A Visitor's Guide to Squamish's 8 Provincial Parks
Posted on: March 25, 2023
Surrounded by eight provincial parks, Squamish is the epicentre to experience some of the very best parks in British Columbia. Set your base in Squamish and spend a vacation exploring spectacular waterfalls, world-famous hiking trails and breathtaking ocean views.
Alice Lake Provincial Park | Photo: Sea to Sky Parks
A family-favourite park with plenty of picnic tables, a playground and a sandy beach all within metres of the parking lot. In the summer there is a concession and a rental shop offering canoes, kayaks and SUP boards so you can paddle across the lake. Hikers will be delighted by the view at each of the four lakes in the park; Stump, Edith, Fawn and Alice. All four lakes are connected by the Four Lakes hiking trail, which is a great place to wander through a piece of Squamish's lush temperate rainforest.
Things to do
Alice Lake is located just metres from the parking lot and is set against a stunning mountain backdrop. The lake is encircled by lush rainforest, and a walk around the far side of the lake will take you into a forest dripping with moss and every shade of green.
Four Lakes Trail is the most popular hiking trail in Alice Lake Provincial Park, it passes by four mountain lakes; Stump, Edith, Fawn and Alice. Hikers looking for a more expansive view can walk the DeBeck’s Hill Trail which features views of the Squamish River and the Tantalus Range.
- Mountain Biking
The trails surrounding Alice Lake Provincial Park are among some of Squamish's very best riding. The trail network can be accessed via 50 Shades of Green (off Jack's Trail) which starts just south of the parking lot on the side with the walkout dock.
All four lakes in Alice Lake Provincial Park are swimmable. Alice Lake has a large beach with picnic tables and sand for lounging. It is also located close to flush toilets and a changing area. The other three lakes; Stump, Edith and Fawn, require a hike in, however, they provide a quiet atmosphere, and you may even have the entire lake to yourself!
Kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard rentals are available on-site May to September. For rates and hours of operation, visit Sea to Sky Park's website.
- Toilets: Flush toilets are available in the day-use picnic area and the campsite. There are several pit toilets located along the Four Lakes Trail.
- Pets: Dogs are allowed on leash within the park in all areas except for the Alice Lake beach, picnic areas and Alice Lake Loop Trail.
- Drinking water: Available in the campground. There are also fountains in the day-use area by the Alice Lake beach.
- Camping: There are 110 reservable campsites at Alice Lake, reservations can be made on discovercamping.com.
Local's tip: Mountain bikers can use this helpful guide to plan their day riding in the Alice Lake Provincial Park Zone.
Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park | Photo: Ian Robertson
Home to Squamish's world-famous wintering bald eagle population. In the winter, visitors can take in the birdwatching action from across the Squamish River on Eagle Run Dyke. In the summer months, you can view the park and read about the eagle population on signage along the dyke. The gravel trail along the dyke is well maintained and suitable for strollers and wheelchairs.
Things to do
From the Eagle Run Dyke in Brackendale sightseers can enjoy views of the Squamish River and Tantalus Provincial Park.
- Wildlife Viewing
In the fall months, salmon can be spotted swimming upstream in the Squamish River. Once the salmon have returned Squamish's world-famous eagle population returns year after year to pass the winter roosting in the trees of Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. On weekends during peak eagle season (November to January) volunteers are stationed on Eagle Run Dyke to help visitors spot eagles with high powered spotting scopes.
Catch and release fly fishing is allowed along the Squamish River. Fishing during eagle season is discouraged. Guided trips and instruction is available through Trout Country Fishing Guides and Valley Fishing Guides.
- Accessibility: The viewing area along Eagle Run Dyke is an accessible site and is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs. In the winter months, the path is shovelled from snow when possible.
- Protected Area: Due to the sensitivity of the environment, the provincial park cannot be reached on foot or car. The park is best enjoyed from across the river to give wildlife adequate space.
Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Park | Photo: @marikicroker_
At over 1,950 square kilometres in size, Garibaldi Provincial Park is a limitless backcountry playground. It spans from Squamish to Whistler and is home to some of the areas most spectacular hiking trails including Elfin Lakes and Garibaldi Lake. The rolling hills and high mountain peaks are popular with backcountry skiers and snowboarders as well as for snowshoers. In the summer the trail to Elfin Lakes can be ridden on a mountain bike. With so much to see many visitors opt to spend a night at one of the backcountry campsites or inside the Elfin Lakes Hut.
