The 120 or so kilometers that wind up the dramatic coast from Vancouver, British Columbia to the mountain bubble of Whistler is aptly known as the Sea-to-Sky highway. Officially named highway 99 this sinuous strip of asphalt traces the craggy shores of the Howe Sound north into the heart of the vast Coast Range Mountains. The old cliché states that getting there is half the fun, and in this case couldn’t be more right. So leave the pavement of Granville and Main St. behind and follow us north on a Sea-to-Sky road trip.
The Lions – Lions bay
Looming over the north shore like giant cat ears, The Lions are two of the most spectacular peaks visible from downtown Vancouver. The hike/scramble to the summit is usually done in a long day from the parking along the sea-to-sky highway. The hike involves approximately 8 kilometers each way hiking through old growth forests before scrambling the aesthetic granite ridge to the summit. This hike is a serious undertaking, so make sure you bring the proper gear, check the weather, and do adequate research. More information can be found here Vancouver Trails website has the details.
Mountain Woman – Britannia Beach
Lunch time! This unassuming shack, a stones throw from the centre line of the highway, is actually a converted old, blue school bus. The friendly staff here have been serving up the best fish, chips, burgers, and ice cream in the corridor for over 20 years. There is a bit of indoor seating but the bus boasts a big courtyard with picnic tables and great views of Howe Sound and Mt. Sedgewick. If you want the best bang for your buck get the fish n’ chips burger, the best of both worlds. Get a good feed for about 10 bucks.
Brohm Lake – Squamish
Roadside swimming hole and perfect picnic spot, Brohm Lake is quickly becoming one of the most popular hits on the Sea-to-Sky highway. From the parking lot follow the trail north until you reach the shoreline and follow it along the bluffs beside the lake to find sunny rocks, grassy perches in the sun, and cliff jumping if you’re up for a walk or want to find some solitude, the trail continues all the way around the circumference of the lake and ends by crossing a bridge back to the main parking lot. Parking here can be a challenge, and overflow parking is 1km south of the main parking lot. Use extreme caution pulling off the highway to park in the dirt lots. If you need to cross the highway to the trail on the south-bound side, do so at the overflow parking area and use extreme caution.
Star Chek – Cheakamus Canyon
Located Halfway between Squamish and Whistler in the Cheakamus River Canyon is one of the best easy multi-pitch sport climb areas. The Cheakamus arête rises 100m out of the Cheakmus River and provides climbers with 3-4 pitches of quality granite climbing in a stunning coastal setting, and is only minutes approach from the Sea-to-Sky. If you decide to experience this little gem, do yourself a favor and walk in rather than rappelling. The trail winds through an amazing box canyon and gives you amazing views of the routes entirety during the approach. Then, following the climb simply walk off to complete the loop back to the highway. This is a 5th class rock climb requiring ropes and other protection, as well as the skills and knowledge to use it properly. For more information visit Mountain Project’s website or consider hiring a rock guide from Altus Mountain Guides to take care of everything for you.
The best pull-over view on the sea-to-sky journey, with rests tops on both the north-bound and south-bound lanes. This is just a rest area stop, but it is well worth the time to properly pull over, park, and gaze across the valley and the magnificent and dominating Tantalus Mountain range and the Rumbling Glacier which spills down from the peaks. Access to these peaks is difficult; it involves crossing the massive Squamish River and hiking straight up hill through steep forests to reach the glaciers. The unobtainability paired with seemingly close proximity of these peaks tantalized early mountaineers, giving the range its name.
A shorter and less travelled day hike along the sea-to-sky corridor opposite of brandwine falls. This trail winds through the coastal rainforest and climbs approximately 500 meters into a beautiful alpine basin beneath Brandywine Mountain. Meandering streams crisscross the meadows and in the spring and summer they are filled with wildflowers. You need a high clearance to access the trailhead, but most cars can make it to within 500m of the sign. For more information read up on Vancouver Trails.
Sidenote: Brandywine Falls just opposite off the highway is a 1km walk to see a draw dropping waterfall – for more info check out Whistler’s Waterfalls blog.
The adventure doesn’t have to wait until you get to Whistler, with so much to do on the way just make sure you make it here! If you have a favorite pit stop, hike, or viewpoint on the sea-to-sky let us know and tag @Gibbonswhistler on social media!