As one winds north along the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway, with mountains roaring up on the right and the beautiful Howe Sound shimmering on the left, several idyllic communities dot the landscape - Lions Bay, Britannia Beach, Furry Creek, Bowen Island… But it's the last community before reaching Whistler that really catches the eye - Squamish.
Widely known as the "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada", this town at the northern tip of the Howe Sound an hour north of Vancouver is a Mecca for outdoor enthusiast of all types. Whether snowmobiling on Brohm Ridge, backcountry skiing or river-rafting on the Elaho River or wind surfing and kite surfing at the mouth of the Squamish River, there's something here that will get your pulse racing But the one activity that puts Squamish well and truly on the recreation destination map is the mountain-climbing…
When Mount Garibaldi erupted over 10 thousand years ago, it left behind massive granite formations - the very same that surround the city today. Stawamus Chief (or The Chief as the locals call it), is the largest in the area and is also considered one of the largest in the world behind formations in Baffin Island, Yosemite National Park and Pakistan. Towering over 700 meters above the water, this monolith is a traffic stopper… literally. Pull over and take it all in or you might find yourself slack-jawed staring skyward as you rear-end the car in front of you! This amazing monolith boasts over 300 climbing routes from novice to daredevil as well as several steep hiking trails on the back side. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are over 1200 rock climbing routes in and around Squamish, not to mention the 300-plus en route to Whistler. Favourites include Murrin Park, Shannon Falls, Little Smoke Bluffs and the Malamute. On a lesser scale, bouldering has taken off in the area, too with over 1,000 problems alone just in the local guidebook!
Not surprisingly, Squamish is also a favourite mountain-biker destination with over 600 trails to choose from. For serious riders, days of training on these challenging slopes culminates in the Test of Metal, a 67 kilometer race held in June that attracts well over 800 riders from all over the world.
This vacation, remember that Whistler isn't the only good reason to drive up the Sea to Sky Highway!