Things to do
Mount Garibaldi is one of Squamish's most iconic landmarks, and it is visible from almost everywhere in town. Popular viewing locations include downtown Squamish and on top of the Stawamus Chief.
Garibaldi Park has two points of entry, Diamond Head Parking Lot and Rubble Creek Parking Lot. Diamond Head Parking Lot is located above Quest University in Squamish and is the entry point for hiking Elfin Lakes (22km roundtrip) which leads to a well-maintained hut and two alpine lakes. It is possible to hike the trail in a single day or spend a night at the Elfin Lakes Campground. For those spending the night, consider hiking to Opal Cone (13km roundtrip from Elfin Lakes) for a glimpse at the ancient volcanic landscape inside the park. The Rubble Creek Parking Lot is 36km north of Squamish and is the entry for the popular Garibaldi Lake hike (18km roundtrip).
- Mountain Biking
Mountain bikers can reach the lakes on two wheels and enjoy a quick descent through alpine meadows. Mountain bikers share the hiking trail until Red Heather Meadows where a separate mountain biking trail splits off. No bikes are permitted beyond Elfin Lakes.
- Winter Activities
In the winter months, chains are required to access the Diamond Head Parking Lot, and the Rubble Creek Parking Lot is not cleared of snow. Backcountry skiers and snowshoers are known to frequent Red Heather warming hut (located about halfway to Elfin Lakes). The trail to Elfin Lakes is a winter marked route and hut reservations are available year-round. Information about a winter visit can be found here.
- Day Passes: A day pass to access Garibaldi Park must be obtained prior to entry. This requirement is in place June 14th-October 9th, 2023.
- Pets: Domestic animals are not permitted in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
- Toilets: Pit toilets can be found at the Diamond Head Parking Lot, Red Heather Warming Hut, Elfin Lakes Hut, Rubble Creek Parking Lot and Garibaldi Lake Campground.
- Camping Reservations: Backcountry camping or overnight hut accommodations can be made on discovercamping.ca.
- Guided services: Garibaldi Provincial Park is home to plenty of complex backcountry terrain, guiding services are available year-round with Altus Mountain Guides, Canada West Mountain School and Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures.
Locals tip: Last-minute camping or hut accommodations are easy to book mid-week!
Murrin Provincial Park | Photo: D'Arcy McLeish
Often regarded as one of the most popular swimming holes in Squamish, Browning Lake in Murrin Provincial Park is the perfect place for family picnics and fishing. It is also home to gorgeous hiking trails and hundreds of single pitch rock climbing routes ranging from easy to expert. Sightseers can pull in from the Sea to Sky highway and walk just moments from their car for a view of the lake. There are also plenty of picnic tables,
Things to do
- Sightseeing and Hiking
Lakeside views of Browning Lake are truly a sight to behold. However, the views don't stop there. Hikers can explore the Murrin Park Loop Trail (1.8km), where peek-a-boo views of Howe Sound are certain to catch your eye. Those looking for a short walk can opt for a quick, flat hike around Browning Lake, featuring a variety of lakeside views waiting to be enjoyed.
Browning Lake unusually deep for its size and offers a refreshing reprieve on a warm summer day. There are plenty of private nooks for a quick jump or swimmers can opt to splash around the two beachy shores on the north side of the lake close to the parking lot.
- Rock Climbing
Hidden among the trees are over 250 rock climbing routes ranging from beginner to expert. A map of the most popular crags is located at the southernmost end of the parking lot and features areas such as Zoe (sport climbing), Commonwealth (trad climbing), Petrifying Wall (sport climbing).
Anglers can reel in a catch at Browning Lake. Fishing permits are required and can be obtained here.
- Best time to go: Limited parking is available at Murrin Provincial Park, arrive early or midweek to ensure a parking spot.
- Washrooms: There are two pit toilets located in the parking lot. There is also a pit toilet located along the climber's access trail to Petrifying Wall
- Pets: Dogs are allowed on leash. However, they are not permitted on the beach. Dog owners can walk their dogs on the east side of the lake to access the Murrin Park Loop Trail.
- Day use: Overnight parking is not permitted, the park is open to the public from dusk to dawn.
Porteau Cove Provincial Park | Photo: Sea to Sky Parks
By day Porteau Cove Provincial Park is a beautiful destination to spend a half an hour or a day. Climb the stairs on the viewing deck and try to spot seals roaming the waters below or walk down to the sandy beach to go for a swim. Paddlers can enjoy endless views staring out at Anvil Island. The park is also home to a sunken marine park which is a popular spot for scuba divers to explore. By night the area is cloaked under some of the darkest skies in the Sea to Sky Corridor with endless stargazing potential. Spend a night at the campground or reserve one of the cozy Olympic Cabins at Porteau Cove.
Things to do
Porteau Cove is equipped with a multi-tiered pier which overlooks Howe Sound. The dock is open to the public and is a beautiful spot for stargazing, wildlife viewing and general sightseeing. The dock provides a clear view of Anvil Island and the Sunshine Coast.
There is a large rock beach on the north side of the pier. Due to the proximity to the Squamish Estuary, the waters of Howe Sound are less salty than usual ocean swimming. It is also possible to comb the beach for tidal pools where small pockets of sea life can be viewed.
Kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding are popular activities at Porteau Cove. Possible trips include a paddle to Anvil Island, Britannia Beach or the Defense Islands. See below for rental equipment information.
- Diving and Snorkeling
The Porteau Cove dive site has a sunken ship and several artificial reefs making the area an exciting place for divers. An outdoor shower is available March-November.
- Toilets: Flush toilets are available in the day-use parking lot.
- Picnic Area: There are several picnic tables located at the west end of the parking lot, or opt to bring a beach blanket and have a picnic on the beach.
- Pets: Domesticated pets are not permitted on the beach or pier, however pets are allowed on-leash in the campsite and away from the beach area.
- Boat Launch: There are two paved boat launches accessible from the parking lot. Special parking is available for vehicles towing trailers. Be aware that launching is not always possible during low tide.
- Camping: There are 60 reservable campsites located within Porteau Cove Provincial Park, reservations can be made on discovercamping.com.
- Cabin Reservations: The Olympic Cabins at Porteau Cove are rentable log cabins that can accommodate up to four people. They are bookable year-round, reservations can be made here.
Shannon Falls Provincial Park | Photo: D'Arcy McLeish
It's hard to miss the 1,100-foot waterfall plummeting beside the Sea to Sky Highway. Shannon Falls is the 3rd highest waterfall in BC and is also among the most beautiful. Families can splash in the water in the creek below the falls or have a picnic in the field. In addition to being a major sightseeing stop in Squamish, Shannon Falls is also a popular destination for hiking and rock climbing.
Things to do
- Hiking & Sightseeing
Hikers and sightseers can pull into the park and hike less than 1km to the base of the falls. There are two viewing platforms located about 5 minutes apart and seeing the falls from both vistas is highly encouraged. Those looking for a longer hike can take the trail to Upper Shannon Falls (7km) which leads to a stunning viewpoint. It is also possible to link the Shannon Falls trail with the adjacent Stawamus Chief trail, simply follow the Upper Shannon Falls trail until you reach a well-marked junction. Instead of turning right towards Upper Shannon Falls, continue straight to reach the first peak of the Stawamus Chief.
- Rock Climbing
Shannon Falls wall is a popular climbing area in Squamish and is home to two of Squamish's top moderate climbs, Skywalker (5.8) and Klahanie Crack (5.7).
- Day use only: The parking lot gate is closed between 10 pm and 7 am each day.
- Stroller-friendly: The trail to both viewpoints at Shannon Falls is well maintained and perfect for young children and parents with strollers.
- Information Centre/Concession: In the summer months there is a small centre that offers snacks, park and outdoor recreation information and souvenirs.
- Washrooms: There is a large washroom facility with flush toilets located at the beginning of the trail to Shannon Falls. The restroom is open from May 15 to Thanksgiving each year.
- Public Transit: In the summer months, Shannon Falls, Stawamus Chief and the Sea to Sky Gondola can all be accessed via BC Transit's South Parks bus route. View a list of pickup locations and the current schedule here.
Stawamus Chief Provincial Park | Photo: @lolo_janee
One of the most talked-about places in Squamish, the Stawamus Chief stands 700 metres above the teal blue waters of Howe Sound. Regarded as one of Squamish's most beautiful landmarks, seeing "The Chief" is on most travellers Squamish bucket list. At the base, there is a popular first-come-first-serve camping area with both walk-in and drive-in sites along with a slacklining park, day-use picnic tables and public restrooms. Stawamus Chief souvenirs can be purchased from the Squamish Store at the Squamish Adventure Centre.
