Snowshoeing Vancouver Area

Where to Go Snowshoeing in Squamish

Squamish is the outdoor recreation capital of Canada. So it’s no surprise that the outdoorsy fun continues in the winter… in the form of snowshoeing.  The terrain around Squamish is pretty rugged so access can be a challenge, but there are still a few great places go snowshoeing in Squamish.

In this guide to snowshoeing in Squamish, you’ll get info and directions for 9 different trails ranging from super flat beginner trails to all-day epics to deep backcountry wilderness.

Looking for other places to snowshoe in BC? Check out these posts about Vancouver-area snowshoe trails:

Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thanks -Taryn

But First… Be Prepared

  • Make a trip plan: While these trails may be steps from busy ski areas, they access serious wilderness. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. Use the great trip planning tools from Adventure Smart.
  • Check the weather, trail conditions, and avalanche forecast: If the weather and trail conditions don’t look good, don’t go. Check the avalanche forecast for the Sea to Sky zone. Unless you have taken an avalanche safety course, you probably shouldn’t go out unless the forecast is rated “Low” or “Moderate”. 
  • Wear winter clothing and pack the essentials: Prepare for emergencies by packing the 10 essentials. Read my recommendations for what to wear snowshoeing and tips for winter hiking and snowshoeing.
  • Use safe snowshoeing techniques: Snowshoes keep you from sinking into deep snow, but they aren’t great for walking sideways or downhill – it’s easy to slip and injure yourself. Read up on snowshoeing safety and check out my guide to choosing snowshoes.) They also have crampons and other traction aids underfoot to help grip icy snow.
  • Take an avalanche safety course: If you plan to stray from flat terrain, you need avalanche safety training. great FREE online beginner tutorial on Avalanche.ca. You should also take a 2.5 day AST1 course with avalanche Canada.

READ NEXT: Snowshoeing Safety: 14 Ways to Get into Trouble and How to Prevent Them

Where to Rent Snowshoes in Squamish

If you’re looking for advice on how to choose snowshoes, I’ve got a snowshoe buying guide for you. I like to wear MSR snowshoes which are better for steep and icy trails.

If you want to try snowshoeing before you buy, lots of places in Vancouver and Squamish rent snowshoes. Sunny weekends and holidays can be really busy for rentals, so try to reserve a pair ahead of time if possible.

Snowshoeing in Squamish Quick Reference Guide

TrailRatingTime NeededCostDogs
Panorama Trail, Sea to Sky Gondola
Super Easy45min-1 hour$59.95No
Wonderland Lake Loop, Sea to Sky Gondola
Super Easy30min-1 hour$59.95No
Shannon Basin Loop, Sea to Sky Gondola
Moderate3-4 hours$59.95No
Al’s Habrich Ridge, Sea to Sky Gondola
Moderate2-2.5 hours$59.95Yes, on leash*
Sky Pilot Valley, Sea to Sky Gondola
Moderate3-4 hours$59.95Yes, on leash*
Skyline Trail, Sea to Sky Gondola
Challenging8-10 hours$59.95Yes, on leash*
Red Heather/ Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi PPModerate/ Challenging4 hours- overnightFREE/$16-$21No
Garibaldi Lake/Taylor Meadows, Garibaldi PPChallenging7 hours- overnightFREE/$16No
Brandywine Falls, Brandywine PPSuper easy/Moderate30 min- 2 hoursFREEYes, on leash

*Dogs are allowed on these Sea to Sky Gondola trails but you can’t upload with your dog on the gondola. If you want to snowshoe with your dog on these trails you’ll have to hike up the Sea to Summit trail first.

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Snowshoeing at the Sea to Sky Gondola

Permits/Fees: Day tickets for the gondola are $56.95 on weekdays and $59.95 on weekends.. Once you get to the top there are no additional charges for snowshoeing.  

If you want to avoid paying for the gondola up, you can hike up the Sea to Summit Trail instead, carrying your snowshoes. (You can take the gondola down for only $15.)

However, in the winter the Sea to Summit Trail sometimes closes due to hazardous conditions and if it’s open, it can be icy and dangerous so you will need crampons and an ice axe. For more information on the Sea to Summit trail including trail closures and conditions, see the Sea to Sky Gondola website.

Dogs: Not permitted on the gondola so if you want to snowshoe with your dog you’ll have to hike up the Sea to Summit Trail first. Dogs are only permitted on the Al’s Habrich Ridge, Sky Pilot Valley and Skyline Trail and they must be on leash.

Driving Directions: Drive 50 min from Vancouver to Sea to Sky Gondola parking lot. If you’re coming from Squamish, it’s a 10-minute drive south of downtown. Note that BC law requires you to have winter tires to drive on highway 99 between October and April.

Parking: Free in the Sea to Sky gondola lot.

Transit Access: The Sea to Sky Gondola runs a shuttle service from Vancouver each day. It’s $89 for a combo shuttle and gondola pass, which isn’t a bad deal. The shuttle schedule only gives you about 4 hours at the gondola which is more than enough time to tackle the shorter trails, but isn’t long enough for the backcountry trails.

Panorama Trail, Sea to Sky Gondola

Snowshoeing at the Chief Viewing Platform on the Panorama Trail at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish.
The Chief Viewing Platform on the Panorama Trail. Photo Credit: Paul Bride for Sea to Sky Gondola

Distance: 1.6km loop

Time Needed: 45min- 1 hour

Elevation Gain: 100m

Rating: Super easy

The Trail: This is the Sea to Sky Gondola’s signature trail in both summer and winter. It’s a loop through gently rolling terrain that leads to some great viewpoints. The best one by far is the Chief viewing platform where you can look down to the Chief, the town of Squamish, the Squamish River valley and Howe Sound. Choose a sunny day for this one to really soak up the views.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: None.

Trail Map/Guide: The Sea to Sky gondola has a trail app you can download or just pick up a copy when you buy your tickets. You can also find more info about the Panorama trail and about snowshoeing at the gondola in general on their website.

Wonderland Lake Loop, Sea to Sky Gondola

Snowshoeing on the Wonderland Lake Loop at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish.
Snowshoeing on the Wonderland Lake Loop. Photo Credit: Tara O’Grady for Sea to Sky Gondola

Distance: 1.6km loop

Time Needed: 30min-1 hour

Elevation Gain: 35m

Rating: Super easy

The Trail: This short and easy loop provides a bit more of a wilderness experience (and sees far fewer tourists) than the Panorama trail. It loops around through rolling terrain and passes several viewpoints.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: None.

Trail Map/Guide: The Sea to Sky gondola has a trail app you can download or just pick up a copy when you buy your tickets. You can also find more info about the Wonderland Lake Loop and about snowshoeing at the gondola in general on their website.

Shannon Basin Loop, Sea to Sky Gondola

Snowshoeing on the Shannon Basin Loop at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish.
Snowshoeing on the Shannon Basin Loop. Photo Credit: Sea to Sky Gondola

Distance: 10km loop

Time Needed: 3-4 hours

Elevation Gain: 475m gain, 290m loss

Rating: Moderate

The Trail: This trail follows an old road on a meandering loop that descends to cross Shannon Creek on a bridge, then comes back up to the gondola on a portion of the Sea to Summit Trail. While it does gain over 400m, since it’s on an old roadbed, it’s never very steep.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: None.

Trail Map/Guide: The Sea to Sky gondola has a trail app you can download or just pick up a copy when you buy your tickets. You can also find more info about the Shannon Basin Trail and about snowshoeing at the gondola in general on their website.

Al’s Habrich Ridge, Sea to Sky Gondola

Snowshoeing on the Al's Habrich Ridge Trail at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish.
Snowshoeing on Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail on a foggy day.

Distance: 4km return (to the far end of the ridge)

Time Needed: 2-2.5 hours

Elevation Gain: 250m

Rating: Moderate

The Trail: This backcountry trail travels a few hundred meters on a road before heading off into the forest. It immediately crosses a creek (there is no bridge), then heads uphill through the trees. The trail emerges onto a ridge and follows the crest of the ridge past several great viewpoints. The official winter route stops at the far end of the ridge. Unlike the other snowshoeing trails at the Sea to Sky Gondola, this trail mostly avoids roads and tourist attractions so it feels like real wilderness.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: The initial stream crossing can be a bit awkward as the stream doesn’t ice over but the rocks you need to use to hop across are icy. The far bank of the stream is also very steep. Take off your snowshoes to cross the stream and use poles for balance.

Watch carefully for diamond markers in the trees – it can be easy to lose the trail Once on the ridge, stay on the top of the ridge: there is a lot of steep and dangerous terrain if you leave the marked route.

The official winter route stops at the far end of the ridge. The summer trail continues past here and climbs steeply through the trees. It is very difficult to follow and is not well marked. Unless you are an expert in backcountry winter navigation, turn around at the far end of the ridge.

Check the Sea to Sky avalanche forecast before you go.

Trail Map/Guide: The Sea to Sky gondola has a trail app you can download or just pick up a copy when you buy your tickets. You can also find more info about snowshoeing at the gondola in general on their website. There’s also information on the summer hiking route on Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail. Keep in mind that the winter route only covers the first half of the trail before turning around.

Sky Pilot Valley Trail, Sea to Sky Gondola

Snowshoeing on the Sky Pilot Valley Trail at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish.
Snowshoeing on the Sky Pilot Valley Trail with Sky Pilot Mountain in the distance.

Distance: 8km return

Time Needed: 3-4 hours

Elevation Gain: 380m

Rating: Moderate

The Trail: This trail is primarily used by experienced backcountry skiers and mountaineers accessing challenging terrain. But it does follow an old road in a beautiful valley so it is accessible for snowshoers just looking for a winter walk with great views of the surrounding mountains.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: Past the end of the marked trail the skiers/climbers route goes steeply uphill into avalanche terrain. The slopes above the road are steep enough to slide – use caution if the avalanche forecast is moderate or above. Please be prepared to share the trail with skiers and step aside to let them pass, especially when they are coming downhill. Don’t walk in the ski tracks – leave them intact for the skiers to use. Check the Sea to Sky avalanche forecast before you go.

Trail Map/Guide: The Sea to Sky gondola has a trail app you can download or just pick up a copy when you buy your tickets. You can also find more info about snowshoeing at the gondola in general on their website. There’s also information on the summer hiking route on the Skyline Pilot Valley Trail. Keep in mind that the winter route only covers the first three-quarters of the trail before turning around.

Skyline Trail, Sea to Sky Gondola

Snowshoeing on the Skyline Trail at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish.
Photo credit: donwhite84 Used under CC0.

Distance: 17km return

Time Needed: 8-10 hours

Elevation Gain: 380m

Rating: Challenging

The Trail: This trail follows an old road through the valley before climbing on to the shoulder of Goat Ridge where there are some views. It’s a long way to go in a day, but it is a good option if you’re looking for a challenging trip from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola. Be sure to stop at the end of the marked trail since route-finding past there will be very difficult and potentially dangerous in the winter.

Trail Map/Guide: The Sea to Sky gondola has a trail app you can download or just pick up a copy when you buy your tickets. You can also find more info about the the Skyline Trail and snowshoeing at the gondola in general on their website

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Other Places to Go Snowshoeing in Squamish

Red Heather/Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Provincial Park

Snowshoeing at Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Park near Squamish, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish.
Snowshoeing at Elfin Lakes in early winter. The lakes had just frozen over.

Note: The Elfin Lakes Hut is closed due to COVID-19. However, the camping areas at both Elfin Lakes and Red Heather are open and the Red Heather day use shelter is open.

Distance: 10km return to Red Heather, 22km to Elfin Lakes

Time Needed: 4-5 hours to Red Heather, 7-10 hours to Elfin Lakes. You can also spread out the trip across 2 days by camping near Red Heather Hut or Elfin Lakes hut or staying inside the Elfin Lakes hut.

Elevation Gain: 450m to Red Heather, +250m more to Elfin Lakes

Rating: Moderate to Red Heather, Challenging to Elfin Lakes

The Trail: The trail follows an old road for the first 5km to the Red Heather warming hut. Past there, the winter route is marked by reflective bamboo poles that lead another 6km along the undulations of Paul Ridge to the Elfin Lakes Hut. There are great views of the mountains from the ridge. Red Heather hut makes a great destination for shorter day trips.

Going all the way to Elfin Lakes and back is doable in a day but it is challenging. You can also snow camp overnight next to both Red Heather and Elfin Lakes huts, or you can reserve a bunk inside the Elfin Lakes Hut. (Currently closed due to COVID-19).

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: No avalanche danger or hazards below Red Heather hut.

After Red Heather hut the trail emerges above treeline on to the ridge. The winter route is placed to minimize avalanche exposure, but the trail does travel through avalanche terrain and on slopes that can slide.

Use caution in these areas and do not attempt this trail if the avalanche forecast is above moderate. Avalanche.ca rates this as simple terrain which can be travelled with the normal amount of caution in most conditions. Check the Sea to Sky avalanche forecast before you go.

Trail Map/Guide: There is a good trail guide on Outdoor Vancouver. You can also find more information on the BC Parks website.

Permits/Fees: No permits or fees are required for day trips on the trail in winter. If you want to camp or stay overnight in the Elfin Lakes hut you need to make a reservation and pay backcountry fees. (Note: Elfin Lakes Hut is closed due to COVID-19 but camping is open.) Elfin Lakes Hut is $15/night + $6 reservation fee. Camping is $10/night + $6 reservation fee.

Dogs: Not permitted in Garibaldi Park.

Getting There: Drive 2 hours from Vancouver to the trailhead. If you’re coming from Squamish, it’s a 45-minute drive. After passing Quest University in Squamish the road turns to gravel and it is not plowed often. You will need chains and possibly also 4-wheel drive (depending on the conditions) to get up this road in the winter. Cars without chains slip off the road every year and require very expensive tow trucks to get them out. 

