The Chief towers high above the town of Squamish and is a popular hiking destination that offers scenic views of Howe Sound and several mountains in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Hikers can complete all three peaks of the Chief in a day or just choose to do a shorter trip to the South Peak that still offers a spectacular view.
From the Shannon Falls parking lot, head into the park and go left up the wide gravel road towards the stream. Another 100 meters up a few stairs brings you to the main lookout point of Shannon Falls where the water tumbles from more than 330 meters above. This spectacular waterfall is very popular among tourists and can be very crowded on a hot, sunny day.
After enjoying the view, it's time to begin the hike to the top of the Chief. Head in the opposite direction of the falls to a clearing in the trees and go right along a dirt trail. The trail gradually begins to climb and eventually crosses Olesen Creek before joining the trail to the Chief. Turn right and head up the stairs.
The next 30 to 45 minutes is spent climbing steadily uphill over wooden steps and a well-worn dirt path. Upon reaching a junction, stay left and then go left after another 100 meters or so. Another 10 minutes or so brings you to a fork where you make the decision to head left to the South Peak or right to the Centre and North Peaks. All 3 peaks can be completed in roughly 5 hours but for those who want a shorter trip, the South Peak takes only about 3.5 hours. Either way, go left and continue uphill.
A spectacular site lies ahead where a huge slab of granite hangs overtop of the trail. Walk up the stairs and just beyond this point the forest gives way to the exposed rock at the summit of the Chief. Use the chains and ropes to help pull your way up as you scramble for the summit. Be careful if the rock is wet as the moss can make it very slippery and dangerous.
The South Peak offers a scenic view of Howe Sound and the town of Squamish below. If you have decided to just hike to this peak, stop for lunch before heading back. If you plan on ascending the other two peaks, head back down the route you came carefully making your way over the rocks before entering back into the forest. Walk back down to the junction you passed earlier and go left (right if you were coming uphill) towards the Centre Peak.
The trail to the Centre Peak is similar to the one to the South Peak. Eventually, you reach a ladder which helps you onto the rock near the peak before following the orange markers and scrambling up the steep slope to the top of the Centre Peak. The views here of Howe Sound and the surrounding area are just as stunning. This is the perfect opportunity to stop for a lunch break.
After soaking in the view and taking a break, follow the orange makers northward and drop down through the trees into the saddle. Continue in this direction before scrambling up a rocky section. Follow a ridge to the left and just a short distance brings you to the highest peak of the three of the Chief peaks. The view from the North Peak gives you sights in a slightly different direction and includes views of several of the peaks in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Once you have taken photos, head back along the route you arrived passing through the saddle and back onto the Centre Peak. Make your way carefully down the rock and climb back down the ladder onto the dirt trail. Descend back down the trail passing the junction to the South Peak and staying to the right through the next two junctions. If you parked at the Shannon Falls parking lot, remember to go left after crossing the bridge over Olesen Creek and continue back towards Shannon Falls.
How to get to Stawamus Chief
Estimated Driving Time from Vancouver: 1 hour
The Chief is the towering mountain that overlooks the town of Squamish north of Vancouver. To get to the Chief, take Highway #1 westbound towards Horseshoe Bay and exit onto Highway #99 (Sea to Sky Highway). Continue along the highway for the next 30-40 minutes and then watch for the signs to Shannon Falls. Turn right at the traffic lights and parking in the Shannon Falls parking lot.
Hikers can access the Chief from either Shannon Falls or the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park parking lot further along Highway #99. Parking at Shannon Falls gives you the added bonus of seeing the beautiful waterfall however, the parking lot is small and often full of tourists. If the lot is full, continue for another kilometer or so to the Chief parking lot just off to the right of the highway.
View a map of Driving directions to Stawamus Chief.
Camping at Stawamus Chief
The campsite at the Chief is located just a few minutes from the parking lot (the Chief parking lot, not the Shannon Falls parking lot) and features many raised, gravel pads for setting up a tent.
Dogs at Stawamus Chief
While dogs are allowed on a leash at all times on the Chief, there are several sections with steep inclines, ladders, and narrow ledges that can pose a danger to your pet and yourself. Keep dogs on a leash at ALL times at the peaks and away from the edges as the drop-offs are sudden. Please pick up after your dog and pack out all waste to be disposed of in the garbage bins at the parking lot areas of the trail.
Toilets at Stawamus Chief
There are toilets at both the Shannon Falls and the Chief parking areas.
On the advice of locals, Chris Wheeler checks out the Stawamus Chief in Squamish, BC. At the summit, you get to look over the edge... 2,100ft straight down!
The view from the top of the first peak of The Chief, Squamish, BC
Other trails located in the Howe Sound region: