The Chief is the mammoth rock face that towers over Squamish. Though hardly believable from looking at, the summit is an easy two hour hike. In fact there are three peaks, South (First), Centre (Second), and North (Third). Each accessible from the single trailhead. Growing in popularity as the newest brother to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver because there are quite a few stairs and considerable elevation gain. 540 metres in 1.5k. (The Grouse Grind is 853 metres in 2.9k).
Whistler also has a version of the Grouse Grind. Wedgemount Lake, though there are no stairs, it is steep, hard and long, and a popular local grind. 1220m in 7k!! The trailhead to the Chief is easy to find. From highway 99, in Squamish. As you approach the Chief, visible for several kilometres, watch for the sign for “Stawamus Chief.” The large parking lots are arranged next to the trailhead.
There is a nice campground with 47 tent sites. This part of the world is somewhat expensive so this is an amazingly cheap option at $8 per person, per night. Officially open May 15 – October 12. If you go outside these dates you just have to walk in from outside the gates and camping is free however there are no services available which means that the washrooms may be locked and no water available (though there is a creek running through the campsite). There are no shower facilities here any time of the year.
Stawamus Chief Trailhead Directions
From Cleveland Avenue and Highway 99 in Squamish (McDonalds is on this corner), drive south for about 2 minutes and watch for signs on your left. You can either park at the Stawamus Chief Trailhead or the Shannon Falls Trailhead. Both are close to each other but the Shannon Falls is much better for a day hike if you want to see both. Seeing both only takes a few minutes more than hiking just the Chief. If you are planning to camp overnight then the Chief trailhead is better to park as that is where the campsites are.
More Squamish Hiking Trails
Garibaldi Lake is the centre and base for much of the hiking in Garibaldi Park. The Garibaldi Lake campsite is located on the amazing, turquoise shores of this massive and mostly undisturbed mountain lake. There are no trails around the perimeter of the lake with the exception of the small section leading to the campsite, so your view of the lake is a sea of unnaturally coloured water ringed by swaths of forest and a magnificent glacier towering in the distance. The water is painfully cold, though plenty of brave hikers swim here as well as camp. The camping area is well laid out and stretches deep into the forest with 50 tent clearings. You can, except for the busiest of days, put your tent out of earshot and sight of others. The trail to Garibaldi Lake from the Rubble Creek trailhead, just off of the Sea to Sky Highway takes about two hours. Black Tusk is a mountain of unbelievable beauty. It possesses the incredible distinction of looking more impossible to climb the closer you get to it. Even when you are close enough to touch its vertical, black and foreboding sides, you wonder in amazement how anyone can ever reach the top. It’s vertical on all sides. The barely distinguishable trail skirts its edge along the ledge of a perilous scree slope that runs around its trunk. As you clamour carefully along the trail you come to a chute heading almost straight up. Again, even this close you will wonder, as almost everyone else at this spot, “I don’t think this is a safe way to go.” Then you pause and look around. Many take a seat at this moment and marvel at the view. Spectacular. Just spectacular.Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is a beautiful stop in between Squamish and Whistler. It’s about 25 minutes north of Squamish, 11k south of Whistler. The hike from the parking lot to the falls is less than a kilometre and on a wide and flat trail. Most people miss the other viewpoint from above the falls, from the train tracks bridge. To find it is easy. As you walk toward the falls from the parking lot you will have to cross train tracks. Standing at the train tracks look to your right and you will see a bridge that the train tracks cross. Walk over to that to see the falls from above. Amazing! Brandywine Falls drop an amazing 66 metres (216 feet) into the chasm far below that the viewing platform extends over. Another trail extends past this viewing area leading to another, quieter area overlooking Daisy Lake. Brew Lake is beautiful mountain lake in the Callaghan Valley, north of Squamish. Compared to Garibaldi Provincial Park across the valley, the Callaghan Valley is relatively unknown and seldom hiked. Brew Lake lays in a massive alpine valley of enormous erratics scattered around and in the lake. On first seeing it, it looks serene, yet wild and hostile. The lake is surrounded on one side by idyllic tree covered hills and lakeside cliffs and on the other side a brutal looking wasteland of huge boulders sloping up from the lake to the skyline. Hiking into this wasteland of erratics reveals an amazing paradise of small, island forests, cute streams and endless worlds within worlds to explore. A perfectly arranged glacier is required to form a cirque lake. A magical combination of size, a certain slope and more unexpectedly, a certain angle away from the sun. In the northern hemisphere, this means the glacier must be on the northeast slope of the mountain, away from the suns rays and the prevailing winds. Thick snow protected in this way grows thicker into glacial ice, then a process of freeze-thaw called nivation, chews at the lower rocks, hollowing out a deep basin. Over a thousand winters you are left with a magnificently circular lake with steep slopes all around. If you arrive at Cirque Lake on a favourably sunny, summer day, you will almost certainly fall silent, gaze in wonder at this spectacular place, and feel in that moment that this place is as perfect as it is possible for a place to be. Shannon Falls towers above Howe Sound at 335 metres as the third tallest falls in BC. The wonderful, though very short trail winds through a beautiful old growth forest to get to the base of the falls. From your car to the viewpoint takes only about four minutes, however the trail continues a bit further to a higher viewpoint (five minutes higher). You can even continue along the trail and join with the Stawamus Chieftrail which goes to the three summits of the Chief. The trail to the Chiefs peaks are very steep and almost constant stairs to be prepared for quite a workout comparable to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver. The trailhead to Shannon Falls Provincial Park is just south of the Stawamus Chief trailhead. Taylor Meadows is a beautiful campsite and alternative to the much busier Garibaldi Lake campsite. Located in between Garibaldi Lakeand Black Tusk itself. It is reached from the same trailhead to Garibaldi Lake. There are 40 very nice tent platforms, toilets, a good water source and a food cache, all in the lush forest of Taylor Meadows with the distant view of Black Tusk. Generally Taylor Meadows is not a destination, but part of a circle route. For example, trailhead to Taylor Meadows, Taylor Meadows to Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, then return via Garibaldi Lake. This makes for a long hike at 30k, which is why tenting at this perfectly beautiful, and perfectly located Taylor Meadows Campsite, is a great idea. The wonderful Upper Shannon Falls trail goes almost completely unnoticed, branching off from the chaotically popular Stawamus Chief Trail. About 15 minutes along the Stawamus Chief trail you will see a well marked trail branch off to the right into the forest. This is the Upper Shannon Falls Trail and is remarkably unused. This is a wonderful fact though as hundreds hike the Chief on any given weekend day, though only a handful hike this trail. The Upper Shannon Falls trail, the Stawamus Chief trail and Shannon Falls Provincial Parkare all connected by trails. In order to see all three you should park in the Shannon Falls parking lot and hike up to the Shannon Falls viewpoint just a short 5 minute walk from the parking lot, then proceed from there to connect with the Stawamus Chief trail, about 15 minutes further up the trail.