This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Towering high above the beautiful Howe Sound and Squamish Valley, the Sea to Sky Gondola offers some seriously epic views and is one of our favorite things to do in BC whenever we’re driving the Sea to Sky Highway.
You’ll find the gondola about halfway on the route from Vancouver to Whistler, making it the perfect stop-off point for a road trip between the two cities, or as an epic day trip from Vancouver. It’s also a great year-round destination, open during the winter as well as in the summer!
We absolutely love driving the Sea to Sky Highway, and always make a point to stop at the gondola for a thrilling ride up to Summit Lodge. So, to help you have the best trip here (and discover some awesome activities), we’ve put together this complete blog with all you need to know about the Sea to Sky Gondola – let’s dive right in!
- 1. About the Sea to Sky Gondola
- 2. Where is the Sea to Sky Gondola?
- 3. How much does the Sea to Sky Gondola cost to ride?
- 4. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance?
- 5. What are the best tours that visit the Sea to Sky Gondola from Vancouver?
- 6. When is the best time to visit the Sea to Sky Gondola?
- 7. When is the Sea to Sky Gondola open?
- 8. Is there parking at the Sea to Sky Gondola?
- 9. What are the best things to do at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola?
- 10. How long is the Sea to Sky Gondola ride?
- 11. Can you hike to the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola?
- 12. What are the facilities at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola?
- 13. How long do you need to visit the Sea to Sky Gondola?
- 14. Is the Sea to Sky Gondola Wheelchair friendly?
- 15. Tips for visiting the Sea to Sky Gondola
- 16. Is the Sea to Sky Gondola worth it?
- Where to Stay in Squamish
- Thanks for reading!
- Why We Book Tours with Viator
- Renting a Car in British Columbia
1. About the Sea to Sky Gondola
Completed back in 2014, the Sea to Sky Gondola has quickly become the most popular tourist attraction in Squamish, and it’s easy to see why.
Transporting visitors on a magical journey up 885 meters (2,903 feet) to the summit of Mt. Habrich (aka Summit Lodge), a one-way trip takes about 10 minutes and rewards adventure-seekers with some truly epic views!
From the beautiful Sky Pilot and Diamond Head Mountains looming in the distance to the lush coastal rainforest wrapping itself around the valley, you’ll definitely want your camera for this one.
When we first visited, we were happy to learn that the gondola was carefully built to respect both the natural environment and its spiritual significance to the First Nations people of Squamish. They also used local labor and materials when building the gondola too – sustainable travel spots like this are so cool!
Before the gondola was built, the highest accessible viewpoint over the Howe Sound was actually the top of Stawamus Chief, which is about 200 meters (656 feet) lower than the Summit Lodge. Climbing up The Chief is one of the best hikes near Vancouver if you’re in a hiking mood!
Nowadays, the Lodge has been totally transformed, with awesome activities to enjoy like this Via Ferrata experience and the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge (more on these later!).
2. Where is the Sea to Sky Gondola?
The Sea to Sky Gondola is located about 2 km (1.2 miles) south of the beautiful town of Squamish, which just so happens to also have the nickname “the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada”!
Taking a closer look, it’s not hard to see why Squamish deserves the title. The town has a ton of amazing scenery and great trails (like the Sea to Sky trail), and what better way to take all this in than with panoramic views from a gondola?
You’ll find the Sea to Sky Gondola right next to the Sea to Sky Highway (also known as Highway 99), which is around a 45-minute journey from downtown Vancouver. I always love making this drive, as the road is flanked by waterfalls, forests, snow-capped mountains, and bright blue water for the entire way – and you bet we like to take photos!
Related Read: Garibaldi Lake is another amazing stop on the way from Vancouver to Whistler with amazing trails. Hikers rejoice!
3. How much does the Sea to Sky Gondola cost to ride?
You can purchase your Sea to Sky Gondola tickets either at the gondola station or ahead of your trip – we like to book ours ahead of time so that we can skip the lines! Tickets here are valid for one round-trip and can be broken down into four age groups:
- Adults – $70 CAD
- Seniors (65-99) – $62 CAD
- Youths (13-18) – $42 CAD
- Kids (6-12) – $28 CAD
The ride up is so scenic that we think it’s well worth the money, and there are also a ton of amazing viewpoints to explore at the top! Your ticket also includes access to the super fun (if a little scary!) Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, as well as all of the hiking trails at the top.
4. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance?
If you’re going during the summer, then you definitely should book tickets in advance, as the Sea to Sky Gondola gets very busy!
Fortunately, when you book with Viator you get to change or cancel your tickets up to 24 hours beforehand, so you can keep an eye on the weather and reschedule for free if it’s not looking so good. You get a much better experience when you go on a bright, clear day, as you can see for miles around.
In the off-season, it’s less essential to book in advance as the gondola is not as busy. But that’s not to say it’s not just as beautiful as it is in summer!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
5. What are the best tours that visit the Sea to Sky Gondola from Vancouver?
If a visit to the Sea to Sky Gondola is on your Vancouver itinerary, you can easily get here – even if you don’t have your own wheels or a rental car. There are some fantastic Whistler tours from Vancouver that stop here and even some cool experiences like snowshoeing at the top of the mountain after your gondola ride.
These are the tour options we’ve handpicked that you don’t want to miss out on!
Whistler and Sea to Sky Gondola tour
This full-day Whistler and Sea to Sky Gondola tour is the perfect opportunity to take some incredible photos of the charming town of Whistler, ride the Sea to Sky Gondola, and peer up at the thundering Shannon Falls! We loved the entertaining commentary from our guide, Andy, who pointed out some impressive points of interest as we cruised along the Sea to Sky Highway.
It was also great to have some free time on our own to explore Whistler, taking in all of the beautiful mountains in the background! There were also lots of great shops to check out here, like Cool As A Moose, as well as cozy cafés with AMAZING hot chocolate – check out Blenz Coffee!
Tickets for this tour cost $214 CAD for adults and $109 CAD for children (3-12) – but don’t delay, secure your spot online here.
Whistler and Sea to Sky Gondola tour (including Squamish)
Experience the beautiful towns of Whistler and Squamish at your own pace with this all-day Sea to Sky Gondola tour! With pickup from your hotel in Vancouver on a luxury bus, you can snap up all kinds of photos of the coastal peaks, forests, and the Squamish River on the way.
Our first stop was at Shannon Falls Provincial Park, which is home to the very impressive Shannon Falls, the third-highest falls in BC at 335 meters (1,100 feet). Spending about an hour here, we relaxed on the handy picnic benches that are scattered around the park, taking in the sights before moving on to the gondola!
This tour includes a ticket to the gondola too, so there was no hassle of having to arrange it beforehand. Dan and I hopped aboard with two other couples on the tour and from then on, it was all about the views.
With about an hour of free time to explore Squamish and 4 hours to explore Whistler, we found ourselves totally immersed, getting to see so much of these beautiful alpine towns! The tour itself is about 11 hours long, which we think is the perfect length for a relaxing full-day tour – we didn’t feel rushed at any point along the way.
While there is a maximum of 50 people per tour, there’s plenty of space on the bus and the guides did a great job of answering any questions that we had. You can get tickets for this tour for $193 CAD per person. Get ready to explore this incredibly scenic region and book your tour online here!
Snowshoeing at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola
If you’re visiting Vancouver during the winter and want to stop by the Sea to Sky Gondola, this guided snowshoeing tour is a great (and safe) way to explore the awesome trails at the top of the mountain. You’ll be picked up in Vancouver and head up to the top of the gondola before strapping on your snowshoes and having a blast in the snow!
