Hiking the Stawamus Chief in Squamish can be a crowded affair
The Stawamus Chief is one of those hikes you can return to year after year and never tire of the experience.
Squamish's iconic granite monolith offers hikers a leg-burning stair-climb, fun scrambling, three peaks, and sweeping views. Plus it's doable most of the year.
All of these attributes combine to make the 702-metre-high Chief one of the most popular hikes in southwestern British Columbia.
This popularity was evident last weekend, when I encountered somewhat of a traffic jam on the Second Peak. Where the fixed chains start by the top of the South Gully, we waited in line as 20 or so people moved slowly up a steep bit. On the 655-metre-high summit, a large group of high-school students awaited us.
Thankfully, a measure of solitude was just a peak away. While the First and Second peaks are often crowded, fewer hikers visit the Third Peak, which is admittedly less spectacular in poor weather. On a sunny day, however, it's the best—and highest—spot for a quiet lunch on the mountain.
When you're done feasting on samosas and the views of Howe Sound, Squamish, and the Coast Mountains, it's better to drop down the Third Peak trail than to clog up the Second Peak route on the return. From the parking lot at the entrance to the Chief campground, just off the Sea to Sky Highway, a hike of the Second and Third peaks involves a round trip of around four hours.
For those of you who love hiking in Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, it's worth noting that the park is currently the subject of an application to change its boundaries. Sea to Sky Gondola Corporation is seeking to remove a 2.36-hectare strip of land from the Class A park. The company's gondola proposal also calls for new hiking trails and trail linkages in and around the park.
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