“Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own.” – Charles Dickens
British Columbia is world renowned for its scenery and outdoor lifestyle. For many, B.C. means “Beautiful Country”. There is any number of ways to enjoy the breathtaking landscape of this western Canadian province, but one of our favourites is a visit to the Sea to Sky Gondola.
Located south of Squamish, British Columbia, only about an hour north of Vancouver, the journey to get there is as spectacular as the destination. The Sea to Sky Hwy/Hwy 99 is aptly named. The gently winding highway is bordered by the beautiful turquoise water leading into Howe Sound on one side and small towns, lush forests, waterfalls and other places worth stopping for, on the other. In the distance, you will see snow-capped mountains, regardless of the time of year you visit.
Just before you arrive at your destination, you won’t be able to miss seeing the impressive Shannon Falls, originating 355 m above the highway and cascading down an enormous granite slab.
Once parked, your visit at Base Camp will start. Here you will purchase your tickets for the gondola, have an opportunity to use the washrooms, find a cafe, children’s play area, and gift shop.
With tickets in hand, you board the wheelchair and stroller accessible gondola for the 10-minute ride to the summit. As you ascend 885 m above sea level, you’ll have sweeping views of the waters of Howe Sound, the coastal forest and surrounding mountains through the floor to ceiling windows. Even those that are afraid of heights find the gondola ride enjoyable.
Once you arrive at the Summit Lodge, the beautiful 9000 square foot space with massive windows and huge Douglas Fir beams won’t disappoint. Here you can purchase something to eat and drink from the self-serve restaurant, then choose to sit inside enjoying the views or go outside to sit on the patio and viewing deck. The bar serves a variety of wine and spirits as well as local and international beers.
Ready to take in the breathtaking beauty surrounding you? There are three main viewing platforms from which you can do just that. The Summit Lodge Viewing Deck is attached to the lodge itself. The Spirit Viewing Platform is located across the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, along the Spirit Trail, and The Chief Outlook Viewing Platform is located in the middle of the Panorama Trail.
“All three of these viewing platforms are easily accessible, regardless of age and athletic ability, and are open all-year” seatoskygondola.com.
Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge
The bridge is approximately 100 meters long and offers a 360-degree view of the area, from the snow-capped mountain and lush forest to the fjord of Howe Sound below. It can be accessed from the Summit Lodge. The bridge is narrow but quite steady, unlike some suspension bridges than can sway quite a bit. The bridge is a perfect picture taking opportunity.
There are numerous trails of various lengths and technicality surrounding the Summit Lodge. The Spirit Trail with strategically placed information plaques is an interpretative trail that recounts the history of the land involving the proud heritage of The Squamish First Nation. The Panorama Trail takes you through coastal forest, offering views of the ocean and surrounding mountains. Both of these trails are easily accessible. The Lookback Trail is of intermediate difficulty, goes out to a granite cliff overlooking Goat Ridge and affords you views from below the Summit Lodge.
There are free guided tours available daily May to November and by request, December through April.
For the hearty amongst you, there are a variety of hiking trails including backcountry routes. There is a free mobile app where you can track your location along the trail with GPS. Maps are available at seatoskygondola.com.
There is indeed something for everyone here in all seasons. On a recent visit, some members of our group stayed at the Summit Lodge to take in the scenery, while others walked over the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge to capture panoramic photos. The others decided to make use of the trails for a walk in nature. Regardless of what you choose to do while here you will surely appreciate the beautiful nature British Columbia has to offer.
When You Go
Sea to Sky Gondola is located 2 kilometres south of Squamish, British Columbia, on the Sea to Sky Highway/Hwy 99.
By car, it is a scenic 45-minute drive from Vancouver. It’s a 65-minute drive from Whistler.
There is a shuttle as well as organized tours that can also get you there.
Tickets: There are a variety of ticket options available. Some of the tickets can be purchased online. Prices range from $13.95 for children 6-12 to Adults 19+ for $43.95. There are also season passes available.
For more info: seatoskygondola.com