The parking lot can fill up on winter weekends so carpool and be prepared to park in the pullouts further down the road and walk up. Don’t park on the shoulder as you will block the narrow road.

Garibaldi Lake/Taylor Meadows, Garibaldi Provincial Park

Snowshoeing to Garibaldi Lake near Squamish, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish.
Early winter at Garibaldi Lake before the lake froze over.

Distance: 18km return to Garibaldi Lake, 15km return to Taylor Meadows

Time Needed: 7-10 hours for either option. You can also snow camp at either Taylor Meadows or Garibaldi Lake campgrounds.

Elevation Gain: 900m to Garibaldi Lake, 950m to Taylor Meadows

Rating: Challenging/Difficult

The Trail: This snowshoe route follows the usual summer trail up the switchbacks to Garibaldi Lake or Taylor Meadows. At the 6km the trail forks: left for Taylor Meadows, right for Garibaldi Lake. The trail can be icy lower down and covered in deep snow higher up so you may need to pack both microspikes and snowshoes. It’s a long hike to either destination so be sure to give yourself plenty of time and pack a headlamp in case you end up coming down in the dark.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: The switchbacks up to the 6km junction are steep and can be icy. Bring microspikes just in case. Watch for open creek crossings and partially buried bridges. Later in the year Barrier Lake and Lesser Garibaldi Lake on the Garibaldi Lake route freeze over. You can take a shortcut by walking across the lakes. Use extreme caution if you decide to walk on the lakes. 

Avalanche.ca rates the trail as simple terrain which can be travelled with the normal amount of caution in most conditions. The terrain is rated challenging past Taylor Meadows. On your descent stay on trail and don’t follow skier descent trails into the Rubble Creek valley. The valley is prone to slides. A snowshoer drowned in Rubble Creek in 2008 after getting lost on the descent. Check the Sea to Sky avalanche forecast before you go.

Trail Map/Guide: You can also find more information on the BC Parks website.

Permits/Fees: No permits or fees are required for day trips on the trail in winter. If you want to camp overnight you need to make a reservation and pay backcountry fees. Camping is $10/night + $6 reservation fee.

Dogs: Not permitted in Garibaldi Park.

Getting There: Drive 1.5 hours from Vancouver to the trailhead. If you are coming from Squamish it’s only 30 minutes. Note that BC law requires you to have winter tires to drive on highway 99 between October and April.

As of winter 2020/21 the road to the trailhead and the parking lot will now be plowed regularly. However, it is still a mountain road so winter tires and chains are recommended in case the plow has not been through recently.

Brandywine Falls

Snowshoeing to Brandywine Falls in winter. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish.
Photo Credit: “Brandywine Falls” by That Guy Who’s Going Places on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Distance: 1km round trip to the falls, 6km round trip to the Bungee Bridge

Time Needed: 30 min round trip to Brandywine Falls, 2 hours round trip to the bungee bridge

Elevation Gain: 50m

Rating: Super easy to Brandywine Falls. Easy/Moderate to the Bungee Bridge

The Trail: The flat and easy trail to the Brandywine Falls viewing platform is a great option for snowshoeing near Whistler. If you want to extend your trip, you can snowshoe a portion of the Sea to Sky trail over to the Whistler Bungee Bridge. You can look down into the depths of the Cheakamus River canyon and maybe even watch people bungee jump.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: The trail crosses train tracks: use caution. There is no maintained trail down to the base of Brandywine Falls: there is an illegal route that uses a scary old rope to descend a cliff but it travels over slippery rocks and is very icy and dangerous in the winter.

Trail Map/Guide: You can find directions and a map on the Brandywine Falls Provincial Park website.

Permits/Fees: None.

Dogs: Permitted on leash.

Driving Directions: Drive 1.5 hours from Vancouver. It’s only 30 minutes from Squamish. Note that BC law requires you to have winter tires to drive on Highway 99 between October and April.

Getting There: The park gate is locked in the winter and unfortunately you are not allowed to park on the side of Highway 99. (Your car will get towed.) Unless you get dropped off and picked up, unfortunately the only way to do this snowshoe trip currently is to park at Whistler Bungee on the Cal-Cheak Forest Service Road and walk in from that direction. Whistler Bungee does plow the road but it is rough.

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How many of these snowshoe trails have you done? Which is your favourite? Have questions about snowshoeing in Squamsh? Hit me up in the comments.

READ NEXT:

More Snowshoeing Guides:

Advice for Snowshoeing and Winter Hiking:

More Squamish Posts:

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