The Chief as it is known is one of the better-known hikes primarily because it takes you up a humongous mountain-sized rock that most people see when driving highway (99) on their way to Whistler. A favourite pastime (for passengers only) while driving by the chief is to spot the little specks of colour on the rock-face. These are climbers taking the hard way up almost 2000 feet of vertical rock to the summit, where they can join the hiking crowd that has taken the trail up. Hikers and climbers who have reached the round rock summit have a spectacular view of the Squamish Valley, Howe Sound, the town of Squamish, and nearby peaks such as Garibaldi and Sky Pilot.
Hiking the Chief is very popular, as it is an easy choice for visitors or new hikers looking for an easy to find, hard to get lost on trail. The route is well marked by aluminum signs on trees, and red paint on rocks. It does have a few tricky "rope assist" sections towards the top. It is similar to the Grouse Grind in that log steps and guardrails have been constructed in places, so if you are an occasional hiker looking for that ?next step?, do the chief. Average hike times might be 2-3 hours to the top, but families (yes families do this) might take longer. Allow a full day for the hike, particularly if you are driving up for the day from Vancouver. Lunch up top on the rocks is awesome on a sunny day, but remember to pack everything away with you. A sunny day is also advised because it makes wandering up top a little less stressful, you wouldn't want to walk off a cliff.
Access to the trailhead is via either the Shannon Falls Parking lot, or the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park. If using the latter, hikers should park just off Hwy 99 at the day-use area - where many of the climbers park - just South of Squamish. Keep an eye out for signs to the park and a narrow parking lot just off the highway on the right as you approach Squamish. This parking area is past the Shannon Falls parking. If you reach town, you've gone too far. The rock face of the Chief itself should also be a clue. After parking, walk up the access road, and into the Provincial Park, in fact, walking through the campsite area (hike-in camping) to the trailhead. The trailhead is marked with appropriate disclaimers and warnings about the severity of the trail - which also gives you an indication of how popular it is. It is definitely not a walk in the park, however, compared to other less visited and more remote trails, this is a nice day hike that can be found with relative ease. That doesn't mean one shouldn't be fully prepared for the backcountry. It might be tempting to just grab the sneakers and go ? don't do it, be prepared. Bring water, first aid, appropriate footwear, and friends, to name a few essentials.
Another access to the trail is via the Shannon Fall's parking area, whose access trail on the left cuts out some of the access road and initial steep section of the Chief. To use this approach, walk along the main path from the parking lot and turn left past an open grassy space. You will pass the site of the loggers? competitions, and see a metal marker reading ?Oleson Creek 15 minutes?. Wind your way to the Creek, after which you will be ready to start the ?Chief? on the right. 800m or so farther up the main trail; the trail departs the creek on the left, and so begins your ascent of the ?Chief?.
As you climb the Chief, you will have to decide if you want to go to the first peak or second peak (or third). The first peak trail branches left a short distance past a large boulder and bluff (where you might have stopped for a breather). Just follow the red-markers, and if it's a sunny summer day, talk to the other hikers.
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Posted By: L&L
- Sat Nov 03 00:13:44 EDT 2012
UpsideStarts out tough with the steep staircase and then steep trail ascent, so the heart and legs really get going right away.
DownsideToo many tentative obvious non-hikers on a nice day.
CommentWe always go straight to 3rd Peak as it is the least busy and come back down pretty quickly. By starting out no later than 8-9am, you can hike it and come down with lots of your day left, to browse in Squish or go back to the city. But it is pretty amazing to sit on top of the monolith on a sunny day, especially with no one else around. Don't linger too long; you run into the hordes on the way down. There is one disturbing section of huge rock slabs on top of each other, with big gaps in between them, in which I'm sure large creatures are lurking and watching us. Further proof is the strong animally scent in this area, and the weird behaviour of my dog. Pretty much run through this section, imaging a hairy/furry claw lashing out to grab me. Other than that, doing 3rd Peak on an early summer day is one of my favourite things to do. If you have done smaller hikes and wondering if you're ready for something more, do yourself a favour and give it a try - start super early so if you find it tough on the first time, you can pace yourself.