The tour costs $185 CAD per person and includes your transport, gondola ticket, and snowshoeing equipment. You’ll be in a group of no more than 8 people, so it’s a nice, close-knit experience and since the mountaintop is much quieter during winter, it will feel like you have the entire Howe Sound to yourself! You can grab tickets for this tour here on Viator.
The great Squamish day trip from Vancouver
Explore the beautiful town of Squamish in comfort on this private day trip tour. Of course, the ride on the Sea to Sky Gondola is the star of the show, but the organizers have also included some really interesting and unique activities too. You’ll visit a gold and copper mine, walk to the epic Shannon Falls, and peek around inside the Railway Heritage Museum!
I have to say that I didn’t have high expectations of the Railway Museum beforehand, but I was actually very surprised by just how well looked after all of the trains were. Make sure to check out the Pacific Great Eastern from 1910 – it’s so well-kept that it could’ve been out on the rails yesterday!
For a private tour, we think this is great value at $175 CAD per adult, $109 CAD for teens (10-17), and $71 CAD for kids (5-9). Your ticket also includes all of your activities and transport, except for lunch. Since it’s a private tour, you also have more control over the itinerary, and our friendly guide, Michael, was happy to give us some suggestions!
If you’d like, you can swap the railway museum for more time exploring at the top of the gondola – it’s entirely up to you! You can secure your spot on this tour here.
Related Read: Feeling hungry after your day out? Why not try some of the best Vancouver food tours on offer.
6. When is the best time to visit the Sea to Sky Gondola?
The Sea to Sky Gondola is always best on a clear day, which is why we like to book gondola tickets through Viator, so we can reschedule our tickets if necessary.
Your ticket is valid for the entire day, so you’re not restricted to a certain time slot, but we think it’s best to head up in the morning. This way, you can avoid the crowds (especially in summer) and enjoy more peace and quiet as you soak in the beautiful views at the top.
If you can’t make it in the morning, then we recommend going around 3 pm, when the midday crowds are starting to leave. This will still give you a couple of hours to explore before the last gondola of the day at 6 pm.
7. When is the Sea to Sky Gondola open?
The Sea to Sky Gondola is open from 9 am until 5 pm, and the last gondola goes down at 6 pm. The hours used to change throughout the year, but now they stay the same every day!
If you’re traveling around November, then you’ll want to double-check if the gondola is open, as it usually closes for annual maintenance for around 10 days during this time. Some years the gondola has closed in early November, while in 2022 it closed at the very end of the month, so it can be a bit tricky to predict!
The gondola sometimes also closes in extreme weather, but in general, Squamish is known for its (relatively) mild climate, so this probably won’t be an issue, but don’t forget to check the forecast.
8. Is there parking at the Sea to Sky Gondola?
Yes, there is!
Open from 8 am until 6 pm daily, there’s plenty of space to park at the base of the Sea to Sky Gondola, and the parking is free for up to 3 hours. The short-stay parking lot can be found at the base of the gondola, right opposite the Basecamp building, so you really can’t miss it.
9. What are the best things to do at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola?
Go for a walk
Sometimes it’s nice just to take it easy and go for a wander! One of the best things to do at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola is just to go for a walk around and visit all of the different viewing platforms, as well as cross the Sky Pilot Bridge.
There are a couple of great, easy walking trails at the top, including the 400-meter (1,312-foot) Spirit Trail, which takes you to the Spirit Viewing Platform. As well as enjoying the beautiful views of the Howe Sound, you can also dive deeper into the history of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation, who have lived in this area since before records began.
For a longer walk, the Wonderland Lake nature trail is about 1.8 km (1.1 miles) long and will take you through pretty meadows and around the lake. The Panorama Trail is the same in terms of length, but it instead takes you through the forest, over granite outcroppings, and past lots of viewpoints to stop and grab a pic! Both trails are easy and family-friendly and should take about 30 minutes to complete.
