The amazing Sea to Sky Highway that links Vancouver to Whistler has several stops along the way that are often missed. From the more obvious, Brandywine Falls and Porteau Cove to the less well known, Whistler Train Wreck and Lighthouse Park. If you have an extra hour or two, most or all of these can be seen on your way to or from Whistler or Vancouver.
Lighthouse Park is an extraordinarily little know piece of paradise, so close to to Vancouver as to see its tall buildings, yet immersed into a dramatically beautiful coastal rainforest. A wonderful network of trails winds throughout massive Douglas-fir trees and Western Red Cedars as well as golden Arbutus trees stretching toward the ocean. It is surprisingly convenient on the drive from Vancouver to Whistler. The detour will only add an hour to your trip but the drive alone is well worth doing. Marine Drive runs parallel to the Sea to Sky Highway to or from Whistler, and is a wonderfully beautiful ocean hugging road that is alive with the beauty of Vancouver. If you are driving to Whistler from downtown Vancouver, finding Marine Drive is easy. After you cross the Lions Gate Bridge, continue straight as if going to Whistler(Highway 99) and you will almost immediatly be on Marine Drive. Instead of making the right turn to keep on 99, continue straight as you will be on your way to Lighthouse Park via the very scenic Marine Drive. Wildly overgrown with all kinds of plants and trees, the narrow, Marine Drive hugs the coast in the midst of this evidently wealthy part of Vancouver. You will have amazing views across to Vancouver as you drive this beautiful road. After stopping at Lighthouse Park, Marine Drive continues parallel to the Sea to Sky for a few kilometres before signs show you where to rejoin Highway 99 to Whistler. The driveways you pass are windy and steep, and alarmingly close to the road. Oncoming cars you pass slow down. It's that narrow. You are now in the real Vancouver. The houses are old and beautifully immersed in the deep, dark rainforest that once blanketed the land where skyscrapers of the city now stand. This is where you can look across to the high rise building crammed metropolis of Vancouver and feel in another world. Quiet, serene, immersed in deep forest, and contrast beautifully to the beauty across the water. Lighthouse Park is located at a beautiful piece of land in the edge of this.
Why should you take the short hike at Lighthouse Park?
Lighthouse Park is a beautiful Vancouver park, nestled inside a wonderful example of British Columbia's coastal rainforest. The trees are huge, the forest thick and the ocean views are amazing. Rain or shine, this park is a must see on any drive between Vancouver and Whistler. Marine Drive is another aspect that makes this a beautiful detour. This part of Vancouver is a great representation of Vancouver. Deep forest, beautiful ocean and rugged coastline.
Porteau Cove is well known in the Scuba Diving community for amazing diving. In fact a ship was purposely sunk in the area to increase the already amazing diving appeal. Other underwater curiosities make this a well used and beautiful place to dive. On any given day, you will see groups of scuba divers in the distance or getting in or out of the water. Their entry area by the boat ramp has a nice description of what is under the water that makes it such a fascinating place to dive. One the pier you will find an interpretive tour of sorts as their are descriptions, every few metres along the railings of what you may see from the pier viewpoints. Much like Lighthouse Park, you can visit Porteau Cove during any type of weather and be glad you stopped. The views are sensational and the enormous pier takes you right out, far above the ocean. Porteau Cove is very easy to find. Just keep your eye out for the highway sign directing you to the turnoff. If driving from Vancouver the Porteau Cove turnoff is 41 kilometres from Vancouver if you zero your odometer on the Lions Gate Bridge. When you turn in from the highway you will see a parking lot on your left with the washrooms and another huge parking area next to the wonderful Porteau Cove Pier. This pier is quite large and has great views of the fjord. There is a nice beach and campground if you continue along the road just past the pier. Lots of picnic tables and a great place to stop for lunch on the way to or from Whistler.is a beautiful little stop on the way to or from Whistler. You will notice the lack of washroom stops on the way to or from Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway, and if nothing else, makes Porteau Cove a perfect rest stop. Aside from washrooms there is a wonderful pier with viewing platforms that hover high above the ocean of this majestic and enormous Canadian fjord - the most southerly fjord in North America. There is a nice campground that extends down the shore towards Vancouver.
Why should you stop at Porteau Cove on the Sea to Sky?
is convenient and easy to stop, off of the Sea to Sky Highway. The pier is wonderful to see as it stretches far out and above the ocean. Washrooms and some some interesting things to read on various interpretive murals make this a must see stop on the way to or from Whistler or Vancouver.
