This packed 5-day itinerary is perfect for travelers with a thirst for adventure who are on a time crunch. Beginning and ending in dynamic Vancouver, discover British Columbia's rugged beauty beyond the city as you follow the spectacular Sea-to-Sky Highway to the year-round outdoor destination of Whistler. Explore the village, see the colorfully graffitied boxcars of historic Train Wreck, and hike the Garibaldi Lake Trail for some of the province's most rewarding views.

Highlights

  • See First Nations totem poles and notable carvings at the Museum of Anthropology
  • Catch the sunset from Stanley Park's Siwash Rock and Third Beach
  • See snow-capped peaks, waterfalls, and canyons on the Sea-to-Sky Highway
  • Enjoy sweeping panoramas of the icy-blue waters of Garibaldi Lake on a full-day trek

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Vancouver Vancouver
Day 2 Vancouver to Squamish (1 hour) Squamish
Day 3 Squamish to Whistler (45 min) Whistler
Day 4 Explore Garibaldi Provincial Park Whistler
Day 5 Whistler to Vancouver, Depart (2 h 30 min)  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vancouver

Stanley Park, Deadman's Island, and downtown Vancouver
Stanley Park, Deadman's Island, and downtown Vancouver

Fringed by the Pacific Ocean and backed by the stunning Coastal Range, Vancouver is one of the world's most livable cities with some of North America's best cuisine, rich indigenous heritage, and outdoor venues that beckon the active traveler.

It only takes around 30 minutes to get from the airport to downtown via taxi or Skytrain ride. The city center and surrounding neighborhoods are easily walkable, and all the main attractions are a short distance away. To get your bearings, start with a stroll along the seawall from English Bay to False Creek before wandering the historical, cobbled streets of Gastown and Chinatown

With over 60 different cultures, there is a slew of international restaurants serving anything from Asian cuisine to seasonal farm-to-table dishes. For dinner, choose from a selection of top-notch eateries—from downtown and the West End to the North Shore and Kitsilano vicinity. Bear in mind, Vancouverites love eating out any day of the week so be sure to make a reservation if it's a popular restaurant.  

Day 2: Vancouver to Squamish (1 hour)

Town of Squamish, outdoor mecca for rock climbing, hiking, and water sports.
Town of Squamish, outdoor mecca for rock climbing, hiking, and water sports.

Enjoy the first section of the scenic 75-mile (120 km) Sea-to-Sky Highway to Squamish, passing through lush temperate rainforest with sweeping views of the ocean and nearby peaks. There are a number of great viewpoints, day hikes, and activities to enjoy along the way, so be sure to leave time to stop at whim without feeling too rushed.

Just before Squamish, take the Sea to Sky Gondola from seal level up 2,903 ft. (855 m) to Summit Lodge which has a viewing deck that overlooks Howe Sound and the surrounding peaks. From the lodge, there's a suspension bridge and suspended walkway where you can take photos or, instead, head out on a number of great hiking trails (both short and long).

Arriving in Squamish, this friendly town attracts outdoor enthusiasts year-round and has claimed the title of the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, tucked perfectly between Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains and surrounded by eight provincial parks. It's famous for rock climbing, rafting, windsurfing, as well as day hikes, biking, and scuba diving. For something a bit less adventurous, head out by paddle-board or kayak on Squamish Spit or simply enjoy the views of the iconic Stawamus Chief granite monolith which rises 2,300 ft. (700 m) above the town.

Later in the day, grab a beer from one of the local craft breweries or take a stroll on one of the nearby beaches lined with driftwood.

Driving time (Vancouver to Squamish): 1 hour (40 miles / 65 km)

Day 3: Squamish to Whistler (45 min)

Brandywine Falls Provincial Par
Brandywine Falls Provincial Par

Continue along the remaining stretch of the Sea-to-Sky Highway to the resort town of Whistler where you'll base yourself for another day of exploring the mountains and surrounding river valleys. Worthwhile stops to stretch your legs along the way include Alice Lake Provincial Park and Brandywine Falls (for many, prettier than Shannon Falls).

Driving time (Squamish to Whistler): 45 minutes (37 miles / 60 km)

Day 4: Explore Garibaldi Provincial Park

Icy blue Garibaldi Lake
Icy blue Garibaldi Lake

Grab an early breakfast at Mount Currie Coffee before taking to the trails south of Whistler for a full day of hiking in Garibaldi Provincial Park. En route, pull over to warm up the legs with an easy in-and-out trek through forest and over the rushing Cheakamus River to the historic Train Wreck site, a popular attraction of colorfully graffitied boxcars leftover from a 1956 derailed train (1.2 miles / 2 km).

Home to glaciers, wildflower meadows (late summer), and saw-tooth peaks, including the park's namesake mountain and impressive Black Tusk, Garibaldi Provincial Park offers a host of trails to choose from (most requiring at least a moderate level of fitness and expertise). From the Rubble Creek parking lot, pick up the Garibaldi Lake trail for an intermediate 11-mile (18-km) trek through thick forests of Douglas Firs, as you hike over an elevation of 2,690 feet (820 m). Stay awhile to soak up the view of the turquoise lake and glacier off in the distance before looping back. (Allow five to seven hours.)

Back in the village, indulge in a post-hike meal at Garibaldi Lift Co.—a popular spot with the locals and affectionately referred to as GLC—for a casual dinner of pub fare, draft beer, and live music that carries well into the night. Alternatively, grab a quick bite to eat and get cleaned up with a soothing mineral soak at Scandinave Spa and then make your way to elegant Araxi Restaurant & Oyster Bar, one of Whistler's long-running top restaurants.

Day 5: Whistler to Vancouver, Depart (2 h 30 min)

Downtown Vancouver with Stanley Park and Granville Island
Downtown Vancouver with Stanley Park and Granville Island

Sit down for a smoothie bowl and green drink from The Green Moustache and then load up the car and follow the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Vancouver and onwards to Vancouver International Airport (keeping in mind that you may hit some traffic passing through the city).

If you have time before your departure, stop at The Naam in Vancouver for lunch before making your way to the airport. If you're feeling indulgent, splurge on a seaplane harbor tour to take in the mountain-and-sea-dominated city from a new perspective. Alternatively, spend an hour walking (or biking) around Stanley Park's seawall to get some exercise before your flight. 

It usually takes 30-45 minutes to drive from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver International Airport. Best to arrive at least two hours prior to your international departure, and additional time if you need to drop off your rental car.

Driving time (Whistler to Vancouver International Airport): 2 hours, 30 minutes (80 miles / 130 km)

Map

Map of Sea-to-Sky Highway: Vancouver to Whistler - 5 Days
Map of Sea-to-Sky Highway: Vancouver to Whistler - 5 Days