Travel – Squamish
Shannon Falls & Stawamus Chief Trail
I’ve managed to figure out a decent SAHM schedule for Gregory and I that makes our weekdays fun to look forward to. But for some odd reason, weekends are now the dreaded days of the week.
I know, right?
Usually it’s Mondays that people hate. These last few months I have really hated the weekends. I just didn’t know what to do to fill our time. Weekends are supposed to be enjoyable. It’s relaxing time.
But when you’re a SAHM, you don’t get to relax. Heck, you don’t even get to sleep in one day a week. The one downside of being a stay-at-home-mom is that there are no weekends. There are no Saturday Sleep ins or break from our duties.
In fact, I think Bean likes to think he can get up slightly earlier than normal on the weekends. If I didn’t push him out of my body myself, I’d never think this kid was mine. Momma is not an early morning riser on any day of the week, not just the weekends.
This whole dreading the weekend was getting old, and fast. So I decided to partake in Sunday Funday and planned an exciting expedition for Gregory and Me. I was tired of having all-day-Saturday-morning cartoons. I was tired of having the house such a mess on Sunday because we pulled out all the toys and were still bored.
I wanted to have an experience, so Gregory and I went exploring Squamish, BC. Finding Shannon Falls and hiking up to the First Peak of Stawamus Chief Trail.
Squamish is a town along the Sea to Sky Highway, about an hour drive north of Vancouver. It’s very easy to get there, and the drive is very nice. I couldn’t determine if I was reminded of driving to Golden, Lake Louise, the Canyon, the Coquihalla, or to little old Parksville.
The greens were green, the ocean was stunning, the roads were winding… the drive itself was a pleasure. It was a real gift to view the scenery Mother Earth has offered us. To top it all off, it was super fun to see the local Native language written under the English name on signs that lined the side of the road. Representation at it’s finest. I love it.
Shannon Falls is just south of Squamish, you can’t miss the turn off; you get a random set of lights on that long highway you’ve been driving for the last 45. Turn right and find a parking spot. Gregory and I arrived before 10AM and the parking lot had lots of spaces.
However there was already a lot of cars parked, and many people were walking over from a camping ground across the street. When we drove home at 1:30PM the parking lot was full and one lucky driver who’d been circling the lot for who knows how long snatched up my spot right away.
The Squamish Nation are known as Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw in their local tongue. Like me, they are descendants of Coast Salish peoples that have lived on the land long before colonization by the white people. They have many stories to share, one I enjoy about Shannon Falls is of the two headed sea serpent.
This serpent is called Say-noth-ka and could travel on land in and water. Say-noth-ka lived in and around Howe Sound and they say it was he who slithered out of the ocean and twisted his way up the mountain. Inevitably carving the path for the water to spill from above after repeating the trip many times.
Pretty cool, huh? I love learning the stories that are slowly being lost to my culture. It makes me empowered to know that I am someone helping reverse the endangerment the First Nation peoples culture has suffered. Even if by learning a story in its most basic form. We are resilient.
How lucky are we that we get to live about an hours drive from the third highest waterfall in beautiful British Columbia? Pretty friggin’ lucky. Named after William Shannon who first settled the 210 Acres of land, the falls are 1099 ft from the top.
There is a large picnic area, so bring lunch and maybe a camping grill/BBQ for a party or day out with the fam. We passed the stinky outhouses just off the parking lot, but there are actual bathrooms with running water available. Also, a little snack shack with goods to purchase and information.
From the Shannnon Falls parking lot it takes about a 5 minute walk to the waterfall. Its an easy walk, even those in a wheel chair could access it. There are several places to get a look at the falls, though the upper falls area isn’t accessible to all, it has stairs to the top.
The first is crowded and busy. The main area has a nice cement platform, benches and you can enjoy the view as you walk up to it. Plenty of photo-ops. If you don’t mind a hike up some stairs, go the trail of stairs up to the upper falls viewing area and you’ll get a third vantage point, from which I was able to take a picture without another person in the shot.
Stawamus Cheif Trail
WARNING: Do not attempt this hike if you are not working out regularly. Otherwise you’ll struggle, and potentially give up. Feel the burn. Lurve the burn.
Stawamus Chief Trail, also referred to as “The Chief”, is a tri-peak hike with an elevation of 600 meters. About 11km round trip to the North peak, it can take you anywhere from 6-8+ hours to make it.
I was not about to take my son to the top because I feared we’d be there all day. I’m pretty stubborn and would have told myself to just keep going. Even if it was getting dark. Instead Gregory and I went to the top of South peak.
Backing up a bit, there are three ‘peaks’ on the chief. South, Center and North Peak. Also known as First, Second and Third peak. I know, a lot of variations for this place. Try to keep up with them all.
This is a map from Shannon Falls to first peak, clearly. If you zoom in a bit and backtrack from first peak, the blue trail we hiked also has a grey trail coming out of it. This is the junction where one must decide if you’re going to first peak or towards the second and third. It took us about 45 minutes to get to this junction from Shannon Falls.
First peak is an excellent hike that takes about 1.5-3 hours. 3 hours for the slow mover who takes lots of breaks. I was a medium paced mover, taking lots of breathers and gawking at the waterfalls and still managed to make it in about 2 hours. I know the map says 44 minutes, but it’s gonna take you 44 minutes to get to the junction I mentioned.
This hike is really nice, you get to hike up along the waterfall, so use the facilities before you head up. Or risk poppin’ a squat and being seen by a stranger. Hey, at least you will never see them again after they see your full moon!
The top is a rock face, lots of space to explore, lots of space if there are lots of other hikers around as well. Which is a big bonus because there was A LOT of people hiking this Sunday we went. Be prepared for many photo ops. I took one photo and got very little video footage of the because I was enjoying myself so much.
It is simply breathtaking. And thankfully the hike down won’t take your breath away as easily. It’ll still take about 30 minutes, and you’ll break a sweat in a matter of minutes. But trust me when I say the hike down will have you thinking you’d go back up no problem.
Or, at least, I would go back up no problem. Because I don’t remember the struggle, pain and burn of my muscles. I just remember the waterfalls, rock faces and beautiful forest around me.
Second & Third Peak
I’d like to tell you lots about these peaks, but I didn’t go to them. The second and third peak on Stawamus trail are not connected directly to the first. So, if you decided to get to the absolute top of the Chief, don’t turn to go up to first peak when you hit the junction.
You’ll have to turn around when you get to the peak, return to the junction and then continue back up… it’s a whole lot of extra work. But if you’re into that sort of thing, be my guest.
As I said before, about 45 minutes from the very start of the Stawamus Trail you’ll come up to a junction noted by a single post with a sign. Going left of the sign will take you to first peak, going right will take you to second and eventually third.
You can read more about the second and third peak here, or wait until I manage a hiking day where Gregory is at Grandma’s house so I can really tackle the Chief. Oh yes, I plan to make it to the top. I’ll manage somehow. I’ll even take more photos so I have my receipts.
I’ll be honest in saying I wasn’t sure I would make it all the way to first peak. I was taking a large leap of faith in myself as I haven’t actually gone backpacking with Gregory before. Yeah, that’s right folks. My first backpack experience with Gregory was up the Stawamus Chief.
I kept repeating to myself as I climbed up that I would be so proud of myself for making it. And I was. Making it to the top AND in decent time made me feel more capable than I have felt in many months.
The hike is no joke. The ourRADhouse vlog doesn’t do this hike any justice. Other hikers were passing by me and commented here and there. And while I am never one who is able to take a compliment easily, these comments weren’t making me feel uncomfortable or embarrassed like they normally do. I knew they were right, this hike was tough, and I was doing it. Albeit slow and steady, but that wins the race. Plus, a Little on my back, remember?
I already had my encouragement quote that got me through this ‘race’, as I have randomly dubbed it just now. In fact, it’s one of my favourite fitness quotes that remind me to keep going when I see a bunch of other people passing by me. When see one person pass us, it’s okay. But when you see 20..30..40 people pass you, and start to climb back down, there is a chance one may become discouraged.
I knew this would happen, I came prepared.
But as I said, other people were complimenting me as they seemingly skyrocketed past me. Hikers are so friendly, always with the thank-you’s and sorry’s and way-to-go’s when you strike up a random 2 word conversation before carrying on. Here were some of the things they said that I managed to remember.
“I remember when I was your age and had the stamina and determination to do that. Good for you!”
“Wow! Now that is a real workout. Good job.”
“Oh look, a baby made it to the top… and I don’t think I can make it. You’re strong.”
“Holy cow, you make it to the top? You’re amazing.”
“Way to go! I couldn’t imagine having to carry someone else up here.”
“You are doing so awesome!!”
These words of encouragement definitely helped me on my way, and I say a virtual thank-you, on top of my many thanks already given that day. That’s right, I have ALL THE THANKS TO GIVE today. If you are also into that sort of thing… you know, comradeship and reciprocate encouragement from fellow hikers, then this is a great trail for you. Really motivational, and if the peak views aren’t enough, remember that you get to see the Shannon Falls when you get to the bottom again. Oh yeah, what a wonderful hike.
I felt accomplished, all on my own, making it to the top. I knew I went into BEAST mode today, and I owned my right to say I rocked that peak. Bean in tow and all. Check out some video footage I managed to get of the hike and falls in this #ourRADhouse vlog.
So that was our Sunday Funday. Our first RAD Sunday Funday. I hope you enjoyed the ride along, and are motivated to road trip to Squamish and turn on your beast mode. Trust me, you’re going to feel awesome! And super sore if you don’t stretch out when you get home.
Try some yoga, it’s great because you are engaging your muscles while stretching them too. I did a yoga session and felt so good after. Actually I passed out not too long after because I could relax my overworked muscles. Check out Yoga with Adriene if you’re in need of a yoga video to guide you.
Optional: Read the fitview I wrote or just scroll to the video in the post and press play to get started. Let me know what you and your family do for Sunday Funday. I need more ideas, and sharing is caring. Squamish, Shannon Falls and the Chief… that’s what’s RAD in our house today.