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Every outdoor adventurer owes it to himself or herself to spend some time in the British Columbia town of Squamish. While popular destinations like Vancouver and Whistler often steal all of the attention, this small Canadian town packs a punch if you love getting active outside and pushing your skills to the limit. This is a place to embrace your spirit of adventure and try a new activity or two while soaking up the rugged, local culture. Here are nine of our favorite things to do in the outdoor mecca of Squamish, British Columbia.
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For stunning scenery and a memorable day out on the water, head to the Elaho River in Squamish to go whitewater rafting. This river has Class III and Class IV rapids that are exciting and challenging, but not too terrifying for first-timers either. Meanwhile, the Cheakamus River has easier and more family-friendly rapids that are Class I and Class II. One popular guide company in the area to take you out on the water is Sunwolf, which also has cabins available for overnight stays and a café for your post-rafting meal.
Squamish is home to many world-class hiking trails that are suitable for visitors of all ages and skill levels. One of the most popular hiking areas is the Stawamus Chief Park, and you can hike to the top of this mountain for amazing views of the ocean, Howe Sound, and surrounding mountains. This park is at the southern entrance of the Sea to Sky Highway, a popular driving route, and known for its towering granite cliffs. The Chief stands 702 meters above the city and is a challenging route that will really get your heart pumping. Expect the summit route to take between two and seven hours, depending on which of the three peak routes you take and how fast you hike. Arrive at the trailhead early in the morning to beat the crowds during the busy summer season.
If you want to get amazing views of the Squamish region without pushing your physical limits too much, then take a scenic ride on the Sea to Sky Gondola. This gondola offers a 10-minute ride to the top, where you can enjoy the viewpoints, walk on the suspension bridge, and get a snack. The gondola operates year-around, there are 20 gondolas that each hold eight passengers, and adult round-trip tickets are $41.95 if you buy online. This gondola is popular and can get quite busy with crowds, so arrive for your ride as early as possible so you can get out on the hiking trails before a long line forms.
Take a break from your adrenaline-pumping activities and simply walk through Downtown Squamish to check out the town itself. You can often find free events downtown, and street parking is hassle-free. The Squamish Artwalk takes place during the month of September and takes place at over a dozen venues with lots of local artists participating. There’s also a farmer’s market in town at the corner of Victoria Street and Cleveland Avenue from 10:00 am to3pm on Saturdays. At various times of the year, you can also enjoy Friday night drive-in movies at West Coast Railway Heritage Park, Halloween events, Christmas markets, and Polar Express train rides from downtown Squamish.
Did you know that the name “Squamish” means “mother of the wind” in the local Native language? There are strong winds that blow along the Howe Sound, making the area perfect to give kitesurfing a try. There are local guide companies here that will give you a lesson and teach you how to take control of these winds for your own adventure and recreation. For example, Sea to Sky Kiteboarding offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced lessons and is the longest-running kiteboard school at The Spit in Squamish. A one-hour lesson will cost you about $100 per person from a boat or jet ski or $140 for a group of two people from a boat.
Squamish is home to some of the best rock climbing in the region, with more than 3,500 climbing routes to explore. This area is known for its great trade routes and multi-pitch climbs. There are local guide companies to show you the ropes, such as Altus Mountain Guides and Squamish Rock Guides. Another great way to get out on the rocks is to check out Squamish’s bouldering areas. There are more than 3,000 bouldering problems here, which you can try for yourself without a rope or harness.
After all of these outdoor adventures, there’s nothing more satisfying than a cold and refreshing beer. Howe Sound Brewing, Backcountry Brewing, and A-Frame Brewing are all great local options. And if you’re looking for something stronger, check out Gillespie’s Fine Spirits and Distillery for craft cocktails.
Squamish is also home to some epic mountain biking trails, with over 125 miles of single track to get outside on two wheels. This part of British Columbia is one of the top mountain biking destinations in the world, with the Diamond Head/Quest University region being especially popular. Dirt biking is also a popular activity in the Squamish area if you want to explore the backcountry, as well as dog carting, which is the summertime version of dog sledding.
Although summer is the most popular time to plan a Squamish vacation, this part of Canada is also a wintertime playground for travelers who love snow sports. This is a popular spot for Nordic and backcountry skiing, thanks to the old-growth forests and rugged trails of nearby Garibaldi Provincial Park. Also check out the Callaghan Valley north of Squamish if you love cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Another popular wintertime activity is eagle viewing because thousands of eagles come here in the winter to feed before moving on for their migration.