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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Apr 17, 2012 at 8:51am
It's sad that the Chief has become another Grouse Grind for the spandexed stair-climbers. Luckily, the LuLuLemons rarely go all the way to the top (they're at the gym, not a wild mountain). Still, I rue the day that this park is made into a new Disneyland for tourists. It's bad enough already! Thanks for the story and the photos. They mimic my experiences exactly.
Taxpayers R Us
Apr 17, 2012 at 1:30pm
That whole gondola idea was completely ridiculous. Can you imagine busting your ass hiking this thing only to have a 100 Chinese people looking down their nose at you off of the gondola on the way up?
Apr 17, 2012 at 2:09pm
The gondola idea is not a "was", it's an "is". The new developers have received the first go ahead from the District of Squamish and are waiting on approvals for rezoning and the removal of land from the Stawamus Chief Park from the Regional District and Ministry of Environment respectively. BC Legislature will have to approve the changes to the Park and land use.
There is still time to have your say. April 19th the Squamish Lillooet Regional District will be hosting its public hearing, 7 pm at Brittania Beach Community Hall. Anyone attending can speak. BC Parks has waived a public hearing which breaches their own policy guidelines. There is a call for them to reinstate the hearing before any decisions are made. For more information, visit www.friendsofthesquamishchief.wordpress.com or facebook.com/FriendsoftheSquamishChief.
Apr 17, 2012 at 4:14pm
To clarify, the proposed gondola is not going up the Cheif to one of its peaks. It is going to a near-by mountain. What this means is some of the park land will stay park land but be able to have the gondola towers. As someone opposed to having a gondola go up one of the Chief's peaks, I find this a reasonable compromise. You cannot always have your cake and eat it. Think of the economic boost this will provide for Squamish and how people with disabilities will now be able to experience some of the wonders that the area offfers. As it is said 'If we want things to stay the same, things will have to change'.
Apr 24, 2012 at 10:19am
Just responding to the first comment from "doctor". I always find it interesting when people want something for themselves but not others. If you are allowed to climb the Chief, then why not others? What does it matter what they wear or what they look like? That is the price of living in a city, there are only so many mountains nearby. If congestion becomes a safety or an impact issue then rationing might be necessary as it is on some trails (Chilkoot, West Coast, etc); however, everyone should have the same opportunity.
Climbed Thar peak on the Coquihalla last summer on a sunny Saturday afternoon and had the mountain to ourselves. Perhaps you should go there.