Yesterday we headed up the Sea to Sky Gondola with my brother. He’d caught the ferry over from Vancouver Island, so we picked him up at Horseshoe Bay and then ran down the highway toward Squamish. I’d been hoping for a sunny day to show him the views, but rain pattered our windshield as we followed the curves of the highway back and forth around the coast.
By the time we arrived at the Gondola, the rain had stopped but clouds still hung over the mountain. I grabbed a coffee while the girls played in the treehouse, and then we piled into a gondola. It swept us up the mountain and silence settled over the gondola as we flew above the rocks and treetops. Then the girls started chattering again.
We drifted through the clouds, catching the glimpses of the mountains below us, until arriving at the top. There, the girls caught sight of the new play area. They dashed down the hill and were soon happily digging in the sandbox.
My brother and I checked out the map, trying to find the kids’ trail that the receptionist at the bottom had mentioned to us. It looked like it was somewhere along the Panorama Trail, which is my favourite trail anyway.
With Jade in front, arms out like an airplane to keep her sisters from passing her, we headed down the trail. In the clouds, it was warmer than we expected and Lily tossed off both her windbreaker and her fleece jacket. I told my brother about our other visits up the Sea to Sky Gondola, last summer and at Christmas. Pearl was soon sleeping soundly in the Juno.
At the Chief Viewing Platform, all we could see was the fog. I tried to describe the wonderful views up and down the valley to my brother. Even with the fog, I took about a dozen pictures and teased my brother about not pulling his camera out at all. No selfie on the viewpoint for him. Then we sat on a bench and had our snacks—water, grapes, and granola bars. The girls began a game, jumping back and forth from the bench to another hump of rock. Finally, we cleaned up the snack, ended the game, and started along the trail again.
When we reached the sign for the Lookback Loop, the girls still had lots of energy so I suggested we check it out. Unlike the main trail, which is packed rock and several feet wide, the Lookback Loop is a narrow, dirt trail with rocks and roots. The girls had fun “trail finding” and both Sunshine and Lily kept trying to give Jade hints about where to step and which way to go.
At the Lookback Loop, sunshine broke through the crowds. We had a great view of the Summit Lodge and the gondolas going up and down the mountain.
Lookback Loop was about a ten-minute hike off the main trail and well worth it. There are a couple benches on the rocky viewing area, so if you’ve brought a picnic or snacks, it’s a good place to stop for that. Since we’d already had our snacks, we just took a quick look around and then headed back to the main trail. (The girls aren’t into watching mountains yet.)
A bit further down the trail, we found the exit for Alpine Alley, or the kids’ trail. We’d seen it on the way in, but it said “one way only,” so we kept walking, looking for the entrance. I stopped to look at our map, but it was unclear where the Alpine Alley started. So we did it backwards.
The girls loved it. There were logs to walk along, stepping logs to jump on, and animals to watch for among the trees. They banged a hammer to sound like a woodpecker, pulled a bear bucket up into a tree, and slid through a tunnel like a salamander. It was a scavenger hunt and obstacle course rolled into one and they had fun at every stop along the way.
We even saw a real grouse at the salamander pond—the only wildlife we saw all day, but it was pretty exciting.
Then we reached the main trail. Alpine Alley starts halfway between the Summit Lodge and the Panorama Trailhead. We’d walked right past it earlier in the girls’ excitement about the kids’ play area. However, they had so much fun on Alpine Alley that they wanted to do it again. So we grabbed a second map from the box at the trail head and did it again.
By the time we finished, we were all tired. Jade wanted a piggy back ride and Pearl had woken up and wanted out of the Juno. We returned to the kids’ play area, where I fed her while the girls cleaned up the little playhouse. Then we took my brother over the suspension bridge and caught the gondola back down again.
Visiting the Sea to Sky Gondola
Baby-friendly: You can take strollers (and wheelchairs) up the Sea to Sky Gondola and we saw a couple moms walking the trail at the top with kids in strollers. The main trail is packed gravel, so it’s several feet wide and flat. Other trails, like the Lookback Loop, are not accessible with strollers. I decided to take the Juno up the mountain, to give us more flexibility about where to hike, and I’d recommend a baby carrier rather than a stroller. There is a baby change table in the washrooms (located downstairs).
Kid-friendly: YES! The girls have always had lots of fun going up the gondola and hiking the trails there. (When I told Jade what our plan for the day was, she said, “Yay!”) This visit, the girls had even more fun with the sandbox and play house near the Summit Lodge and the kids’ activities along Alpine Alley. There’s also a kids’ corner inside the Summit Lodge.
Fees: the Sea to Sky Gondola is a bit pricey. A family of four costs about $100 to ride the Gondola up (kids under 5 are free). You can save a few dollars (and skip the ticket window lineup) by buying tickets online before going up there.
If you’re interested in this trail, or you’ve enjoyed it, you may also like these family-friendly hikes around greater Vancouver.
I have a Vancouver Tourism Media Pass and received two complimentary adult passes at the Sea to Sky Gondola; all opinions expressed are my own.