Lighthouse Park Best Sights on the Sea to Sky Highway
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 as Marine Drive runs parallel to the Sea to Sky Highway and is a wonderfully beautiful ocean hugging road that is alive with the beauty of Vancouver.
Wildly overgrown and narrow, this BC Coastal rainforest road hugs the edge of land in the midst of this evidently wealthy part of Vancouver. You will have an amazing view across to Vancouver as you hug the coast.
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 amazing, beautiful and viciously crowded 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.
Porteau Cove Best Sights on the Sea to Sky Highway
Porteau Cove is a beautiful little stop on the way to or from Whistler. 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 are several waterfront campsites here as well as convenient (from the highway) washrooms and showers. 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
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.
Shannon Falls Best Sights on the Sea to Sky Highway
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.
Brandywine Falls Best Sights on the Sea to Sky Highway
Brandywine Falls is one of the must see sights on the way to or from Whistler. The falls drop from a 66 metre, unnaturally abrupt cliff to the valley below. It is such a popular and beautiful sight that it is a Provincial Park complete with a large and elaborate viewing platform directly opposite the falls. Located just 20 minutes south of Whistler, Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is just off of the Sea to Sky Highway.
If driving from Vancouver, keep your eyes out for the Brandywine Falls sign on your right about 25 minutes north of Squamish. The parking lot is immediately off the highway and the short 1 kilometre trail takes you over then alongside the Cheakamus River to the viewing area. The only facilities in the park are pit toilets and picnic tables and there is no charge for hiking or for parking your vehicle in the park. The gate off of the highway is locked at night and in the winter so at these times you simply park at the edge of the highway and hike past the gate.
In the winter you often see people strapping on snowshoes for the short trek to the falls in the snow. Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is attached to the wonderful Sea to Sky Trail which runs between and beyond Whistler and Squamish. It is a wide, gravel biking and hiking trail that will eventually extend north to Pemberton.
Train Wreck Best Sights on the Sea to Sky Highway
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.