Things to do While Visiting Squamish BC
By Kilee LeBlanc
Visiting Squamish on your way to Whistler is a must for outdoor enthusiasts. Squamish, BC is recognized as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada for good reason. The town is surrounded by mountains, is at the end of a fjord, has rivers all around, granite cliffs, and forested valleys. Squamish is literally your playground – come see why you should definitely spend more time here during your road trip with Escape Campervans.
Where to Stay While Visiting Squamish
Squamish was made for van life and camping, with several campgrounds in the area offering forested sites away from it all. A far cry from Whistler that only has two official campgrounds, Squamish has quite a few options for places to park your campervan safely and legally.
- Alice Lake Provincial Park: Just outside of Squamish heading north towards Whistler is Alice Lake Provincial Park, a popular park surrounded by biking and hiking trails, towering mountains, and four freshwater lakes popular for swimming and fishing. The campground has ninety-six vehicle accessible campsites and has shared washrooms and showers. The campground is incredibly popular in the summer so reservations are highly recommended – the campground is open from March 13 to October 31.
- Paradise Valley Campground: North of Squamish in an area known as Paradise Valley is the Paradise Valley Campground – an 80+ site campground surrounded by nature. It’s a peaceful spot keen to get back to the good old days of camping – no wifi, no amplified music allowed, quiet time is 10:00 PM, and they even have an adults-only area of the campground. There is the option to book serviced or un-serviced sites, there is access to drinking water, washrooms, and pay showers. The campground is open from May 1 to Canadian Thanksgiving.
- Squamish Valley Rec Sites: For those looking to get a bit off the beaten track and save some money, there is the Squamish Riverside Campsite up the Squamish Valley Road. There are nine sites set up right on the Squamish River that are free and have picnic tables and a pit toilet but nothing else. These spots get snapped up quickly in the summer as there’s excellent fishing on the river and there is also hunting and 4×4 opportunities nearby.
- Klahanie Campground: Across from Shannon Falls Provincial Park is the Klahanie Campground – a campground that has been around for thirty years. It is five kilometers south of Squamish and is within walking distance to Shannon Falls, the Sea to Sky Gondola, the Squamish Chief, and Darrell Bay on the Howe Sound. They offer tent sites, serviced sites, and premium sites that have either a waterfall or ocean view. Washrooms, drinking water, pay showers, wifi at the office, pay laundry, and a cafe are on site. The campground is open year-round.
- Mtn Fun Basecamp: Mtn Fun Basecamp is located just off Highway 99 at Brackendale, just before Alice Lake Provincial Park. They are a small but mighty campground that offers free wifi, showers, a charging station, serviced sites, bike rentals, and a small camp store. You’ll feel immersed in nature but still close enough to town to pick up anything you may have forgotten. Biking and hiking trails are next to the campground, and the campground is open year-round.
Fun Things to Do in Squamish
There’s one requirement while visiting Squamish: you must love the outdoors. Seeing that you’re traveling in an Escape Campervan that statement must hold true, so give Squamish the time it deserves as it is so much more than just a town in between Vancouver and Whistler.
- Whitewater Rafting: One of the best ways to see Squamish is from the water, making whitewater rafting an ideal activity for families and for adrenaline-junkies. The Cheakamus River offers class 1 and 2 rapids that are still bumpy and fun but suitable for families with kids. The trip along the river is seven kilometers long and the tour takes about one and a half hours to complete. For thrill-seekers, the Elaho-Squamish River offers a full-day adventure that will have you on class 3 and 4 fast-flowing rapids that are bound to get your soaked. There are calm moments on the river when you can take a look around at the stunning scenery of glaciated peaks, waterfalls, and wildlife such as bears, deer, eagles, and mountain goats.
- Mountain Biking: The singletrack riding in Squamish is some of the best in Canada and draws riders from around the world to its expansive trail network. The trails range from wide tracks with little elevation to the gnarliest lines you’ve ever seen. A bulk of the trails can be found behind Alice Lake which also connects to the trails behind Quest University where the popular Half Nelson trail is. Bring your own bike, rent a bike from town, or connect with a guiding company to get the most out of your day in the trails. The Trailforks app is also an invaluable resource for locals and visitors alike.
- Hiking: Pack your hiking boots when visiting Squamish, for its best features are off the main drag. Raise your heartbeat and gain the most incredible views from the top of the Chief – a granite monolith that greets you as you enter the town. For those looking to skip the sweat fest, the Sea to Sky Gondola will whisk you away to the top of the mountain for similar views and also have a suspension bridge, restaurant, and hiking trails. For those looking for a full day hiking experience, Elfin Lakes will take you into the alpine surrounding by peaks, Upper Shannon Falls will give you a new perspective on the infamous waterfall, and Echo Lake which requires a boat shuttle and has extreme elevation gain that is rewarded with an amazing subalpine lake perfect for cooling off.
- Eagle Viewing: From November to February, bald eagles congregate in Squamish and can be seen easily hanging out in the trees next to the Mamquam and Squamish Rivers. Prime viewing usually happens from the Eagle Run Dyke on Government Road in Brackendale where volunteers can also be found doling out information about the eagles. Eagle Float Tours are also offered where you will float on the Squamish River to get a closer look and to learn from a professional guide more about these magnificent birds.
- Climbing: Every summer, climbers descend on Squamish from around the world to get their hands on the granite cliffs and bluffs that make the area so famous. Most of the climbing is close to Downtown Squamish making it easily accessible to get to easy 5.4’s to challenging 5.14 test pieces. The most famous routes are the Apron and The Grand Wall on the Chief, with many other routes in nearby Murrin Provincial Park.
Places to Eat and Drink While Visiting Squamish
Squamish has a thriving craft beer scene and growing foodie culture to satisfy the hungry adventurer looking to restock their depleted calories. Here are some local locales sure to hit the spot.
- Backcountry Brewing: A hip brewery in an industrial area that serves up tasty beers, wood-fired pizzas, and a gathering place to tell stories of the day’s adventures. There’s a big communal table that is perfect for groups and they host fun events like games nights and bingo. Try the Widowmaker IPA paired with a Wake n’ Bacon pizza.
- Pho Give Pho Get: Located in the parking lot of Canadian Tire, this food truck pumps out steaming bowls of pho, Bahn mi sandwiches vermicelli bowls, and fresh spring rolls. It’s in the perfect location to fuel up after a big day exploring the nearby trails.
- Fergie’s: Brunch and Fergie’s go together like peanut butter and jelly. It is THE spot for brunch in Squamish that brings together a beautiful restaurant, local fare, stunning location, and friendly service. Located down the Squamish Valley Road, you feel as though you’ve stumbled upon this magical brunch palace in the woods. In the summer, enjoy your meal outside whilst enjoying the sounds of nature.
- The Watershed: This riverside restaurant is a lovely spot to enjoy brunch, lunch, or dinner within a stone’s throw of the Squamish River. Watch eagles soar and coat the trees across the river while noshing on handcrafted burgers, pasta, and brunch items. They are fully licensed and serve a mean Caesar and also have live music on special nights.
- Northyards Cider Co.: Not far from Backcountry Brewing in the industrial area of Squamish is Northyards Cider who serve up delicious cider made from 100% BC apples and other local fruit. The tasting room is as crisp and clean as the ciders where you can order flights, a signature cocktail, or light and fresh snacks from their menu. This female-owned and operated establishment is a hidden gem not to be missed, especially if you love cider.
Squamish is an excellent basecamp for your sea to sky adventures. From outdoor adventures, excellent campgrounds, a growing craft beer (and cider) scene, and delicious and diverse restaurants. Simply driving through without actually visiting Squamish would mean missing out on sights that aren’t exactly visible right off the highway. Add Squamish to your road trip itinerary when you book your next getaway with Escape Campervans, you’ll be happy that you did!