Fun things to do in Squamish, British Columbia
Over the past 20 years, we’ve driven up and down the Sea to Sky Highway countless times. Most often, we drive this famous Canadian highway while enroute to Whistler, one of British Columbia’s most popular tourist destinations.
Squamish is the natural half-way point between Vancouver and Whistler. It’s often used as a pit stop to fuel up, have lunch and pick up supplies. Many first time visitors to British Columbia will drive right through Squamish, without realizing that it’s a fun travel destination all on its own. There are so many things to do in Squamish, especially during summer, that we believe it should be your final destination.
It is, after all, the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada.
Surprisingly, up until a few weeks ago, we had not stayed overnight in Squamish before. Given that it’s less than an hour drive from our home, we often visit as a day trip from Vancouver.
While the focus of this blog post is to share the best things to do in Squamish during the summer, it’s important to note that Squamish is a four season destination. Many of these activities can be done in the winter, too. Just make sure you pack a quality rain jacket and umbrella.
Sea to Sky Gondola
Without question, the Sea to Sky Gondola is the most popular attraction in Squamish these days. If you only have one day in Squamish, we recommend you start with the Sea to Sky Gondola.
It’s located directly off the Sea to Sky Highway, making it easily accessible. It’s best to arrive early because the parking lot fills up quickly. Purchase your gondola tickets online here.
The Sea to Sky Gondola transports guests up to the Summit Lodge in less than 10 minutes. Watch this 30 second video of the gondola ride from bottom to top.
Why visit the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish?
There’s much more to this popular Squamish tourist attraction then pretty mountain landscapes. Although, the pretty landscapes are certainly worth the price of admission. Over the years, the Sea to Sky Gondola has expanded it’s offerings and attractions.
- Panoramic views of Howe Sound from the Viewing Platforms
- Walk across the bouncy Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge (photo above)
- Take a hike. There are several trails from the summit lodge, from easy paths to backcountry alpine trails. Here’s the list of hiking trails.
- Squamish Via Ferrata tours. More info here.
- Patio dining with spectacular views at Sky Pilot Eatery.
- Snowshoeing, tubing and ski touring in the winter.
The best views of Squamish from the Chief Overlook Viewing Platform.
Spectacular mountain views from the outdoor patio at Summit Lodge.
The Squamish Via Ferrata is located at the Sea to Sky Gondola.
It’s an adrenaline pumping adventure that combines hiking and rock climbing, while being clipped into a safety cable. An experienced guide takes guests through a mountain climbing course that ends at the Summit Lodge. Learn more and book your tour here.
Shannon Falls Provincial Park
Located directly beside the Sea to Sky Gondola, Shannon Falls Provincial Park is home to the 3rd highest waterfall in British Columbia. At 335 meters, it’s 3 times as high as Niagara Falls in Ontario.
Shannon Falls is a must visit attraction in Squamish. It’s a short 5 minute walk from the parking lot to the base of the waterfalls, so it’s quite accessible. The trail to the falls is flat with little elevation, so it’s an easy walk. You only need 30 minutes to visit the park and see the waterfalls.
Shannon Falls is most impressive during the spring and early summer, when the surrounding mountain snow melts and water flow is at its highest.
It’s easy to combine visits to the Sea to Sky Gondola and Shannon Falls.
Parking is challenging during the summer, especially on weekends. There is an overflow parking lot on the opposite side of the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99). Because the waterfalls are easy to access, and it doesn’t take long to view them, people come and go frequently. Waiting for a parking spot can be frustrating, but parking spots do open if you’re patient.
Rope Runner Aerial Adventure Park
The Rope Runner Aerial Adventure Park is another fun thing to do in Squamish with kids. Push your comfort zone with a variety of obstacles and rope features that will get your heart pumping. Guests use a full body harness that clips into safety system.
Watch this video from our time at Squamish Rope Runner Course.
Visit the Rope Runner Park website to see more photos and video about the adventure park, learn about the requirements to climb, general admission and hours of operation.
Hike the Stawamus Chief
One of the most popular hikes in Squamish, and British Columbia for that matter, is the famous Stawamus Chief hike. Stawamus Chief Provincial Park protects the massive 700 metre granite cliffs that tower over Squamish. The Chief is one of the largest granite monoliths in the world.
Access the hiking trails from the parking lot that’s located off the Sea to Sky Highway. The main trailhead is also accessible from Shannon Falls Provincial Park via the 1.5 km connector trail.
