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Back side of Stawamus Chief 3rd summit from Slhaney trail

Trip Summary

April 8, 2013

Relatively unknown trail that ascends 3rd peak of Stawamus Chief from the north and avoids crowds on standard approach via Olesen Creek. Challenges are considerate, but scenery is better. Many possibilities for further exploration exist. Returning the same way is shortest option;  pleasant alternative is loop that descends gully  between 2 and 3 summit and links with Slhaney trail. Optional visit to Slhaney (a.k.a Stawamus Squaw) will require a full day and is not as scenic as main trail.

Heading north on Sea-to-Sky turn right on Mamquam Main FSR just before entering Squamish. Drive just under 2km and park on pullout at right side; if you see sign "2 up" you have gone too far. Trail heads into forest and soon start gaining elevation. Follow well defined footbed with occasional flags to base of steep cliffs, then turn right and continue towards the Chief. This section is rough and occasionally calls for use of hands. Within an hour trail emerges to saddle that offers fabulous viewpoint of Squamish valley -- well worth a break! Note nearby signed Olesen Creek junction in case of alternate loop return. Continue towards the Chief ignoring all side trails. Ascent is steep with crux halfway up - 1.5 m high angle slab. It might have rope and/or via ferrata iron bars; otherwise it is very stiff class 3. Final exit to the summit is steep climb up granite wall that might be intimidating to people not used to such places.

From the top either return the same way, or follow flagged trail to col between summits 2 and 3 then descend occasionally awkward gully to junction with Slhaney trail. Turn left, climb past Cirque of the Uncrackables then descend to Olesen junction and hike down where you came up. If continuing to Slhaney past Olesen junction, follow remnants of old deactivated forest road sometimes choked with alders. Flags are infrequent and with snow cover it might not be obvious where to go.  After about an hour from Olesen junction watch for flagged trail on left side. Hike up and reach old fire lookout in about 15-20 minutes.

If continuing to Slhaney, 2 alternate descents back to the parking are possible:

  • Near Slhaney summit is marked Valley trail junction . This is most direct but very steep and difficult trail that drops down cliffs directly on west side and suitable only for expert scramblers (rope might be necessary)
  • Link up with Stawamus and Indian FSR further west (orientation problems), then walk down to Mamquam FSR and back to your vehicle.



Valley trail at east side of Mamquam Main
Cliffs at base of Slhaney ~20 mins from trailhead; go right
Panoramic views of Squamish valley from saddle between Chief and Slhaney. Tantalus range behind
View of Slhaney from clearing on Chief north side
Technical crux: Stiff class 3 pull of 1.5 m high bluff
Stawamus at SpringtimeStawamus at SpringtimePicture-perfect seasonal tarn on Stawamus Chief 3rd summit. Lower reaches of Habrich ridge upper left Lovely tarn on third summit of Stawamus Chief. Habrich ridge left, Goat ridge right
"Cirque of the Uncrackables" along Slhaney trail
Remnants of old fire lookout structure on Slhaney



Overall Difficulty


Several stiff class 3 scramble steps up bluffs and polished granite. Routefinding. Awkward descent down gully between 2 and 3 peaks on alternate return

Snow Factor


Due to low elevation trail is snow-free most of the year. In early season possibility of deep snow that makes navigation awkward if continuing to Slhaney


Spectacular views of Squamish valley, Tantalus range, Co-pilot, Habrich and Goat ridges. Imposing granite walls


Good / Poor

Flagged trail with solid footbed. Most junctions are marked. Less defined for Slhaney

Suggested Time

5 hr

Loop return via Slhaney Trail, less if descending the same way. Add min 2 hours if continuing to Slhaney


Start: 35m     Max: 695m     Total: ~850m (1100m)

Round Trip: 8km (13km)


Full-hiking boots for ankle support and possible muddy spots. Poles essential for stability. GPS recommended


Olesen Creek and small streams. Seasonal pond / snow melt on top of Stawamus Chief. Carry 1-2L

Dog Friendly


Steep scramble up granite blocks not suitable for dogs