Sea to Sky…What a hike!
The Sea to Sky Gondola is one of Vancouver’s premier out of town attractions. Located in Squamish (30 minutes south of Vancouver). The 1.6km Gondola which rises an impressive 885m boasts some of the best views in the area. But who wants to take the Gondola up when you can hike one of the most beautiful trails I have ever had the privilege to hike.
The 7.5km hike Ascent Trail climbs an impressive 918m as it weaves and meanders around the mountain. Deemed an intermediate/advanced hike the climb is not one for the faint-hearted but one I had been itching to do since moving to Vancouver. Thankfully the prolonged nice weather of October (which felt like August in the UK) made it possible to do the hike in the last weekend in October. I did the hike with Jen and Navid (and of course Olive), Zack and Zacks friend Megan along with her 14 month Malaika. Usually I would call you mad for attempting to do a 4 hour hike with a 22lb infant but Zack (aka the Beast) decided to adopt the weighted vest and hike the trial a la Vin Diesel in the Pacifier.
The nice weather makes the Gondola a hotspot so we decided to park slightly down the Sea to Sky Hwy at Shannon Falls. Shannon Falls is the 3rd largest waterfall in BC (thanks to Wikipedia for that one) falling from an impressive 335m. To put this into context this is twice as high as the tallest falls in the UK. The falls is 5 minutes from the car park so not exactly a view well earned but picturesque nevertheless.
After passing underneath the Gondola the trail joins the start of the Stawamus Chief. This is the hike I did back in 2015 and I was hoping the views would match that epic day. The first part of the hike is not cool, its stairs, stairs and more stairs for 20 straight minutes. Its like a cruel stairmaster. As this route also serves the Chief which is a much quicker hike the stairs are also busy. But it is a necessary evil and we soon reached the fork in the road as we split towards the quieter Sea to Sky trail. From there the path hit a number of fantastic micro-climates, pine forests, more temperate forests, clearings and meadows, open rock faces, more waterfalls as the trail ascended upwards. There were so many different things to see that the 4hour hike seemed to be split into 10/15 mini hikes with something new to see / do to rejuvenate efforts.
After about 90 minutes we came to our first clearing which brought with it the chance to get the olde camera out (and also grab some food/water/plums from Megan’s fathers garden… damn were they good). The baby was happy and the view was just a tease of what came next.
Further up the slope we came across a waterfall. Whether this was the upper part of Shannon Falls I’m not sure but with the recent rain it was flowing at full capacity and made for an excellent site. We did take a group photo infront of the falls but the hiker we asked for assistance didn’t quite grasp the brief and ended up zooming up to the 7 of us (yes Olive counts as a person) and cropping out the falls! So instead here is a cute one of Zack and his adopted child overlooking the falls.
After about 2h 30 we reached the main vista (bar the top itself). This rocky outcrop has the most marvelous views of Howe Sound and surrounding Squamish. We spent about 15-20 minutes catching our breathe and admiring the view even being visited by a couple of Stellar Jays (the provincial bird of British Columbia).
Despite the elevation we were actually only (and rather worryingly at the time) half way through our hike. The 3+km to the summit seemed to be big task if it was anything like the previous sections we had just encountered. Thankfully a good chunk of the hike was quite level and only one section which needed a rope chain to assail.
Thankfully after 4 wonderful yeh sweaty hours) we reached the top. Usually the summit is enjoyed with mutual respect to those who have conquered it. This couldn’t be more different a case. The top of the trail is also the top of the Gondola and we were met by the sight of 500+ screaming kids in Halloween outfits being chased by worrying mums. EUGH, EUGH EUGH. I did make time to walk across the cool Suspension bridge but as with Lynn Canyon I would prefer to do this as the ONLY person there not with 100s of people knocking about. The views were out of this world though!!!
Another positive was the ability to purchase some food (good old Yam fries) and a beer (well Cider) to celebrate a hike well done.
To save our tiring legs (and the fact I had a Karaoke night to attend downtown) we got the gondola down at a cost of $15 per person (its $40 for a return trip). What did suck was Jen and Navid were forced to buy a full price ticket for Olive.
So, the end summit did not live up to the hike BUT nevertheless it was a really enjoyable hike with the most incredible views. A hike I will be doing again very soon I am sure.