Posted By: PhotoKaz
- Wed Sep 19 03:22:06 EDT 2012
UpsideNot a long hike if you only have a few hours Close to Vancouver Rewarding views
DownsideCan be busy
CommentGreat hike first week of September 2012. Had great weather and great views from the top. Recommended for any hiker.
I have a bunch of photos and info here: http://photokaz.com/2012/09/hiking-stawamus-chief-south-peak-squamish-bc/
Posted By: SquamishRealEstate
- Wed Jul 04 16:26:45 EDT 2012
CommentFor Kiff: yes, this hike is dog friendly...lots of dogs in busy times so keep leash handy. We have had no problem scrambling dogs up the ladders, or beside them, as well as the chains. Agile, experienced dog will have no problem. Dogs allowed only at 1st peak, not 2nd. Keep dog leashed at top as chipmunks are very brazen and not afraid to tease a dog. Drop off is unforgiving, don't risk dog going over the edge after one of those little critters.
Posted By: kiff
- Tue Jul 03 21:00:22 EDT 2012
QuestionIs it possible for a dog who is accustom to hiking to make this trip? or are there ladder and rope ascents? He is more than capable of climbing steep rock sectionsANSWERS are in this forum: Dog suitable?
Posted By: hobbit
- Mon Aug 01 22:56:20 EDT 2011
UpsideShort hike, huge payoff. A geocache under a rock.
DownsideCrowded. Fearless squirrels at the top; Do not feed.
CommentPeak 1: 1.5hrs up. 45min on the top. 45min down.
Posted By: omegaxx
- Tue May 03 02:25:37 EDT 2011
CommentI just did this trail yesterday with my dad. Our first hike of the year so we weren't in the best of shape. Started out around 4pm and summited the 2nd Peak at 6. We were the only living creatures except for two birds hanging out on the cliff edge. Having been up the 1st Peak twice before, I'm still wonderstruck by the sheer beauty and magnificence on the top, especially on a clear day. The 2nd Peak also offers a much better view of Garibaldi, although I suspect it's even better from the 3rd Peak--gotta do that next time. Leaving the summit at 6:45 also gave us plenty of daylight on the way down.
Posted By: SquamishRealEstate
- Thu Jul 08 10:39:44 EDT 2010
UpsideGreat hike for the seasoned hiker, not a beginner trail!!! I like it because it is dog friendly and can take my hiking buddy, Russell (husky retriever x). Views from any of the 3 peaks make it worth the effort everytime!
Downside Dogs are not recommended on the trail to 2nd peak from fork in trail off 1st peak trail. Not sure why, probably due to terrain being tight w crevices.
CommentDefinitely bring your fit canine friends, they don't have to be on leash on the way up but leashes HIGHLY recommended at the top. Drop offs are unforgiving and chipmunks love to entice the dogs to the edge.
Posted By: Malroy
- Mon Jun 07 17:02:18 EDT 2010
CommentI was just wondering - for those who have done this, how long does it take to get down off the trail after you have reached peak 1, 2, or 3..
Posted By: jearsy
- Sat Jun 05 22:58:00 EDT 2010
UpsideFantastic views from all three bumps
DownsideA lot of people!
CommentI personally recommend, and if you have the time and experience, forget the first peak as that is the one that everyone goes too and head directly to the second and third peaks. The views are a lot better and there are far fewer people. Otherwise everything else has been said.
Posted By: DustinNeufeld
- Tue May 25 14:01:56 EDT 2010
UpsideThe view is still awesome.
DownsideBecause the Grouse Grind is currently closed, this is now the hike of choice for tourists and therefore very crowded.
CommentPlease don't feed the chipmunks chips.
Posted By: monkeyrose
- Sat Apr 24 04:21:38 EDT 2010
QuestionMy Dad and I are planning to hike the Chief this summer. We've been doing short day hikes twice a month.
I'd like to do all the peaks. can you hike them in sucession? How long does it take to do all of them?
