Stawamus Chief & Lake Garibaldi hikes in Squamish, BC
By Pedro Andres Marquez-Velasco
Click here for a similar hiking tour led by Tours of Exploration in Mount Robson Provincial Park, BC.
Summer hiking in Squamish, BC is now etched in my memory.
For as long as I can remember, August had been a bittersweet period. It’s a time when students like myself dwell on the return to school and reminisce on the exhilarating summer months that passed. And if called to action, a final window to reach a feat worthy of sharing with your friends.
Now in my final year of university, I recall this weekend in late August that had a different feeling. With a final escape to Squamish, BC, planned before heading back to campus for the new semester, it felt like a final breath of the warm summer air. My girlfriend, Kennedy, and I had long talked about exploring more of our home province’s natural beauty. While we share a passion for physical activity and spending time outdoors, neither of us had had much hiking experience. That said, with the start of classes – and the gloomy west-coast fall weather – looming, we knew this would be as good of a time as any to get out on the trail for the first time.
Having heard wonderful things from friends about Squamish, BC, a small-town 65km north of Vancouver, once considered a hidden gem but now known for its rich offerings of outdoor adventures, we set our sight there for this ultimate summer escape. Beginning our quest on the scenic Sea to Sky Highway, our drive into Squamish gave us the chance to size-up our first challenge: the Stawamus Chief. A mere stone throw from roadside stands the 2,000-foot-tall dome-shaped granite monolith that makes up the first of the provincial park’s three peaks. While only 2 kilometers to the first summit, the steep terrain and improvised ladder and rope features make it a challenge, while the spine-tingling cliff-side drop offs makes it not for the faint of heart. With a small daypack filled with snacks and water, we began our ascent.
The view at summit is unlike anything I had seen before. The mesmerizing green hues of the Howe Sound and connecting Squamish River, reflected off the bluer-than-usual sky makes for a truly a humbling sight. The almost 360-degree view from the second and third peaks nearly topped the first in terms of magnificence and beauty, as you get a great vantage point of the iconic Mount Garibaldi. If not for the treacherous hike down ahead of us, we would have been perfectly content to sit and stare out until dusk.
Our second quest began at the trailhead of the Garibaldi Lake Trail, still riding the high from the breathtaking experience of the previous day. Despite fatigue and soreness setting in, we knew there was no time to waste – after all, we were mere days from returning to the sedentary confines of the classroom. After 10km of trekking much flatter terrain, compared to The Chief, we reached the turnaround point at Garibaldi Lake. In Kennedy’s words, the lake’s serenity and stillness far surpassed the view from the day before. Overwhelmed by the natural beauty before our eyes, we finally caved to our tired legs’ demands, setting down our packs and laying lakeside for what must have been at least an hour. Before turning back, we watched on as other hikers ventured out for a swim in the glacier-fed waters and joked about coming back next year with friends to do the same.
It’s a shame that it took until the last weekend of summer for us to take on our first hiking adventure. However, as the saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and now, with only a few months from the end of the spring semester, we will begin planning for a summer full of new adventures, and perhaps a return to this beautiful place.
For a similar challenge to Andres' scenic Squamish adventure, be sure to check out Tours of Exploration's Mount Robson Provincial Park 3-Day itinerary.