Hike Upper Shannon Falls – the Sea to Summit Trail

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Shannon Falls Photo: Rob Weiss

Do waterfalls capture your imagination?  A waterfall, almost any waterfall, is fascinating mesmerizing, awe-inspiring.  We stand for hours listening, admiring, photographing, painting.  For centuries waterfalls have inspired poets, artists and musicians. Today we post pictures to Instagram and tweet on #WaterfallWednesday.  Personally, I find myself inexplicably drawn to their power and beauty.  Something about the thundering roar of water cascading down a mountain stirs me deep inside and energizes me to follow the trail toward them, as if drawn by their sheer energy.

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Upper Shannon Falls Photo: Rob Weiss

Shannon Falls is a popular and easily accessible destination for those in search of a waterfall fix.  Located off the Sea to Sky Highway, adjacent to Stawamus Chief Provincial Park and just two kilometres south of Squamish, Shannon Falls is a must see!  Rising 335 metres above Highway 99, the falls are the third largest in the province.  A short, easy trail leads visitors to a spectacular viewpoint and popular spot for both amateur and professional photographers.  According to Squamish First Nation legend, a two headed serpent named Say-noth-ka, formed the falls by slithering his powerful body up and down the mountainside during his frequent expeditions.  Gazing at the cut in the mountain, you can almost visualize Say-noth-ka returning to the ocean.

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Sea to Summit Trail Photo: Rob Weiss

Never content to sit and admire waterfalls from their base my hiking group began our trek to Upper Shannon Falls in search of the source.  Beginning from the Shannon Falls parking lot, we followed the trail to a bridge over Olsen Creek.  At this point the path joins the trail to the Stawamus Chief, another fantastic hike for another day.  The route, formally known as the Upper Shannon Falls Trail, now called the Sea to Summit Trail, is well marked.  With the addition of the Sea to Sky Gondola, hikers have the option of purchasing a download ticket and returning to the parking lot in style, with knees intact.

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View of the Sea to Sky Gondola from the Sea to Summit Trail Photo: Rob Weiss

I enjoyed the off the beaten path feel of the Sea to Summit Trail, compared to the hustle and bustle of hiking the Chief.  The varied terrain makes this day trip fun and challenging and the views of Howe Sound are breath taking.  Interpretive signage along the beginning of the path explains the history of the area.  My favourite sign simply states, “this is not a walk in the park.”  Truer words have never been spoken.  The trail has numerous steep and difficult sections which at times left us all scrambling and gasping for breath.  With hard work comes great rewards and the views of Howe Sound are well worth the effort.  We chose to picnic at Upper Shannon Falls and return back along the trail. However, those wanting a more sophisticated lunch can continue up the path and savour beverages and delectable delights at the Summit Lodge.

Getting There:

Shannon Falls Provincial Park is located just off Highway 99, 58km north of Vancouver and 2km south of Squamish.

Sea to Sky Gondola:

Legs burning?  Consider purchasing a download ticket and descend in style.  Be sure to check the Gondola schedule.

Be Prepared:

There are numerous steep and often slippery sections on the trail.  Hikers are only one sprained ankle away from a long, cold night on the mountain.  Be prepared!

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