When people think of visiting areas in and around the Lower Mainland in British Columbia, Canada, Vancouver or Whistler come to mind, but sandwiched between these two vacation hotspots, along the Sea to Sky Highway, sits a hidden gem: Squamish. In this ultimate guide for planning a trip to Squamish, you’ll learn all about this charming mountain-backed town: the best ways to get there, what to do when you arrive, and more beneficial information before you embark on your memorable adventure. 

Table of contents

About Squamish

What used to be a gas station or coffee stop is evolving into an adventure boomtown, tailor-made for hikers, climbers, kitesurfers, kayakers, and mountain bikers seeking expeditions cloaked in an unspoiled bliss.

The quaint town is flanked by a horizon of soaring peaks—Stawamus Chief, to name one—and situated along Howe Sound’s northern tip. While Squamish is primarily an adventure wonderland, the cozy vibes will pressure you into staying here just a little longer than you expected. Lining the streets sits rustic hotels, coffee shops, and breweries backed by mountains. Squamish is basically the ideal getaway for adventurers who want to stay in a town without the bombardment of crowds.

What usually accompanies an amphitheatre of natural beauty? Artistic inspiration! Squamish boasts of a rich arts scene, which is embedded in the various festivals occurring throughout the year and in the quirky masterpieces produced by poets, filmmakers, novelists, painters, musicians, photographers, chefs, brewers thriving in this cheerful, charming adventure getaway town.

Have we convinced you that Squamish is incredible? We have to give the town credit, though, as it’s not that hard to do so! Ready to get into the nitty-gritty details on planning your trip to Squamish? Let’s get started. 

Stunning reflections in the water near Squamish
Stunning reflections in the water near Squamish

How to get to Squamish

Here’s some perspective: Squamish is only a one-hour drive from Vancouver and 45 minutes from Whistler. It’s no wonder that Squamish has been overlooked for so long! Most people opt to drive to Squamish, which is usually the easiest way to get around Canada’s mainland since it’s less time consuming than the bus and way less expensive than flying. But if you don’t want to rent a car or don’t own one, you can look into flying or public transport. We’ve got the details for you below!

Flying to Squamish

The nearest airport to Squamish sits in Vancouver (YVR), so you can fly from anywhere in Canada or internationally to YVR. From the airport, you can either hop in a rental car and drive along the Sea to Sky Highway for 1.5 hours or take the bus or a shuttle—more on this below!

Or if you’re already in BC and want the luxury of marvelling at ocean and mountain views from the comfort of a charter plane, you can fly from YVR, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, and other areas in BC in style. For a more private travel experience, look into Sea to Sky Air, Glacier Air, Blackcomb Helicopters, and Black Tusk Helicopter Inc.

Public transport to Squamish

If you’re already in Vancouver and wanting to take public transport to reach Squamish, it helps to get to Horseshoe Bay, where an hourly BC Connector bus can take you to the quaint adventure city for $24. However, if you can’t get to Horseshoe Bay, and you’re closer to downtown Vancouver, you’ll have to hop on the BC Connector bus from Burrard Skytrain Station, which takes you to Horseshoe Bay for $23. It takes 15 minutes to reach Horseshoe Bay from the Burrard Skytrain Station, and from Horseshoe Bay, it takes around 40 minutes to get to Squamish.

Or you can pay less to reach Horseshoe Bay by taking the Line 250 or Line 257 bus from Westbound W Georgia Street. This route only costs $3 but takes around 40 minutes instead of 15.

You can also look into the Squamish Connector for trips to and from Vancouver. It costs $25 for a one-way fare! The bus usually takes you from the Waterfront Station in Vancouver, but construction has forced the connector to pick transporters up from Richards Street. In Squamish, drop-off and pick-up is from the London Drugs Garibaldi Chieftain Centre and Adventure Centre.

Lastly, there’s a shuttle that goes directly from YVR to Squamish; the Skylynx takes you to the Squamish Station Mall.

