British Columbia, Canada
Easy access and rewarding views of Howe Sound make this a must-do hike. On this hike there are three separate summits you can climb: the South (Peak 1), the Centre (Peak 2), and the North (Peak 3). You can do each summit individually, or, if you're feeling ambitious you can tackle all three.
The Stawamus Chief is one of the most popular hiking trails around Vancouver and is also a popular rock climbing site. Simply referred to as the 'The Chief', this hike is located in Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in the District of Squamish.
The hike has a roughly 500m elevation gain to Peak 1, and 590m and 630m gains to Peaks 2 and 3. It is considered an intermediate hike, and takes about 90 minutes to reach Peak 1, and slightly longer if you choose to ascend one of the other two peaks. This guide describes the hike as completing both Peaks 2 and 3, as this offers the best views, least amount of people and most bang for your buck. There is also a spectacular drop off between the Peaks 2 and 3, which provides a great view. But you can try all three, or pick just one.
This Chief provides an amazing views over the District of Squamish, Howe Sound, and a few of the nearby mountains of Garibaldi Park. The trail is steep, and provides a good challenge to always keep things interesting, including several sections of scrambling on your hands and feet.
The Chief also provides a few different options in the route you take, in terms of which of the three peaks you want to climb and the order.
Over 50,000 people make the hike up 'The Chief' annually, making it one of the most popular hiking trails around Vancouver.
The Stawamus Chief gets snow during the winter, but not as much as some of the other nearby mountains. For this reason, The Chief enjoys a fairly long hiking season. The summit is usually free of snow in the early spring, making this a great warm-up hike for the summer months ahead.
Also, The Chief is one of the most popular hikes around Vancouver, and the trail gets exceptionally busy during the summer. If you want to avoid the long lines of people hiking up and down the trail, you're best to go during a weekday, or in the spring and fall.
Take Highway #99 heading north past Horseshoe Bay towards Squamish. Keep driving along the Sea to Sky highway all the way towards Squamish for about 35 minutes. Watch for the signs for Stawamus Chief Provincial Park. The parking lot is just a few seconds beyond the pull-out for Shannon Falls, which will also have signs.
From the Stawamus Chief parking lot, you will walk up the gravel road to the outhouse and camping area. Enter the trail into the camping area, and follow it for a few minutes. You will come to the trailhead with a signboard.
The hike is relatively short - only 1.5km to reach Peak 1 (South Peak) and roughly 2.5km to reach Peaks 2 or 3. However, the trail is very steep and some sections are very technical. The are chains and ladders to assist your climb at various points. Also, the peaks themselves are open, exposed, and steep. If it has been raining the smooth granite is very slippery. This hike is rated as intermediate, but there are many abrupt cliffs if you stray from the path at certain points, and people have fallen before.