Nature. Adventure. Great food. The Sea to Sky highway has something for everyone, 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 adventurer.
Sea to Sky Road Trip: Things to do in Vancouver
Vancouver three times now and it never disappoints. Vancouver is perfect for the city lover. There are many great museums and some of the best restaurants you can find in Canada. As outdoor enthusiasts, we look forward to how easy it is to be active in Vancouver. Between the miles and miles of waterfront bike paths in the city and the surrounding mountains filled with trails, it’s easy for us to be happy here for a very long time.
1 | Bike or Run Around Stanley Park
Every time we stop here I make sure I get a chance to ride along the beautiful waterfront bike paths.
When we visited in 2017, we started in West Vancouver and rode through Stanley park, along the sea wall, and past the museums 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.
Tip for Camping in Vancouver: There aren’t very many campgrounds in Vancouver. If you are staying for a long time in Vancouver, you will probably want to stay at Capilano River RV Park in West Vancouver. If you are just looking for a free spot to RV/van camp overnight, we parked on the street near Jericho Park. Download the iOverlander app for details on other places to wild camp or overnight park in Vancouver.
2 | Shop and Eat at 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.
3 | Walk Across a Suspension Bridge
Vancouver is famous for the Capilano Suspension Bridge that stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above the Capilano River. We’ve chosen to skip this one because it’s a bit pricey for a family our size, plus, it pales in comparison to the beauty you get if you hike The Chief or Whistler’s trail network IMO. Capilano Suspension Bridge is only open seasonally. Check out the dates and rates for the Capilano Suspension Bridge here. We chose the free and still quite gorgeous Lynn Canyon suspension bridge. There are plenty of nice trails here, gorgeous waterfalls, a science center, and a 30-foot pool that is a popular summer swimming spot. . Get the details on hiking the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge here. There’s also Cascade Falls Suspension bridge in North Vancouver or you can try the suspension bridge in Squamish.
3 | Eat at Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe
We fell in love with quiches when we visited France. 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!
4 | Grab a Bite at a Food Truck
Grab a bite at one of the many food trucks– our favorite is Tacofino taco truck. Get the Vancouver food truck app here.
5 | Shop and Eat in Yaletown
Hip Yaletown has everything from trendy patios and award-winning boutiques to casual and fine dining, nightclubs, spas, yoga studios, dog parks, and concerts. Parking, especially an RV, can be challenging, but luckily this is one of the most walkable neighborhoods and there are plenty of public transportation options to get you here.
6 | Hike Cypress Mountain
Cypress Mountain is the closest ski resort to Vancouver and transforms into a hiker’s paradise in the summer. Getting here is easy even in an RV, and there are plenty of trails for all level of adventurers. We enjoyed hiking to Eagle’s Bluff. St Marks Sumit is a popular trail or if you are feeling really adventurous try this cool scramble up to West Lion.
7 | Play at Murrin Park
On the way to Squamish, set aside a few hours to swim and/or climb in Murrin Park. 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.
Sea to Sky Road Trip: Things to do in Squamish
Squamish is heaven for the outdoor enthusiast. We can’t get enough of this rad town and if you have the time, we recommend at least 3 days here so you can get a thorough taste of its charm. Click here to read our Ultimate Travel and Adventure Guide: 18 Radical Things To Do In Squamish.
8 | Hike or Climb 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 staring at its gorgeous striations of color and specks of green forest.
Hiking the Chief is a must in my opinion, but it ain’t for the feint of heart, those in poor conditioning, or small children. Getting to the first peak isn’t too bad–just a lot of stairs, but if you hike it the way I recommend below, it involves a few iron rung ladders that might be above your comfort zone.
If you choose to do the hike straight to first peak, the trail is straightforward and doesn’t require any ladders or chain assists.
The Most Adventurous Way 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).
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.
Second peak was by far the best so take your time here to refuel while you take in the gorgeous views.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉.
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.
9 | Climb or Hike 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.
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.
10 | Grab a Beer and Pizza at Backcountry
After a long day of hiking or climbing, we always headed over to Backcountry Brewery (uber kid friendly) for pizza and an IPA.
11 | 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.
12 | Camp near Squamish
Camping is super easy and very rewarding in Squamish. Plus, camping here puts you steps away from great hiking, climbing, and MTB adventures. We love that there are great options from free camping, forest roads, inexpensive municipal campgrounds, or luxury campgrounds with free hot showers and wifi. Click here to read our Complete Guide to Camping in Squamish or click here to Pin It For Later.
13 | Alice Lake
Alice lake is only a few miles out of town and one of our favorite places in the world to camp at. Unfortunately it can be really hard to get a campsite here (reserve sites here), but even if you don’t camp here, it’s still worth a day of exploring the hiking and MTB trails or playing in the lake.
The lake itself is a very small lake making it a great playground for kids in kayaks. My younger kids loved the playground by the lake, which also has a fun BMX track for them to practicing riding over rocks and across logs.
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.
The Four Lakes hike is a mellow 4 miler that you’ll also want to explore. Finding signage for the trailhead is super easy.
14 | Brohm Lake
Brohm Lake will always be on the top of our favorite adventures we’ve done because of the rope swing. Plus, it’s a great lake for SUP, inner tubes, kayaks, or just chillin’ lakeside on the rocks.
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.
Note: There is now a sign in the main parking lot that specifically says No Oversized vehicles that wasn’t there when we first visited 🤷♀️.
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).
15 | Camp or Climb at Chek
This is a popular area for rock climbers but even if you don’t climb I found the camping here to be quite enjoyable.
The campground here is brand new, however, 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.
For beginner climbers, there is really only one easy wall here (it’s the furthest west wall). The views from the wall are fantastic and there are also an easy 2 pitch 5.9 and a 5.8 that we loved. If you are a climber you can’t beat it here since the climbing is steps from your campsite.
16 | Hiking and/or Backpacking to Garibaldi Lake
Garibaldi Lake is a gorgeous, and popular, hike right before you get to Whistler. It’s a long 12 miler but was doable for our 8 year old, Tatiana. There’s a primitive campground at the lake that I wish we had chosen to backpack to so that we could have hiked up to Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge the next day.
17 | Take a Pic of Brandywine Falls
This is a quick pit stop and a short stroll to the overlook of Brandywine Falls. The parking lot is huge so RVs will have no trouble puling in here. You can also choose to hike other trails from here.
18 | Cheakamus Lake Trail
Another great hike is to Cheakamus Lake. From the trailhead it’s a pretty easy 2 mile hike to the first viewpoint (2 more miles to get to the campground if you choose to backpack it). The only drawback is that you have to drive 7k down a fire access road to get to the trailhead, which is no problem in a car, but we didn’t want to beat up our RV anymore than we had to so we chose to park at the start of the dirt road and MTB to the lake. This actually turned out to be a perfect adventure for us and one I recommend even if you can drive all the way to the trailhead.
Sea to Sky Road Trip: Things to do in Whistler
Whistler is the stuff dreams are made of. It’s the perfect combination of luxury and dirtbag and I love that I can spend half my day getting my adrenaline fix and the other day feeling spoiled at a spa, shopping or indulging at one of the hipster eateries in Function Junction. We can’t get enough of this mountain ski town and if you have the time, we recommend also spending at least 3 days here so you can get a thorough taste of its beauty. Click here to read our Ultimate Travel and Adventure Guide: 25 Amazing Things To Do In Whistler. Here are a few of them:
19 | Explore a Lake
There is so much fun to be had on the water and Whistler has 5 different lakes you can explore. We loved chilling at Alta Lake and MTB around Green Lake. With the Valley Trail, network of bike paths surrounding Whistler, it is easy to hop on a bike and spend an entire day lake hopping.
20 | Go Mountain Biking
Whistler is renowned for MTB for a reason. There are tons of trails to ride from the easy flow trails surrounding Lost Lake to the fast and burmy downhilling on Whistler Mountain, there is something for all levels of riders.
21 | Stroll Through The Village
You can’t visit Whistler without walking through the Village. This is where you’ll find Olympic Park, a great playground for the kids, eating at El Furniture Warehouse, and a ton of great shopping. Parking at the Village is super easy with an RV as there are huge paid parking lots right next to all the fun and they are free from 5pm to 8am.
22 | Hike to Wedgemount Lake
I want to do this hike so bad but you really do need 4 wheel drive to get all the way to the trailhead (trust me I tried and failed). This is also a great free camping spot even if you don’t make it to the beautiful glacier filled lake and ice caves.
23 | Explore Pemberton
Pemberton’s motto is “Adventure Begins Here” for a good reason. Besides having great trails for hiking, Pemberton is known for its large network of MTB trails. a popular hike near here is to Nairn Falls and when you finish you can grab a coffee and food at Mount Currie Coffee or a cold beer at Pemberton Brewing Co. This is also a good place to stop on your way back fro Joffre Lakes if you have to backtrack to Whistler.
24 | Joffre Lakes
This one is Instagram famous for a reason. The top two lakes here are some of the most gorgeous alpine lakes I have ever seen in my life. It’s a crowded hike and parking can be a pain so don’t sleep in. Get here early or grab a permit and backpack this one. 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.
25 | Seton Lake Lookout
On the way to Lilloet, there’s an easy hike that takes you to a viewpoint of Seton Lake and a horseshoe turn in the highway. It’s a nice place to stretch your legs and enjoy the dramatic views of the surrounding mountains. Here’s how to find the Seton Lake Lookout.
26 | Explore Lilloet
We’ve driven through this historic town a few times but haven’t made the effort to explore its spectacular wilderness. There’s a nice campground on the river here that would make a great spot to camp for a night.
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. 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.