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One of the most scenic drives in Canada has to be the short drive from Vancouver to Squamish. At just 64 km (40 miles) long you’ll be surprised by the number of things to see and do along the way! The hour-long drive between these two scenic cities is on most people’s Canadian bucket list, so, I advise turning this drive into a full-day affair and stopping at each of the 10 stops I’ve listed below. There are numerous hiking trails, a sandy beach, the third largest waterfall in B.C, and even the chance to explore the underground mining world on this drive!
With so many amazing things to do in Vancouver, you may find it difficult to leave the city but I promise once you get on the open road to Squamish you won’t regret it!
In this blog I’ve listed 10 of the best stops between Vancouver and Squamish, it’s the best guide of what to see and do along the way as well as some driving tips to make this scenic drive as enjoyable as possible!
Note: This blog also works in reverse if you’re driving from Squamish to Vancouver.
About the Drive from Vancouver to Squamish
The 64 km drive (40 miles) from Vancouver to Squamish will take just 57 minutes without stops. It is considered an easy drive as it follows the main Sea to Sky Highway (also known as Highway 99) the entire journey. The Sea to Sky Highway is world-famous for its epic scenery and it’s aptly named because there are sea and mountain views pretty much the whole drive!
If you’re driving from Vancouver to Squamish during the winter, note the section of highway just before Squamish can be icy but there will be road crews clearing the highway regularly to ensure your safety. You also need to ensure your vehicle is equipped with winter tires.
10 BEST Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Squamish
1. Lions Bay Beach Park
Lions Bay Beach Park is an incredibly scenic public park within the village of Lions Bay. This should be your first stop on the drive from Vancouver to Squamish because it’s just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver and has a lovely sandy beach with a safe swimming area with a float for kids to play on.
The swimming area is sectioned off from the rest of the ocean by wooden logs so the kids can’t venture too far and must stay in the shallow waters where you can safely watch them from the shore, which is handy. From the beach there are great views across to Howe Sound, FYI – it’s especially pretty here at sunset. In fact, this is one of the best places to visit in Vancouver during the Summer!
There are also two small playgrounds here and a large grassy area for picnics. Worth noting is that parking here is limited and tickets to park at the car park here can be bought via the Lions Bay Marina.
To get to Lions Bay Beach Park take the Lions Bay Avenue Exit from the Sea to Sky Highway.
2. Tunnel Bluffs Hike
For an area as naturally beautiful as Vancouver it’s no surprise that there are heaps of scenic hiking options in and around Vancouver, and Tunnel Bluffs, just over a 10-minute drive from Lions Bay Beach is definitely worth a stop on your road trip from Vancouver to Squamish! This 11.5 km (7.1 mile) return hike will take about four hours to complete. It’s classed as an intermediate hike as it has an elevation gain of 470 meters (1542 feet) – which is definitely a challenge!
You can reach the Tunnel Bluffs hike at the Lions Bay exit (Sunset Trailhead) of the Sea to Sky Highway. Worth noting, the hike is a push, with lots of steep switchbacks. But you will be rewarded with the most amazing views along the way, especially at the top, where you can look out across to Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast!
3. Porteau Cove Lookout
You can reach one of the best viewpoints on your drive at Porteau Cove Lookout, that’s because it has awesome views of Howe Sound and Brunswick Mountain. Interestingly, Howe Sound is the most southern fjord in North America. There’s a popular rocky beach here, a photogenic pier and a very scenic campsite. As well as that, it’s considered one of the best places on the drive from Vancouver to Squamish to watch the sunset.
A 2.1 km (1.3 mile) walking trail starts next to the campsite here and along the way, there are a few lookout points of Howe Sound and there’s also a popular cliff-jumping spot if you’re feeling brave. You’re also likely to spot lots of sea life from the trail, like porpoises, otters, and even orcas and humpback whales from March to October, if you’re lucky. The trail is considered easy and is mostly paved, it can get very busy here at weekends thanks to its close proximity to Vancouver (just a 35-minute drive away).
As mentioned, Porteau Cove is also a very popular camping spot, and booking a campsite can only be made if you plan to stay during the busy season – from March 24 to October 9. For the rest of the year, the campsite operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
4. Furry Creek Golf Course
If you have time, you might want to stop off at Furry Creek Golf Course, which has the title of “British Columbia’s Most Scenic Golf Course”! And I can see why – views of the Howe Sound Bay and snow-peaked mountains from all around. If golf is your thing, it’s definitely worth a visit!
5. Britannia Mine
About halfway on the drive from Vancouver to Whistler is this unique family-friendly attraction. Brittania Mine was once the largest copper mine in the British Empire and was in operation for 70 years, from 1904 to 1974. Today, it is an award-winning museum and a must-stop en-route to Squamish.
I recommend allowing at least two hours here because there are lots to see and learn about the mysterious world of mining, including an underground train system that takes you through the former working areas of the mine. As well as that, you can pan for gold (kids love this experience!), and hear all about the history of mining at the live-action BOOM stage performance!
There’s also an on-site Cafe and a Gift Store selling some truly unique souvenirs like unique gems and stones.
Entrance to the Britannia Mine (including the underground mine tour) is $36.95 CAD/adult and $$19.95–28.95 CAD/child.
6. Murrin Provincial Park
Just 10 minutes before Squamish, is this popular local spot that attracts hundreds of visitors each day for lake swimming, hiking, fishing, and even rock climbing. Murrin Provincial Park is huge at 24 hectares, so it’s easy to spend a few hours here. There’s a lovely, easy 600-meter walking trail around Browning Lake where you’re likely to see many people fishing from the lakeshore, that’s because the lake is abundant with rainbow trout.
As mentioned, Murrin Provincial Park is very popular with rock climbers, the variety of climbing here is excellent and there’s a rock climbing route for every ability. There are big overhangs, long vertical routes, and even testpiece cracks, what’s good too is that most of the climbing routes here are shaded making it an ideal Summer activity.
From the car park here you can also start the 11.5 km (7.1 mile) Petgill Lake Trail, which is a steep uphill hike to picturesque Petgill Lake and awesome views of Howe Sound, Squamish, and the huge Stawamus Chief.
7. Shannon Falls
The third highest waterfall in British Columbia – Shannon Falls is just 2 km (1.2 miles) before you Squamish on the road from Vancouver. The falls are spectacular at 335 meters (1099 feet) and are most powerful in late Spring and Summer when winter snow on the neighboring mountains has melted.
It’s just a 600-meter (0.37 miles) easy walk into the falls from the car park, it’s paved the whole way which means everyone can enjoy it! This is the perfect pit stop to have a snack, stretch your legs, and check out some magnificent waterfalls!
Personally, this is one of the best places to visit in BC and is of my favorite stops on the drive from Vancouver to Squamish.
8. Sea to Sky Gondola
Easily the most popular stop on your short drive from Vancouver to Squamish is the famous Sea to Sky Gondola, and in my opinion, hopping on the gondola to the top of Mount Habrich is the easiest way to take in Squamish’s natural beauty. From this high vantage point (885 meters, 2900 feet, above sea level) you can see Howe Sound, all of Squamish, and the iconic Stawamus Chief!
Once at the top you can take in the mountain scenery on one of the walking trails, which are especially pretty during the Summer when colorful wildflowers are in full bloom. Many tourists ride the 10-minute gondola to access the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, which is 100 meters long and incredibly photogenic with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and forest. The bridge is both stroller and wheelchair-friendly, and if you’re afraid of heights don’t look down – the drop into the valley below is about 65 meters!
A day pass for the Sea to Sky gondola is $60 CAD/adult. There is also the option to hike up to the top but be warned, it’s pretty intense (almost 1,000m elevation gain!). Hikers can pay a one-way fare to go back down on the gondola.
9. Stawamus Chief
If you’re looking for an iconic, Instagram-worthy hike to do before you reach Squamish, the Stawamus Chief has got to be your top choice. It’s very popular with locals and tourists alike. The hike is rated intermediate, but depending on the route you go, it can be longer or shorter (2.5 hours average).
There is about a 600-meter (1968 feet) elevation gain, so get ready for a workout! At the top of “The Chief”, you’ll have amazing views of Squamish and the Howe Sound.
You’ve made it to Squamish, the last stop on your epic road trip from Vancouver! The small city of Squamish is especially popular with outdoor lovers with plenty of hikes, rock climbing routes, and water sports on offer here. With a population of approximately 20,000 residents, the town almost triples in size during the summer months thanks to thousands of tourists flocking here each weekend. In fact, the city’s popularity has surged recently thanks to the Netflix series Virgin River, which was filmed here.
From downtown Squamish, you can easily access the Squamish Estuary Trails (access is from Vancouver Street or Main Street). These winding trails are flat and easy and take in native forest, bogland, as well as views of the “Chief” and the Pacific Ocean from the estuary. There are several trails here that all join together, so you can choose to spend just a short time hiking here or up to two hours to complete the entire trail system.
A more difficult hike is the 2.5 km (1.6 mile) Smoke Bluffs Trail which starts from Smoke Bluffs Park on Logger’s Lane, there are lots of steep uphill sections on this hike as well as many steps but the views along the way of Howe Sound and downtown Squamish make it worthwhile.
From the city, you can drive out to the Squamish Spit, at the tip of the Howe Sound near the Squamish Estuary. The main draw here is to check out the windsurfers! The natural environment here is perfect for wind sports, like windsurfing and kiteboarding.
In the city itself there are lots of fun things to do in Squamish, check out the Railway Museum of British Columbia on Government Road which houses several vintage trains as well as seasonally themed train rides. For awesome food in Squamish try the Howe Sound Brewery or Zephyr Café.
Where to Stay in Squamish
There are lots of choices when it comes to hotels in Squamish, here are three of my personal favorites!
Two miles from 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 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 is relatively cheap especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Rental Cars.com 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!
As you can see, there are lots of awesome stops on the short drive from Vancouver to Squamish, and once you complete the drive you’ll understand why it’s so popular with tourists to Canada. I mean it’s just so scenic, I can’t wait to drive this iconic stretch of road again!
If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to browse the rest of our blogs about amazing destinations in BC including a few favorites: