DRIV­ING THE SEA TO SKY HIGH­WAY

Big At­trac­tions, Hid­den Gems

Whistler Traveller Magazine - - CONTENT - STORY BY DAVID BURKE IMAGES BY JOERN RO­HDE

Get­ting there is half the fun — or per­haps more than half. That is cer­tainly true of the drive up the Sea to Sky High­way from Van­cou­ver to Whistler, which ranks con­sis­tently as one of the world’s most scenic drives. The drive from West Van­cou­ver north­ward to Whistler on High­way 99 takes about 90 min­utes with­out stop­ping, but if you give your­self ex­tra time, there is plenty to see along the way — from quick stop­ping points to two- and three-hour hikes. While there are well-known places and des­ti­na­tions — the Sea to Sky Gon­dola and Stawa­mus Chief in Squamish be­ing just two — there are also quite a few hid­den gems. Here are some tips for get­ting the most out of the jour­ney. Horse­shoe Bay Vil­lage, part of West Van­cou­ver, is a quaint set­ting next to B.C. Fer­ries’ mas­sive Horse­shoe Bay ferry ter­mi­nal, com­plete with shops, restau­rants and a wa­ter­front park. If you visit, gaze into the trees hang­ing out over the wa­ter to see if you can spot the nest­ing great blue herons. Porteau Cove Pro­vin­cial Park is a beau­ti­ful place to stop, dip your toes into the chilly wa­ters of Howe Sound and take in the views of Anvil Is­land and the moun­tains that sur­round the fjord. As you ap­proach Squamish, one of the Sea to Sky Cor­ri­dor’s many breath­tak­ing water­falls is just a short walk from a park­ing area just off High­way 99. Shan­non Falls Pro­vin­cial Park is the site of Bri­tish Columbia’s third-high­est wa­ter­fall — 335 me­tres (1,099 feet) high. If the weather is warm, es­pe­cially early in the sum­mer, the falls will be howl­ing with snow melt from the win­ter’s snow­pack. Those with time and en­ergy can ac­cess two pop­u­lar hikes nearby: the Sea to Sum­mit Trail to the top sta­tion of the Sea to Sky Gon­dola or the climb to one or more of the three peaks of the famed gran­ite mono­lith (and rock climb­ing mecca) known as the Stawa­mus Chief. In both cases, hik­ing boots or sturdy shoes are ad­vis­able, as por­tions of the trails are rocky. The 7.5-kilo­me­tre Sea to Sum­mit

trail tops out at the Sea to Sky Gon­dola’s Sum­mit Lodge with its spec­tac­u­lar views and other at­trac­tions. If you pre­fer not to hike down, you can pay for a down­load ticket (less than a full ticket) and en­joy the gon­dola ride down. Cool off by tak­ing a sum­mer­time dip in the lake at Alice Lake Pro­vin­cial Park which is also a per­fect place for a pic­nic lunch, at the north end of Squamish. For more in­for­ma­tion on what to do and see in Squamish, stop by the Squamish Ad­ven­ture Cen­tre, visit

ex­ploresquamish.com or see re­lated ar­ti­cle on page 100. Brohm Lake, four kilo­me­tres north of Alice Lake, is an­other lovely swim­ming spot — though you will have to sun­bathe mostly on the rocks that sur­round the lake, as there is no beach. Be ad­vised that the small B.C. For­est Ser­vice park­ing area fills up fast on warm sum­mer days, but Alice Lake is a good al­ter­na­tive. Note that park­ing is il­le­gal any­where on High­way 99, ex­cept in case of emer­gency. The Tan­talus Over­look, which af­fords spec­tac­u­lar views of the up­per Squamish Val­ley and Tan­talus Range, is just a turn off the high­way 10 kilo­me­tres north of Squamish. If you are headed north, though, be alert for the view­point turnoff that heads up­hill to the right. The view­point on the left side re­quires a dan­ger­ous (and il­le­gal) left turn off the high­way and is meant for south­bound trav­ellers only. The view from the north­bound view­point is equally breath­tak­ing. As you head north, High­way 99 crosses a bridge (known to lo­cals as the Big Orange Bridge, or BOB) and as­cends into a rocky cor­ri­dor that makes up part of the Cheaka­mus River Canyon. Just af­ter pass­ing through a high rock cut, you will no­tice a part of the canyon, with the river far be­low, on your left. North­bound driv­ers pass B.C. Hy­dro’s Daisy Lake Dam and power sta­tion, and not long af­ter that, they reach Brandy­wine Falls Pro­vin­cial Park. The park has wash­rooms and am­ple park­ing for those wish­ing to make the

easy 10-minute walk to the view­ing plat­form for the im­pres­sive south­ward views of Daisy Lake and pow­er­ful falls on Brandy­wine Creek, which plunges 70 me­tres (230 feet) in a sin­gle drop. Slightly off the beaten track is Alexan­der Falls, which is well worth a visit. Make the left-hand turn up the Cal­laghan Val­ley Road (to­ward Whistler Olympic Park, venue for the Nordic events dur­ing the 2010 Win­ter Olympics). Watch for wildlife, as bears are of­ten spot­ted near the road. Eight kilo­me­tres up the road is a left-hand turnoff with a small brown B.C. For­est Ser­vice re­cre­ation area sign. Just down the gravel, 150-me­tre ac­cess road, you can park and walk to the view­point for the ma­jes­tic, three-tiered, 43-me­tre (141-foot) cas­cade on Made­ley Creek. In ad­di­tion to the many ter­rific at­trac­tions of Whistler, one more hid­den gem awaits those who visit the re­sort: the An­cient Cedars Trail. A pop­u­lar, fam­ily-ori­ented hike with lo­cals, the trail’s park­ing, wayfind­ing and in­ter­pre­tive sig­nage and in­fra­struc­ture were up­graded in 2013 through a team ef­fort in­volv­ing the Re­sort Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Whistler, Whistler Black­comb, the Whistler Rotary Club and oth­ers. From High­way 99, take a left-hand turn up Cougar Moun­tain Road at the north end of Green Lake. You will need a ve­hi­cle with de­cent clear­ance (any truck or sport util­ity ve­hi­cle is fine) to make it con­fi­dently up the 4.5 km of gravel road to reach the trail­head. Watch for recre­ational ve­hi­cle traf­fic, as the road is also the ac­cess point for one of Whistler’s ad­ven­ture tour op­er­a­tors. The five-kilo­me­tre hike takes about two hours, as­cend­ing into a stun­ning grove of 900-plus-year-old red cedars rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the old-growth forests that blan­keted south­west­ern B.C. be­fore the ar­rival of in­dus­trial-scale log­ging. Sev­eral red cedars in the grove are more than three me­tres (10 feet) in di­am­e­ter, and some Dou­glas firs are es­ti­mated to be more than 650 years old. Be­fore you go, check with the Whistler Vis­i­tor In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre to en­sure that the trail is free of snow. For more in­for­ma­tion on what to do and see in Whistler, visit whistler.com. Happy trav­el­ling!

TAN­TALUS LOOK­OUT

PORTEAU COVE

SHAN­NON FALLS

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