11 Top-Rated Hikes in Squamish, BC
From mountain biking to rock climbing to windsurfing, there are plenty of outdoor adventures to be had in Squamish - but hiking is among the most accessible of them all.
Many of Squamish's hiking trails are perfectly suitable for complete beginners. Even if you've never set foot on a trail in your life, you'll have no problem exploring the first couple of hikes on our list below. Of course, if you're looking for a challenge, there are several options suited to intermediate and experienced hikers - just keep reading, as the hikes on this list generally progress in level of difficulty.
In terms of gear, the easiest hikes on this list require little more than sturdy footwear. As you get into more technical territory (Squamish is notorious for its rooty, rocky terrain), hiking boots are preferred to regular running shoes, and you are well-advised to bring a backpack with essential safety gear, including a first aid kit. Weather in Squamish can shift pretty quickly, so wear layers in order to adjust to changing conditions on any hike.
Many hikes in Squamish start right in town. All of the hikes on this list are easy to get to by car, and many can be accessed by way of public transportation. Each of the hikes we've described below offers rewarding vistas or other attractions.
Squamish is a mecca of natural beauty and there's no better way to experience it than by hitting the trails. So lace up your boots and plan your adventures with our list of the best hikes in Squamish.
1. The Squamish Estuary Trails
The most accessible hiking terrain in Squamish starts right in its downtown core. The Squamish Estuary Trails have several access points from downtown, including at the end of Vancouver Street or Main Street. These winding dirt trails are mostly flat, leading through trees and bogs towards the estuary along Howe Sound.
The trails weave together, so you can make this walk short and sweet, or you can take your time and explore your surroundings. Allow at least 30 minutes to get a taste of the area - one to two hours will give you the chance to experience even more.
The views along the Estuary Trails are unreal, including the Stawamus Chief and surrounding mountains, as well as the Pacific Ocean. The local flora and fauna are on full display, too - bird-watchers tend to flock (pun intended) to the estuary to catch a glimpse of the 200-plus bird species.
2. Squamish River Dike Trail
Across from downtown Squamish is a large residential neighborhood called Valleycliffe. Head up, up, and up the main street - Westway Avenue - until it intersects at Plateau Drive. From here, you can access the gently sloping gravel Squamish River Dike Trail.
Though the trail slopes downwards, it is non-technical (a jogging stroller can easily handle the terrain) and is quite accessible, though if you follow the entire trail down to the bottom, be prepared for a bit of an uphill climb when you turn around and head back up.
From top to bottom, the entire trail is just shy of 2.5 kilometers one way and follows the course of the Stawamus River. The soothing sound of the river provides the perfect backdrop for a walk through nature, and there are plenty of lookout points, allowing you to catch great views of the river.
3. Murrin Park Loop Trail
Driving up the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver, you'll pass Murrin Provincial Park on your left-hand side just before you get to Squamish. For an intermediate-level hike that you can complete in an hour or two, pull over into the parking lot and follow the Murrin Park Loop Trail.
The 1.8-kilometer trail runs through the park and is frequently traveled by rock climbers (there are over 250 climbing routes in the park), but is just as beautiful for hiking, offering rewarding views over Howe Sound.
In the summer months, pack your bathing suit - you'll pass by the tantalizing Browning Lake on the way back to the trailhead, and nothing feels better after a hike on a hot day than a dip in the water.
4. Smoke Bluffs Loop Trail
The Smoke Bluffs area is another popular destination for rock climbers, but the trails are equally suited for hikers looking to put a few miles under their boots. The Smoke Bluffs Loop Trail can be accessed by Smoke Bluffs Park on Logger's Lane or from the Valleycliffe neighborhood (perfect if you're looking to tack on an extra hike after finishing the Squamish River Dike Trail).
The trail clocks in at about 2.5 kilometers, but the climbs and descents - including lots of stairs - will get your heart beating quickly.
The Smoke Bluffs Loop Trail offers peekaboo views onto the town below and Howe Sound into the distance. The main appeal of this hike is its proximity to downtown and its relatively short length. It's a great short hike to fill in an hour or two gap in your schedule - perhaps after grabbing coffee at the nearby Adventure Centre tourism hub.
5. Four Lakes Trail at Alice Lake
Just north of Squamish, the 411-hectare Alice Lake Provincial Park offers thick forests, four lakes, and a great trail to explore it all.
The moment you step onto the Four Lakes Trail (the trailhead is just off the main road into the park on the left-hand side), you'll feel as though you've been swallowed by the trees. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest as you make your way along the six-kilometer trail.
As the name suggests, the trail passes by all four lakes in the park: Stump, Edith, Fawn, and Alice. While the trail undulates up and down, there is only one steepish section along switchbacks close to Alice Lake. The total elevation gain is 138 meters.
This is a family-friendly trail that is lots of fun to explore on its own, but you can also extend your day at Alice Lake Provincial Park by adding on a few more adventures. In the summer, the lakes are suitable for swimming, and canoe and stand up paddleboard rentals are available at Alice Lake. The trail can be lovely in the winter months, but since it is shaded under the trees, it can get quite icy in snowy conditions.
6. Tantalus View Trail at Brohm Lake
You may be noticing a theme here: Squamish is spoiled with lush forests and sparking lakes. You'll find both of these at Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest, on the west side of the Sea to Sky Highway just north of Squamish.
While there are over 10 kilometers of trails to explore throughout the area's 400 hectares, the best lookout point is at the top of Tantalus View Trail. This hike is steeper than the rest of the trails in the interpretive forest, but your efforts will be rewarded with views of the majestic Tantalus mountain range.
Leave time to explore the other connecting trails, many of which offer evidence of the logging industry that historically drove Squamish's economy. In particular, there are old pieces of machinery along the High Trail loop, which makes for a fun game of "I Spy" as you make your way through the woods.
7. Al's Habrich Trail at the Sea to Sky Gondola
The Sea to Sky Gondola offers a quick way to get high up in the mountains without putting in the legwork (unless, of course, you choose to hike up-see the Sea to Summit Trail below), and it's also the access point to some stunning hikes varying in difficulty. One of the best trails from the top of the gondola is Al's Habrich Trail, a hike of about 8.5 kilometers return.
Climbing 354 meters, Al's Habrich Trail leads into the backcountry, past creeks, and along stretches of grippy granite. Though the gondola offers several hikes suited to beginners, this trail is considered one of the more difficult options and is best enjoyed by those who are in good physical condition. You'll have to work for them, but there are several epic views out onto Howe Sound along the way.
Note: the Sea to Sky Gondola was closed in the fall of 2020 due to vandalism. Check the status of operations before visiting.
8. Elfin Lakes
True hiking aficionados will want to explore Garibaldi Provincial Park, the 194,676-hectare park that stretches from Squamish to Whistler and beyond. A great Squamish-based hike into the park is the trail to Elfin Lakes.
The trailhead requires a climb up a gravel road, which is do-able for most cars in the summer months (it's another story in the winter months, when chains are a must). From the parking area, the trail travels up gradually but steadily, gaining about 600 meters in elevation over 11 kilometers of hiking.
The views are breathtaking as you make your way along the forests and meadows. You'll first pass through Red Heather Meadows, which features a hut (a popular stop for snowshoers and backcountry skiers in the winter). If you keep on trekking, you'll end up at Elfin Lakes. Feel free to stop for a swim at the top lake, but stay out of the lower lake, which is kept pristine for drinking water.
Given its high elevation, Elfin Lakes gets covered in snow quite quickly and takes a while to thaw out. As a hike, this trail is best in the peak summer months.
9. Crooked Falls
To access Crooked Falls, you'll need to venture out into the Squamish Valley - a serene area that often gets skipped over by visitors. As the paved Squamish Valley Road turns to gravel, continue along until you pass a bridge onto Ashlu Road. After another short bridge, you'll have made it to the trailhead for the Sigurd Trail, which is the same trail that leads you towards Crooked Falls.
The first part of the trail is along an old forest service road, but the trail eventually winds its way into the forest, past massive logs and under towering trees. The beauty of the forest is almost enough to distract you from the steep ascent along the switchbacks - almost, but not quite. By the time you hit the junction that points towards Crooked Falls, you'll likely have worked up a good sweat.
Luckily, from the junction, you don't have much farther to go. You'll hear the falls before you see them, and as you get to the lookout, the mist from the falls will help cool you down.
The trail covers six kilometers return, and takes most people about three to four hours to complete. For a great picnic point, go back to the junction and continue towards Sigurd Peak for just a few minutes before heading towards the lookout. It offers quite the backdrop for a well-earned bite to eat.
10. The Stawamus Chief
Just as it is impossible to ignore the imposing granite monolith on the Squamish horizon (i.e., the Stawamus Chief), it would be impossible to leave "The Chief" off a list of Squamish's best hikes. This one is arguably the most popular hike in Squamish, and for a good reason: it offers Squamish's signature technical trails, it's a great workout, it can be done in roughly half a day, and its views are to die for.
The Stawamus Chief isn't a very well-kept secret, so head up early to try and beat the crowds. The trail leads to three different peaks. All three start off with the same steep climb that will get your heart pounding right off the bat. Then, follow the signs for your peak of choice.
The first peak is the most popular and is shorter than the rest, while the second peak is a little longer and has some slightly technical sections that can result in roadblocks on busy days in peak season. The third peak is the longest grind, but tends to be a little quieter than the first two. When it comes to views, you can't go wrong with any of them.
Can't decide? You don't have to - you can make a day of it and hit all three peaks.
11. Sea to Summit Trail
Though it shares the same trailhead as the Chief (and the same gruelling sets of stairs in the first stretch), the Sea to Summit trail is a distinct trail that is absolutely worth a visit. This trail leads through forests, past waterfalls, up narrow stairs built into logs, and along chains drilled into rocks before finally releasing you out at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola. At times, the trail weaves right under the gondola itself-give a wave to the people passing by overhead!
The difficult Sea to Summit trail spans 7.5 kilometers one way and climbs over 900 meters - most people opt to take the gondola down after enjoying some time at the top. Bring some cash or a credit card, as you need to purchase a download ticket to catch a ride back to the base. Keep your eye on the clock, since you'll need to make it to the top before the last gondola of the day.
Note: the Sea to Sky Gondola was closed in 2019 due to vandalism; it is scheduled to re-open in Spring 2020.
Where to Stay in Squamish for Sightseeing
Squamish is a small town with just a few dozen lodging options. There are no true luxury hotels, but there are a range of good mid-range and budget choices in the form of hotels, B&Bs, and motels that hikers will enjoy.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Squamish has just one semi-luxe hotel, the Executive Suites Hotel & Resort. The 3.5-star resort is an all-suite affair. These feature views of the surrounding mountains and woodlands from private balconies. They also come with full kitchens, which is a serious perk if you are traveling with the kids. Families will also appreciate the kids' menu in the restaurant and the option to borrow boardgames, books or DVDs. There is an adventure desk to book excursions around the region, spa services can be arranged, and there is a seasonal outdoor swimming pool with sun loungers.
Sunwolf is another great mid-range option in a gorgeous locale at the confluence of two rivers. It sits on five acres, and guests can wander the woodsy terrain. Accommodations are in the form of 12 cozy cabins with a rustic vibe. The property is dog friendly, there is a restaurant on-site, and bicycles can be rented.
Also good value is Highlands B&B. The property features Pacific Ocean views, and guests can book either a room or a suite, which all have individual style. A full breakfast is served in the dining room each morning. There is also a hot tub on-site.
- Budget Hotels: Hikers will love the Squamish Adventure Inn. The budget inn attracts adventurous types who enjoy hanging out in the lounge area at night swapping travel stories. There are a range of various sized rooms. Some have kitchenettes, while others cater to families with a bunk bed configuration.
At the Hotel Squamish, rooms are clean and comfortable and feature fun bedding. There is laundry available if you've been on the trail for a few days and need to get some washing done. Other perks at this budget property include luggage storage, a vending machine, and free Wi-Fi and parking.
Budget travelers looking for a motel-style sleep should check out the August Jack Motor Inn located next to a park and near downtown's main attractions. The property has interconnected rooms if you are traveling with the kids. It is also pet friendly. The extra long beds are also a plus if you are tall.