Less than an hour from Vancouver and only 40 minutes from Whistler, Squamish is a year-round local favourite and prime tourist destination for outdoor activities. It’s known as the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada,” and with good reason. From skiing to snowshoeing, hiking, kitesurfing, rock climbing, kayaking, fishing, paddle boarding, cycling, golfing, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, and even ATVing, Squamish is an outdoor adventure enthusiast’s paradise.
If you prefer to explore BC’s beauty in a more relaxed atmosphere, don’t fret: Squamish is a vibrant community brimming with restaurants, laid-back activities, and friendly locals.
With so many options to choose from as summer approaches, it can be challenging to know where to start—especially if you’re short on time. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top five things to do in Squamish in one day.
Note: while many attractions are currently closed or operating under modified conditions, more businesses are opening under the New Normal. Use this list as a guide when planning your next trip to Squamish and check the websites of the places you plan to visit before your trip.
1. Start (or finish) the day at Squamish Estuary and Spit
The Squamish Estuary and Spit are situated at the tip of Howe Sound.
The Estuary provides a valuable habitat for more than 200 species of wintering and migrating birds, as well as other marshland species. A favourite of bird watchers and kayakers, the Estuary in Squamish is a calming place to relax in nature while taking in some of the best views of the Stawamus Chief—a 600-metre towering wall of granite scaled by over 500 rock climbers per year.
The Spit is renowned for its world-class kiteboarding and windsurfing. Popular with athletes and spectators alike, this human-made berm is famous for its accessibility and consistent thermal winds. It can get chilly as the winds pick up, though, so be sure to bring an extra layer.
2. Hike a popular trail
There’s no shortage of outdoor activities in Squamish. While some sports can be costly or daunting, hiking is an accessible activity for almost anyone. All you need to hit the trail is a bottle of water, some healthy snacks, and a pair of sturdy shoes.
Two of Squamish’s most popular hikes are the Stawamus Chief and Sea To Summit Trail.
The Chief is one of the world’s most massive granite monoliths. Most people hike the first of three peaks, which is a 3.5 kilometre heavily trafficked out and back trail, best accessed from April until October. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could try all three peaks at once, gaining over 600 metres in elevation and approximately eight kilometres round-trip.
The Sea to Summit trail offers somewhat more varied terrain than the Chief with an ever-changing landscape of forest, granite, and water. Views include Shannon Falls, the third tallest falls in BC, dropping 335 meters above its base. This 16.4-kilometre heavily trafficked trail is best used from April until November. If the distance sounds like too much, cut the adventure in half and take the Sea to Sky Gondola down.
Whichever climb you choose, go early to avoid the crowds. Both trails do require climbing a large staircase at the start of the hike and the use of chains, ladders, and ropes as you make your way to the top. The reward is worth the effort, granting hikers stunning views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains.
3. Skip the hike & ride the Sea To Sky Gondola
The Sea to Sky Gondola opened in 2014, making the fantastic aerial views of the Squamish are accessible to everyone. Enjoy the 850-meter elevation gain during the 10-minute ride up. At the top, you can take photos, walk along the 100-meter long suspension bridge, brave an adventure via Ferrata, and grab a delicious meal at the Summit Lodge.
The views at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola are breathtaking. Be sure to wander the groomed pathways to access various viewpoints overlooking the Spit, Howe Sound, the Chief, neighbouring mountains, and the town of Squamish itself.
4. Grab a much-deserved lunch at the local brewery
After a morning exploring the views from the top, it only makes good sense to fuel up. The Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company is a local haunt and a world-class BC brewery. Enjoy the rustic setting, lively atmosphere, and comfort food offered in this Squamish restaurant. Some of their more popular dishes include chicken wings, halibut tacos, hungry climber salad, and any of their handcrafted pizzas.
With a rotating selection of BC craft beer, some year-round favourites include the Howe Sound Lager, Sky Pilot Northwest Pale Ale, Rail Ale Nut Brown, and Hopraiser West Coast IPA. If you can’t decide on just one, order a flight to sample an array of great beer from Howe Sound Brewery.
5. Learn to fly a plane (or be a passenger in one)
If you want a truly elevated Squamish experience, try flying. Named the #1 Flightseeing Company in Canada by TripAdvisor, Sea to Sky Air offers both packaged and chartered guided scenic flights and seaplane tours of Squamish, Whistler, and British Columbia.
Choose from one of nine different packages—or charter your own—and catch breathtaking views of volcanic parks, deep fjords, glacial peaks, and the Pacific west coast.