The Top Things to See and Do in Squamish, British Columbia

The Stawamus Chief in British Columbia is one of the world’s largest granite monoliths
The Stawamus Chief in British Columbia is one of the world’s largest granite monoliths | © Nalidsa / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer4 September 2020

Squamish is the self-proclaimed ‘adventure capital of Canada’, so you can expect to never be bored in this coastal town. From kitesurfing and hiking to mountain biking and whitewater rafting, Squamish is a great place to visit in the province of British Columbia. Here are 12 things to do during your visit.

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Sea to Sky Gondola. Squamish, British Columbia, Canada.
© Niels van Kampenhout / Alamy Stock Photo

You’ll be blown away by the views of Squamish’s coastal forest, mountainous landscape and the spectacular Howe Sound as you soar 885m (2,904ft) above sea level on the Sea to Sky Gondola. When you reach the top, enjoy food and drinks at the Summit Lodge, cross the impressive Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, or explore the summit’s two interpretive loop walking trails, where you can admire the magnificent scenery from cantilevered viewing platforms.The gondola ride lasts for approximately 10 minutes, with each cabin holding a maximum of eight passengers. The gondolas are accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

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Due to its position at the end of one of the Pacific Coast’s deepest fjords, Squamish has frequently been named as ‘Canada’s rock climbing mecca’. Its crags are easily accessed from downtown, with some just 5 minutes from the main street.The Stawamus Chief – a huge granite monolith towering 700m (2,297ft) above Squamish and Howe Sound – is the most obvious option, offering hundreds of routes for people of all skill levels. Others include Murrin Provincial Park, with over 250 climbing routes, and the easy-to-access cliffs of the Smoke Bluffs, a collection of over 50 crags.

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Squamish Spit, a long, thin piece of land located where the Squamish River meets Howe Sound, is considered one of the best places in the world to windsurf and kiteboard. On a clear summer’s day, the water is overtaken with brightly colored sails and kites.These sports are so popular in Squamish that the Squamish Arts Council hosts an annual Wind Festival. Bringing the community together to celebrate arts, culture and music, the event holds creative workshops and live art demonstrations and invites local market vendors to sell their products.

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bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus Brackendale Squamish Squamish River Cheakamus River Mamquam rivers British Columbia Canada
© All Canada Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

Brackendale Eagle Provincial Park is located in the Squamish River Valley, which is one of the best places to see wintering bald eagles in North America. From November to February, the area is brimming with spawning salmon, attracting thousands of eagles (the record for the most spotted is 3,769 in 1994).As well as being focused on conservation, the park also has an Eagle Run viewing shelter. We recommend you visit between mid-December and mid-January for peak viewing opportunities.

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The Britannia Mine Museum is an award-winning National Historic Site and a fantastic family-friendly activity in Squamish. It focuses on the history of British Columbia’s mining industry, with the province being the location of the British Empire’s largest copper mine less than a century ago.Some of the onsite educational experiences include hopping on the mine train for an underground tour, panning for gold in the pavilion, learning about the heritage sites from knowledgeable guides and further hands-on activities at the Beaty Lundin Visitor Centre.

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A white water kayaker paddles down the Cheakamus River in Whistler.
© Cavan Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Squamish is quickly becoming one of BC’s top whitewater rafting destinations, offering everything from adrenaline-pumping trips to family floats in a spectacular wilderness setting. The Cheakamus River offers a calmer experience, with class-1 and class-2 rapids, making it a great choice for family adventures.Alternatively, for a more challenging route, head to the Elaho-Squamish River, with class-3 and class-4 fast-flowing rapids. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles soaring above as well as mountain goats, deer and, if you’re lucky, bears, in the old-growth forests.

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Howe Sound Brewing has been producing award-winning beer since 1996. The brewery’s beer can now be found across British Columbia and the United States. Some of their year-round beers include several India pale ales, a wheat ale, a honey ale and an oatmeal stout. Howe Sound Brewing also has a food menu, serving traditional pub grub. But the brewery’s best selling point is, without doubt, the incredible views of the Stawamus Chief from its outdoor patio. Visitors can also stay at the brewery’s cozy on-site hotel, the Howe Sound Inn.

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Equipped with pump tracks, jump trails, technical singletrack and long rock slabs, it’s no wonder Squamish has been called a ‘mountain biker’s paradise’. The town is home to more than 150 mountain bike trails, making it one of the best places to cycle – not only in British Columbia but the world.Diamond Head is the best-known biking area in Squamish, offering a variety of trails for riders of all abilities. Head to the Squamish Adventure Centre, and pick up a trail map before starting your biking journey.

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There are two fantastic markets to visit when in Squamish. The Refresh Market is held twice a year at the West Coast Heritage Railway Park. This market celebrates the local artisan community as creatives come together and sell handmade and vintage clothes, jewelry and more. Music and food trucks are also on-site.Meanwhile, every Saturday in summer (and every other Saturday in winter), there’s the Squamish Farmers Market, which has over 60 vendors selling local produce and goods. The Vancouver Sunnamed it “one of BC’s Best Farmers Markets”.

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Hikers on the first peak of The Chief in Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, Squamish, British Columbia.
© National Geographic Image Collection / Alamy Stock Photo
The Stawamus Chief, better known as ‘The Chief’, is one of the world’s largest granite monoliths. The Chief hike is a very popular intermediate hike that goes straight up for 7km (4mi). There are three summits, known simply as ‘First Peak’, ‘Second Peak’, and ‘Third Peak’.Locals say the First Peak – which is a 4km (2.5mi) round trip – is the busiest, but also the best for Howe Sound views. Other hiking options in Squamish include the Four Lakes Trail, a 6km (4mi) loop through Alice Lake Provincial Park and one of the easier options for beginners.

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For people visiting Squamish in winter, one of the most popular adventure activities in town is cross-country skiing. Tourism British Columbia says: “Squamish is a bona fide Nordic skiing destination, with 230cm (91in) of precipitation falling on average in the surrounding Coast Mountains.” The area has some of the most scenic skiable terrains in North America.Two great locations for cross-country skiing include the Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, and the Diamond Head area of Garibaldi Provincial Park, where you’ll also find a stunning turquoise lake.

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Experience the beauty of Squamish Valley on horseback as you travel along its trails and witness the likes of Crooked Falls and Ashlu Valley. Cheekye Ranch and Diamondhead Outfitters are both popular choices and offer different tours depending on your experience level (including pony rides for kids).You’ll have the chance to learn some Western horseback riding techniques and interact with a horse specifically selected for you. You may even catch a glimpse of the local wildlife, including eagles, elk as well as black and grizzly bears.

Additional reporting by Emma Gibbins

These recommendations were updated on September 4, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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