The Sea to Sky region stretches from the North Shore of Vancouver up the east side of Howe Sound to Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and beyond, and is the one of the most accessible of BC's magnificent alpine regions. Locals and tourists from all over the world come to explore the region's mountains, forests, and lakes, to partake in year-round world class outdoor activities, or just to be pampered in one of the area's luxurious resorts. The Sea-to-Sky Highway (Highway 99), which gives the region its name, clings to the mountainsides, letting you drive from Vancouver to Whistler, one of North America's top ski resorts, in two hours. The area is rich with archaeological sites and historical lore of the Salish Indians.
From South to North:
- Britannia Beach-Porteau Cove - a string of small communities along the shore of Howe Sound
- Squamish - the outdoor recreation capital of Canada, with rock climbing, hiking, white water, kiteboarding, & some eagles too. Climb the Chief Monolith overlooking all of Howe Sound (Fjord).
- Whistler - the biggest ski resort in North America, but plenty to see and do year-round
- Pemberton - a sleepy bedroom community of Whistler, and also the gateway to some beautiful summer hiking & biking plus amazing backcountry skiing, sledding and snowmobiling.
Most travellers will come to this area through Vancouver. Highway 99 heads north from downtown Vancouver over the Lion's Gate Bridge, and shares the first part of the journey with Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway). Just before Horseshoe Bay, the roads split, and Highway 99 turns north into the mountains.
The Sea-to-Sky highway is a mountain highway and gets a significant amount of snow and ice in the winter. However, the road was significantly improved for the 2010 Olympics, and is much safer than before. Frequent passing lanes are provided, and numerous sections are now a multi-lane divided highway. Speed limits range from 70km/h to 90 km/h, but a few slower sections remain through communities and on curves. Always drive with caution.
Note that there are generally no services between communities on Highway 99. For example, although Lions Bay and Britannia Beach both have small stores and restaurants, there are no gas stations between West Vancouver and Squamish, or any services between Squamish and Whistler.
It is also possible to arrive in the region from the north end of Highway 99 if traveling from the Kamloops or Prince George direction, although this portion of the road is quite mountainous and slow.
Greyhound Canada and Pacific Coach Lines provide regular year-round bus service connecting the Sea to Sky communities to the Pacific Central Station in Vancouver. Pacific Coach also operates some express trips directly from the Vancouver Airport to Whistler.
Tourist-oriented luxury trains are operated in the summer months by Rocky Mountaineer, and provide an alternate means of access. The Whistler Sea to Sky Climb train travels from Vancouver five days per week, and the Rainforest to Gold Rush train starts at Jasper in the Canadian Rockies once per week.
Highway 99 forms the primary route through the region and is served by long-distance buses. Although Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton all have local public transit systems, connections between the communities are limited, and travelers wanting to explore away from the main roads will require a private vehicle. An increasing number of cyclists are visiting the region, and although Highway 99 has reasonable shoulders for cycling, the hills are a challenge.
The region abounds with natural wonders, many of which are protected in regional or provincial parks.
- The new Sea to Sky Gondola (located just south of Squamish on Highway 99) carries travelers up into the mountains with spectacular views over Squamish and Howe Sound.
- Shannon Falls - a provincial park just south of Squamish on Highway 99. It is about a 5 minute walk from the parking lot to a viewpoint at the bottom of the falls.
- Brandywine Falls - a provincial park between Squamish and Whistler. It is about a 10 minute walk from the parking lot to a lookout above the spectacular falls.
Opportunities for outdoor adventure are almost endless in the region, including skiing, biking, golfing, hiking, camping and climbing, or just relaxing in luxury spas or remote hot springs.
Look for local books and maps for information about hiking in this area (and all of the Lower Mainland), such as 103 Hikes of Southwestern British Columbia ISBN 1550547755 and the Pemberton Valley Trail Association's map of 125 miles / 200 km of total trails & back roads in the valley.
