Sea to Sky Tour: 10 amazing hikes from Vancouver to Whistler
Ready to explore BC’s most beautiful highway?
One of the best trips in BC! The Sea-to-Sky offers an unmatched combination of ocean vistas and glaciated mountains, making it one of our favourite places to explore in the province!
This tour will take you to all of our favourite day hikes along BC’s Highway 99, commonly referred to as the Sea to Sky. Rest days are highly recommended, this tour can stretch anywhere from 10 days to two weeks!
We’ve linked further directions and information about each hike in the article – click on the titles of each hike to learn more. Most of the directions are on AllTrails, an app that allows you to download the route ahead of time, helping you navigate the backcountry.
This classic hike on Vancouver’s north shore is a great warm-up to start your trip! After completing a vehicle handover with our team in the city, you’ll drive an hour north across the famous Lions Gate Bridge to Cypress Provincial Park.
Cypress hosted freestyle skiing and snowboarding events in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The St Mark’s trailhead is right next to a statue of the olympic logo. Great chance to snap a photo before starting your hike!
The hike will weave through Cypress’s beautiful forests, and offer some awesome viewpoints on the way of the surrounding mountains and ocean. The best spot is the summit! Once you’re there you’ll be rewarded with unobstructed views of the Howe Sound, a stunning body of water where alpine rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean. You’ll also see the Lions, two beautiful peaks that the bridge you drove across this morning are named after.
Hike 2: Mt Gardner Summit on Bowen Island
It wouldn’t be a true BC adventure without some island hopping! To start your day two hike, you’ll drive from your campground to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. From there, we recommend parking the truck for the day and hopping on the Bowen Island ferry on foot! The trailhead is right next to the ferry terminal.
Today’s mission is to hike to the top of the island! Once you’re at Mt Gardner’s summit, you’ll be rewarded with extensive views in every direction. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see Vancouver Island, back to the mainland, and you’ll get your first peek some of the glaciated mountains to the north.
If you’re feeling a bit worn out from the first two days of hiking, you’re in luck! Today’s hike starts with a ride on the iconic Sea to Sky Gondola, a stunning ten minute ride taking you almost 1,000 meters above sea level. If you’d prefer to grunt up to the pass, there’s also a nearby trailhead and a hike through the forest that will take you to the same spot.
There’s a lodge and restaurant at the top of the gondola ride, so if you need a rest day, it’s a good chance for it. If you want to hike, you’ll make your way up to the base of Sky Pilot mountain, one of Squamish’s iconic peaks.
Either spot is an amazing destination, both offer great views of the ocean. If you make it up to Sky Pilot, you’ll get close to the Stadium Glacier and have a better glimpse at the mountains to the north.
Hike 4: Stawamus Chief
Your first full day in Squamish will take you directly to the town’s most renowned destination. The Stawamus Chief is an epic grantic dome rock face, and one of the rock-climbing capitals of the world. There’s also a great hike that takes you right to the top.
There’s three peaks on the Chief, and we recommend making a quick stop at all of them, as they offer different views of the surrounding ocean and mountains.
Hang onto your belongings up here! The viewpoints at the top of the trail hang right above the rockface, and any falling objects can be a major, potentially deadly hazard to climbers below.
Check out nearby Shannon Falls on your way out, it’s a great add-on!
Today will be the first of a few days in Garibaldi Provincial Park, an amazing outdoor playground on the east side of the sea-to-sky highway, in between Squamish and Whistler.
Today’s adventure hike will take you from Diamond Head trailhead to Elfin Lakes. The lake’s a pristine alpine sanctuary, with stunning views of glaciated mountains in several directions. The trailhead hosts an interesting piece of BC history, as it was once a road to Diamond Head Chalet, which ran from 1938 to the 70’s. Today, it’s only used as an access point for Elfin Lakes!
BC Parks has implemented a free reservation system to manage crowds and protect the area’s beauty and wildlife. You can book passes 2 days before, starting at 7AM. BE ON THE WEBSITE AT 7AM. Passes can fill up within minutes, especially on weekends and summer holidays.
Hike 6: Brandywine Meadows
This hike is one of the biggest tests of the trip! You’ll be glad to have your four by four today. The old logging road to the trailhead is littered with potholes and is completely impassible for a sedan or two-wheel drive.
The hike doesn’t start out that much easier, but the meadow at the top is breathtaking and well worth the effort! The valley frames Garibaldi mountain beautifully, as shown in the photo on the right.
Many hikers will continue to hike up to the top of the pass, which gives you excellent views of mountains in every direction.
Pay extra attention to the markers on your way up, and always be on the lookout for the next one. This is more of a marked route through the trees than a clean hiking path. Luckily, it’s one of Vancouver’s most popular hikes, so you won’t be the only ones looking for markers!
Today’s hike is the most Instagram-worthy day of the trip. You’ll have trouble finding a more breathtaking spot in this beautiful world than Panorama Ridge!
There’s a couple options for this hike. Our recommendation is to follow the most popular trail to the top of Panorama Ridge, and take the long way down to Garibaldi Lake campground for an afternoon swim in the lake. It’s a lot of hiking, but the trail is smooth and gradual throughout, and many who complete the hike for the first time are pleasantly surprised by how quickly it goes.
From the top of Panorama Ridge, you’ll see jaw-dropping views of Garibaldi Lake and the glaciated mountains behind it. Back the other direction, you’ll get a great look at Black Tusk, a stunning pinnacle of black volcanic rock.
This hike, like Elfin Lakes, requires reservations. Be ready to book at 7AM again!
Hike 8: Iceberg Lake
Iceberg Lake is one of the Sea to Sky’s newer and less-known trails, but it’s an absolute hidden gem.
The hike parallels a creek much of the way, and has stunning views of the Whistler Blackcomb ski area and nearby Green Lake on the way up. There’s also a great waterfall rest stop a couple of kilometers in!
The trail ends at an alpine lake at the top of the pass, renowned for its (you guessed it) floating chunks of ice and snowpack. We’ve hiked this trail in late September, and there was still ice in the lake, so it should be there regardless of the time of year you visit.
Here’s the best way to celebrate at the top of the hike. Pack a couple of beers, a swimsuit, and lots of warm clothes. Stick the beers into the lake once you get to the top to cool them down. Next, change into your swimsuits, and jump into the lake from the side. Make sure to take a video, and film it at an angle that captures you jumping in between the icebergs (as shown in the video). Afterwards, dry off, put on your warm clothes, and enjoy your cold pints as you soak up the views.
This is probably the hardest hike on the Sea-to-Sky. The trek to Wedgemount Lake is a grueling, rocky, steep climb. The end result is rewarding! You’ll find yourself at a stunning, pristine blue alpine lake with beautiful views to the valley below. But one could argue that the effort exerted on this hike exceeds the reward. We’d only recommend tackling Wedgemount if you like challenges, and take pride in pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.
Prepare in advance for this hike. We’d recommend bringing three to four liters of water per person on a hot day. The grunt up takes a toll! You’ll also want to bring a toque and plenty of warm clothes, as the ridge at the end of the hike is exposed. Luckily, it’s surrounded by magnificent glaciers, so it’s beautiful, but often quickly gets chilly.
Hike 10: Joffre Lakes
You’re north of Whistler now, heading into BC’s truly wild spaces!
This trip’s had no shortage of grunts and challenging terrain. Joffre Lakes will be a nice easy trail to end on! This short hike will offer some of the most breathtaking views of the trip. Joffre Lakes is arguably the most stunning of several blue alpine lakes you’ll see on this tour.
Reservations are also required! One more 7AM wakeup two days in advance will be needed to get access to the park.
After your day at Joffre, it’s time to start making the drive back to Vancouver. We recommend treating yourself to a Grounds for Coffee cinnamon bun when you’re back in the city, you’ll need it after burning all those calories!
Hitting all of the sea-to sky’s best hikes is one of BC’s top trips! Does this sound like your type of vacation? We’re here to help you plan your adventure. Click here to book a call with one of our team members, and we’ll help you map out an epic road trip you’ll never forget.