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The Chief Hike in Squamish BC

The Stawamus Chief trail is perhaps the most popular hike in Squamish and for good reason.

This epic hike gives you amazing views of the Howe Sound and downtown Squamish, the Tantalus Range, and is also quite fun to hike!

Sure, it’s pretty strenuous since you start with a long series of steps, but after that, it gets more fun as you navigate ladders and ropes to summit the three peaks of the Chief Squamish!

Another plus of this Squamish hiking trail is that you don’t need to travel far down a logging road to get to the Chief hike. It’s easily accessible from the highway as you drive into Squamish.

If you’ve yet to go hiking on the Chief trail then here’s everything you need to know about one of the best Squamish hikes!

The Chief Hike Squamish BC

The Chief is the name given to the 700-metre-high granite cliffs that stand at the south end of Squamish on the Sea to Sky highway.

You can see this rock face all over Squamish and hiking to the top of it is well worth the effort! Or, for some, rock climbing this British Columbia legend is the way to go.

The hike itself consists of three peaks, the large granite monoliths dominating the down. However, most people only make it to the first or second peak before returning to the parking lot.

It’s possible to do all three in a day, and the details of the Chief hike below outline how to do this.

Involving ladders, chains, and ropes, this steep hike isn’t the most accessible for beginners but these additions sure make it interesting!

If you’re visiting BC and wondering whether to do the Chief hike vs Grouse Grind, it depends on what you’re after.

Both have great views, but when it comes to views for Grouse Frind vs the Chief, the Chief wins on that front.

Personally, I think the hike is more enjoyable too since the Grouse Grind is more of a workout rather than a hike.

However, once you’re at the summit of the Grouse Grind, there are plenty of things to do on Grouse Mountain and you can get the gondola down which is always nice!

Both the Grouse Grind and The Chief hike are Vancouver hiking classics and I’m sure you’ll enjoy whichever one you choose.

Stawamus Chief hiking basics

Know the essential hike details for hiking the Squamish Chief’s 3 peaks including how long is the Chief hike.

  • The Chief hike difficulty: Moderate-Hard (some trickier areas of the chief hiking trail involve ropes/stairs and difficult wayfinding between 2nd-3rd peak)
  • The Chief hike legnth: 6.1 km
  • Elevation Gain: 772 m
  • The Chief hike time (all 3 peaks): 3-6 hours is a rough guide for how long to hike the Chief
  • The Chief hike map on AllTrails – this is a map for the loop doing all three peaks.

AllTrails is my go-to hiking app for finding, planning, and navigating while I’m out on the trails. With offline maps on AllTrails+ you can be confident you’re still on the right track, even without mobile signal.

The Squamish Chief hike

view from the squamish chief peak 1

From the parking lot, make your way to the beginning of the trail where you’ll come to a series of wooden steps. One of the main reasons I recommend starting this hike early is so that you’re not stuck in a line of people traipsing up the stairs.

To begin with, you’ll be walking the same route as the Sea to Summit trail in Squamish which takes you to the top of Shannon Falls and, eventually, the gondola.

Having climbed most of the stairs, the trail splits with the Sea to Summit trail signposted to the right, and the Chief trail continues on the left.

The Chief Hike Squamish – Peak 1

stawamus chief peak 1 squamish hikes
stawamus chief peak 1 squamish hikes

Soon you’ll come across another junction which will take you directly to The Chief’s 3rd peak. If you wish, you can go to 3rd Peak first and work your way back.

However, since the views from the Stawamus Chief first peak and 2nd Chief peaks are what you’ve come for, I’d recommend starting with peaks 1 and 2 and then deciding if you have enough energy to go to peak 3 afterward.

To do this, take the path on the left for peaks 1 and 2. At a further junction, the trail splits for Peak 1 on the left and Peak 2 on the right. Take the lefthand trail now and continue hiking upwards until you reach a metal ladder you have to climb to reach the top of peak 1.

After climbing the ladder you’ll find yourself in the forest and will soon come across a rock section with a chain to help you climb it.

The chain is pretty secure so don’t be scared to use it.

There are a few markers on the rock (and usually plenty of people), so it’s not too hard to work out where to go to reach the best viewpoint on peak 1.

From up here, you’ll get great views of the Howe Sound and the town of Squamish. You can often see kite-boarders out in the Squamish Spit too!

Squamish Chief Peak 2

stawamus chief peak 2

Once you’ve enjoyed the view, head back down the way you came. Once you’ve come down the ladder and made it back to the junction, take the trail going uphill if you want to do peak 2 and/or peak 3.

This trail climbs steeply and there are some more chains to help you climb up the rock.

Personally, I think the views from 2nd Peak of the Chief are the best and they tend to be a bit quieter what with most people only going to peak 1 and back.

Chief Peak 3

view from peak 3

For those wishing to hike to the third peak of the Chief, continue up and over the second peak, following the trail markers as you descend into a valley.

This area is known as the saddle and sits between peaks 2 and 3.

Navigation here can be a bit confusing so make sure you’ve got your GPS and keep an eye out for established trails and markers.

The viewpoint from peak 3 is completely different from that of peaks 1 and 2.

While it’s not the typical “Chief views” you’ve seen all over Instagram, it’s special in its own right.

From up here, you’ll get a look at Sky Pilot Mountain as well as many others and out towards the mountain peaks in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

To return, hike back down to the saddle and instead of hiking back up to peak 2, follow the path as it continues downwards back towards the main trail.

Then, take the stairs down to the trailhead and the Chief Squamish parking lot.

My top tips for hiking the Squamish Cheif Trail

  • Always practice leave no trace ethics. Not sure what those are? Get a refresher here.
  • Carry bear spray with you on all BC hiking trails. Get more bear safety tips here!
  • Refresh your memory about hiking safety with BC Adventure Smart.
  • Dogs are allowed on leashes but there are ladders/ropes involved so your dog needs to be good at jumping or easy to carry
  • You can use public transit from Vancouver for this hike
  • Stawamus Chief trail pass: A Chief hike day pass is no longer needed for hiking the Chief Squamish.
  • The Chief hike chains: these add to the fun of this hike, but I wouldn’t recommend this hike for younger children because of them.

How to get to The Chief Squamish Hike

Getting to the Chief Trail in Squamish from Vancouver is easy. Simply take the Sea to Sky highway northbound towards Squamish.

You can park at either the Chief parking in the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park or the Shannon Falls parking lot and begin your hike from there by following the signs to the trailhead.

Stawamus Chief trail parking gets busy at the weekends in summer but don’t park in the parking lot for the Gondola as you may get ticketed.

It is not possible to get the gondola down from the Chief. If that’s what you’re planning on doing you need to do the Sea to Summit trail.

What to pack for the Chief mountain hike

What to pack for this hike depends on what season you’re hiking in.

Other great Squamish hikes I recommend

If you’re looking for more hikes in Squamish then I highly recommend Mt Crumpit which gives you great views of the Stawamus Chief and Slhanay Peak which also gives you great views of the granite rock.

You can actually combine the latter with the Chief by taking a lesser-used trail which connects up with Peak 3 of the Chief.

For something in a different part of Squamish, check out Brohm Lake and the Tantalus Lookout, Alice Lakes, and the Four Lake Loop, or head over to the Squamish Valley and explore the Sea to Sky Trail on foot or by bike.

Last Updated on October 29, 2023 by Hannah

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