There are three hikes on The Chief
- First Peak – 1.5 km trail with an elevation gain of 540 meters
- Second Peak – 1.7 km trail with an elevation gain of 590 meters
- Third Peak – 1.8 km trail with an elevation gain of 630 meters
The above distances are one way. You must also consider the return hike back down. See the Stawamus Chief trail map here.
Plan for 3 to 4 hours to do the Chief. It’s a strenuous hike for many, so bring plenty of water and snacks, proper footwear and check the weather conditions prior to your hike.
Above is the top of the Stawamus Chief, seen from the Chief Overlook Viewing Platform at the Sea to Sky Gondola.
Other popular hiking trails in Squamish
- Murrin Park Loop Trail – 2.4 km roundtrip (intermediate) / 2 hours
- Smoke Bluffs Loop Trail – 3.5 km roundtrip (easy) / 1.5 hours
- Four Lakes Trail at Alice Lake Provincial Park – 6 km (easy) / 2 hours
- Brohm Lake Loop and Tantalus View Trail – variety of trails from easy to intermediate
Quick break while hiking the Brohm Lake loop trail in Squamish.
Entrance to the Panorama Trail, located at the Sea to Sky Gondola. More photos here.
Bike riding trails in Squamish
Another fun thing to do in Squamish is ride bikes. There are several paved, gravel and forest trails scattered throughout Squamish, so there’s something for every skill and preference.
A good starting point is the Corridor Trial (pictured above). This easy paved path runs north and south through Squamish. It also connects to the vast network of bike trails. The Corridor Trail runs beside the Rope Runner Adventure Park (referenced above), so you can start your bike ride here after spending time at the aerial ropes course.
Don’t have a bike with you? Not to worry. There are several bike rental shops in Squamish that offer road bikes, full suspension mountain bikes, kids bikes and E-bikes.
Mountain Biking Squamish
Squamish has a huge network of mountain biking trails, including the Diamond Head Zone. We don’t mountain bike, so we’re not the best resource. However, our good friends confirm that Squamish is home of some of the best mountain biking in Canada..
Above is the new development on the east side of the Mamquam Blind Channel in Downtown Squamish.
Rock Climbing in Squamish
Squamish is widely known as the rock climbing capital of Canada. Climbers come from around the world to experience its famous granite cliffs and bluffs. Many of the climbing spots are located within a ten minute drive of Downtown Squamish.
The star attraction is the Stawamus Chief, a massive granite monolith towering 700 meters above Squamish and Howe Sound. The Chief has hundreds of climbing routes for every level (pictured above).
Smoke Bluffs is another popular spot for Squamish rock climbing. Located just across the highway from downtown, The Bluffs are easy to get to with mainly short approaches. It’s a great place to experience Squamish’s world-famous granite.
Learn about the best spots for rock climbing and bouldering in Squamish here.
Can you spot the rock climbers in the above photo? Hint – one climber is wearing yellow.
Airhouse is an indoor freestyle training park that offers trampoline and action sport training programs. It offers drop-in sessions, lessons, camps and group events. More info here.
This is a fun place to spend a rainy day. It has a variety of trampolines, gymnastic equipment and a half-pipe, so you can work on your form regardless of your sport.
Kayaking around Howe Sound and Squamish Harbour
Squamish is a fantastic place to go paddling, too. Howe Sound is surrounded by a network of incredible fjords, so you can kayak for a few hours around Squamish Harbour or make it a multi-day excursion.
Don’t have a kayak or stand-up paddleboard? No problem. You can rent equipment at Squamish Watersports in downtown Squamish. It offers sit-in and sit-on kayaks, touring sea kayaks, double kayaks and expedition sea kayaks.
Above is the Squamish Estuary at the tip of Howe Sound.
Scenic Flightseeing tour
Hop aboard a small plane in Squamish to get a birds eye view of Howe Sound and the spectacular Coast Mountain Range in the Pacific Northwest. This 50-minute flightseeing tour travels north to Whistler, passing over Garibaldi Provincial Park, endless coastal forest, snow-capped peaks and the iconic Black Tusk Mountain.
Can you spot the flightseeing plane in the above photo?
Read more about Whistler Backcountry Flightseeing Tour here.
Visit a Brewery – BC Ale Trail
We try to visit a local craft brewery (or two) when we visit new places. Squamish has joined the BC Ale Trail with a few new brewery additions in recent years. If you like beer, we recommend you add one or two of these Squamish breweries to your itinerary.
List of breweries in Squamish:
- Howe Sound Brewery – the original local brewery dating back to 1996. Voted ‘Brewery of the Year’ at the Canadian Brewing Awards 2022.
