There are a ton of amazing things to do in Squamish BC and the journey to get there is as beautiful as the destination. That’s because you drive through it on the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler. The name “Sea to Sky” definitely does the drive justice. You can drive from the sea in Vancouver all the way to Cayoosh Pass way up in the Pacific Ranges of the coast mountains.
Of course, the journey is great, but when you get to the world-class destination of Squamish there are a lot of things to see and do. In the past we’ve simply driven through Squamish, but while on a road trip around British Columbia, we finally spent a few days in Squamish and wondered, Why hadn’t we done this sooner? We compiled a list of 15 amazing things to do in Squamish BC. Let’s get into it.
Things to do in Squamish, British Columbia
Note: Some activities may be affected by covid-19. Check with each attraction for opening hours and activities. Things are constantly changing as Canada moves into different stages of Covid so be sure to check the BC Website
How to Get to Squamish
You can take the British Columbia Sea to Sky Highway, also known as Highway 99, to get to the Squamish area. It is a 254-mile trip but there are a lot of things to see along the way like a stop in Whistler so it can take 3 hours or a lot longer depending on how often you stop.
For travel in British Columbia, we highly recommend renting a car. Things are very spread out. You can compare rental prices at CarRentals.com and pick your car up directly at the Vancouver International Airport and be ready to hit the road. Download this self drive audio tour for just $5 (CAD) showcasing the highlights on the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler.
Alternatively, you can take a flight from the biggest airport in British Columbia, the Vancouver International Airport, to Squamish Municipal Airport. You can also take a ferry from Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay which will land you about 40 minutes from Squamish and from there you will need to take a bus, taxi or rent a car.
Best Time to Visit Squamish
The best time to visit Squamish is in the spring-summer months if you want to have a chance to do all the things in Squamish that involve the outdoors. We visited during autumn and it was beautiful. But make sure to check when activities close. Both Squamish and Whistler shut down for a short window to prepare for the winter ski season. For a family-friendly adventure, the optimal times would be between June and October.
Where to Stay in Squamish
There are many places to stay overnight in Squamish. We stayed at the amazing Sunwolf Riverside Lodge located directly on the river with our own private cabin, fireplace and thanks to the Squamish River’s stock of salmon, eagles soaring overhead.
Other picks for where to stay in Squamish are Executive Suites Hotel and Resort Squamish where you are just minutes away from Alice Lake Provincial Park. You can lounge by the pool, enjoy terrace views of the mountains and sit in luxury among the ruggedness of the British Columbia terrain.
There are plenty of places to eat in Squamish and a top pick is the Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company where you get to mingle with locals while enjoying stunning views of the area such as Stawamus Chief while noshing on local fare. For a great dinner head to the Salted Vine the executive Chef Jeff Park recently moved from the famous Araxi Restaurant in Whistler to open his own and it doesn’t disappoint.
Scenic Flight and Float Plane Landing
By far one of our favourite things to do in Squamish was to get up in the Air. Scenic flights are always amazing, but Sea-to-Sky Air does it with a twist. We not only went up in the sky, we also landed on Howe Sound where we drove along the water in search of whales. Our pilot David was an excellent guide showing us the scenery and historic sites.
A cool thing we learned from the sky is that renowned Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki runs Camp Suzuki at Gambier Island to learn about Howe Sounds rich history. It was once a waste dump of toxi waters, but today it is thriving and clean with waters filled with an abundance of wildlife. It’s amazing how the area has been cleaned up in a short time. We also got to enjoy bird’s-eye views of the Stawamus Chief, a 702 metre (2,303 foot) granite cliff that attracts top climbers from around the world.
Britannia Mine Museum
It’s a mix between a haunted train ride and a visit to the science fair and it is so much fun for all ages. The Britannia Mine Museum takes you back to the British Colombia of yesteryear when it was home to the largest copper mine in Canada. The Britannia Mines in Howe Sound is a national historic site. The Brittannia Mines Concentrator processed copper ore starting in 1905 up until 1974.
Don’t miss BOOM! This interactive experience was a fantastic show and great combination with our mine tour where we explored the museum, panned for gold and walked through the historic buildings. Book refundable tickets here.
History of Britannia Mine
While it was the one of the largest mines in the world it did a lot of damage to the area. The Britannia Mine polluted Howe Sound in the 20th century. This explains why Squamish was once just a drive by destination on the way to Whistler when we lived there in the 1990s. But in 2005, a huge clean up took place and now nearly 85% of marine life has recovered.
Watch our trip up the Sea to Sky Highway and our stop at Britannia Mine.
When you visit the museum, you get the opportunity to actually get to go on an underground mine train and you also get to pan for gold. For more knowledge, there is the Beaty Lundin Visitor Center at the Brittania Mine Museum.
It provides additional resources and activities you can have fun with. This museum is perfect for both adults and kids to have fun in so it makes for a family-friendly day trip.
