Vancouverites and visitors alike love traveling the Sea to Sky Highway for a weekend away in Whistler. Squamish is situated halfway along this scenic journey and is home to the Sea to Sky Gondola — an epic way to view Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains on a 10-minute ride that takes you 885m above sea level.
Squamish’s Sea to Sky Gondola opened in May 2014, giving access to amazing views of coastal rainforest and mountain highs that were only previously available to avid hikers and climbers. As well as the thrilling ride to the summit, the Sea to Sky Gondola attraction also offers hikes and outdoor exercise classes in summer, and winter sports and special events at other times of the year.
What to Expect
Buy a ticket and head to the Gondola station. Gondola cabins are spacious enough for eight passengers and are fully wheelchair and stroller accessible. Made in Austria, the comfortable cabins allow visitors to have a seat and take in the incredible views through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Each ride takes 10 minutes as you climb 850m to reach the Summit Lodge, passing by vistas of Shannon Falls Provincial Park and the Squamish Chief where you’ll see climbers tackling the famous monolith.
At the top, you’ll find access to walking/hiking trails, food options and viewing decks to take in the epic views of Howe Sound fjord below. Choose from interpretive walking trails, with cantilevered viewing platforms if you’re feeling brave, or the nail-biting Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, which stretches 100m across and has views that drop down thousands of meters. Trails lead to viewing three viewing decks that offer amazing views of different vistas from the mountaintop — The Summit Viewing Deck also hosts live music, yoga classes, wine festivals and other special events in the summertime.
The dramatic Chief viewing platform gives sweeping vistas from Mamquam Valley and Mount Atwell in the north to views of adventurous watch hikers on the backside of the Chief from above, and a clear view of windsurfers and kiteboarders at “The Spit”, Squamish’s famous watersports hotspot, below.
Free daily tours run between May and November (11am and 2pm), with on-demand tours running in the winter season and special family-focused themed ones taking place at 1pm.
Facilities and Food Options
Hiking is hungry work but there are plenty of places to fill up. At the Summit Lodge you can choose from the casual self-service Summit Eatery and Edge Bar to enjoy views through the floor to ceiling windows or eat al fresco on the patio if the sun is shining. Grab a quick coffee from the Lodge’s Co-Pilot Cafe or pick up a sandwich to go if you want to spend more time exploring and less time eating.
Bodhi's Plaza BBQ fires up for the summer months, serving up casual sausages, coleslaw and fries, ice cream, soft drinks and cold beers — located outdoors in the plaza below the gondola line-up. Back down in the Basecamp Cafe you’ll find hot and cold beverages, baked goods, ice cream in the summer, and plenty of snacks to fuel up for a hike or car ride.
How to Visit the Sea to Sky Gondola
Open year-round with seasonal hours, the Sea to Sky Gondola is based south of Squamish on Highway 99. It’s only a 45-minute drive from Vancouver up the scenic Sea to Sky Highway that leads to Whistler (another 45-minute drive on from Squamish).
Driving in your own vehicle, or rental car, is the easiest option as it allows you to stop at other nearby attractions such as the awe-inspiring Shannon Falls Provincial Park. Parking is available at the base of the gondola for one to three hours.
Public transit doesn’t run between Squamish and Vancouver but there are plenty of options if you don’t want to drive. Landsea Tours and Pacific Coach Line offer tours from Vancouver that include time at the Gondola, combined with a visit to Whistler.
Greyhound Buses run between Vancouver and Squamish (it’s about a $20 taxi ride to the gondola from Squamish) and there is a dedicated shuttle called the Squamish Connector, which offers a round-trip service from three downtown Vancouver locations and includes three hours at the Gondola ($79 including lift ticket, $35 ride only). Perimeter runs a bus service between Vancouver International Airport, downtown Vancouver and the Squamish Adventure Centre, which is a five-minute drive from the Gondola.