If you’ve driven the sea to sky highway it’s hard to miss the Stawarmus Chief as your driving into Squamish. The huge granite monster looms high above the town and it looks impressive from every angle.
My wife and I were on a road trip to Whistler and stopped off on our way to climb “the Chief”. The first I knew of this huge granite rock was from a film I’d see by Levi Allen called Untethered. It follows the story of Spencer Seabrooke, a Vancouver local who free solos a 64m highline with a 300m drop to the valley floor. If you don’t know what “highlining” or “free solo” means check out the video below. a
We stopped off in town for a quick lunch break before driving to the base of the Chief to start ourhike.
The first part of the hike is really pleasant and follows a wide trail past the campsites and up into the forest. The forest trail is quite steep but there are plenty of places to stop and rest.
After an hour or so you’ll reach a joining point where the trail branches off. The chief actually has 3 separate summits and it’s here at this point where you decide where to go. Depending on what you want you can choose a longer hike or shorter one. The true summit of the chief is actually called third peak. My wife and I chose the shorter option which beelines straight up the forest to a granite top called first peak.
The trail progressively gets steeper and steeper until you have to use a ladder in one section to climb up. From there you’re out of the trees and onto the steep granite top. This is the part where it can get a little sketchy if you don’t have the correct footwear.
My wife didn’t have the best shoes and she wasn’t that confident going up. This part is very steep and there is a chain that has been installed to help people get up there a little easier. There are a few different ways and you don’t have to take the way that the chain goes.
The top of the chief is a huge open area where you’re at the full mercy of the elements. The day we went up the wind was blowing quite hard so it wasn’t the most enjoyable on the summit. There are some spots however, where you can hide from the wide. We stayed on the top for 30 minutes, taking in the view and having some food at the top.
You have some really nice views of the town of Squamish and to the Tantalus Mountain. This trailseems pretty popular with people bringing their dogs along aswell. We shared the top with maybe 10 other people and it was a weekday so I can imagine that on the weekends it can get quite busy.
The way down is actually harder than the way up and this is where it is important to have some good shoes. As it is steep you’ll want some good grip to stop you sliding down. This is where you’ll want to take the way with the chain.
The whole trip from the car park to the summit and back took us 2 and half hours with a 30 minute stop on the top. Total elevation gain from the car park is 500m.
Logistics for the trip
How to get there
To get here you’ll need to take the sea to sky highway from Vancouver for around 1 hour to get to Squamish. You’ll need a car which we highly recommend renting from Easy Rent Cars. If that isn’t your thing you can take the bus to Squamish town and then walk from there to the Chief.
Total hike distance is 6km return and 500m elevation gain. To get to the carpark and start of the trail click here.
What to bring
As this hike can get quite cold on the top its best to bring at least a good jacket for the top. I hiked in running shoes and shorts and its no problem. The biggest thing would be to bring the correct footwear so you don’t take a tumble on the steep upper section. 1 litre of water per person is plenty for this hike and if you do need to refill there is a stream along the way.
Where to stay
There are plenty of places to stay in Squamish or Van city if you want to climb the chief. My wife and I were driving through to Whistler so we just stopped off for a lunchtime hike on our way. You could just do a day trip from Vancouver and head back in the afternoon. There is also camping available at the base of the chief if you wanted to stay for a decent price.
Have you been to the Chief or are thinking of climbing it? Please leave a comment below and let me know how you get on.