ANSWERS are in this forum: Info on the Chief
Posted By: waterl0u
- Thu Apr 22 02:25:56 EDT 2010
Comment4th of April 2010 The view was GREAT for a start. The trail was "okay" for an experience hiker. I did both 1st and 2nd peak in 2hrs with pitstops for pictures and amazement of unusual "piled" boulders. The chains were great help for the climb but got disappointed to see steel ladders. But the trail from the 1st-2nd peak (not so obvious/popular) was fun! 1st peak was clear, 2nd still got snow-leftovers! Tons of traffic and cute dogs too! I conquered it on sneakers, a couple of oranges and small bottled water. Overall~ SWEET ENJOYABLE TIME WITH MOTHER NATURE W/OUT TOO MUCH SWEAT ;)
Posted By: Psilocin
- Wed Mar 24 22:11:17 EDT 2010
CommentMy golden retriever has no problems going to 3rd peak.
Posted By: kgirl
- Wed Aug 19 14:40:03 EDT 2009
Questionis it ok/possible to hike this trail with my dog? he's a 65 pound, shephard husky mix.ANSWERS are in this forum: dogs?
Posted By: yoursdigitally
- Wed Apr 29 15:28:43 EDT 2009
CommentI didn't hike with ease, but I made it. Got to be careful when climbing up laddars and hold on to metal chains bolted on to the rock surface. There were a few slippery sections. Make sure you wear a pair of good hiking shoes and go with a few more people. I head down at around 3:00pm on Sunday, April 26; and saw at least hundred people hiking up. Some of those confident people were thinking the hike is like strolling on Robson Street. No gears, no water, no hiking shoes, just two bare hands. Hope they won't show up on headline news. Unbelievable. O_o
Posted By: HaileyVandyk
- Wed Apr 29 00:24:41 EDT 2009
CommentDid the trail last weekend... 2nd peak. totally do able
Posted By: cwong
- Mon Apr 27 02:43:02 EDT 2009
QuestionApril 27, 2009
I was wondering if the Stawamus Chief is in good condition for hiking. Can anyone please let me know if its okay to hike the Chief? Thanks.ANSWERS are in this forum: Stawamus Chief conditions
Posted By: alyssahariton
- Tue Aug 19 18:58:48 EDT 2008
QuestionHas anyone taken an infant up these trails in a front carrier? It looks possible but I wonder about the ladder and rope-assist sections, especially coming down. Anyone with prior experience? Thanks. ANSWERS are in this forum: Baby Bjorn?
Posted By: kpak44
- Wed May 28 00:21:36 EDT 2008
UpsideA nice leg burner with good views from the top. No snow on the trail as of today.
DownsideStill saw 25 people on the trail mid week.
CommentI hiked the south peak today in 40 minutes so the time commitment is quite light.
Posted By: littlefoot
- Thu Dec 06 15:45:02 EST 2007
UpsideCan anyone provide the current conditions at the Stawamus Chief? I am thinking of going tomorrow Friday Dec 7 2007. Never been and wonder if it is too slippery for "ordinary" hiking shoes/boots?
CommentI could not find a "forum" to post this to.
Posted By: trailrunner
- Sun Sep 16 20:29:45 EDT 2007
UpsideGreat view of Howe Sound, Mountains, & Squamish panorama. Interesting one-mass-rock hiking towards the end with ladders, chains. Sense of exposed thrill due to no trees and cliff on two sides of the mountain, standing on solid one rock mountain at the top. Mainly rather steep but wide trail.
DownsideWe walked up and walked down on this one, but there are so many rock steps, running down fast would have had fair amount of impact on calf muscle and it could have been sore later. Confusing on the way down on treeless mountain top - easily get lost and going to the wrong direction if not careful. Probably quite dangerous on foggy day with wind blowing at the top area.
CommentTrail starts from the Shannon falls. At the beginning it has more trail feeling but soon it turns into looohng rock steps up towards the chief majority of time. All trees with few exceptions are 2nd or 3rd growth, heavy to D Fir & Hemlock at the lower elevation and D Fir & Shore Pine at higher. There are few look outs but not much until you get to the top area, where you climb up to the sheer rock area virtually without trees(some dwarfed Shore/Lodge Pole Pine). Here you take steel ladders and chains with thrill of being on the cliff - but actual angle is 30degrees or so. Top is rather flat slick and looked wider area than other two peaks. This one we walked very slowly 100% of time; took 3.5hrs return including 40 mins break at the top. I did see some people running this up and down, but there were so fast passing us did not even get to ask how much time it takes for them to do it.
