Squamish is one of my top 3 climbing destinations in North America and my first love (Ten Sleep WY and the New River Gorge WV round out my list). It's located in a hobbit-land conifer forest, protected from the elements, where you can walk barefoot on moss, and where there's no poison oak, snakes, or frankly anything that can harm you. Camping is comfy and Squamish town is 2km away with every essential you'd need and more. Vancouver is an hour away, making for great rest days. And of course the climbing is world class.
Squamish climbing is concentrated at The Chief, a 2300ft granite cliff with a host of trad and mixed gear climbs. At its foot are hundreds of boulders with thousands of problems. The granite quality is superb.
I've got numerous videos from Squamish on YouTube.
The Chief. The main climbers' campground is The Chief Provincial Park. It's the place to hang and cook a hot meal after a long day's work among other climbers. There's 74 walk-in tent sites and 16 car camping sites nestled in the forest, making it much cooler and protected from weather. There's always multiple slacklines set up in the public area. It's also the start of the approach to many of The Chief routes and all of the Grand Wall boulders, so you can rise and walk without breaking camp. As of 2017, it's $10/person/night.
Other campgrounds. Recently, British Columbia parks have been adding numerous campgrounds with the goal of adding 1900 sites in upcoming years. The Mamquam River campground and Cheakamus Canyon campground just opened in 2017 and are currently free.
Dirtbagging it. You can camp at the end of the spit for free, but it's pretty exposed to weather.
Livin' it up. Airbnbs have become very popular. While comfy, many will argue you lose half the experience of Squamish not camping at The Chief. The company of other climbers, cooking up together after a long day recreating, and running into people you haven't seen in years is part of the charm.
The Brennan Recreation Center, aka the aquatic center, just 5km from The Chief, has showers for $5.50. It's actually the day admissions charge, so you can take advantage of the pool and jacuzzi. It's $2 admission from 6-6:30am and 9-9:30pm.
Cell coverage and WiFi
If you're coming from the US, check your cell provider for international plan add-ons. In 2017, T-Mobile charged $15/mo for an unlimited data add-on. T-Mobile has roaming agreements with both Rogers and Telus, the two largest carriers in Canada, and the Canadian carriers have impressively good coverage, even through backcountry! Getting a data SIM card from Canadian carriers directly was impressively expensive.
WiFi is pretty easy to come by. The Squamish Adventure (Visitor's) Center, 2km from The Chief, is designed for outdoor enthusiasts to sit down and work. There's floor-to-ceiling windows, large work tables, power outlets, free WiFi, and a cafe inside with great coffee and gelato, or espresso-covered gelato. Both breweries (below) also have free WiFi.
Howe Sound Brewery is the long-time hangout in downtown Squamish. It has great beer, seating for big groups, and a wide variety of brew pub food.
Backcountry Brewing in Squamish is a new addition that also has excellent beer, new brews every week, amazing oil-free wood-fired pizzas (really, like jalapeno bison), and $12-$15 growler fills. It's a bit smaller for seating large groups and has a more limited menu.
Squamish has exploded in popularity in recent years and so have the food options. Climber favorites are Essence of India, Sushi Shen, and Mags 99. Mags 99 is the odd sign declaring "fried chicken and mexican cantina", located in an old fast food joint, but it's actually a healthy, vegetarian-friendly restaurant serving photo-worthy creations like roasted squash and chorizo on kale salad topped with pumpkin seeds. Wait times are normally around 45min.
Part of the beauty of Squamish is its proximity to Vancouver and gorgeous outdoor recreation areas. Get out and explore!
Granville Island Public Market
Vancouver is less than an hour away and you'll seriously miss out on not making it to Granville Island's Public Market. It's the largest, most legit public market you'll ever experience. It's so great we made it there 3 times in 13 days for breakfast.
- Siegel's Bagels. Lox bagel on a rosemary rock salt bagel, stuffed Montreal smoked meat bagel, blueberry stuffed glazed bagel.
- Fresh pasta for your post-climbing dinner. Next to Siegel's is an Italian shop selling porcini-stuffed raviolis and butternut squash gnocci.
- Granville Island Tea company makes a killer spiced chai latte with fresh-ground ginger and cayenne.
Legit, huge public market with produce, coffee, crafts, meats, bagels, honey, fresh pasta, desserts...
Bike around Stanley Park
Rent a bike for $20/day and do a 19km bike around Stanley Park, or continue around Vancouver's continuous, dedicated 2-lane bike path along its waterfront. Why can't US cities be so smart with their planning?
Vancouver Brewery Tour
There's over 30 breweries in Vancouver proper alone and cool bars like the Storm Crow Tavern, a completely sci-fi themed pub, which has out of this world cheesecake. It's made fresh and flavor rotates daily--I couldn't believe how good it was.
Alice and Brohm Lakes
These two popular lakes are within 15 minutes of The Chief. Parking lots fill up fast for good reason! Brohm Lake still has a big rope swing!
If you've got a couple days, take a car-friendly ferry to Victoria Island. Butchart Gardens never disappoint and Goldstream Provincial Park is the best camping we've ever stayed at, with great hikes. See my guide to Victoria here.
Other Top North American Climbing Destinations
To top my list, climbing destinations need to:
- Have quantity of great rock quality and movement to justify a destination
- Have a beautiful crag setting. We climb in large part to escape the city and to enjoy the outdoors. There are definitely ugly crags.
- Have a comfy camping scene. 'Cuz we like glamping. Camping for days on end in harsh, exposed conditions, or where camping is scarce, isn't fun.
- Be close enough to essentials like showers and groceries.
- Bonus: Cool local town. You need rest days, and a place to chill and write blog posts is a big plus!
These locations fit the bill for everything. Check the these links for my climbing guides: