The sea views and coastal drama end 11km beyond Britannia Beach at SQUAMISH, beautifully framed by snow-capped mountains, and known for its excellent climbing, windsurfing, biking, paddling and hiking. The town is famed for the vast granite rock overshadowing it, “The Stawamus Chief”, which looms into view to the east just beyond Shannon Falls. The Chief is the world’s second-biggest free-standing rock (after Gibraltar). The town rates as one of Canada’s top – if not the top – spot for rock climbing. Around 200,000 climbers from around the world come here annually, swarming to more than four hundred routes covering the 700m monolith: the University Wall and its culmination, the Dance Platform, is rated Canada’s toughest climb.
The rock is sacred to the local Squamish Nation, whose ancient tribal name – which means “Mother of the wind” – gives a clue as to the town’s second big activity: windsurfing. There are strong, consistent winds, but the water is cold, so a wet suit is
a good idea (there are rental outlets around town). The area is run by the Squamish Windsports Society (w squamishwindsports.com) and is 3km from town.
Rounding out Squamish’s outdoor activities is the tremendous mountain-biking terrain – there are over a hundred trails in the area ranging from gnarly single-track routes to readily accessible deactivated forestry roads. The best areas are the Valley Cliff Trails (stream-bed, single-track and woodland trails); Mamquam Forest Service roads (active logging roads with fine views of the Mamquam Glacier); the Cat Lake and Brohm Lake trails; and the Alice Lake trails, which include an abandoned railway
for an easy ride.
The fortunes of sleepy Squamish changed with the opening of the excellent Sea to Sky Gondola in 2014, a superb attraction which has opened up the scenic hiking trails around the alpine areas of Mount Habrich, Sky Pilot Mountain and Goat Ridge through numerous backcountry trails which were previously only accessible to iron-thighed individuals. Don’t miss the Spirit Trail loop, which tells the story of the Squamish Nation and their relationship to the land through interpretive panels.