Stawamus Chief Hike
Distance: Peak 1: 4km, Peak 2: 5km, Peak 3: 7km return
Time: 4-6 hours
Elevation: Peak 1: 535m, Peak 2: 580m, Peak 3: 627m
From Vancouver: 1 hour
Dog Friendly: Yes, but the trail includes ladders and chains so you will have to carry your dog up certain sections.
Toilets: Yes, at the trailhead
The Stawamus Chief Hike or “The Chief” as it is more commonly called, is a popular hike in Squamish in the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park with epic views overlooking the town, the Sea to Sky Highway and Howe Sound. It is more technical than the also very popular Grouse Grind, therefore making it harder.
If you have ever visited Squamish, you will have seen the large granite rockface next to the Sea to Sky Gondola that might make you think of Yosemite National Park in the USA. This is the Stawamus Chief and the 3 peaks that you will be hiking to.
The hike takes you up to 3 awesome peaks with equally awesome views! The Chief is a moderate hike with lots of stairs followed by ladders and chains once you reach the peaks rockfaces. Dogs are allowed on the trail on leash only and we saw quite a few when we hiked it, however, we recommend leaving your dog at home. You will need to carry your dog up the ladders and potentially the steeper sections of the peaks. It definitely didn’t look easy and some dogs were actually refusing to go all of the way up the peak.
It takes approximately 2 hours to reach peak 1 and then a bit longer if you want to carry onto peaks 2 and 3.
In this guide, I will tell you everything you need to know about hiking the 3 peaks of the Chief including where to park, how technical the hike is, hiking time and trail conditions.
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What you need to know
? How Hard is The Chief Hike
The Chief is a moderately rated hike. The trail consists of a lot of stairs both man-made and natural (rocks and roots) so is quite a grind.
We do not recommend this hike for kids. We only saw one kid on the trail, he was probably around 8 years old and complaining that it was too hard.
Once you reach the peaks, the trail turns from being hard due to the steepness to more of a technical difficulty. You will need to climb a few ladders and scramble up rocks using chains to reach the top of the peaks.
We found the way back down the trail especially hard on our knees as it it stairs all the way down.
? TIP: One way to make the hike easier, is to bring along a pair of hiking poles. They will help take the load off your legs on the way up, and save your knees on the way down. Purchase a pair of hiking poles here!
? Where to Park for The Chief
The Chief carpark is located just off the Sea to Sky Highway, just South of Squamish. Parking is free but in the Summer you may have to wait for a spot. There are two small carparks available, otherwise alternatively, you could park in the Sea to Sky Gondola carpark. It is around a 15 minute walk from the Gondola carpark to the Chief Trailhead. The location of The Chief Trailhead carpark is shown in the map below.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps
⌚ The Chief Hiking Time
It takes around 2-3 hours to reach the First Peak. If you choose to head back down from the first peak, it will take you around 45 minutes to 1 hour. Going down is always faster than going up!
From the First Peak to the Second Peak it will take most people around an hour extra and third peak will take another 1.5 to 2 hours return.
⛺ The Chief Campsite
There is a campsite located a couple of hundred metres from the trailhead which is a really convenient place to stay if you are looking at doing a few hikes in Squamish and the surrounding area. The campsite has a total of 62 sites. The sites are on a first-come first-serve basis and you will need to register and pay upon arrival.
Drive in Sites
There are 15 vehicle-accessible sites available on a first-come first-serve basis throughout the April to October camping season. These sites are quite small and may not fit a larger RV, however would be find for a small campervan.
Walk-in Tent Site
There are 47 campsites located about a 5 minute walk for the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park parking lot. This campsite is also available on a first-come first-serve basis and includes a food storage locker and a cooking area with sink.
The First Peak
Most of the elevation gain is from the trailhead to the first peak. After walking past the campsites from the trailhead sign, it is all up. The hike starts with some extremely steep wooden stairs and then slowly changes to natural rock stairs. Although the natural stairs aren’t quite as steep as the man-made ones, they are still exhausting to hike up.
After what feels like an eternity of hiking uphill, you will eventually reach your first ladder. There are two ladders that you will need to climb to reach the top of the First Peak. The first ladder is wide and easy to climb but the second is much narrow and a bit awkward. After the ladders you will need to scramble of the rockface a little, but don’t worry as there are chains to help you up and down. As there is only one chain, you will need to give way to people coming back down. This may take a while on busier days such as weekends in Summer.
The First Peak the most popular peak, as a lot of people choose to hike back down to the carpark after completing the First Peak. Alternatively you could skip the First Peak altogether and head straight to the Second and Third Peaks to try to avoid some of the crowds.
The Second Peak
The Second Peak is the tallest peak. To reach the second peak from the first, you will need to head back down to where the trail intersects and turns left to reach Peak 1. Once you reach the intersection, you will see a sign showing you that continue on up towards the Second Peak. The hike to Second Peak includes some more ladders and chains.
The Third Peak
Peak 3 is located across the Peak 2 Summit so you won’t need to backtrack this time to continue on. Look for the orange markers in the trees. Once you have located the markers, follow the trail down into the North Gully before climbing back up and reaching another chain section. This chain will help you scramble up the rock surface of the Third Peak.
Commonly Asked Questions
Is The Chief hard?
Even though The Chief is extremely popular, it is a hike that consists of a lot of stairs, both man-made and natural so you will definitely find yourself stopping to catch your breath at times throughout the hike.
Can I hike The Chief after or during rain
As the Chief takes you up onto rocks, it is not recommended to hike after rain or during rain as the rocks will become slippery and dangerous.
Do I need hiking boots?
Both Dave and I chose to wear hiking boots which were fine but not necessary. Alternatively, you could wear trail runners or hiking shoes rather than boots.
We hiked to the First Peak and found the hardest part of the hike was the pressure on our knees on the way back down. We would consider taking hiking poles with us next time, however we would also make sure that there was somewhere to stow them for the scrambles.
Overall, The Chief is great exercise and the views from the top are absolutely epic. Even if you only want to hike to the First Peak, it is so worth the effort!
For an easier hike along the Sea to Sky Highway near Squamish check out the Murrin Loop Trail!