National Geographic called the Sea to Sky Highway one of the world’s most beautiful drives – and the new tourist treasure that’s the Sea to Sky Gondola just kicked it into fifth gear.
This mountain playground adventure works as a great Vancouver day trip or a way to break up the dramatic, forest-dense drive to Whistler’s stunning slopes.
I’m here to climb the mountain with you.
Let’s discover the gondola as I show you how to take a visit to the top.
- What to see
- How to get there
- Snowshoeing + tubing
- Rock Climbing
The Sea to Sky Gondola
It’s an Austrian style ski gondola located in the community of Squamish, approximately 60 kilometres north of Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway.
In just 10 minutes it’ll take you 885 meters (2905 feet) up the face of Mount Habrich from base camp.
Each gondola only holds only eight people but there are 20 cars so you won’t wait long.
The floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape; the turquoise waters of the Howe Sound Fjord below, and the Coast Mountains and their Stawamus Chief above.
Tip #1: don’t forget your camera.
What to See at Sea to Sky Gondola
Located adjacent to the short term parking area, base camp is where the gondola loading platform is located – this is a bit like a Swiss ski resort and the anticipation really builds here.
It’s here where you can purchase tickets, use the washroom, and of course board your gondola.
The Gondola Ride
Finally the fun begins.
After you board your custom Swiss-made 8 seater gondola, you’ll be whisked high above the lush coastal rainforest for a 10 minute trip up to the Summit Lodge, 885 meters or 2905 feet above.
During the trip you’ll catch your first glimpses of the glittering waters of Howe Sound, Shannon Falls and the famous Stawamus Chief climbing area through the floor-to-ceiling windows
Located at the top of the gondola, the 9000 sq ft. Summit Lodge is where you can relax, grab a drink or bite, and enjoy the world-class views.
The lodge is made of massive Douglas fir beams, a West-coast inspired structure with massive floor to ceiling windows to maximize views.
Summit Plaza Tours
Located behind the Summit Lodge, this small square serves as the starting point for a variety of trails and also includes a children’s playground and a family friendly picnic area.
It’s the meeting point for the free interpretive tours offered daily at 1:00 pm (April to November) or by appointment (December to March).
The 45 minute tours take place along the Spirit Trail and talk of the rich history of the local Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) First Nation.
You also learn about the ecology and wildlife of the Sea to Sky Corridor.
The interpretive tour provides a completely different context to the many sights you will encounter on the gondola trails and viewing decks.
You should definitely do it – hell, it’s included free with every ticket!
Summit Lodge Viewing Deck
The first of the three main viewing points, the Summit Lodge viewing deck just steps from the gondola unloading platform.
This is what you’re here for.
The 5000 sq ft. viewing deck paints a massive panorama of sea and sky. The southwest facing position has spectacular views of the beautiful Sky-Pilot and Co-pilot Mountain peaks.
They’ve also got a fully licensed bar and restaurant with featured events like live music, yoga and wine-pairing dinners.
Sea to Sky Gondola Suspension Bridge
The Sea to Sky Gondola’s Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge connects the Summit Lodge to the Spirit Viewing Platform and the extensive system of trails in behind it.
The best part is it’s included in your day pass.
With panoramic views of alpine peaks and valleys, the Stadium and Cheekeye Glaciers and Howe Sound, this crossing pays for the ticket in one swoop!
Fear of heights? Don’t worry.
Sky Pilot Bridge is much sturdier than Vancouver’s Capilano Suspension Bridge cousin owing to its shorter length and narrower construction.
The Spirit Viewing Platform
After crossing Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge you hit the Spirit Viewing Platform.
In addition to the same stunning views, the Spirit platform and trail offer interpretive displays teaching you about the surrounding wildlife, landscape and history.
You can learn about the importance of the natural environment to the Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) First Nation, who’ve lived in the area for time immemorial.
The Chief Overlook Viewing Platform
Perhaps the most spectacular of the viewing platforms is left for last!
The Chief Overlook Viewing Platform is designed to provide visitors with a bird’s eye view of the Stawamus Chief, a 700m high granite dome located adjacent to the town of Squamish.
Located 800 metres, or a 10-15 minute walk down the Panorama Trail from the Summit Lodge, the viewing platform juts dramatically out over the Cliffside.
The vertigo here is strong.
In addition to the Chief, you’ll receive stunning views of the Mamquam Valley, Mt. Atwell and ‘The Spit”, a popular windsurfing spot located near Squamish.
Sea to Sky Gondola Hours
All of the main attractions at the Sea to Sky Gondola are open year round except for a November maintenance closure – in 2021 from November 1st to 18th.
This includes the suspension bridge, viewing decks, and most dining options.
Gondolas run from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm (with the last download at 6:00pm)
Sea to Sky Gondola Prices
Day tickets include one round–trip on the Sea to Sky Gondola including access to Summit Lodge, the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, trails, and viewing decks.
- Adult: $60.26
- Senior (65+): $54.88
- Youth (13-18): $34.49
- Child (6-12): $20.42
- Child (0-5): free
Buying online is recommended especially on weekends as premiums are paid at ticket windows.
Our partner at Viator offers a lowest price guarantee and booking through them using the button below helps us cover server and labour costs for the work we’ve put in running this site.
* A special family rate of $125.95 is available in person only that includes 2 adults and 2 children/youth.
How to Get to the Sea to Sky Gondola
Address: 36800 HWY-99 at Squamish BC
The Sea to Sky Gondola is located in the town of Squamish approximately 60 kilometres North of Vancouver.
The trip typically takes about 40 minutes, depending on the traffic leaving downtown on the Lions Gate Bridge towards North Vancouver.
It’ll cost about $120.00 for a Vancouver taxi from downtown.
This presents you with two key questions:
- Where do I place the Sea to Sky Gondola in my Vancouver itinerary?
- How do I get to Squamish?
Many travellers choose to treat the Sea to Sky Gondola as a stand-alone day trip.
However, others prefer to stop in on the way to Whistler from Vancouver or as part of a tour package.
Many travellers heading to Whistler prefer to rent a car for the two hour journey.
Naturally, if you want comfort, convenience, and flexibility this is your shout.
The Sea to Sky Gondola is conveniently located just off from Vancouver and Whistler’s main transportation link, the Sea to Sky Highway.
Sound like a drive you wanna take?
If so, I’d say to stop in for 2-3 hours and then continue on to explore Whistler.
For detailed driving directions to the Sea to Sky Gondola from downtown Vancouver simply head to Google maps.
Sea to Sky Gondola parking consists of two lots: one short term (1-3 hours) at base camp and one long term (3+ hours) a 500 metre walk from camp at Darrell Bay.
This lot should be used by visitors who plan to do some back-country hiking, snowshoeing or skiing.
If you do choose to use the long term lot do not to walk along the highway. It can be dangerous. Simply follow the signs and take the Shannon Falls walking trail 500m towards the base camp.
Not in the mood to drive? The Squamish Connector offers round-trip shuttle service from Downtown Vancouver to Squamish.
The service is available as a stand alone ticket or as part of an all-inclusive package including a Sea to Sky Gondola day pass.
Shuttle + Gondola Prices:
- Adults (18+): $89.00
- Seniors (65+): $79.00
- Youth (6-18): $54.00
- Children (up to 5): $35.00
- One way: $35.00
- Round trip: $35.00
For more information visit the Sea to Sky Gondola’s Vancouver Shuttle page.
Transport via Packaged Tours
The final option is to visit the Sea to Sky Gondola as part of a package tour that includes other attractions along the Sea to Sky Corridor like:
- The Brittania Mine
- Shannon Falls
- The Stawamus Chief
Other packages combine the gondola with a variety of outdoor recreation activities like white water rafting, snowshoeing, or hiking.
This is our preferred option for travellers who don’t want to rent a car or are short on time.
Most packages offer you hotel pick up and drop off and a chance to embark on your journey with a group of like-minded travellers.
You can explore the options by click the button below:
Hiking at Sea to Sky Gondola
Before 2014 the high country and its stunning alpine vistas was only available to experienced hikers with Bear Grylls-like fitness levels.
But the gondola now provides visitors of all ages and abilities with access to a wide array of front-country and back-country trails.
I strongly recommended viewing the Sea to Sky trail system map before embarking on your adventure, particularly if you intend to visit the back-country.
There are two front-country trails which serve to connect the main points of interest in the Sea to Sky Gondola area.
Both trails are relatively level and lack steep climbs and descents. This makes them perfectly accessible to visitors of all ages and fitness levels.
Panorama Trail (Easy/1.6km)
Open year round, the Panorama trail is a long loop trail that meanders through the old-growth coastal rain forest to connect the Summit Lodge with the stunning Chief Overlook Viewing Platform, which is located halfway down the trail.
Viewpoints are dotted throughout wild Alaskan Blueberry bushes and granite outcrops which are interspersed throughout the trail.
Many come complete with handcrafted cedar benches, allowing for a quick break to admire the alpine vistas.
With an elevation grade of only 8-10%, visitors of all ages and fitness levels should be able to complete the trail in as little as an hour.
Spirit Trail (Easy/400 metres)
Also open year round, this short trail connects the Summit Lodge to the Spirit Viewing Platform while skipping the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge.
Billed as an interpretive trail, it aims to transport guests on a cultural journey through the history of the land and the local Squamish First Nation.
The trail terminates at the Spirit Viewing Deck providing visitors with stunning views of Howe Sound, Sky Pilot and Goat Ridge.
Since most back-country trails require way more time, it’s recommended to park in the long-term lot located 500m south of basecamp at Darrell Bay.
The inclusion of detailed information on these trails would take us well beyond the scope of this article.
Want to tear up the back country? Visit the Sea to Sky Gondola hiking page.
The Coast Mountains in the Sea to Sky Corridor are home to some of the highest levels of snow-fall anywhere in North America.
While Whistler tends to receive most of the hype, you shouldn’t sleep on the sheer wealth of winter opportunities provided by the Sea to Sky Gondola.
The area and surrounding trails are open year round – counting five machine groomed trails and a tubing park.
Try Out Snowshoeing
Guess what the world’s fastest growing outdoor Winter sport is.
It’s not skiing.
Snowshoeing allows you to be one with nature in the midst of a pristine alpine environment. And it’s also one of the best calorie burners out there.
The area’s variable terrain presents a wide cross-section of snow shoeing opportunities for visitors of all ages and experience.
There is no additional cost to go snowshoeing, as the activity is included in the price of your day pass.
However, for those who don’t happen to travel around with a set of snowshoes rentals are available on-site for an extra cost.
- Adults (19+): $20.00 per day
- Youth (13-18): $15.00 per day
- Children (6-12): $10.00 per day
- Poles: $5.00 per day
- Neoover boots (waterproof): $5.00 per day
Hit the Tubing Park
Looking for something a little more family friendly?
The Sea to Sky Gondola has its own Tubing Park. The park is located next to the Wonderland Lake Loop Trail, a short 5 minute walk from the Summit Lodge.
It costs just $5.00.
The entry fee includes a tube rental and unlimited access to the park during operating hours (closure at 4:30 pm).
*Note that all children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult and must be taller than 105 cm to ride.
To learn more head over to the Sea to Sky Gondola’s Tubing Park page.
Via Ferrata Rock Climbing Tours
Another thrilling way to take in the Squamish area’s scenic beauty is the Via Ferrata or “Iron Way” guided tour.
Offered by the Mountain Skills Academy, the exciting no-experience required adventure gives you the opportunity to ascend the legendary granite walls of the Sea to Sky corridor via a set of metal rungs and a specialized cable-system.
A guide will give encouragement (and assistance!) with some interesting facts and stories about the region throughout the tour.
How does it go down?
After a quick hike from Summit Lodge down to the starting point, the fun finally begins. You’re ready to strap yourself in and enjoy the jaw dropping views while you climb the granite rock-face.
Just don’t get too distracted.
Via Ferrata doesn’t require any rock climbing experience or an exceptional level of fitness, thus making it perfectly suitable for children 8+, families and experienced climbers alike.
The hour long tour starts and ends at the Summit Lodge, above the gondola platform.
For more information or to reserve your spot click the button below.
Sea to Sky Gondola Restaurants
The Basecamp Cafe
Located at sea level next to the Gondola loading platform, the Basecamp Cafe offers hot and cold beverages such as smoothies, soft drinks, water, specialty coffee, and tea.
If you’re hungry the small cafe has sandwiches and baked goods, which can be eaten on the outdoor patio.
The Summit Eatery/Edge Bar
Located at the Summit Lodge, the Summit Eatery/Edge Bar is a casual self service restaurant and bar that offers sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and salads – including gluten free options.
The Eatery is fully licensed with local beer, wine, and spirits. These can be enjoyed inside behind the floor to ceiling windows, or outside on the stunning the Summit Lodge Viewing Deck.
The Co-Pilot Cafe
Also located at the Summit Lodge, the Co-Pilot Café offers drinks, smoothies, specialty coffees and teas. You also have the option of casual food options such as baked goods, sandwiches and snacks.
Bodhi’s Plaza BBQ (Summit Plaza)
Located outside the Summit Lodge at the Summit Plaza, Bodhi’s Plaza is a family friendly picnic and bbq area that includes a kids playground.
You can choose from casual favourites such as smokies, burgers, fries and ice cream. And don’t worry, the parents can still enjoy a beer or a glass of wine.
Sea to Sky Gondola Visitor Tips
1) Purchase tickets online
I highly recommend purchasing your tickets online in advance for a little peace of mind and to secure the best rates.
2) Visit on a clear day
While the views are always stunning, to maximize your experience you’ll be better off visiting when there is little cloud cover.
Be sure to monitor weather conditions so you can plan your trip accordingly.
3) Pair your visit with a trip to Whistler
The Sea to Sky Gondola is located halfway between Vancouver and Whistler Village. Stopping in along the way is a perfect way to break up your trip. This way you can see two world-class attractions in one trip.
4) Visit outside of peak hours
The Sea to Sky Gondola is a very popular attraction. As a result, meaning it can become quite busy, especially on Summer weekends.
Consequently, you should try your best to visit earlier in the day or during the week if possible. This way you’ll be able to enjoy the peaceful tranquility of the Coast Mountains away from the tourist hordes.
5) Take advantage of the free tour
There are 30 minute complimentary interpretive tours offered everyday at 11:00am along the Spirit Trail. You’ll meet outside the Summit Plaza at the tour meeting sign beside the trail map.
Why not take the opportunity to learn about the rich history of the Squamish First Nation while you take in the views?
After all, it’s free!
*During the Winter months (December-March) the tours are offered by request only.
Where is the Sea to Sky Gondola?
The Sea to Sky Gondola is located 36800 Highway 99 in Squamish, BC, which is about a 40 minute drive from Downtown Vancouver.
What is the Sea to Sky Gondola?
The Sea to Sky Gondola is gondola that climbs 885 meters up Mount Habrich to a variety of viewing decks, a suspension bridge, a number of restaurants and a network of trails just outside of Squamish, British Columbia.
Once at the top visitors gain access to a number of viewing decks, hiking trails, a restaurant and a suspension bridge.
What time does the Sea to Sky Gondola run?
The Sea to Sky Gondola operates year round between 9:30 am and 5:00 pm with the last download at 6:00 pm.
The Sea to Sky Gondola is closed in November for annual maintenance.
How much does the Sea to Sky Gondola cost?
Discounted online tickets to the Sea to Sky Gondola cost $55.95 for adults, $50.95 for seniors, $32.95 for youths (13-18), $18.95 for children (6-12) and $121.95 for families (2 adults+2 children).
Children under 5 are free.
Buying at ticket windows can have up to a $4.00 surcharge depending on times.
How tall is the Sea to Sky Gondola?
The Sea to Sky Gondola climbs 885 metres (2905 feet) up Mount Habrich.
Let’s Elevate Even More
We’ve gone from sea to sky in this Sea to Sky Gondola guide but as always, I’ve probably missed something.
If you need any custom advice on visiting Vancouver don’t be afraid to ask me in the comment box below or via the Vancouver Planner Facebook page.
We’re always quick with a response, eh?