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Hiking the Sea to Summit Trail, Squamish BC

The Sea to Summit Trail is a less trafficked and equally as scenic alternative to the Stawamus Chief trail. It’s Squamish’s version of Vancouver’s Grouse Grind but with a way more epic view and a plethora of hiking accessibility at the top. It enables trail lovers to challenge themselves with a killer uphill workout and the best part, you don’t have to kill your knees hiking down. A gondola ride down is 15 bucks and if you don’t get the chance to ride a gondola often, it will be a fun experience.

Remember the Backcountry Basics


The Breakdown

Distance (Round Trip)5.5km
Elevation Gain 833m
Time (Round Trip)2-4 hours
Dogs Yes
Camping No
Season Year Round (Crampons/Microspikes in Winter)
Difficulty Moderate (Some steep/difficult portions)
Remoteness Moderate Traffic
Highest Point890m


Driving Directions

It’s under an hour’s drive from Vancouver to the trailhead. From Vancouver, follow the BC-99 towards Squamish, continue 50km North until you reach the exit to the parking areas on your right. You have the option to park at the Shannon Falls Parking Lot, the Sea to Summit Gondola lot, or the Stawamus Chief lot.


The Route


You can choose to begin your hike from one of three different parking lots, Shannon Falls, the Sea To Sky Gondola lot and The Stawamus Chief Trailhead lot. If you’ve never seen Shannon Falls I would recommend dropping by before or after your hike to check it out. The hike to the falls is extremely quick from the parking area. From the Shannon Falls or Sea To Sky Gondola you are going to follow the trail to the left towards the Stawamus Chief trail.


Shannon Falls, Squamish BC
Shannon Falls


The Sea To Summit trail shares paths with the Stawamus chief trail for the first 800m gaining approx. 300m of elevation. The initial portion of the Stawamus Chief trail is ‘nature’s stair climber’. You have to tough out some very steep stairs and sections of trail before arriving at the conjunction with the sea to summit trail. There is a cool runoff/waterfall to your right that you can enjoy on the way up to the trail connector. The Chief is notoriously busy and is rated as one of the most trafficked trails in the province. If you are visiting in ‘peak’ hiking season you will likely be sharing the trail with many others. If you hate crowds, don’t worry, you only have to tough it out for a short period before meeting the less popular and more secluded sea to summit trail.


Sea To Summit Trail



At the 800m mark you will reach the conjunction in the forest marking the beginning of the Sea To Summit trail to the right. This is probably one of the best marked trails I have ever encountered. There are 162 blazers spaced 50m along the entire distance of the trail ensuring that you will never veer off course.

Not only was I astonished by the insanely good signage, but the technicality of the terrain also took me by surprise. There are some portions of the trail that are extremely steep, rooty, rocky and sometimes require the use of your hands. Hiking boots are definitely a must year round and crampons or micro spikes are essential in the winter.

You will climb briefly and at the 1.4km mark will walk underneath the Sea To Sky Gondola and be rewarded with a gorgeous view of Howe Sound to your right thanks to a break in the trees. Continue traversing  for a kilometer across the flat trail towards Shannon Creek.

At the 2.5 kilometer mark you will reach the Upper Shannon Falls ‘Pool View’. Take a minute to enjoy the pooling and rushing water feeding the Shannon Falls. Be careful when walking near the rocks, they can be slippery and you would not survive a waterslide through the pools and down the falls. It’s recommended that dogs are leashed on this portion of the trail to protect them from the rushing water.


Sea To Summit Trail


Following an uphill climb for 1km you will reach a conjunction with the Shannon Basin loop trail. Continue on the Sea To Summit trail and after a short walk you will arrive at the most expansive viewpoint of Howe Sound on the trail. This is the ideal spot to stop for a water break and a few pictures.


Sea To Summit Trail

Sea To Summit Trail

Sea To Summit Trail


The final 2km of the trail is a steady uphill climb increasing in pitch until the end. You will cross beneath the gondola and continue climbing adjacent to it. There are some steep rocks and ropes to assist you on the final portion of the climb.

When you reach the summit you have the choice of continuing the adventure on the network of trails, or can post up on the balcony for a beer.


Sea To Summit Trail

Sea To Summit Trail
View From The Deck

The view from the deck is epic and I would recommend walking over the suspension bridge. Also, you 100% need to check out the Chief Overlook (I thought it was the best view on the trail). You are able to see all of Squamish, Howe Sound and can look down upon all of the hikers messing about on top of the chief.


Sea To Summit Trail


You have the option to hike down the trail or pay for a ride down the gondola. Personally, especially if the conditions are wet or icy, I would totally recommend planning on riding the gondola down. It will be way more enjoyable and you can do more hiking on the summit before enjoying the ride to the bottom. The cost of a download is very reasonable and will run you $15 per person. The Gondola ride down is fun to do at least once and you get an unbelievable view of Howe Sound as you fly down the mountainside.


Sea To Summit Trail
Enjoying the view riding down the Gondola


Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

Happy Hiking!!

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