Road Trips

A Local’s Guide to Driving Vancouver’s Picturesque Sea-to-Sky Highway

On your Sea-to-Sky Highway road trip, plan a stop to hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park. (Photo: Alamy)

British Columbia’s exceedingly beautiful Sea-to-Sky Highway (Highway 99), extending from Vancouver in the south to Whistler in the north, clocks in at just over 230 miles, although it could take years — if not a lifetime — to explore all of the remarkable nature along the way.

Exquisite vistas and outdoor fun, from thundering waterfalls and breathtaking hiking trails to paddling adventures and vertiginous gondola rides, open up along the Route 99 corridor for all to experience and enjoy.

Discover where to experience the best of a Sea-to-Sky Highway road trip.

Howe Sound

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Don’t look down! Take a stroll over the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Cliffwalk. (Photo: Alamy)

As you leave North Vancouver, heading west along Route 99, stop at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, swinging 230 awe-inspiring feet above the Capilano River. After braving the precipitous Cliffwalk — a cliff-hugging series of cantilevered and suspended walkways above the river — continue west in your vehicle toward Horseshoe Bay.

If you plan on visiting Bowen or Vancouver Island, this is where you’d catch a ferry. But for this outing, you’ll want to motor north along the eastern shores of Howe Sound.

One of the first possible stops is Cypress Provincial Park (actually accessible from West Vancouver), where you’re greeted with sweeping views of the city to the south and Howe Sound to the west. The park offers nature lovers living in nearby urban areas quick-and-easy access to tree-lined hiking trails, ski slopes and backcountry wilderness.

Continuing north, Lions Bay will soon come into view. Here you can stop for a leisurely stroll along Lions Beach or neighboring Brunswick Beach, with intimate views of rugged Gambier Island across Howe Sound.

Farther north along the highway, near the end of the Sound, you’ll find Shannon Falls. This mighty cascade tumbles out of the mountains, slamming down an incredible 1,099 feet to the rocks below with a resounding roar. Shannon Falls Provincial Park is the perfect spot for a bit of rock scrambling or a scenic picnic before you hit the road again.

Squamish

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The views around Squamish are jaw-droppers — it’s easy to find your Zen here. (Photo: Alamy)

Squamish is a town and municipality along Route 99 that is renowned as a rock-climbing and outdoor recreation mecca, with mountain biking, rafting (along the Elaho and Squamish rivers) and plenty more to keep nature enthusiasts occupied.

One of the stars here is the Stawamus “Chief.” This mammoth granite dome (just over 2,300 feet) looms over Squamish like a stoic watchman, offering expert climbers a thrilling, multi-pitch challenge.

People who aren’t Spiderman can opt for the hiking route to the summit instead and enjoy the mind-blowing views.

The Sea to Sky Gondola, reaching up to a high ridge on Mount Habrich, offers still more heart-pounding outdoor excitement, including mountainside walking trails, the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, and viewing platforms boasting some of the most phenomenal vistas on the planet.

Garibaldi Provincial Park

North of Squamish, deeper into the wilderness, you’ll drive past Garibaldi Provincial Park. It’s a massive park, east of the highway, that includes the haunting Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Lake, Panorama Ridge, wildflowers galore (come springtime) and a wealth of natural wonders and backcountry trails that would take months to explore in their entirety.

Brandywine Falls

Just south of Whistler, Brandywine Falls Provincial Park and Brandywine Falls (230 feet) serve up an awesome display of nature’s raw water power while also affording some pretty spectacular hiking and mountain biking opportunities. Plus, you’ll have the chance to snap unbelievably picturesque waterfall photos for your Instagram collection.

Whistler

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Tired of four wheels? Trade ’em in for two in Whistler. (Photo: Alamy)

Skiing and snowboarding reign supreme in the town of Whistler and at Whistler Blackcomb (in the Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains), which lies about 37 miles north of Squamish.

But come warmer weather, there’s still enough adventure here to keep the most diehard of outdoor enthusiasts satisfied until the snows fall again.

Bear viewing and bungee jumping (not at the same time, hopefully), tearing through Whistler’s Mountain Bike Park, rising to the challenge of some Via Ferrata–style climbing, or maybe a bit of canoeing or kayaking are just some of the diversions on offer.

While the Sea-to-Sky Highway officially extends a bit farther north, Whistler is often considered the last major stop along the route. And taking into account all of the incredible nature on display, what a stop it is.