Upper Shannon Falls - Squamish Hiking Trails
The wonderful Upper Shannon Falls trail is now also called the Sea to Summit trail, branches off from the chaotically popular Stawamus Chief trail. About 15 minutes along the Stawamus Chief trail you will see a well marked trail branch off to the right into the forest. This is the Upper Shannon Falls Trail and is remarkably unused. This is a wonderful fact though as hundreds hike the Chief on any given weekend day, though only a handful hike this trail.
The Upper Shannon Falls trail, the Stawamus Chief trail and Shannon Falls are all connected by trails. In order to see all three you should park in the Shannon Falls parking lot and hike up to the Shannon Falls viewpoint just a short 5 minute walk from the parking lot, then proceed from there to connect with the Stawamus Chief trail, about 15 minutes further up the trail.
Once you connect with the Stawamus Chief trail you will see clear signs directing you to either the Upper Shannon Falls trail, or to continue on the main trail to one or all of the Chiefs 1st Peak trail, 2nd Peak trail, 3rd Peak trail. If you plan on hiking both the Upper Shannon Falls trail and one or all of the Chief peaks, be prepared for an arduous day as the distance is not very much, but the continuous elevation gain will be hard. But as long as you are in for a good workout.. as many do.. Doing both the Chief and the Upper Shannon Falls trails in the same day is amazing!
The views are not quite as dramatic at the top of the Upper Shannon Falls trail and the distance a bit farther than the Chiefs first peak, but the views are still amazing. The hike through the forest is very beautiful as it winds through massive trees and over cute streams and at one point through a wonderful fissure in the mountain. If you are looking to get away from the crowds Upper Shannon Falls is the place.
The beginning of the Upper Shannon Falls hike greets you with the breathtaking 335 metre Shannon Falls. This crashing monster freezes you with spray as you pass close enough to feel its pounding force. Starting at the Shannon Falls trailhead is almost always the better option than starting at the nearby Stawamus Chief trailhead. The exception would be if you plan on camping at the large and well designed forest campsites at the start of the Stawamus Chief trailhead. The two trailheads, Shannon Falls and Stawamus Chief are quite close, only about 1.5k apart. The Stawamus Chief trailhead has the campsites (63 tent sites at $8/person, free in the winter) and the Shannon Falls trailhead has the washrooms and concession stand. Both have large parking lots.
The Upper Shannon Falls trail is generally easy and only 3.5k from the Shannon Falls trailhead to the end of the Upper Shannon Falls trail and plateau viewpoints. It is however constantly uphill as you do gain 450 metres in that short distance. There are a couple chain pulls along the trail (see picture below), though they are only added as a convenience and added safety precaution on a couple narrow parts of the trail.
The real attraction of the Upper Shannon Falls trail is actually not the upper falls, but rather the beautiful hilltop and rock outcrops at the end of the trail. They give you tremendous views all around. From Squamish to distant mountains to Howe Sound. There is a considerable forested area to explore and so large as to likely never bump into anyone if you plan on relaxing with a mountaintop picnic or glass of wine.
Upper Shannon Falls Directions
The Upper Shannon Falls trail extends from the Stawamus Chief trail so you can start at either trailhead/parking lot. The trailhead parking for both the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park and Shannon Falls Provincial Park are very well signed from Highway 99. From Cleveland Avenue and Highway 99 in Squamish(McDonalds is on this corner), drive south for about 2 minutes and watch for signs on your left. Both parking lots are are close to each other but the Shannon Falls trailhead is usually the better choice as you can see the beautiful Shannon Falls, then connect to the Chief trail partway up, then branch off to the Upper Shannon Falls trail from the Chief Trail. The trail is very well marked. You will likely take about 15 minutes on the Shannon Falls trail, then about 20 minutes from there hiking toward and connecting on the Chief trail before reaching the branching trail to the Upper Shannon Falls trail. If you are planning to camp overnight then the Chief trailhead is better to park as that is where the campsites are. Squamish has a thriving epidemic of drug addiction and owing to the close proximity of these two provincial parks to the downtown core means that there are frequent car breakins. Keep in mind when hiking these trails that if you leave valuables in plain sight in your car, when you return your window will be broken and everything gone.
If you take responsible precautions, however, you will never have this happen. Hide everything out of sight, and just as importantly, don't advertise you are hiding expensive things in your trunk after you park at the trailhead. Do it before you arrive.