Climbing the Stawamus Chief

I’ve hiked mountains on the North Shore (aka North Vancouver) that have given great views of the greater Vancouver area but I had never done “the Chief” before. I’ve seen photos from friends of the amazing views that one can see at the top and have been intrigued ever since.

Someday, I will do the Chief too.

Well folks, the “someday” came and went, as I found myself seeking the trailhead of the Stawamus Chief on a rainy Sunday morning. And wait, is that thunder and lightning too? (Luckily the lightning show ended quickly and the rain had stopped about an hour into the hike)

The Chief is located in Squamish, about 30-45 minutes north of North Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky highway. The turnoff from the highway to the trailhead of the Chief is clearly marked by a huge wooden sign and is located right after the turnoff for Shannon Falls (huge impressive waterfall). There are three peaks at the Chief, peak one being the lowest and peak three being the highest.


The first part to peak one (the only one we did) is in the forest but as the sign as the trailhead mentions, this is no walk in the park. There are steeps stairs, either wooden or rock, and it is a vertical climb for the most part. It has been likened to the Grouse Grind (though I can’t directly attest to this as I have not done the Grind either). The latter portion is mostly rock face, which is mostly done on hands and feet but there are sections that have chains or ladders to help you climb the rock face.


The day that we went, there was no view from the top. Rather, it was white all around because we were up in the clouds.


I didn’t really track the time taken to do the hike but I imagine it must have taken us about 1.5 hours to climb up and another 1.5 hours to go down, with breaks for photos, food, and drinks in between. The way down was worse on my knees and already sore ankle than the way up, and the wet rocks added a different challenge that you otherwise wouldn’t encounter on a dry sunny day.










By the time we were heading down and back to the parking lot, the clouds had cleared a little bit. You can see a bit of a view in between the trees.


So now that I’ve climbed one peak of the Chief, I guess the next mountain that I may want to climb sometime in the future is the Lions. You can see the Lions from Vancouver and I hear it takes about 8 hours to do that one. Then again, maybe I’d be more interested in returning to the Chief on a clear day and challenging myself to the other two peaks….


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