You don't have to go far to leave Greater Vancouver's bustle and hustle behind. Travel up the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) and into the steep and rugged Coast Mountains. Starting in picturesque Horseshoe Bay, site of a BC Ferries terminal, the road winds through mountain communities that started as logging, mining, ranching and farming outposts.
The route features towering rock faces that plunge to the sea and rivers cascading in bubbly plumes off a sheer cliff. The intense blue colours of Howe Sound clash with Brilliant white glacier ice and jagged black peaks against an azure sky. This site can mesmerize even the most seasoned traveler. During the summer the alpine meadows are freckled with red, yellow and purple wildflowers and surround tranquil turquoise lakes. No matter what time of year you go the forests, whether deep emerald or covered in fresh snow, will dazzle you.
The Sea to Sky Highway crosses paths with two historic routes, the Pemberton Trail and the Gold Rush Heritage Trail, which linked the coast with the interior in the days before the automobile. Today the communities of Britannia Beach, Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton have become welcoming havens for lovers of every manner of outdoor recreation whether on land, in water or air. This country is also rich in archaeological and historical lore. Salish First Nations have lived here for thousands of years, and prospectors streamed north from Lillooet for the Fraser River gold rush back in the 1850s.
As you drive the winding, scenic highway stop off and see The Royal Hudson, the only steam engine in mainline service in North America until 2002, at The West Coast Heritage Railway Park in Squamish. The surrounding mountains boast some of British Columbia's most scenic parks, hikes, rock climbing and mountain biking. Offering lush old growth forests and glimpses of bears and eagles, the area is a popular outdoors adventure destination.
Further up the highway is Whistler, the world-renowned ski and snowboard resort. Some runs are still open during the early summer months, but the alpine village itself stays vibrant and active all year round.
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Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia