The summer solstice right now means that for the next while, we receive 16 hours or more of daylight every day. It’s incredible, really. This time of year feels like we get two days in every day of the week. Even if we work eight hours at a job, when we come home, we have about another eight hours to play outside.
It is so much daylight that we start to wonder: What exactly can I accomplish that will use up every drop of daylight in a single day?
During my first couple of summers in Squamish, I decided to make use of the light by doing long day hikes that would allow me to be in the mountains for as many hours as possible. Nowadays, the trend seems to be towards going fast and light to get into and out of the mountains again as quickly as possible, but I like to spend as much time there as I can. My goal is to wait until the last possible moment before I have to leave and descend back down the trail. I like to be present to witness how the passing of the sun and the shifts in the weather change these high places from one moment to the next.
I’ll recommend two hikes that are possible as day trips. If you start at sunrise on these hikes, you might only get back to your car as the sun is setting, even during the longest days of year this week.
Some might think you need to be an extreme athlete to attempt these, but when I first completed these day trips, I had only been hiking for about a year, weighed well over 200 lb. and was far from being as fit as I feel today. At varying levels of fitness you can accomplish a lot if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, hour after hour, and allowing yourself to be inspired to keep moving forward by the beauty of the places you are getting to visit.
To say this hike is popular would be a huge understatement. Chances are, if you are new to Squamish, one of the first hikes that was recommended to you by local people was Panorama Ridge. It’s a beautiful hike with beautiful views and an impressive distance and elevation gain for a day trip, but somehow it doesn’t feel as long or as hard as it appears on paper. It’s easy to understand its popularity.
The stats for this one are over 30 kilometres of hiking, car to car, and around 1,600 metres of uphill travel. I’d allow for a 12- to 13-hour day, with long stops to soak in the views along the way. You start at the Garibaldi Lake parking lot, hike through Taylor Meadows and then follow a good trail up to the Panorama Ridge viewpoint. Anyone looking out from Panorama Ridge will immediately understand why this area was protected as a provincial park.
The first time I attempted Panorama Ridge, I had never hiked a distance close to 30 kilometres, nor had I hiked over a mile upwards into the sky. I was intimidated. I told myself to just go as far as I felt I could and allowed myself the option of turning back if I began to feel I didn’t have enough juice in the tank for the trip back.
But after I broke out above the trees near Taylor Meadows, I could feel the fresh air fill my lungs. The sun was shining, the glades were filled with wildflowers of every colour, and kilometre after kilometre just seemed to pass below my feet. I reached the Panorama Ridge viewpoint tired but elated at the view. Photographs and words simply cannot do it justice.
The hike out is a plod. You’ll frequently wonder, “Am I there yet?” as you hike down the switchbacks in the trail, but with time, the soreness in your muscles will fade and all you will be left with is the sweet memories of the views.
If you haven’t already, then make this the summer you hike to Panorama Ridge.
This peak lies at the northern end of Tantalus Provincial Park and unlike other areas of this park, you don’t need to cross the Squamish River by boat to access it. Refer to the book Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia by Matt Gunn, which can be found in outdoors stores in Squamish, for directions to the trailhead and route information for this hike, Panorama Ridge and many others.
The route up Ossa is not straightforward. You start at the Sigurd Creek trailhead that also leads to viewpoints of Crooked Falls.
When I first decided to try this hike as a day trip, I knew it was going to be ambitious for me at that time. It’s a slightly shorter distance than Panorama Ridge, at around 29 kilometres car to car, but over 1,000 metres more in uphill travel, a total elevation gain of around 2600 metres for the day – or, to put it into perspective, hiking up the Stawamus Chief around five times in a row. I’d budget for having your boots on the trail for around 14 to 16 hours.
Once you’re on the route, the trail is reasonably easy to follow, but it’s steep for the most part. However, where the trail crosses slide paths, it can become overgrown and indistinct.
Along the way you will hop across a few creeks and at one particularly wide creek, there is a log bridge with a handline to make the crossing safer.
The sheer beauty of this route kept me motivated to push onwards. Once above the trees, I passed below blue glaciers above, a trio of alpine tarns, up onto a wide ridge with views of Garibaldi, Black Tusk and Mount Tantalus. Right before the summit there is some trickier scrambling on rock, but it’s not overly technical.
It was warm on the day I visited this summit, so I napped in the sun on the top for nearly an hour.
On the way down, I stopped at the trio of lakes and went for a swim, which refreshed me for the long hike out. It took me 15 hours to go from car to car, and even though my legs were sore and my feet tired, I felt amazing after that experience. I had gained confidence in my body’s capabilities.
These two hikes for the long daylight hours at this time of year are at either end of the spectrum for long hikes near Squamish. Try Panorama Ridge, and if you find it mellow, consider Ossa Mountain for something more challenging.
Whatever you do, get out there and enjoy these long days. They don’t last forever, so savour them while you can.