Posted By: slow runner
- Fri Sep 07 21:24:43 EDT 2007
UpsideLovely, lovely views for moderate effort. Good for kids. Attention Adirondackers: enjoy the manicured trail, relatively speaking. Very well marked. Friendly hikers and happy dogs throughout... Starbucks in Squamish for a post hike treat!
DownsideConstruction on the highway from Vancouver slows down travel.
Posted By: evgenykravchenko
- Sat Jul 21 23:45:48 EDT 2007
UpsideOk views at the top. Pretty well marked
DownsideHard on the knees, steep, crowded
CommentThis hike is nothing special, it's a squamish version of the Vancouver's Grouse Grind. I did 2 peaks, and was pretty tired to do the 3rd one. This is one of the hikes that I wouldn't go on to more than once, because there is nothing memorable on this hike.
Posted By: dsalmon
- Tue Dec 19 01:41:09 EST 2006
CommentTo answer KMarshall re: do people take dogs on this hike? Yes, they do but it is not recommended to 2nd peak due to steep, narrow trails and crevices. Keep dogs on leash at top of peaks, the drops are straight down and the chipmunks love to tease to the edge!
Posted By: dsalmon
- Tue Dec 19 01:38:34 EST 2006
UpsideGreat workout before work, start @ 6:30, go to 1st peak and down. Meet some of your friends and neighbours doing the same thing!
DownsideGets really busy after 9 am on nice weekends so have to go early to beat the crowds
CommentThe 3 peaks offer options for everyone - a workout hike to an all day outing. Well worth checking out, you won't be disappointed with the views!!
Posted By: meditaranean
- Sun May 01 15:47:02 EDT 2005
UpsideGorgeous 360 degree view. A must hike.
DownsideComing down the chief by way of the 3rd peak was a little hazardous
CommentTake some time to enjoy the view at the top.
Posted By: backpackgal
- Tue Jul 20 16:13:11 EDT 2004
UpsideGreat workout, beautiful forest with varied terrain
DownsideExtremely busy. We hiked up early and stayed on the north peak for a while. On the way down we were bombarded with people coming up, one group after another.
CommentThis hike is a great workout and provides you with stunning views when you reach the top. It took us 1 hr, 40 mins to reach the North Peak and about the same to get down. If you go on a weekend try to get there by 9 a.m. to avoid the big crowds and parking problems. We left the parking lot at 1 p.m. and it was packed (a Sunday).
Posted By: sourdough
- Tue Jul 06 13:59:15 EDT 2004
UpsideGreat for early or late season hikes. Nice views and can be done without losing an entire day
DownsideReally, really busy. Plan this one for a weekday
CommentDespite the crowds, this one is a great warm up hike and an enjoyable place with pretty nice views. If you are going to do only one peak, #2 is my fave.
Posted By: PrairieGirl
- Tue May 18 14:40:00 EDT 2004
UpsideGreat workout, Great views
DownsideBusy, wouldn't want to try it for the first time on a rainy day
CommentPeak 1 2 and 3 can be linked with minimal backtracking just keep your eyes pealed for those orange markers especially when going from 2 to 3 or vise-versa. There are a lot of other connecting trails that you can explore if you want to make a day of it but bring lots of water, and strong knees cause what you go up you must come down!
Posted By: Outofshaperookie
- Tue Apr 27 17:00:48 EDT 2004
CommentYou get to the peak and are rewarded with a spectacular view. It gives you a great sense of accomplishment.
Posted By: freeridebryce
- Mon Jul 07 13:05:23 EDT 2003
UpsideAn excellent workout, rewarding views, interesting forest
DownsideA popular trail
CommentRealistically, a fit hiker can reach the peak in about 45 minutes. First and Second peaks can be linked to make a loop.