The Sea to Summit trail is another one of the gorgeous walks close to Squamish (the other fun ones we did so far, are Mount Crumpit, the Chief and Watersprite Lake.) The start of this walk follows the path to the Chief, so it starts off hard! Then you walk through the forest above the amazing Shannon Falls. The trail keeps climbing through the forest with plenty of viewpoints along the way. Then, once you’ve made it to the ‘summit’, you can stop for a beer, or keep exploring the easy view-point-filled trails up there.
If you like the idea of this hike, but your legs can’t manage 850m elevation gain, you can cheat and take the Sea to Sky gondola straight to the top with no effort. Please note this trail and the gondola is closed until Spring 2020.
Sea to Summit Trail Map
Sea to Summit Trail – the Basics
Elevation gain: 850m
Highest Point: 885m
Time: 4 hours
What to bring:
Walking boots and hiking poles
Money for the gondola down, and a drink at the top!
The ten essentials (as always)
There is a loo in the car park at the Chief. There is a bar, shop and a restaurant as well as more loos at the lodge at the top.
We parked in the Chief car park, but there is also an overflow car park near the Sea to Sky Gondola. You can’t park in the gondola car park, as they have a 3 hour limit on parking there.
Yes, but keep them on a lead.
Dogs are not allowed on the Sea to Sky trails at the top, and you have to buy them a $15 ticket if you take them on the gondola down.
How hard is it?
Hard work, but not crazily hard. Mostly because you don’t have to take the trail down.
Sea to Summit trail – Getting started
The first section of this walk is haaard! The stone steps at the start of the trail seem to be built for giants. You need to take massive steps, so we were all out of breath within the first few minutes. If you find this difficult, don’t give up! Once you’ve warmed up, the rest of the walk is easier.
Don’t keep going the Chief
Keep an eye out for the turn off to the Sea to Summit trail. Once you see the sign on one of the trees, turn right and catch your breath as the path levels off a bit. The path through the forest is easy to follow as there are numbered diamond shaped trail markers the whole way up; 400 of them. There are a couple of viewpoints on the way, and then you get to see the Upper Shannon Falls.
Upper Shannon Falls
Shannon falls is amazing from below, but it seems much less gushing and impressive from above. There are quite a few pools that *look* like they might be nice to swim in, But if you come here, don’t go in! Some people died earlier this year after slipping in one of the pools and falling over 30 meters into another pool.
Quite soon after the Upper Shannon falls, the Sea to Summit trail has a super-steep section that opens out to a lovely view point.
Race the sun!
The sun won this race! These are a couple of the viewpoints on the way up the Sea to Summit trail. Near the start of the trail we could see the shadow of Al’s Habrich ridge on the Tantalus Mountains. By the time we’d made it up to the viewpoint half way up, the sun was illuminating everything.
Steller’s jay time
We got to see a friendly steller’s jay with bright blue feathers. Our part of the trail was still in the shadows, so my photo doesn’t show how colourful he was, but you can see his jaunty feather-hairstyle. He had a cool chirp that sounded like he was laughing at us.
The higher parts of the forest were really beautiful. Partly because the sun was shining through the trees, but also because the lichen looked like it was decorating the foliage.
Sea to Summit trail – ropes for safety
The closer you get to the gondola, the more you have to walk up rock faces. There are ropes to make it easier, but you won’t really need them on the way up. They’d be really helpful if you want to take the trail down though.
Sea to Summit trail – the summit
We made it to the Sea to Sky gondola station!! It took us just around 3.5 hours, which was a bit quicker than I expected. The gondola starts at 10 am at this time of year, so there were already quite a few people at the top. I stopped for this cheesy photo, but we had to wait to take it because there was some ladies giggling and taking the same photo (they’d walked from the direction of the gondola in heels, so I am pretty sure they didn’t hike up!)
These are the views from the top. There are some gorgeous views of the Tantalus mountain range, and down to the sea to sky highway.
Sea to Sky viewing platform
Once you walk around to the viewing platform on the other side of the gondola station and lodge, this is the view down to Howe Sound. It’s pretty cool that anyone can see this view (if they pay for the gondola.) You could even get to this viewpoint in a wheelchair. It’s accessible prettiness.
Sky Pilot Suspension bridge
One really cool thing at the top is the Sea to Sky Gondola’s Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge! How much do you want to walk on that!? It is an amazing place to look down at the world. It’s also a big drop, so avoid this if you are not keen on heights!
I even got in a jumping photo!
Sky Pilot view
This is the view in the other direction. How gorgeous is this!? We stopped at the bar a bit later in the afternoon and watched a wedding here. I honestly can’t think of a more impressive back drop to say your vows. It must have cost a crazy amount though!
The Sky Pilot is the pointy mountain to the right and the Co-Pilot is on the left.
Once you’ve made it to the top of the Seat to Summit trail, there are quite a few short trails where you can stretch your legs. We popped along one of the little walks; the Panorama trail. It was 1.6km and had a couple of viewpoints. We thought one of them might be a good place to eat lunch.
This is our view while we ate our sandwiches. I blooming love looking over to Garibaldi and and Mount Atwell. We had a good view of the Gargoyles too.
The Chief and Squamish valley viewing platform
A little further along, there is another fantastic viewpoint looking down to the Chief. We were not allowed to stay at this viewpoint long as there was about to be a proposal there. A member of staff had laid out champagne and a blanket, so I guess the proposer was pretty confident.
Look how small the Chief looks from up here! I loved this view down to Squamish. It is such a good panorama.
We did one more hike up Al’s Habrich ridge, but I’ll write a separate post about that next time.
We finished our day by taking the gondola back down to Squamish. It costs $15, but that was totally worth it to save our knees!