Sea to Sky Gondola
If there’s one thing you cannot miss on your trip to Squamish it’s got to be a ride on the Sea to Sky Gondola. And that’s just not a name either, you are literally going to be launching from the Pacific Ocean and going 2,940 feet up in the air. That journey is going to give you an eagle’s eye view of beautiful forests and mountainscapes. (After a long time closed for renovations, it is scheduled to open this month Check their website for details)
Book your Tickets up the Sea to Sky Gondola in advance with free cancellation within 24 hours of entry should something come up. Once you get to the top of the gondola you can test your nerves by crossing the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge. If you’re looking for something a little tamer you can try out the walking trails. If you’re feeling peckish you can visit the Summit Lodge for local British Columbia fare.
You should book your tickets for the Sea to Sky Gondola online and the round-trip fees range from $18.95 – $59.95 depending on a variety of factors. The trip takes about 10 minutes one way.
Usually, when you want to go for an authentic rock climbing adventure you’ve got to hike pretty far out of city limits, but not in Squamish, British Columbia. Among rock climbers, it’s renowned for its accessible crags as their just minutes outside of downtown Squamish.
The most famous rock to climb in Squamish has got to be Stawamus Chief. Stawamus Chief is one of Squamish’s top attractions and is over 2200 feet high and you don’t have to be an expert to climb it. There are areas that are for experts only of course, but some areas are open to novices too. You can also rock climb in the Smoke Bluffs as well as Murrin Provincial Park.
The Arc’teryx climbing Academy also hosts a 5-day mountain climbing celebration annually. You can take part in clinics and meet climbing experts from around the world. It can give you a chance to learn a whole lot more about the sport you love and meet others who love it too.
You could call Squamish the outdoor adventures capital of the world and no one would bat an eye. There are hundreds of mountain biking trails and that means it doesn’t matter what level of a mountain biker you are, you can find the trail right for you. There are dirt jumps and pumps as well as skills tracks and near-vertical rock face climbs for the more adventurous.
With Squamish’s unique location in British Columbia, no matter which way you ride, you’re going to be dealt a beautiful hand in nature viewing. You can do cross country rides in the estuary or death-defying stunts on the slabs. Whatever you do, remember to keep that bike helmet on at all times.
Squamish is known for its slabs by mountain bikers around the world, but for even the less-seasoned, the mountain biking scene is inspirational and inclusive.
Four Lakes Trail
The Four Lakes Trail in British Columbia is a 4-mile loop adventure with a 479 feet elevation gain. It’s considered an easy hike. The trail sits in Alice Lake Provincial Park, which is also quite a popular campground. The park is on the north side of Squamish on Highway 99 and you can reach the Four Lakes Trail from the Stump Lake parking lot or from Alice Lake.
If you start from the parking lot then the first thing you’re going to see is little Stump Lake. Once you continue past Stump Lake, you’re officially on the Four Lakes Trail. On the trail, you’re going to see meandering creeks, and the other three lakes – Fawn Lake, Edith Lake, and Alice Lake to make up the Four Lakes.
You can go swimming in all of the lakes. There are chances you will see a bear so make sure to pack bear spray for this one.
Upper Shannon Falls Trail
It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in British Columbia, Shannon Falls is made up of striking cliffs that are an adventure on their own. The headwaters of the falls come from Mount Sky Pilot and Mount Habrich. Hiking the Upper Shannon Falls Trail is one of the best things to do in Squamish to truly appreciate nature and the surrounding mountains.
The trail is a 10.1-mile trek and is considered one of the more strenuous hikes but makes for one of the most fun day trips. You have an elevation change of 3067 feet. The trail sits in Shannon Falls Provincial Park on Highway 99. The trailhead can be found at the Shannon Falls parking areas.
From there you’ll experience some steep inclines as well as flat areas while getting glimpses of the falls too. It is really one of the best things to do in Squamish. Essentially you’re going to climb up to where folks take the Sea to Sky Gondola and when you get to the top you get surreal views of the falls and surrounding area. There is a restaurant at the top as well as a suspension bridge and you can take the gondola back down.
Do note that this hike can be dangerous in cold, icy weather and the gondola can be closed in inclement weather situations as well. But if you go out on a nice sunny day, you’ll get incredible views of the falls and along the way, there are some chains and ropes to help you with the steep parts.
Howe Sound Brewing
For authentic craft beer and authentic views to match, you’ve got to head to Howe Sound Brewing. They’ve got ale, lagers, and stouts including their famous Garibaldi Honey Blond and Hopraiser West Coast IPA.
The Howe Sound food choices include everything from Ale and Cheddar Soup to the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich and Fried NY Cheesecake as well as a bunch of vegan options like the Impossible Burger. As you drink and nosh away, you can check out the stunning views of the granite monolith called Stawamus Chief.
If all of that tuckers you out, they’ve got an inn that will show you old-fashioned Squamish BC hospitality.
The Elaho River and Squamish River are known for stellar class 3 and 4 rapids. So if you’re a fan of whitewater rafting, this is when you’re going to want to visit. Not only can you raft, but you will also likely see all sorts of wildlife like bears, deer, and bald eagles.
Book this highly rated whitewater rafting tour where you ride Class 3-4 rapids down the Elaho River. Try your hand at cliff jumping as you explore the Sea to Sky country form a different view. Includes a riverside picnic and photos.
Every Saturday from 10 am – 3 pm, you can experience what it’s really like to be a local in Squamish BC. You can do that by visiting the farmer’s market in downtown Squamish. So what are you going to find at this farmer’s market? Well, how about homemade sauerkraut and kimchi or ethically harvested honey and macrame of coastal rainforests.
The artisans that present their wares at this British Columbia farmer’s market bring all that it means to live in Squamish. You might not live there, but you can certainly take a piece of the wild Squamish life home with you.
Squamish Valley Campground
You have to spend at least one night camping in the outdoors in Squamish British Columbia. One of the best things you can do in Squamish is camp at the Squamish Valley Campground. It costs $15 a person plus $5 for campsite parking.
The Squamish Valley Campground is a huge 195 acres and includes a fluffy beach as well as a river backchannel and all surrounded by coast mountains. This is rustic camping at its best and you’re surrounded by mountains and pure fresh air and with little light pollution.
Although you might be able to catch a sighting of a bald eagle anywhere you are in British Columbia, the chances are higher in Squamish. The reason for that might be the salmon that spawn near the coasts. There is a great Bald Eagle conservation effort in the area too, which helps ensure the bald eagles that visit can stay safe.
Going bald eagle spotting is a great activity for the whole family regardless of age and mobility capabilities. You have a great chance of seeing the bald eagles in the winter season from November to February. For absolute peak viewing of wintering bald eagles, the time between Christmas and a few weeks into the new year is prime.
Brohm Lake Cliff Jumping
If you’re an adrenalin junkie then cliff jumping just might be your thing. You can hit Brohm Lake just north of Squamish to get your fix. The path to get up above Brohm Lake to cliff jump is half the fun. It’s a pretty smooth hike upwards although you might need to grab a hold of branches here and there.
There are quite a number of platforms and a large rock with platforms that go up to 40 feet high that you can jump off from. There is also a rope swing near the parking lot for some lower jumping if you don’t want to climb all the way up.
Either way, you can jump from as high or as low as you want and spend the rest of the day lounging around the lake.
Yes, this small town of Squamish is known for its summer season mountain biking trails, but the whole trail system is an outdoor lovers’ dream. You can bike, walk, and hike the trails too.
Some of the popular treks include the Tantalus View Trail which is moderate in difficulty and just above 2.5 miles. The Panorama trail and Mamquam Rivers Trails are easy walking and take just an hour or two to do. Jack’s Trail and Ray Peters Trail are great for biking for everyone. The Half Nelson trail is great for mountain biking with some jumps and climbs.
Only have a short time? Book this highly rated private tour from Vancouver to Whistler to explore the sights of the Sea to Sky Highway.
Windsurfing and Kiteboarding
If you want to catch some air then Squamish Spit is your best bet. It’s located at the confluence of Howe Sound and Squamish River. People from around the world descend here to windsurf and kiteboard. If you really want to meet other members of the air-loving community, you might want to check out the Squamish Wind Festival for the Arts which takes place annually in August.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is there to do in downtown Squamish?
There are a ton of things to do in Squamish downtown. You can mountain bike on nearby trails from there. In fact, if you want to mountain bike, but don’t want to hit the most difficult trails in all of British Columbia then stick to the trails closer to downtown. Besides that, there are cute shops to visit and restaurants where you can sample mouthwatering Pacific squid and Waygu beef too.
What is there to do in Squamish for free?
British Columbia and specifically Squamish are known for the outdoors. The outdoors are free for the most part. You can take any public trail and go for a walk or hike and see waterfalls and rivers and lakes and mountains.
What is Squamish known for?
Squamish is known for its outdoor activities as there are hundreds of biking and hiking trails that weave in and around the city. It’s also known as one of the best destinations in British Columbia for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
One of the popular landmarks in Squamish, Canada is Stawamus Chief. It is known as one of the stunning granite forms in all of Canada. It’s just a few hours drive from Vancouver and can easily be reached by air from anywhere in Canada
What is good in Squamish?
All of the adventure trails are amazing in Squamish. They have traditional Canadian trails you can do with the whole family and other treks that are just for experts only. The trails are well-marked and the people are friendly. No matter where you go, you’re not going to get lost and if you feel slightly turned around, there will be a friendly face to help you get back on track.