If you’re visiting the Sea to Sky Gondola in the winter, you can still enjoy a fair bit of walking! You’ll be pleased to know that the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, Summit Lodge Viewing Deck, and Spirit Trail are regularly cleared of snow, just remember to wrap up warm!
If you’d like to explore the Wonderland Lake or Panorama trails, we recommend renting poles, crampons, and over-boots for $5 CAD for 2 hours, or snowshoes for $20 CAD per day. This can help reduce the chance of slipping and ending up with a bruise or two!
One of our favorite things about the Sea to Sky Gondola is that it’s a gateway to some truly spectacular hiking trails. Before the gondola was built, you’d have to make the difficult trek up the mountain first, even though lots of the trails at the top are actually pretty easy.
You can hike right underneath the gondola along Sparky’s Spin, a 1.8-km (1.2-mile) frontcountry trail, or walk one of the easy trails we talked about above. However, for keen hikers, the backcountry trails are the real draw at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola.
Al’s Habrich Trail is one of the most famous trails in the area, and we must say, it is pretty epic. It offers awesome views of Howe Sound, Sky Pilot, and Mount Habrich, as well as numerous creeks, waterfalls, and swimming holes along the way.
The trail itself is 8.4 km (5.2 miles) long as a round-trip, with an elevation gain of 340 meters (1,115 feet). There’s quite a lot of scrambling involved, so you should ideally have a few trails under your belt before you tackle this one!
If you’re not quite ready for the Habrich Trail, then the Sky Pilot Valley Trail is a great alternative, since this is more of an intermediate rather than an advanced route. It’s 10 km (6.2 miles) out and back, and it should take you between 3–4 hours to complete. The trail runs along the valley below Mount Habrich and takes you close to the base of Sky Pilot Mountain.
Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge
The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge is about 100 meters (328 feet) long and hangs thousands of feet in the air. You’ll quickly see why it’s called the Sea to Sky Gondola as you walk across, taking in the views of the Howe Sound below and the mountain vistas lumbering in the distance.
Entrance to the bridge is also included in your gondola ticket, but a fair warning – you might find yourself feeling just a little bit giddy!
We love a good Via Ferrata experience, and it has to be said that the Sea to Sky Corridor is one of the most beautiful places in the world to tackle an iron pathway.
Clad in your safety gear, you’ll go on a short hike through the forest and then hike across catwalks, suspension bridges, and up granite slabs for just over an hour until you reach the Summit Lodge viewing deck, where you’ll finish on a high note!
If you’ve never done a Via Ferrata before, it can feel a bit scary at first, but it’s actually super safe, and a great alternative to free climbing. The views on this route are spectacular, and you’ll be in a small group of no more than 8 people, with an experienced guide to keep you safe and coach you through any nerves.
The experience costs $130 CAD per adult or $108 CAD for kids aged 8-18, but note that this price doesn’t include your Sea to Sky Gondola ticket, even though the Via Ferrata does start at the top. You can either purchase your ticket separately or choose the bundle option on Viator to buy them both together.
There’s something special about snowshoeing on a mountaintop, especially when that mountaintop is as beautiful as this one! Plus, there’s a big variety of terrain up here, so you can find a suitable trail whether this is your first time or you’re already a total pro.
The best trails to snowshoe at the top of the mountain include Wonderland Lake, the Panorama Trail, and Al’s Habrich Trail. The first two are easy and mostly flat, while Al’s Habrich is a lot more challenging.
You can rent snowshoes at the gondola for $20 CAD per day, or you can join a snowshoeing tour like this one that lasts around 6 hours and includes all of your transport and equipment. We think that this is a good idea if you have never snowshoed before, as you’ll have a professional guide showing you where to go and what to do.
Tickets for the tour cost $185 CAD per person and can be reserved online here.
Snow tubing is a TON of fun. There’s really no age limit on enjoying a wholesome session sliding along the snow, but we think that this activity is especially great for families to do together. The Tube Park at the top of the gondola is open 7 days per week during the winter, and it only costs $5 CAD for unlimited day access.
