Beginning of the main content.

Next tab will go to the map. Use this link to skip the station map.

Whistler and Squamish: Canada’s adventure playgrounds for families

By Jenn Smith Nelson

Read time: 5 minutes

When thinking of trips I can take with my active boys (read: high-energy), I lean toward destinations with family-friendly activities that are both fun and exciting, ones that up the adventure ante (i.e., burn off excess energy).

From rafting and rock-climbing to downhill mountain biking, hiking and more, Whistler and Squamish, B.C. aka Canada’s adventure playgrounds, are ideal for families fond of adventure. They are located only an hour apart, and perfect for those who have young ones with active aptitudes. Take note – you’ll want to add a few of these action-packed activities that me and my youngest son tried out recently, to your list.

Squamish: Soar from sea to sky

Located between Shannon Falls and the famed Stawamus Chief climbing area, visitors can soar 895m above steep rockface and towering pines via the Sea to Sky Gondola to take in sweeping views of Squamish and Howe Sound. Once on top, it’s easy to find a perfect perch to snap insta-drool worthy pictures from one of three viewing platforms. Be sure to amble across the 100m long Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge and then enjoy an interpretive walk or hike, such as the 1.6km Panorama Trail loop.

Scale a mountain

Safe and family-friendly Via Ferrata in Squamish is a go-to activity for junior thrill-seekers. Photo: Jenn Smith Nelson

I never imagined that I’d go mountain climbing with my 9-year-old. However, the Squamish Via Ferrata, operated by Mountain Skills Academy, makes this activity doable, even for families. Italian for “Iron Way,” Via Ferrata is a safe way to take in a vertical adventure. After hiking through a beautiful old-growth forest to the “Flight Deck,” we learned how to safely clip in and out from our harnesses onto a fixed cable system. From there, it was onward and upward; my son taking to it like a seasoned alpinist as we traversed a catwalk, scaled granite and took in a grand view of Howe Sound.

Get your splash on with river rafting

Family-friendly rafting along idyllic and stunning waters will make for a couple hours of pure fun. Photo: Jenn Smith Nelson

Rafting can be a daunting activity to some, whether you are 5 or 45. However, a great place to start is with the uber Family-Friendly Cheakamus Splash rafting tour with Canadian Outback Rafting. “For first time rafting, this is a good intro,” says guide Ben Claxton. “Plus, there are some rapids.” Surrounded by the beauty of B.C.’s Coast Mountains, we had a blast over the course of three hours learning how to row together while rolling over small rapids, atop glacier-fed, jewel-toned water. If you go, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like seals, herons and eagles!

Learn to rock climb

Mountain-climbing builds stamina and strength. What better place to introduce your kids to the sport than in Squamish, B.C. Photo: Jenn Smith nelson

If you have a kid like mine who likes to scale hallway walls, put their Spiderman antics to the test with a rock-climbing lesson! Squamish is home to some of the best single pitch routes and thanks to a belaying system, guides assist from below allowing climbers to set their own pace, within their own comfort zone. Try a 2.5-hour guided lesson at Smoke Bluffs Park with Mountain Skills Academy. They’ll fully outfit you and teach you skills such as tying figure-8 knots, and climbing techniques like finger or foot jams, and chimney climbs.

More high-rise adventure

If you haven’t had enough of heights, climbing or vertical challenges, try the Rope Runner Aerial Adventure Park. Using a clip in, clip out system, tackle up to 50 elements on a course that rises 17 meters high and 20 meters wide!

Whistler: Gain some speed going downhill

For an extra notch of exhilaration, try mountain biking. There are trails for all levels, from beginner to expert. Photo: Jenn Smith Nelson

Perhaps you prefer an activity where the object is to head back down the mountain? Taking a private guided 3-hour downhill mountain bike lesson at Whistler Bike Park was the highlight of our trip. Equal parts exhilarating and fun, we picked up the sport with ease. OK, to be completely honest, I was a bit nervous but shhhh, don’t tell my son who loved every second of the rush. With over 5,000 feet of trails, there are pathways to suit each skill level.

Peak 2 Peak

Your kids won’t soon forget the sense of awe that comes with the sights from a gondola trip across a Whistler valley. Photo: Jenn Smith Nelson

No visit to Whistler is complete without taking the Peak 2 Peak gondola from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain, gliding high above the ground and valley below. Before heading over, there are a few new attractions to check out. Spanning 130m, the Cloudraker Skybridge stretches above the Whistler Bowl, from Whistler Peak to the West Ridge. You’ll arrive at the Raven’s Eye Cliff Walk once atop the West Ridge, where you’ll find a cantilever walkway and viewing platform, featuring 360-degree views.

Explore the temperate rainforest

It doesn’t have to be Earth Day to hug a tree. In Whistler, it’s encouraged year-round. Photo: Jenn Smith Nelson

Learn about the coastal rainforest environment with a 1.5-hour Treetrek Tour with Ziptrek Ecotours Inc. The relaxed hike took us from the lichen-covered pathways of the forest floor to treetop canopies using boardwalks, trails, suspension bridges and lookouts. Kids will enjoy the opportunity to meet Big Doug, a Douglas Fir, which is estimated to be 750—800 years old and come face to face with massive Hemlocks with segmented bark that looks like bacon! Trust me; it will have them smelling the trees.

Magical nighttime adventures in the heart of forest

Light up the night with a walk along Cougar Mountain and experience Vallea Lumina. Photo: Jenn Smith Nelson

Seeing my son’s face come alive with the look of pure joy and wonder as we ambled illuminated nighttime pathways, was a moment I won’t soon forget. I can say wholeheartedly that we had never experienced anything quite like Vallea Lumina. Head into the enchanting old-growth forest of Cougar Mountain where you’ll be transported to a lively affair that will have you enthralled in a family-friendly story from the start. Trees come alive, light leads the way and sounds fill the air, as you weave your way through the trail to learn how it all ends. It is nothing short of a magical multimedia experience.

And here are some more gorgeous photos of the Squamish and Whistler regions…

Header image: Sea to Sky Gondola and the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge. Credit: Destination BC/Heath Moffatt

The link of this article was copied to your clipboard