Shannon Falls towers above Howe Sound at 335 metres as the third tallest falls in BC. The wonderful, though very short trail winds through a beautiful old growth forest to get to the base of the falls. From your car to the viewpoint takes only about four minutes, however the trail continues a bit further to a higher viewpoint (five minutes higher). You can even continue along the trail and join with the Stawamus Chief Trail which goes to the three summits of the Chief. The trail to the Chiefs peaks are very steep and almost constant stairs to be prepared for quite a workout comparable to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver. The trailhead is just south of the Stawamus Chief trailhead, south of Squamish. The Chief is the mammoth rock face that towers over Squamish. Though hardly believable from looking at, the summit is only a one hour hike. In fact there are three peaks, South (First), Centre (Second), and North (Third). Each accessible from the single trailhead. The trailhead to the Chief is easy to find. From highway 99, in Squamish. As you approach the Chief, visible for several kilometres, watch for the sign for "Stawamus Chief." The large parking lots are arranged next to the trailhead. There is a nice campground, with plenty of tent sites at the trailhead. A better route for a day hike is to start at Shannon Falls, it only adds about 1km but includes the spectacular Shannon falls as well as a nicer route as it joins the trail to the Chief part way up. The Upper Shannon Falls Trail extends past Shannon Falls. To reach the Upper Shannon Falls Trail you must join onto the Stawamus Chief Trail and after a few minutes you will see a sign directing you to the right to the Upper Shannon Falls Trail. It is a beautiful and similarly beautiful alternative to the very busy Stawamus Chief Trail.
Why should you stop at Shannon Falls?
Shannon Falls is an easy stop on the Sea to Sky to a very impressive waterfall. The entrace directly off the highway is easy to spot and convenient. The trail to the falls is short, easy, and well worth the 20 minutes you will likely take in total.
Brandywine Falls is a beautiful stop on the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler. It's about 11 kilometres south of Whistler. The hike from the parking lot to the falls is less than a kilometre and on a wide and flat trail. Of all the waterfalls around Whistler, Brandywine is the most impressive. There is a wonderful viewing platform across from the waterfalls that juts out over the edge of the enormous chasm the falls empty into. There is another fantastic place to view the falls that most people miss. There is a great viewpoint from above the falls where you can stand above the Cheakamus River just metres before it falls over the cliff. To find it is easy. As you walk toward the falls from the parking lot you will have to cross train tracks just a few metres from the viewing platform. Standing at the train tracks look to your right and you will see a bridge that the train tracks cross. This bridge has a great vantage point and yet another stunning angle to see these beautiful waterfalls. Amazing! Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is easy to find while driving to or from Whistler. Look for the "Brandywine Falls Provincial Park" sign about 25 minutes north of Squamish or 20 minutes south of Whistler. From the Vancouver/Squamish direction, Brandywine Falls will be on your right. For much of the winter you will find the gates to the parking lot closed. If you encounter this, simply park as close to the gate as possible and hike from there. You will likely see a couple cars already parked there doing the same as you. Beware though, in the depths of winter you may have to walk through some deep snow, bring snowshoes if you have them! For a complete list of places to snowshoe in and around Whistler check here.
Why should you stop at Brandywine Falls?
The falls are amazing and very easy and quick to hike to. Just a 20 minute pit stop on the drive to or from Whistler allows you to see this amazing waterfalls. Brandywine Falls and Shannon Falls( ), are both convenient and quick stops on the drive from Vancouver to Whistler.
It is hard to say enough about the Whistler Train Wreck. It is fantastic for so many reasons. First, its location. Just a short 10 minute drive gets you to the trailhead parking, just off of the Sea to Sky Highway on Alpha Lake Road in Function Junction. The hike begins on the Flank Trail then quickly branches off to the Train Wreck Trail through deep forest. The trail leads first to the Cheakamus River and some amazing viewpoints then continues through deep forest along this amazing river. Around a bend in the Cheakamus, the forest reveals the first of seven, fantastic train wrecks. Once again phenomenal views of the crashing river and then the amazing train wrecks come into view. Graffiti style paint brings the dingy wreckage to life with shockingly beautiful colours. The huge wrecks are enormous up close and mangled. Some on their sides, some upside down. Each one (there are several) is an interesting adventure to explore. A sort of wilderness art exhibit. The wreckage stretches for almost a kilometre and can bring out the kid in anyone. The area is very kid friendly as the trails are wide and generally flat. There are several extraordinarily surreal places to put up a tent or, as many often do, sleep on the edge of the incredible river or even in a wrecked car. There are indications in all the cars of thousands of past gatherings which gives the place a charm that seems characteristically Whistler. The Train Wreck is a spectacularly beautiful and interesting place, just like Whistler.
Why should you stop and hike to the Whistler Train Wreck?
Whistler Train Wreck is a surreal and beautiful, yet short hike along the gorgeous Cheakamus River to the bizarre train wrecks. The entire trail is interesting as you pass along a cute creek, hike under the Sea to Sky Highway, through a narrow, huge tree forest, then finally along the beautiful river and wrecks.