- The Stawamus Chief
- Elfin Lakes
- Garibaldi Lake
- Cougar Mountain
- Joffre Lakes & Cayoosh Joffre Lakes Provincial Park (Joffre Lakes), (45min -1hr North of Pemberton), . A moderate hike past three pristine turquoise lakes feed by Matier Glacier. A moderate hike to the first lake; about 45min ea way in summer. It' a full day to the 3rd (top) lake & back. 7 mountain peaks clustered together offering exceptional skiing equal to Chamonix on the Swiss French Border, with slopes orientated to all the compass points. You can almost always find a face with perfect snow. Popular for snowshoeing too. edit
- Cerise Creek & Cabin short hike through forest in the Joffre Group of Peaks. 1 hr drive north from Pemberton along the Duffy Lake Road. Elevation of hike is only 300 m./yrds as the trail head starts near the Roads summit. Cerise Cabin AKA "Keith's Hut", officially the Keith Flavelle Hut Memorial cabin is near the headwaters of Cerise Creek - French for cherry- fed by the Anniversary Glacier. Keith Flavelle was a very experienced climber & BC mountaineering community pioneer. He was killed on an expedition to Mount Logan, his family & friends built the hut in his memory. There is no formal fee structure, but if you are staying at the hut, please contribute to upkeep & repairs (use the dropbox or mail a cheque), especially if you use firewood (this is transported in by helicopter). Try to bring in some of your own & pick up wind fall debris while hiking as kindling. Every Sept a work party organized by the family ventures up to the hut to perform repairs and maintenance - watch the VOC , UBC Varsity Outdoor Club, message board for announcements. Views from the hut: Joffre Peak, Mount Matier & Vantage Peak. At the pass between Mount Matier & Vantage Peak one can see Mount Hartzell, Mount Howard, Twin One Glacier & far off to the south Snowspider Mountain. Great fun all year round. Be prepared for snow till July. Be prepared for a freak snow storm even last week of Aug. Always dress in layers. Weather changes really fast.
- Birkenhead Lake
- One Mile Lake - Nairn Falls Newest segment on Sea to Sky Section of Canada Trail network.
- The Chief at Squamish is a well known climbing location.
- Pemberton also has many opportunities for rock climbing, bouldering, ice climbing, and mountaineering. While not as popular as Squamish, there are several climbing areas located within a short drive of the village. Detailed listings can be found in any of the area's climbing guide books.
Wilderness Hot Springs
- Saint Agnes Well Hotsprings (T'sek Hotsprings, Skookumchuck Hotsprings), In-SHUCK-ch Forest Service Road (1 3/4 hrs to the East of Pemberton just before the town of Skookumchuck (trad.) renamed Skatin is on the In-SHUCK-ch Forest Service Road, In Shuck ch FSR, AKA Lillooet River Road, North. Key words Google Maps: Skookumchuck Hot Springs.), . $10/vehicle, $10/person, kids 10 & under free. If you don't overnight there's no vehicle charge. $7.50 per adult Overnight.. (49.937778,-122.408333) edit
- Keyhole hotsprings (Keyhole, Pebble Creek Hotsprings), Upper Lillooet FSR 44Km (1hr West of Pemberton, on serviceable dirt road, being improved. Lillooet Forest Service Road, AKA Upper Lillooet Forest Service Road), . Free & Free Camping. (50.668178,-123.455064) edit
- Meager Creek Hot Springs Summer only. Bridge washed out & slide activity. Need current photo mosaic maps. 1 way Dawn to Dusk + 2hrs. Best to start in twilight before dawn so there is a little wiggle room. Or plan to camp 1/2 way in. Try Keyhole in same area fed from same Geothermal source.
Golf is a popular activity in the whole Sea to Sky corridor, including Furry Creek Golf Course (famous for Happy Gilmore) overlooking Howe Sound, two clubs in Squamish, a driving range and three championship caliber courses in Whistler, and two more courses to the north in Pemberton.
- Furry Creek Golf & Country Club (Furry Creek), http://www.golfbc.com/courses/furry_creek (Half way between Vancouver & Squamish.), ☎ (604) 896-2224 (toll free: 1-888-922-9462, [email protected]), . http://www.golfbc.com/courses/furry_creek/about/booking_info. By the Sea.ClubHouse, Golf Shop and Sea to Sky Grill. Made Famous by the Happy Gilmore Movie. $$$. edit
- Squamish Valley Golf & Country Club (Squamish Golf Club), 2458 Mamquam Rd (Turn off Hwy99 AKA Sea to Sky, East onto Mamquam Rd by the Canadain Tire in Garibaldi Highlands.), ☎ (604) 898-9691 (toll free: 1-888-349-3688, [email protected]), . http://www.carmadirect.com/teeTime.aspx. Club house, restaurant, & proshop. $$ Moderate. edit
- Garibaldi Springs Golf Club (Garibaldi Highlands Golf Club), 40850 Tantalus Road (Turn off Hwy99 AKA Sea to Sky, East onto Garibaldi Highlands by the 7-11 & Gas stations, in 1 block turn North onto Tantalus Rd.), ☎ 604-898-8356 (toll free: 1-866-441-4747, [email protected]), . Club house & restaurant edit
- Chateau Whistler, 4612 Blackcomb Way, ☎ +1 877 938-2092 ([email protected], fax: +1 604 938-0368). $$$. edit
- Whistler Golf Club, 4001 Whistler Way, ☎ 1-800-376-1777 (toll-free), . $$$. edit
- Pemberton Meadows: (Meadows Golf), 1730 Airport Rd (10 min.s East just before Pemberton Airport.), ☎ tel. 1.800.390.4653 (toll-free) ([email protected]), . par 72 course with full service club house,Golf Shop,and Black Squirrel Restaurant. $$ Moderate. edit Map:
- Big Sky Golf (Big Sky), 1690 Airport Road (10 min.s East just before Pemberton Airport.), ☎ tel. 604-894-6106) ([email protected], fax: 604-894-5545), . Country Club with Fescues Restaurant. $$ Moderate. edit
Accommodation varies from resort hotels, moderately priced hotels, a few hostels to many B&B's. Between the towns there are a number of provincial parks with very good and quite popular campgrounds. Accommodations in Squamish and Pemberton will be more reasonably priced than in Whistler, although good deals can be had in Whistler in the shoulder seasons.
- Porteau Cove Provincial Park - oceanfront site sandwiched between Howe Sound, Highway 99 and the Coast Mountains.
- Alice Lake Provincial Park - large inland campground just north of Squamish. Very popular during the summer, especially on weekends.
- Paradise Valley Campground - a private campground north of Squamish in the Paradise Valley. Family-oriented.
- Narin Falls Provincial Park by Pemberton - Summer only. Very popular, especially on weekends reservations recommended. Hiking trail to falls open year round, but parking lot closed in winter.
- St. Agnes Well, T'sik, Skookumchuck Hot Springs - 4x4 Dirt road 1 3/4 - 2 1/4 hrs East of Pemberton. Usage Costs for Skookumchuck Hot Springs: Overnight $10/vehicle, $10/person (kids 10 & under free). If you don't overnight then there's no vehicle charge & $7.50 per adult. Day use hours are listed as 9am-8pm Summer & 9am-6pm Fall/Spring/Winter. Payment in cash. Campsite situated, under trees, on flat ground between the Lillooet River & HotSprings.
- Sunshine Coast via BC Ferries at Horseshoe Bay
- To the North Lillooet via Pemberton. This route connects via Highway 12 to the Trans Canada Highway at Cache Creek, allowing for an alternate return to Vancouver.
- To the East via Dirt Road 4x4 only - In-Shuck-Ch Forest Service Road or Skookumchuck 4 Forest Service Road, & Harrison Lake Road via St. Angnes Well, T'Sik, or Skookumchuck Hot Springs and the small of First Nation Village of Skatin, formerly called Skookumchuck. If the church is open, check out the amazing bright red & cobalt blue stained glass windows from the Gold Rush Era.