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Squamish, British Columbia

Originally, Squamish was a destination for the Squohomish First Nations peoples of North Vancouver who travelled to the area for the fishing and hunting. Apparently, the idea caught on.

Today, Squamish is a community of over 16 thousand and the fishing and hunting are only two of the popular activities that attract people to the area. This, the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, is home to numerous sports. Whether snowmobiling on Brohm Ridge, backcountry skiing or river-rafting on the Elaho River or kite surfing at the mouth of the Squamish River, there's an activity here guaranteed to raise the heart rate. However, there are two activities that define Squamish the best: windsurfing and rock climbing.

The Coast Salish First Nations translation of the name Squamish means Mother of the Wind - a fitting name for this community on the upper reaches of the Howe Sound. Due to its geography, a daily wind kicks up just before noon and blows across the waters of the Sound until dusk, making this an obvious top destination for windsurfers. Yearly, experts and enthusiasts flock to the area called The Spit at the mouth of the Squamish River for the annual PRO-AM Sailboard Races. But it's not the Sound or its winds that put Squamish on the map. It's something entirely different and if you look way up, you won't be able to miss it. Meet the Stawamus Chief, the second largest freestanding granite monolith on the planet. Soaring over 700 meters above Squamish, The Chief (as it is respectfully referred to by locals) may be a place of spiritual significance to the local First Nations people but many visitors have also felt a little nearer their Maker while scaling the sheer faces and chimneys of this awe-inspiring formation. Since The Chief is at sea level, there is no alpine or ice climbing; however every other kind of climbing is possible here and on the nearby peaks of Murrin Park, Little Smoke Bluffs and the Malamute. Traditional climbing, sport climbing, aid climbing, bouldering... of course, if you really must ice-climb, Shannon Falls in nearby Shannon Falls Provincial Park freezes solid in the winter, to the delight of many a daredevil.

Don't rely on your inexperience or precautious nature as an excuse. The Chief has over 300 routes, many that are ideal for those lacking the experience to pull themselves up into peregrine falcon territory. In fact, Squamish has over 1,200 climbing routes in total. But if mountain climbing isn't you thing, a steep yet manageable hiking trail winds up the back of the dome. The ascent might not be quite as hair-raising but the view from the top is no less jaw-dropping. Even the hiking route has extremely steep and slippery sections that demand the use of bolted ladders. For a more family-friendly hiking experience, try Alice Lake Provincial Park, just 13 kilometers north. This lush, green forest shaded by Western Hemlock is home to the Four Lakes Interpretive Trail, a gorgeous route that connects Alice, Edith, Fawn and Stump Lakes. You won't find a better location for a canoe adventure, either.

But there's more to Squamish than roaring across the Sound on a sailboard or playing Spiderman on a massive chunk of granite.

Squamish is somewhat of a mountain-biker Mecca, bragging over 600 forested trails. Diehards can test their mettle during the aptly-named Test of Metal, a 67 kilometer race that attracts well over 800 riders every June from all over the mountain biking world. Golfing, although less rigorous, is no less popular in the area, with clubs that boast amazing views as well as expertly-designed courses. The semi-private championship course at the Squamish Valley Golf and Country Club has impressively-maintained greens and stunning mountain vistas while the Garibaldi Springs Golf Resort is equally impressive. Only a short drive away in the internationally-acclaimed alpine resort town of Whistler, several other amazing courses await; Whistler Golf Club, Nicklaus North Golf Course, Chateau Whistler Golf Club, Furry Creek Golf Club, Big Sky Golf and Country Club...

More into trains than tee-times? Railway enthusiasts will enjoy the West Coast Railway Heritage Park, an outdoor museum experience that showcases over 50 vintage rail cars and locomotives. Clamber aboard snowplows and cabooses: see a restored nineteenth century railway business car and even the last surviving Pacific Great Western steam engine.

If birdies trump choo-choos for your inner child's attention, the Squamish Estuary is home to over 200 species but avian addicts will get their biggest kicks during the Eagle Festival, a January event that has been organized around the thousands of bald eagles that congregate on the pebbly shores of the Squamish, Mamquam and Cheakamus Rivers to gorge on the eggs and carcasses of spawned-out salmon.

From bird watching to bouldering, Squamish is the BC outdoors at its finest!