The Vancouver to Whistler drive is only 120 km and takes around one hour and a half, but the surrounding landscape is so beautiful that you will want to plan for 6 hours and many stops along the way. We took the Sea to Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler and stopped at a few viewpoints on the way. Shannon Falls, Brandywine Falls and Stawamus Chief Park were our favorite stops along the Sea to Sky Highway. The scenic ocean vistas, soaring mountains, dramatic waterfalls made the Sea to Sky Highway road trip to Whistler from Vancouver to be one the best drives.
About the Sea to Sky Highway
The British Columbia Highway 99, also known as the Sea to Sky Highway is the major north-south road that connects the US border all the way up to Cache Creek. It goes through Vancouver, Howe Sound, Whistler and Lillooet. The Sea to Sky Highway section of the route is the one that connects Vancouver to Pemberton, just north of Whistler. Sea to Sky Highway gets its name for two reasons – one because it really does connect the sea namely Vancouver to the sky aka the mountains of Pemberton. And for its stunning views, the drive from Vancouver to Whistler is beautiful, with the sea on one side and the steep mountainsides on the other. It was hard not to stop at every point to take photos.
3 Stops along the Sea to Sky Highway
With its 335 meters of height, Shannon Falls is British Columbia’s third tallest waterfall, and one of the most popular stops on the Sea to Sky Highway drive to Whistler from Vancouver. Shannon Falls is located just off the Sea to Sky Highway, it’s well marked and easy to find. At the base of the falls, there is a well-maintained wooden boardwalk from which you can see the falls. From there you can find short trails from which you can explore the area. Shannon Falls is also home to some rock climbs, mostly in the rock slabs to the south of the falls.
Visiting Shannon Falls will be a short break in your Whistler road trip, plan for 30 minutes to walk around take photos and checking out the falls. Shannon Falls Provincial Park has a concession stand as well as an information center next to the parking area where you can get information about the hikes.
Stawamus Chief Provincial Park
The Chief is the mammoth rock face that towers over Squamish and has been iconic in this area for many centuries.
Stawamus Chief is a 700 meter high granite dome that towers over the nearby network of fjords, called Howe Sound. Stawamus Chief is divided in three distinct summits – First Peak, Second Peak and Third Peak, all with amazing views over the surrounding landscapes. Perfect stop to break up your drive from Vancouver to Whistler and let the kids explore the area and stretch those legs a bit. More details about hikes and rock climbing here.
If you are planning to hike the Stawamus Chief, the Shannon Falls parking lot is a better place to start from. You can take a look at Shannon Falls and then take the connecting trail to join onto the trail to the Chief. This route is slightly longer, yet much more scenic. We hiked for a bit around the Stawamus Chief and spent close to two hours in the area.
The start of the trail to the different peaks is right next to Shannon Falls. The three peaks are actually three different hikes with varying degrees of difficulty and length. They have the initial section in common, but after hiking for about 20 minutes you will reach signs and the hikes branch off. The First Peak is the shortest one and with the best views but has some serious elevation gain and requires 2 to 3 hours round trip, we might have to go back when the kids are little older. We just hiked up to the trailhead and then headed back to drive towards Whistler.
Brandywine Falls is a 70-metre waterfall located in Brandywine Creek, along the Sea to Sky Highway between Garibaldi and Whistler. Located about halfway between Squamish and Whistler, the falls drop from an unnaturally abrupt looking cliff to the valley below. Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is a popular, accessible and beautiful sight. It has a large and elaborate viewing platform directly opposite the falls. The park is just off the Sea to Sky Highway about 15 minutes before you reach Whistler. We spent about a 30 to 40 minutes seeing the falls and take some photos.
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