the Stawamus Chief - Squamish
The Stawamus Chief as viewed from the town of Squamish
we drove by the Chief we used to make a point of stopping and asking the
kids to count all the rock climbers they could see. Their jaws used
to fall open when we told them that Mom and Dad also made it to the top
of the Chief. Of course, we neglected to mention that of the 200
routes to the top, ours was probably the easiest.
The Stawamus Chief is a 2000-foot plus granite monolith off the Sea to Sky Highway near Squamish. You can take your family to the top by hiking a trail through the back of the Chief. I would say it’s a “moderate difficulty” hike, (it can be steep), but it sure beats scaling a near vertical rock face. My wife, actually, has more trouble going down the mountain than up. She has a temperamental knee.
Age group: To be honest with you, we’ve never taken our kids up the Stawamus Chief. The arrival of our third child put a damper on our adventurous hikes for a few years. I’m sure our 10 year old and even our 7 year old could manage it. The key question: how responsible is your child? You don’t want them falling off the top!
Expense rating: Free
: When you get to the top of the Chief you really feel like you’ve accomplished something great. I felt like I was on top of the world. The view of Howe Sound is unbeatable. On a clear day you see the glaciers on the surrounding Coast Mountains. One year we took Mary’s cousin from Holland to the top of the Stawamus Chief. He was overwhelmed by the panoramic view. Coming from a flat country, he’d never seen anything like it. I’m sure he took at least two rolls of film to show the relatives back home.
: This hike may prove too challenging for young children or ones who aren’t particularly athletic. The start of the trail is a good test, because it goes straight up for about 15 minutes. You can always turn around if someone can’t make it. All in all, it will take you a good 3 –4 hours to go up the Chief and then down.
Details: Getting to the Chief is a snap. To get there, take the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) north past Horseshoe Bay (about 42 km from Horseshoe Bay) for about 50 minutes. The Stawamus Chief is about a kilometre or two north of Shannon Falls, and just south of Squamish. To get to the trail, go through the gates at the park's entrance, and go straight ahead past the campsite to the end of the gravel road (about 1 km from the park gate).
The Chief was designated a provincial park in 1995, so if you want more information, call (604) 898-3678.
Season: I think you could hike up the Chief any time of the year. I wouldn’t recommend trying it when the ground is wet, snowy, or icy. The rocks and wood can get pretty slick.
Educational highlights: Before you set foot on your mission, see how many climbers you can spot on the sheer face of the Chief. At first, you may not see any climbers, but it you look long and hard enough you’ll be surprised at how many climbers there are. If you have binoculars you’ll also be able to see their climbing equipment and their faces. Did you know way back in 1961 it took Jim Baldwin and Ed Cooper 40 days to climb the “Grand Wall” of the Stawamus Chief? Now a day it only takes several hours.
Fun for the adult?: If you like hiking, you’ve got to try the Chief. When you reach the top, you’ll feel great (even if your knees are caving in and you’re totally out of breathe). It’s an experience worth telling your friends about, and besides the scenery is one the best I’ve ever seen.
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