known.

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.

Train Wreck

train wreck hiking in whistler
squamish things to do

Brandywine Falls

a single waterfall- brandywine falls- pours out of the basalt canyon
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

A short hike on an easy trail. While many say that Brandywine Falls is a gorgeous waterfall, plunging 200 feet to the rock below, I think it’s only okay. There’s not a great vantage point for photography and you never get a clear view either.

While nice and great for families with small kids, it’s not a must-see.

Explore Hiking Near Whistler

Go up the Whistler Gondola

hiking near whistler squamish to whistler
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
a photo of other peak to peak gondolas on whistler blackcomb mountain
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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.

Up here, you can do various trails from either of the summits. Jaimie and I made the High Notes Trail, though we had to cut it short to due the weather. (Photo below.)

a hiker on the high note trail on the top of whistler mountain.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Hike Wedgemount Lake

wedgemount lake hiking near whislter squamish hikes
Hiking near Whistler

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.

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

joffre lakes hiking near whistler 
squamish to whistler
Middle Joffre Lakes, British Columbia
looking towards the back of joffre lakes
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

These glacial-fed lakes are enchanting, and they keep getting better the further you go. While Joffre Lakes was much less popular in 2018 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.

A mirror like image with a towering mountain rising behind upper Joffre Lakes with a reflection of it on the water.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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

Rainbow falls near whistler is a super easy hike. The waterfalls is to the left with a small one on the right
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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.

However, if you only want to see the falls, the walk is about a mile round trip, with a bit of elevation gain throughout. It’s super easy and even had a swimming area at the end if you can brave the temperatures.

Nairn Falls

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.

Lost Lake

Snowshoeing Lost Lake – Hiking Near Whistler

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.

Even in the summer, having the ability to walk everywhere was amazing. We didn’t touch our car the entire weekend!

A picture of whistler village from the gondola.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Food and Breweries to check out from Squamish to Whistler!

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 too.

Both of these two are just south of Whistler.

For dinner, we savored the following: We enjoyed a steak at Pepe’s Chophouse in Squamish. 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, it was still fantastic.

In Whistler, we’ve eaten at 21 Steps Kitchen and Bar and had great steaks and drinks. For those wanting pasta, we found this AMAZING restaurant, Pasta Lupino, tucked away, that is great and pretty affordable.

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.

a photo of one of the bigger whistler hotels
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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.

the coastal mountains which hug the sea to sky highway.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Bus: Greyhound and other bus companies offer regular services from Vancouver to Whistler, which takes approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.
  3. Train: The Rocky Mountaineer train service operates a scenic route from Vancouver to Whistler during summer.
  4. 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

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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