The Cheakamus Canyon Trail, just outside Squamish, is a moderate out and back hike with awesome views of the Cheakamus River and surrounding mountains. The trail takes you passed Starvation Lake, through the canyon and above the glacial blue river. This is also a part of the Sea to Sky Trail.
This hike isn’t as popular as some of the other trails in the area and we were pleasantly surprised how quiet it was the morning that we completed it. This is the perfect day hike if you are looking for something easily accessible from Squamish, Whistler or Vancouver.
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Cheakamus Canyon Hike Overview
How to Get to the Cheakamus Canyon Hike
*Note: When you use Google Maps for directions it doesn’t actually take you to the trail head, it takes you to the adjacent spot on the Sea to Sky Highway. Follow our directions below to reach the actual start of the hike.
The trailhead for this hike is a 1 hour 10 minute drive from downtown Vancouver and only 20 minutes from Squamish town centre. From downtown Vancouver, head over the Lions Gate Bridge and then head west along the Trans-Canada Highway following signs for Whistler and Squamish.
Pass through Squamish and around 10 kilometres after Squamish you will turn left onto the Squamish Valley Road. Drive along this road until you pass Fergie’s Café (an amazing spot for some post-hike food on a sunny day), and shortly after this you will turn right on Paradise Valley Road.
Paradise Valley Road is an unsealed gravel road but it is well maintained up until you reach the parking lot for this hike. If you are in a 2-wheel drive car you can park in this parking lot and walk the rest of the way to the trailhead. There is a 4×4 track that will take you all the way to the trailhead, but it is much bumpier. We decided to park in the parking lot but we did see plenty of small hatchbacks and sedans that drove the 4×4 track, so it is possible.
At the end of the 4×4 track there is a free camp spot. It was full the weekend that we visited and we imagine it fills up early on a Friday afternoon for the weekend. Pass through the campsite to the end of the road where you will find several large boulders marking the start of the trail.
As we drove out from the parking lot after completing the hike we did see a coyote running down the middle of the road. This was only a few minutes’ drive from the parking lot so keep an eye out for wildlife when you drive along this road.
Cheakamus Canyon Trail
The trail begins right by the Cheakamus River but you immediately peel away from the river and begin to ascend up a rocky path. This trail levels out briefly through some trees but is a relatively steep incline for about 15 minutes until you reach the train tracks. We saw a couple of harmless Garter Snakes on this first section of the trail which was cool, so keep your eyes peeled.
Climb up over the rock wall onto the train tracks and the trail continues on the opposite side of the tracks. Then you will ascend for just under 10 minutes and you will reach Starvation Lake. This is a beautiful, isolated lake that is perfect for a swim. There is even a wooden dock at one end of the lake where you can lay out and catch some sun after having a swim in the lake.
When we passed this lake on the way home, right in the middle of a sunny weekend, there were a few groups here, but still very few people. If you have experienced the crowds at Alice Lake and Cat Lake you will appreciate how quiet this lake is.
Once you have passed the lake you make another steep ascent for around 5 – 10 minutes. As you follow the gravel path keep an eye out for an old creek bed on the left hand side of the trail. There is a really cool viewpoint just 10 metres off the main trail where you can get your first glimpse of the river from above. You also get an amazing view of the surrounding mountains and glaciers in Tantalus Provincial Park.
Continue along the trail which cuts in to the side of the mountain and eventually you will come to a really sketchy looking bridge made up of mesh wire and rebar, right above the train tracks. It looks really dangerous but it felt safe walking over the bridge.
As you cross over the bridge you get an awesome view of the train track winding through the canyon right beside the river.
While this first view is cool, you get an even better vantage point just a few minutes further up the trail. You climb up a short hill and come to a spot where you can look back and see the train tracks and river below with the Tantalus mountains in the background.
Follow the trail as it climbs briefly one last time and takes you over the crest of the hill. After a short walk along the path you will reach the main viewpoint on this trail. From this vantage point high above the canyon, you can see the train tracks cross the river on a large trestle bridge. It’s a beautiful viewpoint and a great place to stop, enjoy the scenery and have a quick snack.
This isn’t quite the end of the trail yet though, as it goes all the way to the Sea to Sky Highway. You can continue along the trail for around 15 minutes which has a very gradual incline. Shortly before reaching the highway the trail opens out from the trees and you get incredible views of the surrounding mountains. While you get good views of the mountains along the trail, it doesn’t really provide uninterrupted views until right at the end of the trail as you get above the ridgeline which blocks the view. The mountains around this area are stunning and it was cool to see them on such a clear day.
Once you have taken in the scenery you can make your way back down the trail along the same route you walked in on, stopping for a swim in Starvation Lake if it’s a hot day. It took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the end of the trail and 2 hours 30 minutes to complete the entire Cheakamus Canyon hike.
Check out these great places to stay in Squamish
While we are always big fans of camping when visiting Squamish, there are also plenty of cool places to stay for all budgets.
Budget: Squamish Adventure Inn Hostel – A great option for anyone on a tight budget. This hostel is a great place to meet fellow explorers and has an awesome outdoor garden and patio to enjoy the epic sunsets. A daily shuttle services nearby attractions in the summer and Whistler in the winter.
Mid-range: Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company – Is there any better place to stay than at a craft brewery? The Inn is in a fantastic location and has awesome rustic rooms. You can also hang out in the sauna or grab a massage after a full day hiking.
Luxury: Executive Suites Hotel and Resort – This hotel has an indoor and an outdoor pool, a gym, and best of all, a hot tub. There are few better places to relax in after spending your day in the mountains.
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The Cheakamus Canyon Trail is the perfect day hike for anyone looking for something in the areas around Squamish and Whistler. It offers unique views of the Cheakamus River and the railway which passes alongside it, as well as views of the Tantalus mountains on a clear day. We definitely recommend this hike if you are looking for something relatively easy with some cool views along the way.
Looking for more hikes around Squamish? Check out some of our other guides here: