Squamish Running Routes

From flat and fast gravel and forest trails to vertical granite and technical trails, Squamish has it all! If you’re curious to find some new running routes in town, I thought I’d share some of my favourite routes.

The newer, upper section of Legacy Climb Trail at dusk.

Areas for running

A friend of mine was moving to Squamish, and she asked me: “Which neighbourhood would be the best for lunch runs?” My response was quite funny, basically “every neighbourhood”. It made me realize how lucky we are, every neighbourhood in town has running trails within sight!

If you’re new to town, here are some of the awesome spots to explore for running:

  • Valleycliffe / Crumpit Woods: multi-use trails connect right from Valleycliffe all the way to the Diamond Head trail system. You can also spend a ridiculous amount of time exploring the many secret gems around Chief, Slhanay, and the Sea to Sky Gondola FSR.
  • Downtown Squamish: downtown is close-by to the Chief and the Gondola, and there’s a glacial estuary at the end of Third Avenue. Soon, there will be an Oceanfront trail that follows the entire Howe Sound waterfront.
  • Dentville: there’s an awesome dike beside the Squamish River, accessible from Dentville. The dike also offers some fun little single-track trails off to the sides, which meander through the beautiful estuary.
  • Garibaldi Estates: Coho Park has a beautiful multi-use trail, that’s a perfect starting point to link up to Alice Lake, or the Diamond Head trails.
  • Garibaldi Highlands: access to one of the most popular trail areas in Squamish– the Diamond Head Mountain bike trails, which climb all the way to Garibaldi Provincial Park.
  • Tantalus / Skyridge: this is an access point to the beautiful Alice Lake Provincial Park trails, and Debecks, which offers up a ton of awesome vertical routes.
  • Brackendale: there’s the Brackendale dyke, the Ray Peters trail network with tons of cool little singletracks in the forest, and quiet country-feel roads with insane views.

You can see what I mean, right? Literally every neighbourhood has something special.

Routes

After indulging in thousands of kilometers since I moved to town, here are some of my favourite routes in Squamish and within a close driving distance!

Flat and flowy routes

I have a large list of faster trails for weekday runs, to maximize my lunch hour or pre-dinner trail time. These routes are also great spots for workouts. Some are completely flat, others are very flowy with gentle climbs. Here are some of my favourites!

Squamish River.
Route NameSurfaceTypeDistanceVertNotesRoute
Looking Glass & Ray PetersTrailLoop11.2 km206mNice forest loop!https://www.strava.com/routes/2829230513950333080
Riverside & CovenantTrail / DikeLoop12.5 km162mFollows the Squamish and Mamquam rivers!https://www.strava.com/routes/2825792130638523270
Alice LakeTrailLoop12.3 km268mBeautiful forest!https://www.strava.com/routes/2825789634901261120
WonderjacksTrailLoop9 km206mForest!https://www.strava.com/routes/2825790408192867384
Spit RoadGravel DikeOut & back13.1 km7mFlat and fast with views of Howe Sound! Best to avoid mid-day in summer as the road gets dusty if it’s busyhttps://www.strava.com/routes/2825793028486191160
FarthersideTrail / GravelLoop11.8 km375mAnother nice forest run!https://www.strava.com/routes/2825807950188430144
Paved Corridor Trail bike pathRoadOut & back12.2 km20mA bike path that’s separated from traffic, which will get lights soon for nighttime running! This path is great for workouts, and for stroller runninghttps://www.strava.com/routes/2825787451692733248

Super-hilly routes

Sometimes you want a more hikey run, or maybe you’re training for something with a lot of vert. Here are some of my go-to’s!

Squamish via ferrata
Route NameSurfaceTypeDistanceVertNotesRoute
Debecks TraverseTrailLoop8 km492mFun technical trails + views!https://www.strava.com/routes/2825796699906140038
Megacy ClimbTrailLoop16 km813mVery long runnable climb!https://www.strava.com/routes/2825806057115742264
Evac & Gondola FSRTrailLoop15.9 km984mSteep uphill (hiking grade) then an FSR descent. If you’re watching closely, you’ll notice optional singletrack trails off the side of the FSR.https://www.strava.com/routes/2829233808651217898
Chief 3 Peaks Via FerrataTrail / Rock SlabLoop8 km851mThis route involves ropes & rungs & slab, and is hard to follow. Good to have navigation tools with you! I would say, leave your pup at home for this one.https://www.strava.com/routes/2825803401519495046

Runnable long runs

Squamish is ideal for flowy long runs. These are part of my playlist of long runs…

Lower Word of Mouth Trail, which is a great connector for loops from the Highlands and Northside Connector.
Route NameSurfaceTypeDistanceVertNotesRoute
Northside Connector & Word of MouthTrail / GravelLoop19.5 km601mThis route has a bit of everything– a good chunk of trail, some rolling gravel FSR, and a couple kilometers of road at the end.https://www.strava.com/routes/2825795589294041990
Thompson Trail & Squamish LakesTrail / RoadLoop33 km951mVenture to lots of the great lakes in Squamish, including Alice, Cat, and Brohm. A few kilometers are on country roads to link everything in Brackendale and Paradise Valley Road.https://www.strava.com/routes/2825798831932410688
Paradise Valley Road to Starvation LakeCountry Road / GravelOut & back25.6 km254mBeautiful road that turns into gravel and then trail about 2 km from Starvation Lake. Great for workouts and marathon training runs, or just jumping in the lake in summer!https://www.strava.com/routes/2825797688075923264
Squamish Town LoopInterurban Trails / Gravel DikeLoop26.7 km176mA good quick loop for faster running, also great way to explore around Squamish!https://www.strava.com/routes/2825809689638663046
Lava Flow TrailsTrail / Gravel FSRLoop26 km745mThe Lava Flow trails are a cool place to witness the 15km stretch of ancient lava flow from Opal Cone!https://www.strava.com/routes/2829370839878769642
Sea to Sky Trail to WhistlerTrail / RoadPoint to Point46.8 km968mI wouldn’t do this route if you despise country roads, as Sea to Sky Trail starts with a long section through Brackendale and Paradise Valley Road. Be warned that there are 2 highway running stretches, but the trail section from Starvation Lake north is beautiful and worth it!https://www.strava.com/routes/2829371254746425978

Summer mountain runs

Once the snowpack melts in July, these are some of my favourite classic Coast Mountain runs within a 30-minute drive from Squamish. These are all must-do’s! Note that all of these routes take you to beautiful places outside of cell reception, so it’s a good idea to bring a SPOT or Inreach device. (The Singing Pass route is an exception, as it’s within Whistler resort.)

Shot by Mark Locki, running the Howe Sound Crest Trail with Tara in 2018.
Route NameSurfaceTypeDistanceVertNotesRoute
Elfin Lakes & Opal ConeTrailOut & back32.4 km1568mGaribaldi Park beyond Elfin Lake is incredible. Opal Cone is a cinder cone volcano, running there gives you an amazing view of the Garibaldi Neve.https://www.strava.com/routes/2825802502854965126
Elfin Lakes & Mamquam LakeTrailOut & back40.1 km1947mAnother gem past Elfin, this route takes you into amazing volcanic running.https://www.strava.com/routes/2825800950780859448
Howe Sound Crest TrailTrailPoint to Point25.8 km1824mMy favourite trail! Views of Howe Sound, amazing gnarly terrain, alpine lakes! You can make a shorter version of this classic by starting in Lions Bay, heading up the Brunswick trail, and joining HSCT for its second, downhill half.https://www.strava.com/routes/2829368741248794776
Capilano Mountain (Furry Creek)Trail / GravelOut & back24.1 km1730mThe route starts as a gravel FSR run and then eventually becomes nicer and nicer. Amazing views of the Sky Pilot mountains, and the whole Howe Sound Crest trail!https://www.strava.com/routes/2829408506091642662
Watersprite LakeTrailOut & back17.2 km708mThis trail has a nice runnable climbing grade! It gets very busy with hikers on weekends, I find it’s ideal to go on a weeknight. The lake at the end is incredible!https://www.strava.com/routes/2829407636192575098
Goat Ridge Point to PointTrail / Gravel FSRLoop19.1 km1517mGoat Ridge is an amazing large, wide ridge. It’s fun to make it a loop, by taking the super-steep trail up from Petgill Lake, and then descending the Disneyland bike trail into Britannia. To complete the loop, there are a few km on gravel FSR after Disneyland Trail to reach Britannia, and then 2.5km on the highway back to the start. If you prefer, avoid the highway running using a short car drop, leaving one in Britannia and one at Murrin Park!https://www.strava.com/routes/2829369595164180632
Garibaldi Park: Rubble Creek to Helm Creek with Garibaldi Lake & Panorama RidgeTrailPoint to Point27.9 km1782mOne of the most beautiful trails, ever. Run past cinder cone volcanoes, through meadows, and up above the best view of Garibaldi Lake!https://www.strava.com/routes/2829370134246567064
Singing Pass (Whistler)TrailLoop21 km1659mMost people finish their run at the Roundhouse Lodge and then download the gondola, which is free! The resort prefers this because in summer, the terrain below is part of the mountain bike park. This makes it an amazing uphill workout!https://www.strava.com/routes/2829370481132140522


Well, that should give you a few weeks’ worth of running… 😉

Happy trails!

Photo of Tara and I by the talented Hilary Matheson, shot in 2019 from the annual Halloween Squamish women’s run!

Tara and Alicia’s Howe Sound Crest Trail Women’s F^2KT (Fastest and Funnest Known Time)

As a competitive outdoorsy person, I’ve always been drawn to the idea of going for FKT’s (fastest known times). There’s something special and unique about it– something exciting, pure, and maybe more natural than traditional races. The experience is stripped down, with no markings, no support, no visible competition to push you. It’s just you and the trail, plus everything you brought with you, and your knowledge. Just a watch to time you against everyone else who preceded you, and some way to verify you did it.

I set the Hanes Valley Women’s FKT in 2016, (someone challenge it!) and at one point around the same time, I was secretly obsessed with the idea of going for the Wonderland Trail FKT. (It was dumb, I was super iron deficient at the time.) The style that interested me the most was doing it as a team with another runner. To me, this added an element of complexity, especially in longer routes. Most people will hit a low point at some stage during a hard effort, and the odds are that I would most likely have my low point at a different time than my friend’s– so double the low points! On the flipside, I thought that if I teamed up with the right person– and if we knew each other well, that we could communicate to get past those compromises, and ultimately have the awesome satisfaction of sharing the experience together, as well as the memories later. And if the day turned out to be terrible, at least you could laugh about it with someone for years to come. The idea of approaching a challenge as a team really appealed to me.

First Attempt

Enter Tara. For years, we’ve been running buds, and very similar in our strengths (downhill and technical!). It was obvious for years that we would eventually take on challenges together, but with traditional races often getting in the way, it hadn’t happened. Finally in September right after UTMB, Tara had the idea to see how fast we could run the Howe Sound Crest Trail.

It was a rhetorical question, obviously I would want to go for it together. It’s my favourite local trail, its net downhill profile and technical terrain played to our strengths, and the idea of getting the record would mean something. The HSCT was my first real trail run in 2013, and I was so over my head. I was dropped by the group several times, completely exhausted, barely able to hike up the final climbs. I was so horrendously bad at it, holding the group up all day, that I nearly decided that trail running was not the sport for me. This isn’t for me, I thought, back then. Thankfully I realized that I really enjoyed being in the mountains, regardless of my skill, and that it’s fun to have big challenges. Fast forward to today, and the idea of getting the FKT would signify something– progress, a reward for ‘believing’. Honestly, in 2013 I would have never believed it was possible, when I was alone at the back of the group, struggling. Next thing you know we had set a date, we would go for it on Thanksgiving weekend, whenever the weather looked best.

Right after Tara and I made plans, Sam Drove ran it super fast — when I saw her time– 4:37.56, I thought it was out of reach. But that made it even more fun, to have a real fast time as a target.

So, on October 6, Tara and I went out for our first attempt. Being cautious and not super confident, we went out at our own efficient pace, thinking we would focus on doing our best, but that Sam’s time would be hard to beat. We started slow, getting over five minutes off pace by St. Mark’s, but we figured we’d make up time on the technical sections, near the West Lion. Not so. Before long on the descent from Mt. Unnecessary, I slipped on black ice and super-manned into a rock, head-first. Thankfully my hip and thumb took 100% of the beating, and my head gently hit the rock… it was unbelievable. Needless to say, after that, I had adrenaline pumping, my confidence was wiped, and I couldn’t get into a regular flow on the technical sections. The black ice continued all the way until Harvey Pass, so that didn’t help my fearful state either. (Although, Tara didn’t seem as affected — she had to wait for me as I crab-walked and stalled on any steep parts!)

One of many countless insanely beautiful sections along the trail. Photo by Tara.

By the time we hit Hat Pass (just past the Brunswick Mountain turnoff), I knew we were way off pace, like 10-15 minutes. I didn’t mention anything to Tara, it’s not like that would be motivating at this point– with only about an hour to go, there wasn’t enough time left to make up that big of a gap. We weren’t expecting to beat Sam’s time when we started, and we were still super motivated to set our personal fastest time on the trail. The last sections from Deeks Lake to the bottom (one of our strengths) went well, and we finished in 4:51, happy with a sub-5 time, as we had both only ever run the trail at party paces of around 6-9 hours with friends.

War wounds from attempt #1. I was a liability, constantly falling or nearly falling. Photo by Julien.

Second Attempt

Our run boosted our confidence, and we realized that if we got the right conditions, we could maybe beat the record. We would need to have a great day, on an ice-free trail. But we live in Canada, and given it was already mid-October, we would have to wait until next August, we figured. I continued on with other plans, running Valley Vertikiller, and generally overdoing it.

By the end of Valley Vertikiller, I was ready for an off-season. I was craving snow sports, social activities that don’t revolve around running 24/7, writing, and drinking copious amounts of all my favourite hot drinks, in between cat cuddles. I started a two week “active rest” itinerary, which Julien doubted I could achieve. Man does he know me well. I was so dedicated to my “two week running break”, until day two, when Tara invited me to give the Howe Sound Crest Trail another shot on the coming Saturday. There was a sunny day in the forecast, and apparently the ice might have melted up high, she said. I stared at the text for less than a few seconds before impulsively caving. I was tired, but I wanted to push past it and get it done.

With “rest week” shot and killed, I started running a little bit to come out of hibernation, while Tara hammered out a crazy work week. My runs made me wonder if I was up for it. I was tired running what would usually be a slow pace, on a flat trail. How was I going to rebound for such a demanding challenge, by the next day? I didn’t want to tell Tara, but I confided to Julien how doubtful I felt, and he was so positive. He told me that it’s all in my head, that whatever I’m thinking is my reality. (Best husband ever.)

You can see the look of fear on my face. When you know it’s going to be a hard 4+ hours…

This being our second attempt, and very clearly going for it, I was way more nervous the second time around. Unlike the first time, I had told a couple friends about it, so it felt more legit. And also, knowing our time from last time, we knew it was within reach — but that it would be painfully close, most likely. Julien kindly shepherded us to the start, and we did a warmup in the parking lot of Cypress Mountain, just like it was a race. We squandered as much time as we could until we just had to get going. Julien walked us over to the start, took one of our only photos of the day (I look terrified), then we started our watches and away we went, into the forest, no turning back.

We knew that we had gone out too slow at the start last time, so we had to up the pace right from the get go, which sucked. That beginning section to St. Mark’s is tough, especially when you have a long way to go afterwards, and when you’re following Sam Drove’s bleeding pace. I was breathing hard from the start, both from the effort, and from the crazy race-like excitement.

As we neared St. Mark’s, I started to see that Tara looked much more fresh than me, and the negative self talk started in hard.

Look how much more fresh and fast she is, I told myself.

She didn’t race last weekend, you did. The voice added.

Plus she’s tiny.

You’re slowing Tara down, you should just let her go for the record, and just run slowly behind. Feel how tired you are. Feel how easy it would be to slip into an 8-hour HSCT pace… 

And on the thoughts went. Finally I caved and near the St. Mark’s summit, I told Tara to go on without me, that I was too tired to make it happen today, after a crazy fall.

Thankfully for me, Tara wouldn’t have any of this bullshit, and she tricked me into continuing. She insisted we go on together, and that if we needed to, we could bail out later, near the turnoff to Lions Bay. What she didn’t tell me then was that she knew that we were doing great, faster than last time, and that we would be happy on a downhill soon enough. I agreed to follow Tara as though she was setting her own pace for the record, and I just told her I’d try to hang.

She was right, I’m not sure what happened but we were getting to the West Lion much faster than last time, and I started to feel amazing. Luckily, there was barely any ice, and I found my normal rhythm. This time, Tara and I were totally in step, loving every minute and yelling out in joy more than a few times. As we passed through that section, I thought of my friend Mark and how he had come up there to take pictures last time. I air high-fived his spirit.

From a previous trip to this beautiful place, around the same time of year.

Right before the West Lion, we passed a guy on the trail and didn’t think too much of it, until he came riding our ass for a solid five minutes. We hadn’t seen anyone in a long time, and so it felt weird to have company, at exactly the same pace, right behind us. I wanted desperately to drop him, to free myself of the feeling of being chased, but I didn’t want to go any faster. So, I befriended him! Turns out his name is Clayton, and it was his first time running the trail. (He was fast!) As Tara led the pace in a militant fashion, Clayton and I talked about the beauty of the Grand Canyon in winter, and the Kneeknacker. We joked that he should join us for our “sub 4:40 goal”, but that if he fell and hurt himself, that he’d be on his own to call a chopper for help. (We were kidding, obviously we would help our new friend — or anyone — if they were hurt out there.) But still, any time I hit a slick patch and slipped, I would yell out to warn him behind me. I also joked that we would have no photo breaks or water stops — and he seemed totally into it. The three of us powered up and over the often-forgotten James Peak, and all the little bumps (that feel big) on the way from the West Lion to Harvey Pass– one of the longest sections on the trail. Tara set the pace, I put my hands on my knees and followed, and Clayton powered along behind me, even cheering us along as we went. I really enjoyed his company, and the way he mellowed things out a little bit. (Although Tara was concerned I was talking too much, I believe.)

From a previous HSCT adventure with Mike, Ryan and Julien in 2015, party pace.

Near Hat Pass, I started to realize we were ahead of the record pace, and that, if nothing went wrong, we could likely get it. From there, we had our favourite sections ahead, with a bunch of technical trail to Deeks Lake, and a huge net downhill to the parking lot. Still, it’s not over until it’s over, and even then, I wanted to run it as well as we could, to set the bar as high as we could for the next person. Tara let her militant hammer pace lapse for a moment at Deeks Lake, so it was finally my time to lead. The descent flew by in what felt like no time at all, and somewhere in there we lost Clayton behind us. That old logging road, the last 4k, is a deeply comforting site to me. It means you’re almost done, especially if you can remember your turnover and churn out some 4-5 minute K’s.

Julien turned up with about 2k to go, and he told us we were ahead of the record, which was nice to hear– I still wasn’t certain. He tried to make us go faster by creeping behind us, but by that point, we were in a flow state, in our own little world. And there it was, the yellow gate, it felt like it came sooner than I expected it to. Oh shit, it did, our time was 4:28.15! Two months ago, I would have never believed that I could run the trail in that time– I have Tara and Sam to thank for that! We took some obligatory ugly parking lot photos, and then headed straight back to Copper Coil in Squamish, puffy hands and all. Time for a beer! (And lunch!)

Post-adventure Whistler Chestnut celebratory beers … the best.

I love this trail, and if you live in (or are visiting) Coastal BC, you must go! (During summer!) I love doing this trail in every style. As a party pace, it’s fun to jump in the sparkling lakes, eat lunch at one of the many panoramic views, reconnect with old friends and make new friends. And as a tempo, it’s almost a playful feeling, to run the technical trail as fast as you can.

Random nerd / gear notes

  • Here’s a link to our strava file, for everyone to go out and chase! It’s awesome, there are mini segments within the whole trail.
  • Here’s a link to the Howe Sound Crest leaderboard on Strava
  • Here’s a link to a good description of the trail
  • For nutrition, I carried 2L of water with 800 calories of Carbopro, tons of Chime’s Ginger Chews (pre-opened! I find them so hard to open while running, especially when my hands are cold!), actual salt packages like the kinds you get at cafés, plus two Luna Bars as extra food in case.
  • For safety/mountain gear, in my bag I carried an arc’teryx norvan SL jacket, a merino wool longsleeve, a buff, fancy dollar store gloves, an emergency blanket, minimalist first aid kit, and we had 1 fully charged cell phone between us. We had told Julien our route, and the time we were expected to finish. If one of us got hurt, we certainly wouldn’t be comfortable, but we would have enough on us to make shelter and wait for help.