Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail leads to bird’s eye views of Stawamus Chief

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      While the Sea to Summit Trail might be getting all the attention, it’s the new trails accessible from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola that should be of most interest to hikers.

      Recently, I tried out Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail, one of two upper routes offering hikes of longer than four hours (the other being the Skyline Trail). From the gondola summit area, we headed up the backcountry access road, passing the Kletter Garden climbing area and turning left on another gravel road.

      Past the water tank, we reached the start of the trail, where a sign warned it may be “incomplete”. The trail, which leaves from the left side of the road, kicks off with a wee bit of excitement—an easy creek crossing with the aid of a rope. It then travels up rocky ground, soon offering views of the Squamish Valley.

      Eventually, the trail ducks back into the forest, and you’re presented with a choice between two routes. We went left on the easier path; other hikers later told us the harder route was steep enough they didn’t want to descend it.

      A scenic rocky viewpoint reached just before the routes rejoin might make a suitable turn-around spot for some hikers. From there, the trail surprised us by losing a bit of elevation as it headed over moist ground to a pond, where there was an “end of the marked trail” sign.

      A flagged route appears to continue beyond the pond. However, we crossed the pond’s outlet and followed a path to a nearby viewpoint. From our buggy lunch spot, we enjoyed elevated views of the Stawamus Chief, Squamish Harbour, and the top terminal of the gondola.

      Due to an early start, we had the recommendable trail to ourselves on the way up, but we met several parties on the way down. While the gondola folks peg the round trip at 11.6 kilometres and six to eight hours with 954 metres of elevation gain, our hike to the “end of the marked trail” sign was 4.5 hours return.

      By the way, hiking the upper trails—which lie on Crown land—doesn't come cheap, unless you ascend the Sea to Summit Trail beforehand. Day tickets for the gondola cost $32.50.