The Sea to Sky Corridor Offers Outdoor Activities for Every Adventurer
Rare is the highway that becomes a destination in itself. British Columbia’s Highway 99 — the Sea to Sky Highway — is all about nature. The Howe Sound and Coast Mountain vistas may place the Sea to Sky Highway among the most scenic roads in the world, but pull off almost anywhere and a world of outdoor adventure awaits.
In 2014, the Sea to Sky Gondola elevated the Squamish alpine experience when it began soaring more than 2,750 feet in the air between Stawamus Chief Provincial Park and Shannon Falls Provincial Park. This perch unveiled not only jaw-dropping vistas of Howe Sound and the surrounding Coast Mountains, but an introduction to the alpine ecosystem that many visitors would otherwise completely miss. The Panorama Interpretive Trail leads away from the Summit Lodge to viewing decks (make sure to visit the Spirit Viewing Deck). The more advanced Sky Pilot Valley Trail and Skyline Trail, among others, will add rigor and adventure to your excursion.
Hike down from the gondola to the Via Ferrata guided rock climbs for adventurers ages 8 and up — climbing harnesses and helmets are provided — from May to November. If you would rather take it easier but still get the adrenaline pumping, the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge is a lovely walk for families looking to snap a priceless portrait. You’ll also find plenty of trails and sublime photographic opportunities for a minimal fee at both Shannon Falls and Stawamus Chief provincial parks. Scan “The Chief” for climbers ascending the largest granite monolith north of Yosemite National Park.
Alice Lake Provincial Park has what might be the best multigenerational walk, a 2-hour loop on the Four Lakes Trail that’s a wonderful introduction to this alpine wilderness. Squamish is well known as one of the world’s premier mountain biking destinations, with more than 150 miles of single track. Pop into the woods off Diamond Head, circle the Highlands/Alice Lakes region or get a guide and hit the classic trails. Mountain bikes for rent include electric pedal-assist rides that take the effort out of the climb to the trailheads. Rent a single or double sea kayak for a cruise around Howe Sound, tip a canoe into Alice or Brohm lakes, or take a stand-up paddleboard on a leisurely float down the Squamish River into the Squamish Estuary. Shuttles, lessons and guided tours are also available. Paddlers should also consider Porteau Cove, a Marine Provincial Park located between Horseshoe Bay and Squamish. If you prefer a little splash, check out the whitewater rafting on the Elaho-Squamish River, 15 miles of Class III and IV bubbly bliss. Young families and grandparents may have more fun on the gentle Cheakamus River, a lovely introduction to this refreshing pastime. Either way, cruising past Mount Garibaldi, glacial fields and perhaps a bear or eagle feeding on the shoreline is a stunning way to spend your afternoon.
The Sea to Sky Corridor is ripe with excellent cuisine, beginning at the Olive & Anchor, a gastropub overlooking Horseshoe Bay and the B.C. Ferries that sail to Nanaimo, Sunshine Coast and several Howe Sound islands like bohemian Bowen Island. Like the town itself, the Squamish dining scene keeps expanding. The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar took culinary to a new level when it opened in 2017. There aren’t many places in Whistler to find expertly prepared soufflé, but the Salted Vine offers one as well as scallop ceviche, fresh oysters, outstanding cheeses and much more and one of the corridor’s best-curated wine lists. Sushi Sen steps out of the mountain town shadows by offering Vancouver-level sushi and sashimi among other house specialties like Gindara Saikyo Yaki, a sumptuous grilled black cod. Daytrippers through Squamish can grab a coffee and pastry at the Sunflower Bakery & Café or Zephyr, the latter specializing in vegan fare.
Of course, Squamish never loses sight of its mountain cred, beginning with the robust brewery scene.
Howe Sound Brewing is the granddaddy, best enjoyed inside the lively Firebread Restaurant — there’s also an inn — after a paddle along the Squamish Estuary. Step from the beach to brewery in a couple of minutes for a bucket of Drunk Salt Spring Island Mussels, signature fried pickles and something frothy from one of 16 rotating taps.
A-Frame Brewing Co. takes a simpler, rustic approach, inviting visitors to set upon tree stumps at wood burl tables to taste a variety of standard ales and a cream ale that has garnered plenty of notice.
Backcountry Brewing is the new kid, for now, founded by a who’s who of B.C. brewmasters to round out the hoppy Squamish triumvirate.
Consider spending the night if you’re going to imbibe, and always remember to plan a safe ride home.
– Written by Crai S. Bower