If you’re an experienced backcountry skier, going off-piste and exploring some of the more remote surroundings at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola during winter is a fantastic way to explore the area. It’s challenging but fun terrain to explore with friends, and the views are just breathtaking.
Just make sure to check avalanche warnings before you go, as you won’t be allowed to board the gondola with your gear if the advisory is “high” or “extreme” (and nor should you – that would be super dangerous!).
Nordic skiing is actually the original version of skiing. Nowadays, most people ski downhill for fun, but Nordic skiing started out as a practical means of transportation (although it can be a lot of fun, too). It differs from alpine skiing in that only the toe of the boot is attached to the ski, which allows you to traverse flat or uphill terrain much more easily.
With regular ski touring, the boot detaches from the ski for uphill hikes, but with Nordic skiing, you can actually ski uphill – how fun is that!?
10. How long is the Sea to Sky Gondola ride?
The ride takes about 10 minutes each way. For us, that 10 minutes went by way so fast as we couldn’t get enough of the spectacular views from the gondola pod!
Once you’re at the top, you’ll want at least a few hours to explore, or longer if you’re doing something like snowshoeing, a long hike, or going skiing.
Related Read: If you’re heading over to Alberta, we highly recommend giving the four Banff gondolas a go!
11. Can you hike to the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola?
Yes, but be warned: it’s not an easy hike!
Sea to Summit is an advanced trail that will take you right up the mountain at 6.5 km (4 miles) each way and has 918 meters (3,011 feet) of elevation gain. It’s definitely no walk in the park, as there are some very steep sections, although you will have absolutely incredible views, especially during the second half of the hike.
The Sea to Summit trail starts at the parking lot for the Sea to Sky Gondola, opposite the Basecamp building. It’s well-marked and for some sections, you’ll even be right underneath the gondola. It’s definitely a fun and exhilarating trail, but you should only take it on if you’ve got a high fitness level and know what you’re doing when it comes to hiking.
If you hike up the Sea to Summit Trail, you can also buy a one-way ticket down for the gondola for $20 CAD – perfect if your legs are feeling a bit tired! You can either buy your ticket at the base before you head up, or purchase it at the summit.
12. What are the facilities at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola?
The Summit Lodge
The Summit Lodge is basically the facilities’ hub at the top of the mountain. It’s home to a cute café, a restaurant, a bar, and a gift shop too! You can also find toilets and guest services here. Plus, thanks to its outdoor deck and floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s a fantastic place to enjoy some beautiful views while you relax.
If you’re feeling hungry, you’re in luck! There are two different dining options at the top of the summit, the first being the Co-Pilot Café, which sells sandwiches and hot drinks, as well as sweet treats like cookies and muffins.
Meanwhile, the Marketplace Eatery serves comforting classics like tomato soup, poutine, pot pie, and chili. Also known as the Sky Pilot Eatery, the restaurant’s outdoor deck is right next to where the famous suspension bridge begins, so you’ve got a first-class view of it here.
And if you’re looking for a craft beer at the top of the mountain (which, obviously, we were) the Edge Bar has beer from every single local brewery in Squamish, as well as gorgeous mountain views.
You can find toilets at the Summit Lodge, which is adjacent to the upper gondola station. There are also bathrooms at the base of the gondola in case you need to use them before you ride. Basically, the only time you’ll be far away from a washroom is if you decide to do one of the longer hikes!
There are gift shops both inside the Summit Lodge at the top and Basecamp at the bottom. At the top of the mountain, you can find outdoor gear from popular brands like The North Face, which you might just need if you neglected to bring a jacket with you!
There are also plenty of locally made artisan goods, like soaps and candles, on offer, so this is a good place to find a gift for your loved ones (or yourself!).
There’s a kids’ playground on the Summit Plaza where your little ones can let off some steam. It also features a tightrope section and a sandy area. Several of the mountaintop hikes actually finish here, so kids can go and play right after you get back.
13. How long do you need to visit the Sea to Sky Gondola?
At least two hours. If you want to do some activities at the top, such as hiking, skiing, or the Via Ferrata, we’d say allow at least half a day. If you want to combine activities, then you might want to stay for the whole day! It’s so beautiful up here, so if you’ve got time to stick around and explore, then why not?
14. Is the Sea to Sky Gondola Wheelchair friendly?
Yes, the gondola pods can accommodate wheelchairs!
The cabins can actually slow down to make it easier for wheelchair users to get on and off. All of the facilities at the Basecamp and Summit are also wheelchair-friendly, as are the Sky Pilot suspension bridge and the Summit viewing deck.
15. Tips for visiting the Sea to Sky Gondola
There’s a reason they sell outdoor gear at the Summit Gift Shop! Lots of people don’t realize that even when it’s warm on the ground, it can be chilly up at the summit. Plus, layers are always a good idea if you’re planning to hike because you can get pretty warm while you’re moving, but you quickly cool down once you stop.
Arrive early or later in the day
The Sea to Sky Gondola is super popular and so arriving early or later in the day can help you to avoid the crowds and make the most of your experience. You can’t reserve a certain time slot when booking your ticket, so if you arrive at a busy time, then you’ll end up queuing to get on the gondola.
Plus, we always think it’s much nicer to hike and enjoy viewpoints when there are fewer people around.
Bring snacks if you don’t want to buy food
To be fair, we don’t think the prices at the eateries here are too bad compared to some other gondolas, but eating out all the time isn’t exactly cheap. If you don’t want to buy food at the top of the gondola, bring some snacks to keep you going. Otherwise, you’ll probably head up with the best of intentions and then get hungry and treat yourself to a burger.
If you plan to hike, bring bear spray
This is Canada, after all! It’s always best to bring bear spray with you when you hike, especially if you’re going early in the morning or in the late afternoon, as this is when bears are most active. Trust us, if you find yourself on the business end of a grizzly bear, you’ll want to be prepared.
16. Is the Sea to Sky Gondola worth it?
Yes! It’s absolutely breathtaking. The views alone make it well worth a visit, but it’s even more of a must for people who love hiking and exploring the great outdoors. You can access some really remote terrain at the top of the mountain, and the views along the way are absolutely beautiful.
Where to Stay in Squamish
Since the Sea to Sky Gondola is SO close to Squamish, it’s worth grabbing a hotel here to stay a night or two. Then you can check out more of the best activities around Squamish!
There are lots of choices when it comes to hotels in Squamish, so here are three of my personal favorites.
Just outside downtown Squamish is the 3-star Sandman Hotel and Suites which offers spacious rooms, a gym, and a swimming pool. Breakfast is available at the hotel, but there’s no restaurant to enjoy lunch or dinner. This hotel is also pet-friendly. Rooms here start from $175 CAD per night.
A fantastic budget-friendly option in downtown Squamish is the Crash Hotel, where rooms start from as little as $80 CAD per night. This hotel doesn’t look like much from the outside but the interior is stylish and cozy and there’s even an on-site bar/restaurant called The Goat Pub.
At the top end of your budget is the Executive Suites Hotel and Resort which has lovely mountain views and a large outdoor swimming pool. The rooms here are luxurious and spacious and come with a basic kitchen. Worth noting it’s a 5-minute drive into downtown Squamish. A studio here starts from $210 CAD per night.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
However you plan to visit the Sea to Sky Gondola, whether on a tour or in your own car, we’re sure you’ll have an absolutely amazing time – we certainly did!
Feel free to leave a comment down below and tell us when you’re planning to visit! If you’re looking for some more things to add to your itinerary, we’ve got you covered. Check out these three helpful blogs below: