Location: Squamish (map)
Description: The Chief (aka Stawamus Chief) is a my favourite day hike. It is easily accessible from Vancouver; the hike is a real workout, but within the range of most fit people; the terrain and scenery change throughout the hike; and it offers the most breath-taking views of Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains.
When you arrive at the parking lot, all you can see is a imposing, 700 m tall granite face. If you look closely, you’ll see small, colourful dots – rock climbers ascending the sheer face. Luckily, the hiking trail takes a more gradual climb up the back of The Chief. Along the hike you’ll climb long staircases, scramble up boulders, and even pull yourself up steel ladders and chains near the top. There are a few small waterfalls near the beginning of the trail, and some impressive giant boulders midway up the hike. But the highlight is the view from the peak – it always instills awe and vertigo in me.
There are a few branches along the trail, but each is well signed. I recommend hiking to 1st (or South) Peak. It’s the most popular and best trail to take. 2nd and 3rd peaks are also interesting hikes and give similar views from slightly higher elevations. Detailed trail descriptions are available here and here.
Hiking Time: 3 hours 45 minutes (return trip, with plenty of time at the peak)
Parking Lot to 1st Peak: 90 minutes
Time to enjoy the view: 1 hour
1st Peak back to the parking lot: 75 minutes
(You can also hike to the 2nd and 3rd peaks in an extra 2 hours).
Transportation: The easiest way to get to Squamish is to drive. The drive takes 1 hour from Vancouver (directions). There are also 3 bus companies that run service between Vancouver and Squamish – Greyhound, Pacific Coach, and Perimeter. The bus will take 1 hour 45 minutes from downtown Vancouver.