Sea to Sky Highway: Vancouver to Whistler

Nature. Adventure. Great food. The sea to sky highway has something to offer everyone in your family especially if you love the outdoors as much as we do. From strenuous hikes and rugged mountain biking trails to rope swings and easy access rock climbs. The sea to sky highway has it all for the active family. 

Sea to Sky Road Trip Itinerary From Vancouver to Whistler

Vancouver

Vancouver is a great place to start this trip. I love how easy it is to be active in this city with its extensive network of bike paths. Every time my family stops here I make sure I get a chance to ride along the beautiful waterfront bike paths. 

Biking Around Vancouver, Sea to Sky Road Trip
There are bike paths everywhere in Vancouver, making it really easy to get around.

Bike or run around Stanley Park

Two years ago when we visited we started at Capilano River RV Park in West Vancouver and rode through Stanley park, sea wall, and past museum all the way to Granville Island. This past trip we rode our bikes from Spanish Banks and rode along North Beach to Granville which is also a fun ride. 

Vancouver, Canada, pianos, waterfront, bike path
Vancouver waterfront has pianos scattered along the bike path that you can stop and play while exploring the beautiful city.

Granville Island

Granville Island is like a combination of an outdoor mall and a farmers market. It’s huge and has some great places to shop and eat. We love getting Monkey Butter at Edible Canada, relaxing at a cafe and people watching, or grabbing a beer at Granville Island Brewing Co. 

Walk across Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

If you have time, the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge is nice, however, compared to the beauty you are about to enter, it easily could be skipped.  Get the details on hiking the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge here.

Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe

Best pies and quiches at Aphrodite’s!

If you are in the north beach area, stop by and pick up a pie or quiche at Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe. These were some of the most delcious pies we’ve ever had!

Food Trucks

Tacofino has the biggest burritos. Perfect after a long day of adventuring.

Grab a bite at one of the many food trucks– our favorite is Tacofino taco truck.  Get the Vancouver food truck app here.

Free Camping Tips

If you are looking for a free spot to RV/van camp overnight, we parked on the street near Jericho Park. 

Stop at Murrin Park Along the Sea to Sky Highway From Vancouver to Squamish

On the way to Squamish, set aside a few hours to swim and/or climb in Murrin Park or even try this cool scramble up to West Lion. There are some great easy top-rope climbs on Bog Wall and Sugarloaf, whose approaches are less than five minutes from the parking lot and are fun for kids. Find routes here.

Squamish

The Chief, Squamish, Canada, Sea to Sky Highway
I fell in love with this beautiful rock while visiting Squamish

Hiking and Climbing Stawamus Chief

If you aren’t familiar with the Chief and Squamish, let me prepare you now for love at first sight.

The Chief is a steep, gorgeous rock, reminiscent of Half Dome, that reigns over the Squamish Valley. I loved that you could see it from everywhere you are in Squamish and had trouble parting with it after the week we spent in Squamish staring at its gorgeous striations of color and specks of green forest.  

Hiking it was just as amazing.  

Tip: I don’t recommend taking little kids on this entire hike (hiking just to first peak isn’t too bad–just a lot of stairs) and it’s not for those scared of heights or in poor conditioning.

How To Hike The Chief

Start at the campground and follow the signs taking you up the many hundreds of steps and along the path that leads you to third peak (the least impressive of the three).

Hiking the stairs to get to the three peaks of The Chief, Squamish
There are so many steps to walk up before you get to the split to each peak.

From here follow the signs towards second peak.  You may feel like you lose the path when it gets to the rocks but don’t worry, there are little red and orange diamond signs posted on the trees every 50-100 feet and hiking on sticky granite domes is just part of the fun.

Hiking The Chief in Squamish, Canada on sea to sky highway road trip
If you feel lost ever, look for colored diamonds on the trees to show you the way.
Hiking The Chief in Squamish, Canada on sea to sky highway road trip
Being daring and checking out the views below us when we were traversing from third to second peak.

Second peak was by far the best so take your time here to refuel while you take in the gorgeous views. 

Hiking Stawamus Chief Three Peaks, Sea to Sky Road Trip
In my opinion, the view from the second peak is the best.

Now for the real fun, when you descend down second peak it is totally safe but can feel a bit scary if you aren’t comfortable walking on these domes of rock.

Hiking The Chief in Squamish, Canada on sea to sky highway road trip
The domes at the top of The Chief are really sticky and fun to run across.

There will be a ladder to climb down and chains to assist you on narrow ledges. When you get to the bottom of second peak, look across the path a few feet to where the ladder is cemented into the rock.

Hiking The Chief in Squamish, Canada on sea to sky highway road trip
A few areas are narrow or exposed and have chains to hold onto to help you feel safer.