Things to do
The best views of the Stawamus Chief are from downtown Squamish, the Squamish Estuary, the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola and the pedestrian bridge accessed from the Stawamus Chief parking lot.
All three peaks of the Stawamus Chief can be accessed on foot, expect the trail to the first peak to take between 2-4 hours roundtrip. You can extend your day by also hiking to peak 2 (best view) and peak 3 (most quiet).
- Rock Climbing
Climbers hoping to reach the top by scaling the granite walls can take their pick of dozens of different routes. Classic climbing routes up the Stawamus Chief include the Squamish Butt Face (5.9), Angel's Crest (10b), and the Grand Wall (11a).
- Best time to go: Stawamus Chief Provincial Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Squamish. Plan your visit on weekdays or early mornings for a quieter experience.
- Pets: Dogs are allowed on a leash; however, due to steep ladders, they may need to be carried up some sections of the trail. It is not advised to take dogs up peak two.
- Facilities: Drinking water and pit toilets are available by the trailhead.
- Public Transit: In the summer months, Shannon Falls, the Stawamus Chief and the Sea to Sky Gondola can all be accessed via BC Transit's South Parks bus route. View a list of pickup locations and the current schedule here.
Locals tip: There is a spectacular peek-a-boo view of Mount Garibaldi in the gully between peaks 2 and 3. On a clear, sunny day slackliners can often be spotted suspended on tethers highlining between the gully.
Lake Lovely Water in Tantalus Provincial Park | Photo: Tourism Squamish
Helicopter assisted hiking, alpine climbing and spring skiing are the main activities to be found in Tantalus Provincial Park. This wild 113 square kilometre park is densely packed with Squamish's most dramatic peaks. Sightseers can view the massive mountains from the Tantalus lookout 19 kilometres north of Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway as well as from other viewpoints around Squamish. Guided trips are available.
Things to do
Sightseers can view the massive mountains from the Tantalus Lookout, 19 kilometres north of Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway. The mountains can also be viewed from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola, at Levette Lake and from the Tantalus Viewpoint on the Brohm Lake trail network.
- Heli and Flight-Seeing
Tours depart daily to fly by the Tantalus Range. On your tour, ask your guide to point out the Rumbling Glacier and Lake Lovely Water for a bird's eye view you won't soon forget. Heli-tours include an optional heli-landing within the park.
Helicopter operators: Blackcomb Helicopters and Black Tusk Helicopter Inc.
Flight-seeing operators: Glacier Air and Sea to Sky Air
It is possible to hike to Lake Lovely Water (6.5km). The trail is one of the steepest in Squamish and requires boat access to reach the trailhead. Helicopter drop-offs are a popular way to reach the lake and can be booked through Blackcomb Helicopters and Black Tusk Helicopter Inc.
- Alpine Climbing
Once in the Tantalus Range, there are numerous options for alpine climbing, the Tantalus Traverse is the most popular climbing trip and should only be undertaken by experienced alpine climbers. Guided trips are available through Altus Mountain Guides, Canada West Mountain School and Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures.
- Spring Skiing
During the spring months, advanced backcountry skiing can be accessed from the Jim Haberl Hut. Steep skiing courses and tours are available through Altus Mountain Guides, Canada West Mountain School and Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures.
Canoes are available for guests staying in the Tantalus Hut at Lake Lovely Water.
- Cell service: Is very limited within the park. Cell service can normally be found outside the Jim Haberl Hut and on the emergency helipad at the Tantalus Hut at Lake Lovely Water. Make a plan prior to entering the mountains and do not rely on cellular coverage.
- Toilets: Pit toilets are located at the Tantalus Hut at Lake Lovely Water and the Jim Haberl Hut.
- Water: Must be sourced from creeks and streams, it is advised that you treat or boil your water.
- Camping: Camping is available at Lake Lovely Water on a first-come, first-served basis. Campers should stay on designated tent pads only and use the bear caches provided.
- Hut reservations: Can be made on the Alpine Club of Canada's website.
- Mountain Bikes: Corsa Cycles, Dialed In Cycling, Flying Spirit Rentals, Ridehub, Paradise Valley Campground, Squamish Adventure Inn
- Stand-Up Paddleboards: Dialed In Cycling, Escape Route, Norm Hann Expeditions, Squamish Adventure Inn, Squamish Watersports, Valhalla Pure Outfitters
- Kayaks: Squamish Adventure Inn, Squamish Watersports, Valhalla Pure Outfitters
- Canoes: Squamish Watersports, Valhalla Pure Outfitters