Best time to visit Squamish

Like most towns and cities, it’s best to visit Squamish between May and September when the weather is warm! However, if you want fewer crowds, aim to come in late September or early May. It can get quite rainy in Squamish in late autumn and throughout winter. If you prefer rainy weather—amazing—and love zero crowds, you’re more than welcome to visit Squamish then. But Squamish is an adventure town, so the summer months will make it easier to do a compilation of activities. 

The view of Squamish from the above
The view of Squamish from the above

How to get around Squamish

Most hotels are within walking distance of the bus stops dotting Squamish. If you don’t have a car and want to get to a park for some adventure, look into the South Parks Route via public transport, which takes you to Sea to Sky Gondola, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, and Shannon Falls Provincial Park. It’s essential to bring cash for when you hop on the bus! The bus drivers may not have change, so bring the exact amount owed.

Squamish Map

Use this map as a navigation tool for your trip to Squamish.

Where to stay in Squamish

Get cozy in Squamish! It’s hard not to feel mesmerized, enchanted by the spell-binding scenery painting the land and mountainscapes surrounding this town. So why not stay awhile, eh? There are some great spots to stay downtown, or you can stay closer to outdoor adventure start points. Let’s take a look at places to stay in both options.

Hotels in downtown Squamish

Want a fusion of downtown fun and mountain exploration? You can easily take public transport (if you don’t have a car) to the surrounding provincial parks or adventure attractions. Budgeters will appreciate Hotel Squamish, located in the thick of downtown.

For an added dose of Squamish culture, stay at Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company! Enjoy the pub atmosphere whenever you want, the sauna, and rustic, mountain-authentic vibes. It’s pricier to stay here than Hotel Squamish, but it’s definitely worth the extra money.

Hotels just outside of Squamish

Want to stay closer to the adventure hotspots? We’ve got you. It’s next to impossible not to recommend Squamish Adventure Inn! This cozy mountain-backed hotel is located just 1.9km from Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, and the Sea to Sky Gondola is only 4.0km. While Squamish Adventure Inn sits on the outskirts of town, it’s only an 8-minute walk from bars, restaurants, and shops.

Bask in luxury at the Executive Suites Hotel & Resort! With a pool, fitness centre, and Garibaldi Provincial Park just 2.1km away, this is a must stay for anyone who wants to blend swanky with rugged adventure.

Other great options to stay in Squamish

Not into hotels? We totally get it. The natural scenery flanking Squamish equates to top-notch camping spots. The best places to camp are:

Stitch luxury with an outdoorsy rustic experience by staying in one of the cozy cabins at Sunwolf Riverside Cabins! This place immerses you in nature without compromising on comfort.

Mountain views around Squamish
Mountain views around Squamish

Where to eat in Squamish

Squamish may be small, but it has some fantastic options to please foodies, vegans, and gluten-free folk alike. Take a look at some of the best options below.

Best cafe: Caffe Garibaldi! Enjoy a maple latte while you munch on a delicious baked good. They have some excellent gluten-free options here, too.
Best “progressive” cafe: Zephyr Cafe! This funky cafe is tailor-made for health enthusiasts seeking plant-based bites.
Best pub: Howe Sound Brew Pub! Pair craft beer with quintessential greasy, but delicious food here. Their pizza dough is infused with their own beer.
Best restaurant: The Salted Vine! This restaurant adds a little swank to Squamish’s laid-back vibes.
Best brunch: The Copper Coil Still & Grill. Enjoy a fulfilling brunch before you hit the trails! They have awesome breakfast potatoes.

SeaToSky Gondola in Squamish has amazing views of the surrounding area
SeaToSky Gondola in Squamish has amazing views of the surrounding area

Things to do in Squamish

Expect an adventure playground when you come to Squamish. Go on hiking, climbing, mountain biking adventures in the array of provincial parks on the fringe of this charming mountain town. From Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, Shannon Falls Provincial Park, Alice Lake Provincial Park, Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, Garibaldi Provincial Park, and more. Eight provincial parks flank Squamish!

Hiking in Squamish

Squamish may be small, but the hiking opportunities blanketing the region are endless. You’ll find a blend of hikes, ranging from family-friendly to moderate to challenging. Let’s take a look at one hike that falls into each of these categories:

Challenging: Elfin Lakes Hike

Situated in Garibaldi Provincial Park, the Elfin Lakes Hike is bound to mesmerize. While this trail isn’t technically difficult, it’s definitely physically demanding. This 20.6km hike snakes to two stunning lakes. It’s epic, it’s beautiful, and it’s worthwhile.