This is the fastest way to first peak and looks scarier than it really is. There are two ladder segments each only about twenty feet long and then the rest is a path or some easy scrambling to the top. My son who is very scared of heights did it and says it’s not as bad as angels landing if that helps.

Hiking The Chief in Squamish, Canada on sea to sky highway road trip
This ladder to get to first peak might look intimidating, but it wasn’t that bad.

Take in the beautiful views of Squamish one last time.

From first peak, follow the trail marked with orange all the way down to the campground and then go do my yoga for hikers routine to stretch out your hip flexors to offset how may stairs you just hiked.

Related Blog: Yoga for Hikers

Rock Climbing The Chief

If you want to rock climb something easy with amazing views, hike the hour approach to the bottom of first peak and multi-pitch The Raven’s Castle.

Rock Climbing The Smoke Bluffs

Rock climbing Smoke Bluffs, Squamish, Sea to Sky road trip
Gabi taking in the views of Squamish before cleaning her anchors at the Smoke Bluffs

Besides the Chief, Squamish is most known for its rock climbing. We loved how easy it was to access the climbing in the Smoke Bluffs area.

Rock climbing Smoke Bluffs, Squamish, Sea to Sky road trip
This tree was so cool how they carved steps in it. This is on the approach to one of the climbing areas in Smoke Bluffs

The trails are well marked and there is even a nice playground there that my kids enjoyed while I got some harder climbs in. Most of the area is Trad but there are a few sport routes and quite a few top rope areas making this truly a place for every level of climber. 

Rock climbing Smoke Bluffs, Squamish, Sea to Sky road trip
Smoke Bluffs has a ton of great climbs for kids too!

Best Brewery in Squamish

After a long day of hiking or climbing, we always headed over to Backcountry Brewery (uber kid friendly) for pizza and an IPA.

Squamish Farmers Market

If you are in Squamish on a Wednesday or Saturday, don’t miss out on the farmers market. This was seriously one of our favorite farmer’s markets we’ve ever been to and be sure to taste some Canadian maple syrup and organic sourdough breads from Rising Knead.

Free Camping Tips

Free camping Squamish, Sea to Sky road trip
Free Camping near Squamish

We chose to overnight camp on Mamquam River Forest Road (which is also a great place to access a huge network of mountain biking trails).

Canadian Tire also allows overnight parking and has a free dump station (plus its right next to a Starbucks if you are a digital nomad in search of wifi) on a side note: we used the Squamish Library for our wifi needs as it had a nice kids area and was in the center of town. 

Sea to Sky Highway Between Squamish and Whistler

You could spend a lot of time exploring the area between Squamish and Whistler. Here are some of our favorite places to explore:

Alice Lake

Sunset at Alice Lake Campground, Sea to Sky road trip
Wow! We were spoiled with a gorgeous sunset when we camped at Alice Lake

Our first stop was Alice lake, which was only a few miles out of town and a really hard campground to get a campsite for so reserve here ahead of time (reserve sites here).

Camping Alice Lake, Squamish, Canada, Sea to Sky highway
Jiraiya practicing his mountain biking skills on the kid’s track in the campground at Alice Lake.

Alice lake is a very small lake making it a great playground for kids in kayaks. The actual playground was nice and had a fun BMX track where my son loved practicing riding over rocks and across logs.

Mountain biking near Alice Lake, Sea to Sky road trip
Make sure you ride the fast and flow Clff’s Corner

My personal favorite was the quick access to the mountain biking area. Since we only recently took up this awesome sport, we were looking for some beginner trails and found that Cliff’s Corner was perfect. It’s a fast and flowy downhill. Getting here, however, is a thigh burner as you ascend the fire access road. Check out more advanced mountain biking trails here. Since we hiked so much we skipped the four lakes hike but I really recommend it. 

Brohm Lake

Brohm Lake, Sea to Sky highway road trip
This is one of the best rope swings I’ve ever done!

Brohm Lake will always be on the top of our favorite adventures we’ve done because of the rope swing.

The first day we came here we didn’t know any better and parked in the main parking lot and walk along the east side of the lake which meant, 1) We made a lot of people upset parking a huge RV in a tiny parking lot with few spaces and, 2) you have to (ahem, get to) swim across the lake to get to the swing. Totally doable for my older kids but not the little one. However, walking this way took us past a great cliff jumping spot.

Brohm Lake, Sea to Sky highway road trip
Cliff jumping into Brohm Lake

When we came back the next day we parked at a large, less popular pull off (coordinates: 49.806204, -123.122863) and hiked the trail in from the west side which was much better.

I’ve done a lot of rope swings in my life, but this one was the best. If you start from the highest rock you get a nice twenty-foot drop interest the lake (and my six year old could start much lower and still have fun swinging in by herself).

You can't skip this one! Brom Lake has the best rope swing we have seen!Click To Tweet Plus it’s a great lake for SUP, inner tubes, and kayaks.

Chek

Next, we camped and rock climbed at Chek. There is really only one easy wall here but it has fantastic views. The routes farthest west have easy climbs for new leaders or kids. There are two classic routes, a 5.9 and a 5.8, 2 pitches that we enjoyed a lot.  If you are a climber you can’t beat it here since the climbing is steps from your campsite.

Rock climbing Chek, Sea to Sky highway road trip
Such incredible views while climbing Chek!

The campground here is brand new and from what I could tell…free. Now to get here it is a steep road with some potholes so if you are in a big RV you may want to just park at the bottom and walk up to climb.  There is another area similar to this a few more miles up the road called Cal Chek. We skipped it because it was full at the time but it was a nice campground for about $16 a night and had great climbing and hiking nearby. 

Hiking and/or Backpacking to Garibaldi Lake

If your legs aren’t too tired from hiking the Chief, hiking to Garibaldi lake is popular and sounded AMAZING.  I recommend backpacking out to Garibaldi Lake and sleeping at the primitive campground, then hiking up to the Black Tusk the next day, or continue on to Panorama Ridge before returning. Get details here.

Instead, we stopped to check out Brandywine Falls, which wasn’t that impressive but gave the kids an easy walk to burn off some energy after driving. 

Brandywine Falls, Sea to Sky highway road trip
Brandywine Falls is a quick stop on a Sea To Sky Highway Road Trip

Cheakamus Lake Trail

Another great hike is Cheakamus. The only drawback is that you have to drive 7k down a fire access road which is no problem in a car but we didn’t want to beat up our RV anymore than we have. Get the details here.

Whistler

whistler sea to sky road trip
Photo credit: Whistler Black Comb

If I was on a larger budget I could spend days and days here. I loved the mix of dirtbag, mountain bike culture with the posh upscale stores and restaurants. The mountains are beautiful and everything about the town is just so crisp and clean.

Alta Lake

There is so much fun to be had on the water at Alta lake unless you want quieter vibes. I love towns with intricate bike paths that can get you anywhere in the city and spent some time exploring the town and lakes along the valley trail. 

Mountain Biking

Whistler is renowned for MTB for a reason.  There are tons of trails to ride however watch out for the surplus of Black Diamond trails (or seize them, depending on how good you are).  If I was a more advanced mountain biker I would’ve jumped on the opportunity to try downhill riding Whistler mountain.  If you’re like us and just want a nice easy ride, explore the Valley Trail.

Stroll through town

Parking to go downtown was easy with an RV as there are huge paid parking lots right next to downtown (which are free from 5pm to 8am). Downtown has a great playground right. Exit to the large grass area and circles of Olympic park. Our two favorite food experiences here were Gelato Lucia and Mount Currie Coffee, which was one of the best coffees we’ve ever had.

Driving Past Whistler: Sea to Sky Highway Road Trip

Hike to Wedgemount Lake

When we were there, you needed 4 wheel drive to get all the way to the trail head and our legs just weren’t up for hiking an extra 2 miles from the further parking lot. But this is still a great free camping spot even if you don’t make it to the beautiful glacier filled lake and ice caves. But, seriously, do the hike, we wanted to so bad but didn’t have the opportunity.

Free camping near Wedgemount Lake trailhead, Sea To Sky Highway road trip
Free camping near Wedgemount Lake trailhead

Pemberton

Next stop by the cute town of Pemberton and get coffee at Mount Currie Coffee Co and Gelato here if you missed it in Whistler or again if you are like us and just thought it was that amazing! Pemberton’s motto is

and there is a lot to explore especially if you like mountain biking. But save your legs for the last stop.

Joffre Lakes

I don’t know how we didn’t know about this one and so we accidentally drove past it but by the time we drove to the backside views we really regretted missing this one. There are a few options for hiking here. For an easy hike walk a few minutes from the parking lot to the first lake but I recommend hiking the whole 6 miles for amazing views and scenery. You can even backcountry camp at the top.  See details here.

If you are returning to Vancouver, this would be a good turn around spot as the drive gets a bit less scenic as you cross on highway 1.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Got more time for road tripping? Combine this with our Canada National Parks Road Trip Itinerary.
  • If you are on a long road trip from Vancouver all the way to Banff and the other National Parks like we were, I recommend driving the section from Pillory to Kamloops late in the evening as there is much less to see in this section. Stretch your legs at Seton Lake Lookout.  Once you get to Salmon Arm it starts getting pretty again.
  • Fuel up in Kamloops or just before for the best gas prices until you reach Alberta. 

Did we miss your favorite spot? Let us know in the comments or tell us if you have any questions about this road trip?

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Sea to Sky Highway: Vancouver to Whistler