Sea to Sky Highway: Vancouver to Whistler

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. 

Summer 2020 update:
With certain things closed this summer, we wanted to provide a quick update on closures for things included in this blog. Please note this is not official information, we only do our best to pre-search the current status for our readers and rules are always being updated. Please refer to the BC travel restrictions yourself here and you can check specific information on BC Parks status (I.e. facility closures) here.

  • Currently, Granville Island is only one to shopping for locals
  • The Squamish farmers market is still open from 10am to 3pm every day in the summer but some vendors may close early and it’s encouraged to order online.
  • Trails up Stawamus Chief are all currently closed but I would suspect they could potentially open later in the summer (no promises).
  • Squamish climbing is all technically open but Squamish Access Society has guiding principles posted which you can see here.
  • Garibaldi and Blackcomb Glacier Park (this includes Garibaldi Lake) are currently fully closed. See info/current status here.
  • Joffre Lakes is currently closed as of June 17th. 
  • Wedgemount Lake status is unknown to us.
  • Currently, the road to Cheakamus trailhead is closed Monday through Friday, but I believe you can use the riverside trails to access if you’re willing.
  • Capilano Suspension bridge is open beginning June 19th.
  • Lynn Canyon Suspension bridge is closed until further notice.
  • All other hikes and adventures mentioned are open as far as we know. 

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

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

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. 

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.

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!

Aphrodite's Cafe Vancouver
Best pies and quiches at Aphrodite’s!

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.

Tacofino food truck, Vancouver, BC
Tacofino has the biggest burritos. Perfect after a long day of adventuring.

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 levels of adventurers.

We’ve hiked both popular trails, Eagle’s Bluff and St Marks Summit, and were impressed with both. If you are feeling really adventurous try this cool scramble up to West Lion.

st Marks Summit, Cypress Mountain, Vancouver
Stunning views from Marks Summit, Cypress Mountain

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.

The pride of Squamish, Chief, Things to do
The pride and joy of Squamish, Stawamus Chief

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 faint 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.

Best Way to Hike the Stawamus 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. 

Stawamus Chief Views, on Sea to Sky Highway
When you see the view from the top of Stawamus Chief, it’ll be no surprise they called it the Sea to Sky Highway

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

The Chief is an iconic crag in the climbing community. If you’re a climber, head to Mountian Project and explore the various route options. If you want to rock climb something easy (5.8-ish) 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.

where to eat Squamish, Backcountry Brewing
Squamish’s best brewery and eatery, Backcountry Brewing Co

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.

Alice Lake, The campground at Alice Lake in Squamish
Spacious, scenic, and secluded camping at Alice Lake Provincial Park

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.