The other day I was out with a few friends, and we had just crested a rise on the Howe Sound Crest Trail that runs between Cypress Bowl and Porteau Cove. As I looked around, to the east I could see down to Capilano Lake and beyond down into Vancouver, to the west I could see out to Bowen, Gambier, Anvil and the many other islands of the Howe Sound, and in front of us lay the dual summits of The Lions and beyond, the many kilometres of winding, rocky trails that we’d be running to complete a traverse of this part of the North Shore Mountains.
I turned to my friend and said “Life on the West Coast of Canada is pretty amazing when you think about it, right?”
When the days are long, the air warm and the sun bright, it’s easy to remember why many of us call this part of the world our home. It’s such a naturally beautiful part of the world that entices us to explore and interact with it.
It feels like through the dog days of summer, that we are given two days every day. When work is finished in the late afternoon, we still have enough daylight to get out and move our bodies for a good few hours before it gets too dark.
While the winter months bring a chill in the air with the long, dark nights, I do miss one thing about them: how quiet Squamish becomes. The secret is truly out about how amazing Squamish is, and it’s no longer a pit stop on the commute to Whistler; it’s now a destination for many coming from the south. Every now and again I forget how popular Squamish has become and try to head out on the highway until I’m met with traffic on the roads, especially trying to drive south of Murrin Park late on a Sunday afternoon as our visitors from Vancouver and beyond return home.
Traffic? In Squamish? But fret not, there are still many ways to enjoy the scenic beauty of Squamish in the summer and avoid the crowds. Here are some of the places that I recommend checking out.
Hike to Lake Lovely Water
All you need to do is find a friend with a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard and cross the Squamish River to access the start of the Lake Lovely Water hike in the Tantalus Range. The canoe across the river is straightforward, and if you put in your watercraft upstream, it is nothing more than a float across.
The obstacle of the river crossing keeps so many people away from seeing this lake, and if you live in Squamish, you owe it to yourself to see it at least once. It lives up to its name: It truly is a Lake of Lovely Water.
The hike up is winding and steep, but if you make a day of it, it won’t be any harder than reaching Garibaldi Lake.
There is a cabin at the lake also run by the Alpine Club of Canada where you can book a stay, so consider staying for the weekend. The cabin includes canoes and boats to take out on the water.
Exploring gondola trails
Another option is exploring beyond the top station of the Sea to Sky Gondola. The trails are getting busier, but the further out you go, the fewer people you will encounter. I like heading towards Sky Pilot but before heading up the glacier at the head of the valley, I turn right onto a rocky outcropping with views back down towards Squamish.
Everyone else on this trail will likely be heading up to stand on top of the Sky Pilot, but if you can resist the pull of summit fever, you can have a nice little spot there all to yourself to escape the heat in the valley bottom. Sometimes a refreshing breeze rolls off the small glacier, cooling you off on a hot summer day.
Brohm Lake forest hike
Another less busy destination to hike is the Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest. Many who park at Brohm Lake will head to swim, paddle or jump in the lake. If you explore the trails behind it, you will find several small viewpoints that look out over the Tantalus Range and back down the valley towards Squamish.
The views are comparable to those seen at the Highway 99 Tantalus viewpoint but you won’t be beside a road; you’ll be in the forest and likely have the place all to yourself.
Garibaldi Lake’s secrets
If you want to go further afield, you can always head up towards Garibaldi Lake. At the campground at the lake it is quite busy most weekends now, but if you continue along its shore, past the Ranger Station, you will find a little trail that heads up into the trees.
You won’t see it penned in on any of the parks maps as it isn’t maintained by the park, but the trail is quite good, if a little overgrown. It follows the shoreline, meeting up with little private coves where you can swim (if you like your water ice cold) before crossing over interesting lava flows from when Mount Price erupted and created the barrier that holds in Garibaldi Lake.
Eventually the trail ascends up towards the summit of Mount Price itself.
While most know of Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Mount Price seems to be mostly forgotten. It has views over Garibaldi Lake as good if not better than Panorama Ridge. Reaching Mount Price would make for a good trail run, but if you are hiking it I’d recommend splitting it up over two days. It’s definitely a highly recommended area to visit.
Escape by paddleboarding
Another activity that I’d recommend is stand-up paddleboarding. It’s fun and relaxing. It also allows you to find your own private corner at any of the many lakes around Squamish.
A good option is to go to Alice Lake to paddleboard at 6 p.m. By this time, the two beach areas at the lake are in the shade and most of the crowds are gone, but there is usually still plenty of warm sun out on the lake. You can paddleboard out from the shore, into the sunshine and then lie down on your board and float. There are few ways better to unwind after a busy day.
We are very fortunate here in Squamish to be able to find solitude so easily. Even during a busy weekend like the Squamish Valley Music Festival, it’s still possible to hike for a few hours into the mountains to find peace and quiet. We should never take how special this town is for granted.