Garibaldi, Squamish, Shannon Falls, Howe Sound
Round trip from Whistler to Squamish = approximately 70 miles
Estimated time: 4-6 hours
Head south from Whistler along the Sea To Sky Highway (Hwy 99 toward Squamish, approximately 13 km.) Those with all terrain vehicles may want to detour at the Diamond Head entrance to Garibaldi Provincial Park (the Park’s southern-most entrance; you'll need chains in the winter). A logging road just past the manicured grounds of the Squamish Golf and Country Club delivers you to a parking lot (16 km) at the 914-metre level. A quick hike to the lookout (one km below) provides breath-taking views of the Squamish River Valley and the Howe Sound. On second thought, you may need to save an entire day or more to explore Garibaldi Provincial Park, one of Canada’s most accessible wilderness areas.
Just north of Squamish, visit Brackendale Eagle Reserve showcasing one of the world’s largest concentrations of bald eagles. (In 1994 the world record of 3,766 eagle sightings was set here!)
Windsurfers, alert! Squamish means “Mother of the Wind “ in Coast Salish, which is testimony to the winds that annually draw PROAM sailboard races off Squamish Spit, at the mouth of the Squamish River.
Located at the head of Howe Sound and surrounded by mountains, Squamish has long been a headland of commerce and recreation. Centuries before the arrival of Captain George Vancouver (in 1792) this area was a fertile hunting ground for the Squohomish tribes. Family adventures abound year-round from Squamish. Soft- and white-water rafting trips, fishing charters, horseback riding, backcountry skiing & snowmobiling are all available from experienced outfitters in the area.
There are two historical museums of note in the area: West Coast Railway Heritage Park, featuring a superbly resorted 1890 railway business car and the only surviving Pacific Great Western steam engine in existence. Over 70 vintage railway cars are displayed in a scenic and captivating setting. (604-898-9336)
The national historic site of Britannia Beach documents British mining history in the area at the BC Museum of Mining. The mine, which boomed in the 1920-30’s, produced more copper for the British Empire than any other at that time. (1-800-896-4044 ext.227)
Porteau Cove Provincial Park, one of 5 provincial parks in the area, is an excellent place for scuba diving with over 100 marine species documented. Park by the jetty and enjoy lunch at one of the numerous tables along the beach. And Shannon Falls Provincial Park, located 2 miles south of Squamish, is one of the area’s most frequented sites featuring the 3rd highest cascading waterfall in British Columbia. For those with limited time—or not wishing to fight the summer crowds—the falls are visible from the road. Rock climbers, park at the north end of the Park’s Logger’s Sports Area for one of three approaches to the base of the famed Stawamus Chief Mountain. There are at least 180 routes to the top, all of which begin from the base of one of the largest freestanding granite monoliths in the world.
Howe Sound is located between the Lower Mainland and the Sunshine Coast, and incorporates many islands, and clusters of islands, the largest of which are Bowen Island and Gambier Island. For the truly adventurous whose sole agenda for this day trip is to explore Howe Sound, there are five BC Ferries' terminals servicing the area: at Bowen Island, Langdale, Keats Island, Gambier Island and Horseshoe Bay. Schedules and service varies by day and season. Snug Cove on emerald Bowen Island is a must-do stop, with an array of attractions, historic old turn-of-the-century buildings, quaint boutiques, and boardwalks.
Squamish has a variety of restaurants, fast food eateries and coffee shops to accommodate a wide range of budgets and taste preferences. Plan to have dinner in the area before making your way back north, up the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler.