The town of Squamish is named after the Squamish people, whose ancestors lived in the area for thousands of years before Europeans arrived in the early 1800s. Members of the Squamish Nation still live on local urban reserves. An influx of farmers settled the area in the 1880s, growing mostly potatoes, hops and hay. Copper mining and logging provided many of the region's jobs in the early 1900s. Squamish’s location between two of British Columbia’s most popular destinations, Vancouver and Whistler, has helped the town develop its own tourism industry.
Stawamus Chief Park contains one of Squamish’s top attractions, though not for the faint of heart. A 700-metre granite monolith, the Stawamus Chief has three steep trails that lead to spectacular views of the town, Howe Sound and nearby mountains. Located 3 kilometres southeast of the city limits, the park also attracts world-class rock climbers.
About 8 kilometres further south, Shannon Falls Provincial Park is home to an easily accessible 335-metre waterfall, another of Squamish’s top attractions. The 350-metre trail to the falls meanders through a Douglas fir and red cedar forest, along Shannon Creek.
A must-see for bird lovers, Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park lies 13 kilometres north of Shannon Falls. More than 3,000 bald eagles nest in the area every year. Eagle watching is one of the most popular things to do in Squamish between November and February, when the rivers are brimming with salmon. The best viewing is actually just east of the park at the Eagle Run viewing facility on the municipal dyke. Right next to Eagle Run, The Watershed Grill also offers an excellent vantage point, plus tasty burgers and fish tacos. The deck overlooks the Squamish River, a prime eagle feeding spot.
For a more low-key destination, visit the West Coast Railway Heritage Park, located 4 kilometres south of Eagle Run. With more than 20 historic rail cars, preserved buildings, tools and railroad memorabilia, the park brings to life a significant era in Canadian history. The collection includes a beautifully restored 1890 British Columbia business car and a 1905 Canadian Pacific Colonist sleeping car. Kids can take a short ride around the 5-hectare site on the park’s Mini-Rail.
To learn about more fun things to do in Squamish, stop in at the Squamish Adventure Centre, 4 kilometres southeast of the railway park. The multi-function facility includes a Visitor Information Centre, Galileo Coffee Shop and the Squamish Store.
Between activities, head 1 kilometre to the southwest for a healthy, hearty meal at Zephyr Café. Popular among locals for creative vegetarian and vegan dishes, the café also serves organic chicken burgers and strong coffee.
Less than 1 kilometres south of the Zephyr, Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company is a paradise for beer lovers. Serving more than a dozen craft brews, including new creations every season, the microbrewery has earned multiple honours at the annual North American Brewers Awards. The pub also serves an excellent version of beer’s perfect companion: pizza.