Shannon Falls was one of the tallest waterfalls in British Columbia at 335m tall (said to be the third tallest in the province behind Della Falls and Hunlen Falls) and certainly one of the highlights of the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler. Being that this was right off of the highway, it was also one of the more popular attractions as it not only had a pair of lookouts to take in this towering falls, but it also had a few “play” areas where people found calm spots on Shannon Creek to cool off. Julie and Tahia managed to take advantage of one of these spots, which gives you an idea of how people of all ages could enjoy this place. There was even a pretty sizable restroom facility as well as a welcome center, which further attested to the pretty high volume of visitation. The falls gets its best lighting in the afternoon (though that’s also the time when this place would be most crowded).
Since Shannon Falls Provincial Park was just south of the town of Squamish (the municipality center bearing the same name of the local indigenous Squamish First Nation people), we learned that the area was steeped in First Nations history as well as legends. One such legend stated that a two-headed sea serpent from the nearby Howe Sound was responsible for the creation of the falls by making several trips slithering up and down the mountainside. The resulting slithering action left the water channel upon which Shannon Creek made its dramatic tumble. Geologically speaking, the falls was a result of a receding glacier that left both the Howe Sound as well as a hanging valley high up above the U-shaped profile of the Squamish Valley. The waterfall got its name from the person who owned the falls and the surrounding area around 1890-1900.
Our visit was pretty much a breeze as we merely walked on a well-developed path leading past a big restroom facility fronted by several picnic tables before bending to the left past a welcome center and up a gently inclining paved path. Already, we could see the Shannon Falls from here, but the trail kept going alongside Shannon Creek just as the trail became more like a wide graded path. Some spots along the creek had quite a few people enjoying being in and around the creek while others were scrambling to get to the base of the falls quite a bit further from the trail. When the trail curved to the left then to the right, we encountered a junction joining up with the Sea to Sky Gondola path as well as a steeper trail leading up several steps flanked by tall trees, and the rightmost path leading to the busy main lookout. By this point, we had walked about a mere 300m from the closest parking lot (or 600m round trip).
After having our fill of this main lookout, I took some time to go up the steps as the trail climbed another 300m to a second lookout. This trail was well-shaded thanks to the canopy created by leaves and branches growing from tall trees flanking the pathway. At the upper lookout, I managed to get closer and more angled views of the Shannon Falls. I was even able to see a handful of people who made the scramble up from Shannon Creek to access the previously-unseen lower sections of the falls (due to foliage getting in the way of the lower views). The hike to get up to this point was about 600m from the nearest parking area or 1.2km round trip. Overall, we had spent about an hour away from the car though we could have easily taken less time than that since we loitered around and took our time enjoying the park.
From downtown Vancouver, we could head east on the Route 7A towards the Hwy 1 going north then west, or we could take Route 1A through Stanley Park and the Lion’s Gate Bridge eventually joining up with the Hwy 1 going west. We’d then drive on Hwy 1 through West Vancouver for about 11km before taking the Hwy 99 (Sea to Sky Highway) towards Whistler. After about 40km on Hwy 99, we would then turn right at the traffic light where there was an obvious Shannon Falls Provincial Park sign (you really can’t miss it). That said, if you reach the town of Squamish, then you went about 2km past the turnoff for the falls. Anyways, the spur road at the correct turnoff ultimately arrived at the limited parking lot nearest to the falls. This drive would take about between 45-60 minutes.
Since this spot can easily fill up (we got lucky scoring a spot at the main lot), we noticed many people park across the Hwy 99 at the Klahanie Campground. I can’t say whether the parking there is sanctioned or not, but judging from how many people walked across the Hwy 99 to access Shannon Falls, it would seem to be legit.
Going in the other direction from Whistler, Shannon Falls was about 62km south on Hwy 99 on the left (about 2km south of Squamish). This drive took us a little under an hour though I swore we spent a good 10 minutes opportunistically waiting to score one of the nearest parking spots.
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