British Columbia’s Sea-to-Sky Highway

Highway 99 runs through British Columbia, from the sea to the sky. It begins in a coastal rain forest in Horseshoe Bay and ends in the mountains of Whistler. There are trailheads and scenic overlooks along the drive. Part of the road is carved out of the side of a cliff. Take the Sea-to-Sky Highway from the coast to the alpine meadows of Pemberton, and enjoy the views along the way.

Horseshoe Bay ferry slip

Horseshoe Bay ferry slip

Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay is a vibrant community that lies on Canada’s western shore. The waterfront is dotted with pubs, a marina, shops, and restaurants. The ferry terminal takes up a large portion of the waterfront; ferries can take passengers to the city of Nanaimo, Bowen Island, and the Sunshine Coast. Visitors can kayak in Horseshoe Bay or go whale watching. Charters can take prospective fishermen out to catch the night’s dinner.

Squamish

Smoke on the water in Squamish

Smoke on the water in Squamish

 

This small town began while the Pacific Great Eastern Railway was being constructed in the early 1900s. A significant connection between land and sea, this port town focused its industry on forestry. The town is also popular with adventure lovers. The Stawamus Chief is a cliff that is infamous among rock climbers, and the area is home to several other climbing routes. Shannon Falls, the third tallest waterfall in British Columbia, is a popular attraction.

Garibaldi Provincial Park

Travelers driving along Highway 99 will soon enter Garibaldi Provincial Park, which covers more than 700 square miles. This wilderness area has a diverse geography, with forests, lakes, meadows, mountains and glaciers. Most of the lakes are fed by glaciers and are icy cold, but a quick dip in the summer is exhilarating. Backcountry camping is a popular activity in the park. In the winter, downhill and cross-country skiers flock to the park.

Whistler Village

Whistler Village

Whistler

The Village of Whistler is usually the destination for drivers traveling up Highway 99. This resort town attracts skiers and snowboarders, golfers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. With a variety of places to stay ranging from luxurious hotels to lodge-style accommodations, Whistler is the perfect place to settle down for a long winter’s nap—or summer snooze.

Whistler Mountain Biking Mecca

Whistler Mountain Biking Mecca

You’ll definitely expend enough energy to have some restful nights in Whistler. During the winter, snow sports draw powder-lovers to the area. In the summer, golfing, ecotourism, and hiking are popular activities. The alpine forests in Whistler are spectacular, and the Peak 2 Peak Alpine Experience takes you on a gondola ride overlooking the impressive landscape.

Pemberton

This tiny village north of Whistler used to be reachable only by train. Now it can also be accessed via Highway 99. The quaint farming town supplies food to many of the cities along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, and it has been called “Spud Valley” for its infamous seed potatoes. The Pemberton Valley is completely surrounded by mountains, making it an ideal location for paragliding and hang gliding.

Pemberton Valley Inn

Pemberton Valley Inn

The small town looks like something out of an old Western. Its railway station stands quiet and serene against the backdrop of the mountains, and although the passengers don’t come pouring in, Pemberton is a great place for to visit if you’re looking for a little activity.

The distance covered by the Sea-to-Sky Highway was once primarily accessible by train. Once the highway was built, more people began to flock to the beautiful villages that surround Vancouver, such as Whistler. With plenty to offer in the way of outdoor activities, the towns, parks, and trails that lie along Highway 99 are a Mecca for sports enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking for adventure or just looking for a cozy hotel where you can settle in and enjoy the mountain views, you’ll find it along this scenic highway.

A writer from British Columbia, Devon Peterson also contributes content for whistlerhotels.org; a local guide to activities, Whistler Hotels, and unique Whistler lodging listings for condos and townhomes.

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