Located between Vancouver and Whistler on the scenic Sea to Sky Highway, Squamish is a top-rated destination. In 2015, the New York Times tabbed it as one of the “52 Places to Go” that year, and if you look at its surroundings, it is easy to see why. For starters, there is the stunning scenery, punctuated by the jawdropping granite monolith Stawamus Chief that looms over the town and the iconic peak of 2,678-metre (8,787-foot) Mount Garibaldi to the north. The community of almost 20,000 lies at the northern end of Howe Sound, one of North America’s southernmost fjords. The town’s name — “Skwxwú7mesh” in the language of the Squamish people who have inhabited the area for thousands of years — means “mother of the wind,” from the brisk winds that blow on summer afternoons, and therefore a popular destination for enthusiasts of sailing and other windand-water sports. Squamish was mostly a forestry town until 2006, when the nearby Woodfibre pulp mill closed. Forestry is still part of the local economy, but even before the mill closed, many realized the town’s tourism potential. Known for a time as the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada,” the community has adopted the slogan “Squamish: Hardwired for Adventure.” In 2014, the opening of the Sea to Sky Gondola really put Squamish on the international tourism map. The 10-minute ride in eight-passenger cabins whisks guests to a ridge below Mount Habrich, 885 metres (2,903 feet) above sea level. En route, visitors enjoy views of the Chief and 335-metre (1,099-foot) Shannon Falls. At the Summit Lodge, visitors enjoy magnificent views of shimmering Howe Sound to the west and south, and 2,031-metre (6,663-foot) Sky Pilot to the east. Guests can relax on the observation deck while enjoying refreshments from the lodge’s café or marvel at interpretive displays about the area’s environment and vibrant First Nations culture. The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge is a popular attraction, as are nearby hiking trails, some of them wheelchair accessible.
Those looking for a physical challenge can skip the ride up and hike the 7-kilometre (4.35-mile) Sea to Summit Trail, enjoy a celebratory drink at the Summit Lodge, then take the gondola down (download ticket required). On Fridays from June 9 to Sept. 22 at 6 p.m., the Sea to Sky Gondola hosts its Mountain Music Series, featuring live acts from the Sea to Sky Corridor and beyond. The lineup for the 2017 series includes a variety of musical styles, from Celtic to classical and everything in between. For information, visit seatoskygondola.com.
The Britannia Mine Museum, a National Historic Site, offers visitors a chance to take an underground train into what was once the most productive copper mine in the British Empire. For information, visit britanniaminemuseum.ca.
Train buffs will enjoy a visit to the West Coast Railway Heritage Park with its vintage and restored locomotives and rail cars. For information about the park and the many events it hosts, visit wcra.org.
Since the upgrade of the Sea to Sky Highway before the 2010 Winter Olympics, Squamish has experienced a real estate boom. Between 2011 and 2016, it was the fastest-growing community of more than 10,000 in B.C. It boasts Quest University Canada, a branch campus of Capilano University and Coast Mountain Academy, a university-preparatory school for grades 7-12. The Oceanfront development, which is to include a waterfront park as well as residential and commercial components and possibly a branch campus of the University of B.C., is just one of the projects that’s expected to help drive Squamish’s economy into the future. Squamish’s biggest and longest-running annual event is the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival, a five-day extravaganza including a parade, a wacky bed race, fun run, pancake breakfast and the ever-popular Loggers Sports competition. Loggers Sports 2017 — featuring top athletes competing in events such as birling (log rolling), tree falling and obstacle pole bucking — roars to life Aug. 3 to 7.
You can also take in the fun of mountain bike races including the new Sp’akw’us 50 ( June 17); running races such as the Squamish 50 Trail Race (Aug. 18 to 20); wind sports events such as the Kite Clash/Canadian National Freestyle Kiteboarding Championships ( June 30 to July 3) and Squamish Wind Festival ( July 27 to 30); and the Squamish Triathlon ( July 16). The Squamish Farmers’ Market, which runs on Saturdays from May to October, is a terrific place to meet and mingle, and if you’re into the suds, check out the Squamish Beer Festival on July 8.
For more information, drop by the Squamish Adventure Centre near the downtown turnoff from Highway 99, or visit exploresquamish.com.