I’ve done the short hike to Stawamus Chief twice: once in April 2005 on the way to Whistler from Vancouver, and almost exactly ten years later in April 2015 on the way to a longer hike at Garibaldi Lake. Both walks were mid-week, but my first visit was on a sunny day, and the summit was busy. The second time, on a cloudy and foggy day, I had the walk to myself…
There are three Stawamus Chief peaks:
- First Peak (or South Summit) – 601m / 2,001 feet (2-3 hours)
- Second Peak (or Centre Summit) – 655m / 2,149 feet (3-4 hours)
- Third Peak (or North Summit) – 702m / 2,303 feet (5-7 hours)
The South Peak is the easiest to reach and has the best views, so it can get busy (over 50,000 people undertake this hike each year). You can start the walk to any of the peaks from the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, or take a slightly longer route and more scenic route that starts at the Shannon Waterfall carpark. From Shannon Falls carpark, the track heads initially toward the waterfall which you can hear and see through the trees.
As the track gets closer, there’s a great view of Shannon Falls, which is the third-highest waterfall in British Columbia at 335m.
The track swings to the north, providing a different perspective of Shannon Falls before it enters a lush green forest and moss-covered trees. (The “Connector Trail” links Shannon Falls and the Shannon Falls Provincial Park to the Stawamus Chief summits in the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.)
After about 700m, a timber footbridge crosses an unnamed creek.
The path soon starts ascending, often quite steeply with the aid of timber steps, as it follows Olesen Creek up the steep valley.
The track passe the Olesen Creek Cascades and crosses the creek via another timber boardwalk; a massive tree root in the middle of the river has been worn smooth by years of erosion.
There’s some nice cascades and lichen-covered rocks upstream of the bridge.
The path now ascends fairly steeply and unrelentingly, with occasional timber steps over the steepest sections.
Red markers indicate the trail as it winds around and over large boulders; not that you really need markers as the trail os always obvious.
Near the top of the South Peak there’s some chains and a ladder to help with the last scramble to the top of the dome.
From the top of the South Peak there’s a great view of the surrounding area, including Howe Sound and the Sea to Sky Highway (Route 9) below, and and north to Garibaldi Provincial Park.
It’s an even better view on a clear day! Although you’ll most likely be sharing the view with a few more people…
Looking to the north is the Stawamus Chief Second Peak, on which you can see a line of people making their way to the summit. The three peaks, all separated by deep gullies, form part of the Stawamus Chief Mountain (or “The Chief”). The Stawamus Chief is the second largest granite rock in the world, after the Rock of Gibraltar.
I return the same way, on both occasions; a track continues to the Second and Third Peaks, but I don’t have time to conquer all three Stawamus peaks!
0.0km Car park at Shannon Falls
0.3km Shannon Falls 0.7km First bridge over unnamed creek
1.0km Second bridge over Olesen Creek
1.8km Junction with track to Third Peak
2.3km Junction with track to Second Peak
2.8km First Peak / South Summit (601m)
5.8km Shannon Falls
Accommodation near High Falls Creek
You can easily do this walk from Vancouver (it’s only a one-hour drive). I stayed in Squamish at the Sea to Sky Hotel and Conference Centre, which was one of the cheaper options. There are lots of accommodation options in Squamish – and many hikes you can do in the surrounding area.