Stawamus Chief Mountain. It’s there for the climbing.
It’s one gigantic rock. In fact it covers approximately 3 square kilometers. It was formed by molten magma solidifying approximately 100 million years ago. Over millions of years it was shaped by the ice during the ice ages that eroded the rock around it. The ice also scooped out Howe Sound which is actually a fjord.
Probably the first thing you will notice about the chief is the many different license plates on the many vehicles filling the parking lots. Over 50,000 visitors hike the mountain and 25,000 climb it each year. The climbers parking lot is located on the east side of Hwy. 99 at the junction with the Swawamus River Forest Road, just north of the Swawamus Chief viewpoint.
The Chief is a tiring, tough, return hike of 7 to 11 km, depending upon which of the 3 routes you choose to do. Everything about this hike is either up or down. Your legs will be sore for a long time after this one. For the first hike, park your vehicle in the lot beside Shannon Falls Provincial Park’s Logger’s Sports Area. Look for the orange markers nailed to a large cedar tree at the north end of the sports area. It takes 15 minutes to walk to the base of the Chief. Notice the smooth face of the rock. This has been shaped by glacial action.
Another approach is to drive to the base of the Chief at the interpretive center and viewing area on Hwy. 99 just north of Shannon falls. You should take the gravel road that leads up the embankment in the middle of the viewpoint. It will link up with the old highway that runs along the base. This is where you really find out just how awesome the chief really is. Now you will realize why it has been featured in countless magazine articles all over the world.
Be sure to visit the Information center to see the many interesting artifacts as well as the history of the Stawamus Chief Mountain.
To reach the trail-head, you turn south and follow the old road to the end. The hike from this point is two miles up to the summit and takes about 2 hours. If you are going to do the Center and North Summit route you should tack on another hour as it is 3.5 miles up. Both of these routes share the common beginning. They divide above Oleson Creek. The trail from Shannon Falls joins up at Oleson Creek as well. From the bottom to the top is 2,000 feet.
Up top you will see the polished surfaces as well as the striated surfaces created during the era when the entire area and rock was actually under thousands of feet of ice. As the ice moved it ground other rock into the surface.
Actually geologists believe that the Chief may be the root of an extinct volcano because no volcanic activity has taken place from 86 million years ago up until about 2-3 million years ago. Since the last ice age no volcanic action has been noted.
Here are a few more great whistler trails.
Blowdown Pass. A great day hike or a week or more. It's fantastic.
Joffre Lake. A tough 4 hour hike to a beautiful glacier and emerald green lakes.
Crater Rim Trail. Walk in an ancient volcanic crater.
Shadow Lake Trail. Only a few minutes from Whistler.
Cheakamus Lake Trail. Scenic walk to a beautiful lake.
Brandywine Falls. Gorgeous waterfall, lakes and river easy hike.
Elfin Lakes. One of the worlds most beautiful hiking areas.
Garibaldi Lake. Wonderful hike to breathtaking beauty.
Wedgemount Lake. This hike will get your heart thumping.
Black Tusk. Five smashing hikes for backpackers.
Brohm Lake Trail. You will feel your heart thumping on this one.
Singing Pass, moments from your Whistler accommodation. It's beautiful.