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A trail that meanders by the ocean

Nexen Beach trail expected to keep same route despite Oceanfront development

get to experience the sights, sounds and smells of Squamish as I hike this flat trail. The sights that keep me enthralled are snow-capped Mt. Murchison above the mouth of the Squamish River, the solid grey granite of the Stawamus Chief and the silver ribbon of Shannon Falls.

I also enjoy the milky glacial waters of Howe Sound and the huge brown trees at the log sort. In summer, colourful kites of the boarders and marvelous shapes of beached tree stumps add to this scenery. The sounds of flowing tidal water, abrupt toots of boom tugs, melodious whistles of passing trains, annoying buzz of Highway 99 traffic and frequent chirps and tweets of various birds all add to the soundscape. Smells come from the tidal shore, but mostly I enjoy the faint tang of salt air from our distant ocean. 

My walks will soon be disturbed by construction activity as the Oceanfront development finally gets under way. It will likely be possible to continue using the outer portions of the trail while avoiding construction areas. 

The good news is that the first part of the development will be a greatly improved community park in the area of the present slacklines. The final look will have more pristine trails along the shorelines on much the same routes as we have today.  

Dog walkers are among the most numerous users of this trail. They like walking their pets off-leash and the easy access to the sea. Hopefully, this will continue after the development is done; off-leash areas are few and far between in Squamish, according to the Rdogs group. 

Slacklines at various heights are located in the town park at the south beach area. 

The Carbon Engineering plant will remain in the area, where a UBC facility is also now planned.

The south end of the trail is Mile Zero of the Sea to Sky trail, which ends up north at Birkenhead Lake, west of D’Arcy.

Nexen Beach plays a big part in our annual Wind Festival in late july. This is co-sponsored by the sailboarders and the yachties. 

The beach is also a hub of the annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup every September of which our local organizer is Squamish Terminals. 

Last year, Nexen Beach became an access point for the Sea to Sky Marine Trail or “Ayelhkw Shewalh” in the language of the Squamish Nation. 

Parking is available at end of Galbraith Street and near the south beach. There’s lots to see and do on this trail.


Nexen Beach Trail

Nexen Beach trail is an easy, flat stroll around the southern tip of our downtown peninsula. Total length is 2.4 km. The Oceanfront Interpretive Trail is the eastern portion of this trail.  

Origin of name: Nexen Chemical Company and then FMC Corporation operated a chlor-alkali plant on this waterfront site from 1966 to 1986. The plant closed in 1991 and remediation was completed in 2004. The plant produced caustic soda and chlorine for the pulp and paper mills in Howe Sound. 

Trailhead: South end of Galbraith Street.  

Use: Multi-use, double track.

Difficulty: Easy. Green.  

Elevation: All at 1 to 2 metres above sea level. 

Etiquette: Keep trails clean. Pack garbage – including doggy bags – out!


Editor’s note: Jim Gracie from the Squamish Trails Society has begun writing this new trails column on a regular basis. A different trail will be featured each week. The society welcomes comments at