In 2014 the Sea to Sky Gondola opened, allowing people to travel from basically sea level to over 800 m in the span of 10 minutes to enjoy some spectacular Squamish scenery. With the opening of the gondola, also came the opening of some new trails, and access to previously hard to reach trails. One such trail, which is poised to become popular – and one that draws a lot of comparisons to the Grouse Grind – is the Sea to Summit Trail.
The Sea to Summit Trail expands upon the already existing Upper Shannon Falls Trail, which is an offshoot of the popular Stawamus Chief hiking trail. The trail is steep, long and challenging. It provides a great workout, and also nice views along the way, including an up-close look at Upper Shannon Falls. Best of all, you can enjoy a beer at the summit lodge, and then buy a ticket to download on the gondola.
Near the top portion of the trail, you also have the option of diverting onto the Wrinkle Rock Trail – a shorter but slightly more difficult route to reach the top.
Sea to Summit Hike Summary
Distance: 8.9 km (one way)
Elevation Gain: 835 m
Highest Point: 885 m
Time Needed: 2 – 4 Hours
Type: Point to point
Dogs Allowed: Yes (but not up the gondola)
Est. Driving Time from Vancouver: 60 Minutes
Trailhead Coordinates (Shannon Falls Parking lot): N49.40319 W-123.09603
Note: The map and elevation chart below depict taking the Sea to Summit Trail to the Wrinkle Rock junction, and then taking Wrinkle Rock to the summit. This route is closer to 7 km.
Starting the hike at Shannon Falls
The Sea to Summit trail brings you from the base of the Sea to Sky Gondola to the Summit Lodge at the top. You can start at the Stawamus Chief parking lot, the Sea to Sky Gondola basecamp, or from Shannon Falls parking. When I did this trail, I started at Shannon Falls, because, a) its where I could find parking and, b) it is the most scenic way to start the hike while only adding a little bit of easy distance to the overall trip.
Starting from Shannon Falls, follow the signs for the Stawamus Chief on the trail leading away from the Shannon Falls viewing platform. Be sure to ignore the signs for the gondola as that will just take you to the basecamp – and follow the signs for the Sea to Summit trail. It’s a short, easy walk and before long you’ll cross over Oleson Creek to join up with the Chief Backside trail. If you go on a weekend, you’ll be joined here by a mass of people making their way up/down The Chief. Don’t worry, once you zig off this trail the crowd will thin out dramatically. From here you’ll notice the ‘Sea to Summit’ trail markers. Large green diamonds in the trees, starting at #1 and going up to #400 at the summit. The entire trail is very well marked and you can follow these markers the entire way.
Climb up the stairs and steep terrain, until, at about 280m elevation, you see a junction for Upper Shannon Falls trail. Follow the signs to the right, away from the crowd. The next stretch of trail is relatively easy as you work your way back towards Shannon Falls. You’ll come out under a clearing for the Sea to Sky Gondola itself. You can watch the gondolas zip by overhead and wave at the passengers. You’ll also get a great view of the The Spit in Squamish and if you look closely you can probably see kite surfers playing in the water.
From here its some more climbing and a short distance to Upper Shannon Falls. Enjoy the waterfall, and then carry back on up the trail. You’ll emerge from the dense trees to a few bluffs with more great views of Squamish below. Continue to follow the markers and you’ll reach a map at the junction for Shannon Basin Loop. The Basin Loop will also take you to the summit, but to stay on Sea to Summit stay left here.
It’s a short climb from the map until you reach another junction – this is at the Sea to Summit trail marker #332. Going left here will take you on the Wrinkle Rock Trail (description below). Going right will continue along the Upper Sea to Summit. The Sea to Summit Trail is slightly longer, but less challenging route to the summit lodge There’s only a few kilometers to go from here on relatively flat logging road. Once you’ve reached the summit lodge you can grab a beer and a bite before heading down on the gondola ($10). Or if you want to can return the way back down you came up (or via Wrinkle Rock or Shannon Basin Loop trails for a change of scenery).
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Wrinkle Rock Hike Summary
Stats are one-way from the junction with the Sea to Summit Trail.
Elevation Gain: 160 m
Distance: 0.8 km
Time Needed: 30 min to 1 hour
Season: April to October
Trailhead (Sea to Summit trail junction): N49.40087, W-123.08287
The Wrinkle Rock trail is an alternate route to the Summit Lodge instead of taking the Upper Sea to Summit trail. It is steeper and more technical, but it is also a shorter and more scenic route.
When you first split off from the Sea to Summit you are on a beautiful flat section of trail in the trees. You will once again pass underneath the gondolas before the trail begins to climb sharply upwards again. There are a few sections with chains to assist your climb. It’s a matter of simply following the markers to the summit.
If you want you can also do this hike as a loop from the summit lodge by connecting Wrinkle Rock with the Upper Sea to Summit for a total hike of 4.2 km. A similar loop could be created using the Shannon Basin Loop Trail.
The video at the top of this post was shot by my buddy Jeff and depicts our route as we went from Shannon Falls, to Sea to Summit, to Wrinkle Rock trails.
Directions and Parking
Directions: Take Highway #99 heading north past Horseshoe Bay towards Squamish. As you near Squamish, watch for the signs for Shannon Falls and the Sea to Sky Gondola (they’re hard to miss), and simply pull into the lot right off the highway. Google Map directions are here.
Parking: Since you are hiking up (and not taking the gondola) don’t park at the gondola basecamp as that lots is limited to 3 hours. There is long term parking at Darrell Bay (to the south across the highway from Shannon Falls) and Chances Casino (to the north), and a shuttle operates for these lots on weekends and holidays.
You can also park at the parking lot for the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, or at the parking lot for Shannon Falls (recommended if you can find a spot).
Editor's and Reader's Hike Rating
Variety of the terrain - 75
Views and scenery - 85
Not too crowded - 65
Overall 'fun factor' - 70
The Sea to Summit (and Wrinkle Rock) Trail provide a challenging workout, with rewarding views and scenery. The trail is fairly new so does not have a loyal following as of yet, but with the popularity of the Sea to Sky Gondola, this will surely become a busy summertime trail.
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