By Dave Helgeson
Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted with permission from the Northwest RVing Blog hosted by MHRV (Manufactured Housing and Recreational Vehicle) Show Association. For information, go to https://northwestrving.com/.
Are you one of many of the readers located in the Puget Sound Region? Are you longing for an RV road trip somewhere foreign with interesting stops along the route? Don’t want to bust your summer travel budget traveling far from home with high fuel prices? If so, then consider touring the Sea to Sky Highway just over the border in beautiful British Columbia. It’s close to home, but a world away!
The Scenic Hwy 99 in British Columbia Offers a Close RV Trip with Lots of Fun
The 100-mile section of highway 99 between Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, is known as the Sea to Sky Highway. It features awe-inspiring scenery, fun interesting stops, lots of activities and plenty of camping opportunities along the route. With Vancouver being less than 150 miles from Seattle, those calling the Seattle area home can travel to the end of the highway in Whistler and back home while traveling less than 500 miles. That’s just two or three tanks of fuel for most RVers.
Let’s explore some of the stops along the Sea to Sky Highway
Since the route starts in Vancouver, you will want to visit a few of the popular sites in the city before starting north toward Whistler. Stanley Park, the Historic Gas Light District, and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, are just a few to choose from. Tip for the budget minded RVer: The suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon is free and won’t be as busy as the nearby and more famous Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Leaving Vancouver, head north on the highway along beautiful Howe Sound to the first stop at Britannia Beach. Here on the shores of Howe Sound, British Columbia’s mining heritage is preserved at the Britannia Mine Museum, which is located at the Britannia Copper Mine. The mine operated from 1888 through the 1970s. In the boom days of the 1920s and 1930s, Britannia was the largest producer of copper ore in the entire British Empire. The dominant physical feature at Britannia Beach is the mine’s enormous concentrator building, which sprawls eight levels up the side of a cliff. The highlight for visitors is a journey underground. A mine train carries you into the mountainside where you’ll witness the mining methods used at the mine: drilling, blasting, mucking, sluicing and rock stabilization. Don’t be surprised if you experience a little Deja vu during your visit, as the site is a favorite filming location for television and major motion picture producers. Emerging from the mine, you receive a first-hand look inside the concentrator building, which has stood as a regional landmark for more than 80 years. During peak operations, this mammoth complex processed more than 7,000 tons of ore daily. Your tour will also include the assay office and assorted mine buildings. Near the end of your tour, try your luck at gold panning. There is plenty of parking for your RV.
The next stop on the course north is Shannon Falls. Shannon Falls Provincial Park is 7 miles up the highway from Britanna Beach. With over a half-million visitors annually, Shannon Falls is one of the most popular spots to stop along the entire Sea to Sky corridor. RV parking can be difficult on busy days, so arrive early. Located on the east side of the highway, extensive picnic grounds surround the base of B.C.’s third-highest waterfall at 1,105 feet. A boardwalk leads to a viewing platform near the base of the roaring falls. The falls foam and tumble over smooth sides of the granite walls ahead of you. In late summer, the falls do little more than veil the walls with water. During spring runoff, the falls give off a thunderous roar, the spray drenching those who stand too close. People who don’t mind getting wet can follow a rough trail that leads from the viewing platform to the base of the falls.
Sky High View
Just up the road (400 yards or so) you will come upon one of the newer attractions along the highway. The Sea to Sky Gondola offers visitors a ride up a mountain side to enjoy sweeping views 3,000 feet above Howe Sound. Once at the top, many other adventures await. You will have access to an array of outdoor experiences, including two interpretive loop trails, cantilevered viewing platforms, a spectacular 300 foot long suspension bridge, numerous hiking trails, access to backcountry trails, a lodge complete with restaurant and much more.
Back in the RV and continuing north, you will quickly encounter the huge chunk of rock called Stawamus Chief Mountain. Even if you don’t plan to hike, be sure to stop at the Stawamus Chief Mountain viewpoint on the highway in Squamish. An interpretive display will acquaint you with the mountain and some of the history of the region. Grab your binoculars and scan the crag for climbers high up on the sides of the Chief. If you possess climbing experience, bring your gear and join in the fun.
From Stawamus Chief, the road begins to ascend toward Whistler. Before reaching the village of Whistler you will come to the town of Garibaldi, gateway to the enormous Garibaldi Provincial Park. This is a worthwhile detour that can occupy an outdoor enthusiast for days.
Continuing north from Garibaldi you will soon come to the spectacular 216-foot Brandywine Falls located in the provincial park of the same name. The falls are best seen from the viewpoint, which also presents some marvelous views of nearby Daisy Lake and the surrounding mountains. In addition to the falls, the park provides opportunities for camping, hiking, picnicking and mountain biking. There is plenty of space to park an RV if you choose not to camp.
Next up is Whistler, the end of the Sea to Sky Highway. Plan to stay several days before starting your return trip home, or you may want to continue on to the north if time and budget allowance.
Much has been written about the things to see and do in Whistler. There’s a lot! If you just have a few days to spend, you will have to decide what interests you most as you won’t have time to do it all. However, deciding where to park the RV is easy, as the only RV park in town is the Riverside RV Resort and Campground. Whistler activities include year-round skiing, mountain biking, hiking, Gondolas, ATV rides and more. Bike trails lead directly from the RV park. You have your choice of paved trails that take you in and around the village or you can challenge yourself on the dirt mountain bike trails. The mountain bike trails are the same routes used by cross-country skiers in the winter and range from easy to advanced. After working up an appetite pedaling around the trails, ride into the village for an enjoyable meal at one of the numerous restaurants.
Extend Your Journey
If you are not ready to head home and enjoy waterfalls, continue heading north toward the town of Pemberton which will bring you to Nairn Falls Provincial Park and campground. It is a leisurely walk from the campground to view Nairn Falls. The campground offers 94 large gravel camping spots and day-use areas.
Enjoy RVing the Sea to Sky Highway. You too will agree it is close to home, but a world away, yet right here in the Pacific Northwest.
About the Author: Dave Helgeson, DaveH@northwestrving.com Dave Helgeson is the MHRV show director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.