The Top Things to Do in Squamish, BC for Outdoor Adventure Lovers

Squamish, BC is often considered the outdoor adventure headquarters of Canada. Hans Tammemagi walks us through exactly why that is, and how to make the most of your visit!

Squamish, BC
Stawanus Chief. Photo Credit: Hans Tammemagi

A giant rock, called the Stawamus Chief, towers over Squamish, dominating and massive. Standing 700 metres high at the southern entrance to the town on the scenic Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler, it is immense, the second-largest granite batholith in the world.

The Chief symbolizes the town and is also a magnet for athletes, especially those that like to dangle from near-vertical rock by ropes, pitons and fingernails. With more than 1,000 routes, the Chief offers rock climbing opportunities of international significance.

I have a secret desire to climb a few of them.

About Squamish, British Columbia

Squamish, British Columbia is a town of around 20,000 in British Columbia that’s known the world over for its outdoor adventure. If you can imagine doing it outdoors, you can probably do it here.

Indigenous Squamish people have lived in the area for millions of years. In the modern era, it found itself on the map when it was the southern terminus of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in the early 1900s. Back then, the town was reliant on a pulp mill, then that switched to sawmills and logging, and nowadays its tourism that is at the heart of Squamish’s economy (and for very good reason).

Under the umbrella of outdoor recreation, you have the opportunity to get up in the air on float planes, engage in some epic rock climbing, hop on a mountain bike, hike to your heart’s content, check out dramatic waterfalls, get your heart beating a little faster with some whitewater rafting, do some camping, go bird watching, and so much more.

What to Do in Squamish, BC

Shannon Falls, BC
The stunning Shannon Falls. Photo Credit: Hans Tammemagi


I join the many hikers trekking up the gentler back side of the Chief to reach the three peaks. Hiking is glorious in the entire region but this route is one of my favourites. In a few steep places, I have to clamber up ladders or cling to ropes or chains. Reaching the top, I am greeted by spectacular views of snow-capped mountains.

I also see Squamish and its suburbs spread out far below, including its port, railway line and lumber piles. 

I yearn to be like the professionals who lithely scale sheer cliffs, but, alas, am lacking in technical skill, flexibility and, well, just plain nerve. But I find a way.


Climbing the rungs of the Via Ferrata
Climbing the rungs of the Via Ferrata. Photo Credit: Hans Tammemagi

Besides the lodge, I sign on for the Via Ferrata tour, which uses emplaced rungs and, most importantly, a safety cable, so even geezers like me can safely climb cliffs. Soon I am hooked onto the cable and start to climb up a vertical face by grabbing onto metal rungs, just like a ladder. OK, I am scared skinny by the exposed position. Once I recover somewhat, the views of Howe Sound and surrounding peaks are stunning.

And for a few brief moments, I feel like a real rock climber.


At the Sea to Sky Gondola, which opened in 2020, I am surprised the parking lot is crammed even at the end of October. At the top, it feels strange to be looking down at the three peaks of the Chief far below. An intricate network of hiking trails lets me explore the vicinity while enjoying grand views, such as the Skypilot and Co-pilot, snow-capped mountains to the southwest. 

I step with trepidation onto a swaying footbridge that hangs like a spider’s thread across a deep chasm. One end connects to the lodge, a grand wooden structure with a spacious deck that offers stunning views. I’m told it’s a great place to enjoy sunsets painting the western peaks in vermilions and reds.

Mountain Biking, Birding, and Learning About Squamish

Once down from the highs of the Gondola, I explore Squamish by jumping aboard a mountain bike. Okay, to make life comfortable it is an electric bike, which Blazing Saddles Adventures specializes in.

Brent leads the way as we follow trails that vary from paved multi-use paths to narrow winding dirt paths. Along Loggers Lane we pass the site of a major lumberjack competition held every summer. I can almost hear the grunts as burly men race up and down tall spars, feel the cold water as a competitor spills from a fast-spinning log and watch saw dust fly like confetti as saws rip through large logs.

Then we are into the forests and marshes along the south of town. It is pure nature. A great blue heron perches on a log in a leaf-strewn pond. A squirrel races across the path. “I see black bears quite often,” says Brent.

Brent of Blazing Saddles Adventures
Brent of Blazing Saddles Adventures. Photo Credit: Hans Tammemagi

The Chief, across the marshes, is beautifully lit by the afternoon light.

“This estuary forms part of the BC Bird Trail and is a great place to see waterfowl and songbirds,” says Brent. “Watch for purple martins, great blue herons, and spotted sandpipers. In the winter, this is one of the top areas in North America for bald eagles. I often see them feeding on salmon here.”

Brent explains that people in Squamish are very fit for the town and draws those who love the great outdoors and activities like climbing, mountain biking, bouldering, kayaking, paddle boarding and hiking. Because Squamish offers an abundance of outdoor adventure, many top-class athletes move here.

Typical is Joe Furneaux, who hitchhiked from Newfoundland to live in Squamish and be close to mountains. Now a legend, he has scaled Mount Everest three times. Another top athlete, Cassie Sharpe, competes in ski halfpipe winning the gold at the 2018 winter Olympics and the silver in 2022. And there are top champions in trail running, mountain biking and more.

I quietly hope their skills will rub off on me. 


Exhausted from cycling, that evening I follow the Squamish Craft Tasting Trail to the Howe Sound Brewery where I savour a Vikings Funeral Double IPA (love that name!). Looking around, I see that the people are all fit and casually dressed.

Wearing expensive threads isn’t the way to gain clout in this town, and maybe that’s a good thing.

Some Final Suggestions for Enjoying Squamish

A very large painting on the Squamish Mural Walk
The Squamish Mural Walk. Photo Credit: Hans Tammemagi
  • Many good stops will tantalize your taste buds including the Zephyr Café, Sunflower Café & Bakery, and Copper Coil Still & Grill (Louisiana-style cuisine)
  • Enjoy the Mural Walk (35 large pieces of art)
  • Head farther afield to Shannon Falls (third highest in BC) in Shannon Falls Provincial Park
  • Visit the Brittania Mine Museum, which is a National Historic Site
  • Pop into the Squamish Adventure Centre
  • Make time for a visit to Alice Lake Provincial Park (known for its hiking and swimming)
  • Check out Brackendale (the Bald Eagle Capital of the World)
  • If you’re looking to do a little more sipping, you might be partial to A-Frame Brewing Co. or Cliffside Cider
  • Head half an hour north to Garibaldi Provincial Park or go south to the Porteau Cove Marine Park

Wrapping Up My Time in Squamish

Loving the sounds of steam whistles, the clank of big steel wheels and rail squeal, on my final day I head to the Railway Museum of British Columbia

I climb into the cab of the magnificent Locomotive 2860 a ‘Hudson’ type 4-6-4 steam engine built in 1940. 

I can’t resist, so I ring the bell. It reverberates throughout the roundhouse.

Locomotive 2860 at the Railway Museum of British Columbia
Locomotive 2860 at the Railway Museum of British Columbia. Photo Credit: Hans Tammemagi

Leaving town, I drive in the shadow of the Chief, already planning to return and revel in the vistas from the summit.

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