Location: Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish
Distance: 4.2 km one-way; 8.4 round-trip
Trail type: Out-and-back
Elevation gain: 354 m
If this summer had a theme, it’d be “Sea to Sky”. Greg and I have spent a few weekends now, tracing the trails through the Pemberton Valley and Coast Mountains.
Al’s Habrich Trail has been on my radar for a while. I had attempted it with a friend last September, though we arrived atop the gondola a little late in the day. Unsure, and apprehensive about the 5-hour duration and “challenging” designation, we opted to stick to the trails skirting Summit Lodge. What a disappointment. You could push a shopping cart along these tourist-laden pathways. Chatting with the lift attendant on the way down, he admitted that the conservative signage is warranted because the site is promoted as a cruise ship excursion. Damn.
Al’s Habrich Trail
This half-day excursion begins with a scenic 10-12 minute gondola ride. Exiting the lodge, hikers walk past the “dog parking area”, down a hill, past some mechanical equipment and a water reservoir. At the junction, you’ll see signage for the trailhead.
The trail enters the woods and pretty immediately begins its ascent. The trail is well marked and rather maintained for one labeled as “backcountry”.
After 30 or so minutes, hikers arrive at the Marker 18 viewpoint. The terrain here is marked by smooth granite outcroppings, not unlike what you’d see on The Chief. Al’s Habrich Trail picks up again near a collection of stone cairns and leads hikers back into the deep woods. Tall trees damper out the sunlight, and cliffs, roots and fallen logs keep things interesting. The trail continues to push upward, finally depositing hikers onto Al’s Habrich Ridge. Take some time to admire the panoramic views of Howe Sound, Sky Pilot, and Summit Lodge below.
Neverland Loop extension
From the Ridge, hikes can opt to head back the way they came, or extend their hike along Neverland Loop. When taken counter-clockwise, this 2-km Loop follows a meandering stream. It then passes through a small boulder field, to a pair of waterfalls, and returns over a large, flat exposed rock face. Ropes are available to assist hikers navigate the steeper portions.
Neverland Loops is considerably more overgrown than Al’s Habrich, but this shouldn’t dissuade fair-weather hikers. This extension adds little more than 30 minutes to your hike.
I liked Al’s Habrich Trail. The route was challenging without being technical or overly strenuous. It wasn’t too busy and the views atop the Ridge were spectacular (even if low cloud cover obscured most of it!) The only real downside? Stomaching the $41.95 gondola ticket.