PHOTO ESSAY – Great Vancouver Hikes: A New Alternative to The Chief

UpperShannonFalls-67Everybody loves the Chief.  The iconic hike to the peak of the 700-metre-high granite monolith in Squamish offers some of the most astounding views in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, if not the entire province.

There’s just one problem: Everybody loves the Chief.  On weekends and sunny days, the 11-kilometre roundtrip trail can feel like one long queue, with lines of people forming at critical junctures where the trail narrows.

There is, however, a brand new alternative offering similar views with fewer crowds: the Sea to Summit trail.  The route (which partly follows an older path called the Upper Shannon Falls trail) starts at Shannon Falls at the base of the mountain, then climbs for approximately four hours (around 9 kilometres) before reaching the new Sea to Sky Gondola facility at the summit.  Along the way, it winds past raging rivers, thundering waterfalls, moss-covered forest and dizzying viewpoints.  And the best part: For $10 you can ride the new gondola back down in a brisk five minutes, skipping the long hike back.

I checked out the Sea to Summit trail over the weekend.  Here’s a quick photo essay of what you’ll see along the way.  If you’re considering doing the hike, keep in mind that the trail has an intermediate difficulty level, with some steep sections.  The entire route is well marked with bright green Sea to Sky trail blazes.  More detailed information is available on the Sea to Sky Gondola website and on Vancouver Trails.

The Sea to Summit Trail is 6 kilometres one-way and takes 3-4 hours.  Elevation gain is 916 metres.

The Sea to Summit Trail takes 3-4 hours one way and has an elevation gain of 916 metres.

The trail starts at the base of Shannon Falls, just outside of Squamish.

The trail starts at the base of Shannon Falls, just outside of Squamish.

The initial part of the trail follows the same route as the popular hike up The Chief.  Terrain is steep - Expect a good workout.

The initial part of the trail follows the same route as the popular hike up the Chief. Terrain is steep – Expect a good workout.

After about 45 minutes of hiking, the trail splits.  Here you can opt to continue up to the Chief or proceed along to the new Sea to Summit trail, which crosses back over Olesen Creek.

After about 45 minutes of hiking, the trail splits. Here you can opt to continue up to the Chief or proceed along  the new Sea to Summit trail, which crosses over Olesen Creek.

The Sea to Summit trail passes directly below the gondola at one point.

The Sea to Summit trail passes directly below the gondola at one point.

The Sea to Summit trail now plunges into thick forest.  Eventually, it begins to parallel the creek and offers views of Upper Shannon Falls.

The Sea to Summit trail now plunges into thick forest. Eventually, it begins to parallel the creek and offers views of Upper Shannon Falls.

After approximately two hours, hikers are rewarded with a panoramic view of Howe Sound.

After approximately two hours, hikers are rewarded with a panoramic view of Howe Sound.

Keep an eye out for wildlife, including hungry Stellar's jays.

Keep an eye out for wildlife, including hungry Stellar’s jays.

After the scenic viewpoint, the trail continues to ascend through thick, moss-covered forest.

After the scenic viewpoint, the trail continues to ascend through thick, moss-covered forest.

After about three hours of steady hiking, the trail turns into an old logging road, which winds steadily toward the new Sea to Sky Gondola.

After about three hours of steady hiking, the trail turns into an old logging road, which winds steadily toward the new Sea to Sky Gondola.

The long hike (around three-four hours in total) culminates at the summit of the new Sea to Sky Gondola, which has a 100-metre-long suspension bridge.

The long hike culminates at the summit of the new Sea to Sky Gondola, which has a 100-metre-long suspension bridge.

The viewing deck at the summit lodge - approximately 900 metres above sea level - looks out over Howe Sound.

The viewing deck at the summit lodge – approximately 900 metres above sea level – looks out over Howe Sound.

For $10, you can catch the gondola back down to the base - shaving off about three hours of hiking time.

For $10, you can catch the gondola back down to the base – shaving off about three hours of hiking time.

The backside of the iconic Chief dome is visible on the gondola ride down.

The backside of the iconic Chief dome is visible on the gondola ride down.

In total, the Sea to Summit trail takes around four hours to complete, thanks to the quick five-minute ride back to the base.

In total, the Sea to Summit trail takes around four hours to complete, thanks to the quick five-minute ride back to the base.

On Twitter? Click the tweet below to send or modify:
PHOTO ESSAY – Great Vancouver Hikes: An Alternative to The Chief https://insidevancouver.ca/?p=45131 via @RemyScalza + @myVancouver

Follow me on Twitter:

Tagged: , , , , ,

Comments are closed for this post

3 Responses to PHOTO ESSAY – Great Vancouver Hikes: A New Alternative to The Chief

  1. Marnie adams

    Who is the fabulous looking girl in the photos!!!
    Great article- how beautiful!
    Anonymous!!

  2. ahmed buksh

    Just Marvelous !

  3. Helle

    There is no logical reason to start from Shannon Falls … smarter to start at the base of the gondola because that is where you will come down when done the hike