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The Stawamus Chief trail is perhaps the most popular hike in Squamish and for good reason. You don’t need to travel far down a logging road, the hike is fun and varied and you get great views of downtown Squamish and the surrounding mountains from the top. If you’ve yet to do go hiking the Chief trail then here’s everything you need to know about one of the best Squamish hikes!
THE CHIEF IS CURRENTLY CLOSED TO HIKERS
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!
The hike itself consists of three peaks, although 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 what you’re after. Both have great views, but the Chief wins on that front and 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 are classics and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them whichever you choose.
How to get to The Chief in Squamish
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 or the Shannon Falls parking lot and begin your hike from there by following the signs to the trailhead. Parking gets busy at the weekends in summer but don’t park in the parking lot for the Gondola.
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.
Know before you go
- Check trails are open here before hiking Squamish Chief trails.
- 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!
- Wondering what to pack for Vancouver day hikes? Here’s a hiking packing list!
- Refresh your memory about hiking safety with BC Adventure Smart.
- Don’t leave home without your 10 essentials. They could save your life!
- Dogs are allowed on leash but there are ladders/ropes involved so your dog needs to be a v.good at jumping or easy to carry
The Squamish Chief hike
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 trail 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 trial signposted to the right, and the Chief trail continues on the left.
Hike the Chief – Peak 1
Soon you’ll come across another junction which will take you directly to 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 decided if you have enough energy to go to peak 3 afterwards. To do this, take the path of the left for peak 1 and 2. At a further junction, the trail splits for peak 1on 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 view point 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!
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
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 peak 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.
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 parking lot.
Stawamus Chief hike statistics
Know the essential hike details for hiking the Squamish Chief’s 3 peaks including how long is the Chief hike.
What to pack for the Chief mountain hike
Make sure you look at these packing lists for the Squamish Chief trails.
More hikes near Squamish
Check out these other Squamish hikes with amazing views!