- Backcountry Brewing – serving up delicious pizza while you sample a flight.
- A-FRAME Brewing – rustic tasting room with a Pacific Northwest cabin vibe.
- Cliffside Cider – enjoy traditional cider with views of the Stawamus Chief.
Tasty handcrafted pizza at Backcountry Brewing.
Railway Museum of British Columbia
The Railway Museum of British Columbia (formerly the West Coast Railway Heritage Park), has a collection of 95 heritage railway locomotives and cars. See the exhibits and main attractions here.
Guests can hop aboard a mini-rail train and ride around the park grounds. The 20 minute ride travels 2 kilometers of track and takes riders from one end of the grounds to the other. For more info, visit to the museum website here.
Britannia Mine Museum
Located 15 minutes south of downtown Squamish, Britannia Mine Museum is both a National Historic Site and British Columbia Historic Landmark. It has a fascinating history that dates back to 1904, when it was the largest copper mine in the British Empire.
There are over 210 km’s of mining tunnels in the mountains surrounding Britannia Beach. Think about that for a moment. It was once one the British Empire’s largest copper mines.
Britannia Mine Museum offers an underground tour, where guests board an old mine train that travels through the mine, just like miners back in 1914.
Inside the old mining tunnel at Britannia Mine Museum.
Explore Downtown Squamish
While there’s an abundance of outdoor adventures in Squamish, exploring the downtown area should also be on your list of things to do in Squamish. The downtown area is only 5 minutes from the main intersection on the Sea to Sky Highway.
The main street in downtown Squamish is Cleveland Avenue. Here you will find coffee shops, boutique retail stores, native art stores, restaurants, the Squamish Public Library, Junction Park & O’Siyam Pavilion and Howe Sound Brewery.
The iconic Stawamus Chief towers over downtown Squamish restaurants and shops.
Rock climbing practice at Junction park in downtown Squamish.
Colourful rainbow street crossing in downtown Squamish. The small city is surrounded by mountains.
Squamish Farmers Market
The Squamish Farmers Market is a popular attraction with over 60 vendors selling a variety of local produce, cheese and artisan goods. It’s open on Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
More info about vendors and market map here.
Where to Eat in Squamish
There are several restaurants in Squamish, so you have plenty of options to choose from.
The most popular Squamish restaurants are: The Salted Vine, The Copper Coil, Fox & Oak, Zephyr Cafe, Fergies Cafe and Howe Sound Brew Pub.
You will also find most fast food restaurants here. Most are located along the Sea to Sky Highway for easy access. If you’re looking for a quick bite, there are drive through windows at the McDonalds, Tim Hortons (there are two), Wendy’s, Starbucks and A&W.
Squamish also has a White Spot and Boston Pizza, if you’re looking for a familiar family restaurant.
Hearty breakfast at White Spot after visiting the Sea to Sky Gondola. White Spot a popular family restaurant chain in British Columbia. We dine here often with our boys because the menu has something for everyone and the food is good.
‘2 Chill Gelato’ is a fun ice cream shop in downtown Squamish.
The answer is always, “double scoop on a cone”.
Delicious Indian food at Indian Masala Bar & Grill, located near the Walmart in the new development off the Sea to Sky Highway.
Enjoying lunch outdoors at The Copper Coil. The mighty Stawamus Chief in the backdrop.
I recently discovered Sunny Chibas. It’s located directly on the Sea to Sky Highway, at the south end of downtown Squamish. It’s a funky quick service restaurant that’s known for its Twice cooked pork belly burritos, black sesame habanero fried chicken and chiba fries. See the menu here.
Where to Stay in Squamish
During our trip to Squamish, we stated at the Sandman Hotel. It’s located just off the Sea to Sky Highway near the Walmart. We enjoyed our time at this hotel. It’s fairly new with good sized rooms. We had two double beds plus a pull-out couch, which is ideal for our family of four.
Check Sandman Hotel room rates and availability here.
There are also plenty of Squamish vacation rentals to choose from, including rustic cabins and high-end condos on the waterfront. Check VRBO for availability.
Read more blog posts about travel in British Columbia:
- 20 Awesome Things to do in Victoria
- Best Things to do in Whistler this Summer
- Top attractions along the Sea to Sky Highway
- Things to do at Harrison Hot Springs with kids
- Best Road Trip from Vancouver for first time visitors
Have you visited the Squamish? If not, do you plan to visit in the future?
Leave us a comment below if you have any questions about things to do in Squamish.