Squamish is a small town in the west of Canada, a place surrounded by wilderness, forests and national parks, that for much of its long history, was just another railroad and logging town in the wilderness of British Columbia.
Times have changed though, as Squamish has reinvented itself as an outdoor lover’s paradise. If you’re looking for a destination that is less busy than Whistler but has just as much to offer, look no further.
Our guide of the top things to do in Squamish will help you to plan your outdoor adventures in this spectacular, natural land.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet British Columbia & the Canadian Rockies (Travel Guide)
15 Epic Things to do in Squamish BC
1. Take a Scenic Flight
By far the best things we did on our trip to Squamish was a 1-hour scenic photography flight through the area. We flew way out into the mountains, over Whistler and then back around to Squamish.
The views are outstanding and if you get a nice weather day as we did, you can get right up next to the glaciers, mountain peaks, and lakes.
We went up with Sea to Sky Air and they did a fantastic job. Their pilots are well trained, with loads of hours and they are all passionate about the area they get to fly in.
They know all of the places that you can see from above and have some great stories to tell about the area too.
Not to mention, their planes are photographer friendly with spotless glass windows, meaning you don’t get ugly spots when shooting through the windows.
2. Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola
The Sea to Sky Gondola uses a cable car to take you from the edge of the Howe Sound to a height of 850 meters into the surrounding mountains.
At the top of the cable car, is the Summit Lodge, where you can enjoy drinks and food in an incredible setting, while the lofty, 100 meters long Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge will take you precariously over a vast void.
It’s not for the faint-hearted. Once at the top, you can either ride back down or take a long way, along the many backcountry hiking or skiing trails.
3. Hike to Shannon Falls
The most famous waterfall in the area is the towering Shannon Falls. Located right outside of town, next to the Sea to Sky Gondola, this falls is a must-see on a visit to Squamish.
There are numerous marked trails in the area that will bring you to a variety of lookouts to view the falls. It’s a nice place to spend an afternoon.
Something worth noting, there used to be trails that extended beyond the last lookout, that have been closed due to fatal accidents that occurred near the falls recently.
While it may be tempting and you may see people not abiding by the signs, please respect them and do not take the trails. They are closed for a reason.
4. Visit Eagle Run Park
Squamish is a place that attracts not only tourists and hikers but a huge population of Bald Eagles.
These mighty birds of prey spend much of the winter in the surrounding area, and the town has consequently become one of the best places in North America to witness these majestic creatures in the wild.
Eagle Run Park has an excellent, informative display that can help you to learn more about the habits and lifestyle of the Eagles, and why they visit Squamish.
5. Hike the Trails
Of course, you can’t visit Squamish without getting out into the wilderness to hike the many, many trails that crisscross their way across the landscapes.
There are many routes along the nearby Howe Sound, for lovely walking by the water.
Those looking for more strenuous hikes may want to look inland, towards the Garibaldi Provincial Park, where there are short hikes and extensive multi-day hikes to undertake.
The best of them all is the hike to the Garibaldi Lake, an exceptionally scenic alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks.
6. Try Rock Climbing
In the summer season, rock climbing is one of the best past times in Squamish.
The area has some of the best routes in British Columbia, but importantly, it has rocks and routes that are suitable for everyone from the first time to hardened climbing veterans.
The most popular rock-climbing location is found at the Stawamus Chief, an enormous, distinctive, granite monolith that rises abruptly from the ground.
7. Do Some Mountain Biking
Squamish is a big hit with the mountain biking community, and there are plenty of trails all around the town and further afield offering a chance to get that adrenaline rush and to experience the beauty of the backcountry wilderness.
You can rent bikes in town if you haven’t brought your own, and there are trails suitable for all abilities.
8. Shop at the Squamish Markets
Small town Squamish has plenty of interesting markets throughout the week, giving visitors a chance to experience local life and to see interesting produce and stalls from the area.
Every Sunday, the Farmers Market is held every Saturday outside the winter season – usually April to October.
While the Squamish Street Market offers a taste of local food and drinks in Downtown Squamish on selected dates throughout the year.
9. Enjoy the Skiing
Come winter, when the snow has settled, Squamish becomes a hub of snow sports and winter activities.
Although the famous Whistler ski resort is just up the road, increasingly, people are turning to Squamish to find new slopes and to avoid the crowds.
There are great cross country ski routes in the surrounding mountains, and backcountry skiing is the most popular winter activity here in Squamish.
10. Try the Squamish Via Ferrata
The Squamish Via Ferrata is an excellent way to experience the rocks and the mountains of the surrounding area.
The route takes you along crags and crevasses, and the whole time you are safely harnessed in and led by a local guide.
You don’t need climbing experience, and it’s the perfect way to access parts of the rocks that you couldn’t otherwise without technical skills.
11. Eat Your Way Around the Town
Squamish is a small town but it still offers plenty of options for a good bite to eat. Give these places a try during your visit:
- Norman Rudy’s – located just outside of town in the Executive Hotel & Suites Resort, it is the perfect place to enjoy a craft beer and local flavors.
- The Joinery – suitable for families, they offer a number of signature dishes featuring local meat and vegetables. If you’re looking for something more laid-back, they also operate a food truck on-site called The Lovacore Food Truck that is open until 5 PM.
- Cloudburst Cafe – featuring sustainably sourced coffee and organic teas they offer a variety of raw food, wraps, sandwiches and raw food options.
- The Crabapple Cafe – a local favorite, this place is where you want to sit down for breakfast. We recommend that you try the eggs benny with smashed avocado and smoked salmon.
- Howe Sound Brewing – this place is rated as one of the best pubs for food and beer in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and for good reason. They serve a large menu of local craft beers to compliment any food choice. The food is fresh and extremely tasty.
Best Day Trips From Squamish
12. Day Trip to Whistler
Whistler is just north of Squamish and is perhaps one of the most well known and popular ski resorts in North America.
It can be busy, but the skiing here is excellent and it can be a great place in winter to enjoy from Squamish for the day, without them having to stay overnight at the expensive resort.
During the summer, Whistler gives you a great jumping-off point for some really epic backcountry hikes.
13. Hang Out at Britannia Beach
Just to the south of the town center, the beautiful Britannia Beach can be found.
This old mining community has seen a resurgence as it has become more and more popular with visitors to Squamish and Vancouver calling in to enjoy the beautiful vistas over Howe Sound.
You can explore the old mining centers, now museums, and hike the many trails, swim in the lakes and enjoy the wonderful scenery.
14. Explore the Sea to Sky Highway
With Squamish being the designated halfway point between Vancouver to Whistler, this means your visit allows an opportunity for some in-depth exploration of the famous Sea to Sky Highway.
Make sure to plan some extra days with your rental car to get off the beaten path and into some of the stunning parks that are located on this route, just outside of the main areas in Squamish.
15. Save Time for Vancouver
Vancouver is just down the road an hour from Squamish, and it’s a great city to spend some time in when you are in the region.
If you are flying in, just turn the city into a quick stopover before heading onto Squamish.
It’s the largest city in British Columbia, so there are plenty of opportunities to have fun and to enjoy the sights.
There are many great museums and galleries, a diverse culinary scene that reflects the city’s multicultural makeup and plenty of bars to have a drink at.
Squamish BC Travel Tips
How to Travel to Squamish BC
Squamish is found on the western coast of Canada, in British Columbia, just north of the major city of Vancouver, and just south of the popular ski resort of Whistler.
Due to its close proximity to Vancouver, the largest city in British Columbia, traveling by road will take no more than one hour along the famed Sea to Sky Highway.
There are even frequent buses that make the journey between the city, Squamish and then onto Whistler to the north.
Vancouver’s international airport has connections to many destinations around the world, making it an excellent transport hub in the region.
We flew into the Vancouver International airport, rented a car and made the easy drive up to Squamish during our visit.
Best Time to Visit Squamish BC
Depending on the outdoor activities you are looking to experience in the area, Squamish can be visited at any time of the year.
The region experiences a lot of rainfall throughout the year, so always be prepared with waterproof gear, even in summer.
The hot summer months are the most popular time to visit when the hiking is best, but this can mean that the trails are busy and the accommodation pricier.
You can avoid the crowds and still enjoy the great scenery during the shoulder season, either in spring or fall. If you are looking to ski, then, of course, winter is the time to visit Squamish.
The ski season can vary each year but generally runs from December through to April. The Christmas period can be the busiest, so try to travel after this if you can.
Where to Stay in Squamish BC
You cannot really go wrong with accommodation and there are plenty of options to suit all budgets in Squamish.
Our Top Recommendation: We stayed at the Executive Hotel & Suites, located just outside of the downtown area. It is extremely quiet there and the rooms are very large. Ours featured a kitchen, fireplace, living room area and bedroom with a large bathroom.
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