Summiting The Second Largest Granite Monolith In The World

Last Updated on March 13, 2021

It had been a good few years since we were able to last hike the Chief. We usually try to make it to the Grouse Grind at least once a year, but after re-visiting the Chief, we found that we like this hike so much more. The view at the top is spectacular and it sure makes you appreciate living in beautiful British Columbia, while at the same time, makes you forget that you are still in BC with a view like this.

Squamish is a popular hiking destination, offering scenic views of Howe Sound and of mountains in Garibaldi Provincial Park. It is also a short distance from the resort and adventure town of Whistler, giving you the opportunity to add on a few days and be able to experience the best of both worlds.

With three peak options, you could choose to go for the day or do a shorter trip to the South Peak (second peak), that still offers the same stunning views as if you went all the way to the final peak.

You’ll spend the first 30-45 minutes climbing uphill using wooden steps, big stones, or a well worn dirt path. You’ll reach a junction, stay left. You’ll run into a fork where you decided to either keep left to go to the South Peak, or go right to the Centre and North Peaks. All three peaks will take around five hours, but if you need a shorter trip, the South Peak (and arguably the most popular) only takes up to 3.5 hours.

We find it a ton of fun to use the steel ladders and chains to help us ascend to the summit. You’ll want to be mindful of your footing as when wet the stone can be slippery, and even when dry and sandy, you may still find yourself slipping around.

The easy access to the Chief and rewarding views of Howe Sound make this a must-do hike the next time you’re in the Vancouver area.


Visitor Tips

  • You’ll want to arrive early or you may end up waiting and waiting for a parking spot. With how popular the Chief is, there isn’t much parking to be had. The trail gets exceptionally busy during the summer, of course, as most things do. To try to avoid the long lines of people hiking up and down the trail, we suggest you go during a weekday, or in the spring and fall.
  • Shannon Falls is located not far from the Chief. This spectacular 330m waterfall is very popular among tourists but can be very crowded as well, especially on a hot, sunny day.
First major viewpoint surrounds you with thousands of trees
There are a lot of steps!
Its fun climbing the ladders and using the chains to support your climb
The view from the top — look at that water!
Getting closer to the gorgeous view
The last little climb on the South peak is a little steep. It was also super windy this day, so watch your footing and beware of the winds!
The third peak
Taking in the view while enjoying some lunch on top of the rock. I’m using one of our new favourite travel accessories here, the Spill Bandit. It’s really meant for use in the car, but it is so lightweight and folds super small that we love brining it everywhere, even hiking. I sure loved not being covered in mess from my sandwich here that was just dripping by the time we reached the top.
When wet the stone can be slippery, and even when dry and sandy, you may still find yourself slipping around.
We could have sat looking at this view forever
What to expect on part of the trail
What to expect on part of the trail
What to expect on part of the trail

Fun fact: The Stawamus Chief is the second largest granite monolith in the world. It is just one giant rock!


What is a great hike you did that you loved?