I believe much trouble would be saved if we opened our hearts more ~Chief Joseph
One of the best experiences and one of the best towns to visit would have to be Squamish, British Columbia. It is a little bit closer to Vancouver than Whistler but it still has the outdoor feel of Whistler. More importantly, if you like the great outdoors, it has the Stawamus Chief, called the Chief by locals. Stawamus is the reserve located near the Chief, home to the Squamish people. Squamish has many easier nature walks in the area as well.
The story behind the name comes from the rock face which looks like the profile of an aboriginal chief, or so people say. As you drive along the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver you can see the profile from the road. There are also several lookouts with some pretty breathtaking views along the way so be sure to take advantage of them.
The Chief is a great hike with 3 peaks to choose from and other side trails. It is about 11 km and is not a beginner hike but does have Shannon Falls for those who don’t feel like a challenge. The hike begins with stairs and later has chain ropes in some parts to help you get past the steeper rock areas. It is somewhat challenging but well worth it. The most popular is the first peak but if you bypass it and head straight to the second and third peaks you will see the first peak from there. What you will also get to experience is the view of Howe Sound from all 3 peaks. Chipmunks like keeping visitors company during the summer months as well.
A more recent development in Squamish is found next to the Chief. If hiking is not your thing, the Sea to Sky Gondola opened in 2014. Hiking the Sea to Sky Trail is also an option as is hiking down. We hiked up and realized that down wouldn’t be an option as it took us 4.5 hours one way. It is a fairly technical trail and still needs to be better developed but you will get a workout in for sure. Hopefully the more tourism it attracts the more it will be fixed up.
Once at the top there is a restaurant, gift shop and small suspension bridge. It is even dog friendly. There are little trails at the top too where you can explore the area. In the winter, those same trails become excellent little snowshoe trails.