Moderate: Stawamus Chief Hike

Marvel at Howe Sound views from three different vantage points on the ever-so-popular, stunning Stawamus Chief Hike. This 6.3km lollipop route may be short, but it’s a must-do if you’re in the area.

Family-friendly: Squamish Smoke Bluffs

Get your family out for a fun adventure in Squamish Smoke Bluffs Park. You can choose to venture along one of the many trails in this park, or you can follow this simple route guide for an uncomplicated hike in Squamish Smoke Bluffs Park.

Mountain biking in Squamish

Squamish is the ultimate oasis for mountain biking. Newcomers to the sport and experienced riders will have the thrill of a lifetime twisting through the woods on wheels. With over 100.0km of singletrack trails, Squamish brims with endless mountain biking opportunities.

Families just getting into the mountain biking scene will love the Wonderland Trail. It’s an out-and-back route that doesn’t change too much in elevation.

Experienced mountain bikers will appreciate the technicalities, challenging climbs, and ecosystems of roots along Entrails!

The Chief (Squamish, BC)
The Chief (Squamish, BC)

Rock climbing in Squamish

Can Squamish be a hub for hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing? It appears so. You can find the best and most famous climbs in Stawamus Chief Provincial Park around “The Chief.” You’ll find an abundance of climbing routes spanning the chief that cater to every level of rock climbers. Some popular routes up the Apron are Banana Peel and Deidre. At the same time, you can reach the summit via The Squamish Butt Face or Ultimate Everything.

Water sports in Squamish

Wait, what. There are more outdoor activities in Squamish?

You bet!

Located at the northern tip of Howe Sound, Squamish can’t help but offer top-notch water sports.

Kayakers, paddleboarders will enjoy navigating through the narrow water passageways around Howe Sound or along the smooth water in Alice Lake. And windsurfers and kiteboarders will get a thrill out of honing their craft at Squamish Spit. Never been kiteboarding before? Experts will happily teach you how to do this exhilarating activity.

Other can’t-miss activities in Squamish

Want a momentary break from electrifying outdoor adventures? You can always chill next to a freshwater lake or by refreshing ocean waves! For optimal lake experiences, consider escaping to Browning Lake in Murrin Provincial Park, Brohm Lake (limited parking here, so go early), Cat Lake (there are rope swings).

Craving some salty ocean air? Go to Britannia Beach or Nexen Beach.

Other popular activities include the Sea to Sky Gondola, visiting the Brackendale Art Gallery, or a Squamish Brewery Tour.

Dangers in Squamish

In short: Squamish is safe.

However, the Sea to Sky Highway has a reputation for being a dangerous highway (but outstandingly beautiful), so try not to get too lost in the mountain views as you drive. It’s also essential to look into adventure safety tips before you go exploring. Always stay on the designated paths, check the weather before you go, bring along the appropriate gear for your outing, and let someone know where you’re going before you venture out.

Watersprite Lake is a stunning location that you can hike to from Squamish
Watersprite Lake is a stunning location that you can hike to from Squamish

Frequently asked questions about travelling in Squamish

How far is Squamish from Vancouver?

Not far at all! It usually takes around an hour to reach Squamish from downtown Vancouver.

What is Squamish known for?

Squamish has dubbed itself as the “outdoor recreation capital of Canada.” It’s definitely known for its array of adventurous activities.

Is Squamish expensive?

Squamish charges similar prices to any Canadian town. An inexpensive meal costs just over $10, and a dinner for two at an average restaurant costs around $40!

Fun facts about Squamish

  1. The Coast Mountains have risen 2.0km over the last 5 million years.
  2. The name Squamish comes from the First Nations Squamish people. In their language, Squamish is Sḵwx̱wú7mesh.
  3. Squamish is known as one of the best rock climbing destinations in the world.
  4. Fissile Mountain in Garibaldi Provincial Park may be over 230 million years old.
  5. Squamish means “Mother of the Wind.”