Tips For Driving The Sea To Sky Highway

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A route in British Columbia has earned a special name: the Sea to Sky Highway.

From the Howe Sound at the Pacific Ocean to the ski resorts of Whistler, this road takes you from an elevation of zero to over 2,000 feet.

Let’s dive in and look closer at the Sea to Sky Highway so you can safely drive it the next time you’re in British Columbia!

Where Is the Sea To Sky Highway?

The Sea to Sky Highway, otherwise known as Highway 99, runs from Vancouver to Pemberton in southwestern British Columbia.

Along the way, you’ll be treated to stunning views, ample outdoor activities, and adorable mountain towns.

A map that shows Vancouver and Pemberton circled in red with arrows pointing at highway 99, also known as the sea to sky highway.

How Long Is the Sea To Sky Highway?

Driving the entire Sea to Sky Highway will take about two hours. If you’re short on time, you can drive a portion of it to Whistler, which is about a one-and-a-half-hour drive.

No matter which option you choose, you’ll want plenty of time to stop and enjoy the sights. If you have the time, split up the trip and stay overnight, about halfway in Squamish.

The highway starts in the Horseshoe Bay neighborhood of West Vancouver and ends in Pemberton. The entire route is about 95 miles or 153 kilometers. 

Pro Tip: These are The Highest Rated RV Parks in Vancouver. Stay at one of these campgrounds before starting your drive on the Sea to Sky Highway!

Why Is It Called the Sea To Sky Highway?

With a name like Sea to Sky Highway, the road better live up to the hype! And it does.

Highway 99 starts at the Pacific Ocean west of Vancouver. As it travels north toward Whistler, it climbs in elevation. You’ll pass Round Mountain to the east and Cloudburst Mountain to the west.

The peaks get higher the closer you get to Whistler, with Whistler Mountain rising to almost 2,200 feet.

Continue for another twenty miles, and you’ll reach Pemberton. This is where the Sea to Sky Portion of the Highway ends, but Highway 99 continues to Lillooet.

A view of mountain peaks and forest on the sea to sky highway.

Is the Sea To Sky Highway Dangerous?

Like many roads labeled “dangerous,” the Sea to Sky Highway is usually fine for drivers who pay attention.

It might be challenging for people who only drive flat interstates because of the sharp turns and hills. But overall, as long as you pay attention to the speed limits and warning signs, you shouldn’t have any trouble traveling along Highway 99.

The road is mostly four lanes, so if you feel more comfortable traveling slower, you’re not holding up traffic. But be prepared for a few long stretches with a single lane in each direction.

One of the most important safety tips is to pay attention to the weather conditions before venturing out. Rain and snow can cause rock slides, and such weather can also create more dangerous road conditions.

A sign on the sea to sky highway that warns drivers about the steep winding road.

Tips For Driving the Sea To Sky Highway

Some people are nervous about driving the Sea to Sky Highway. Some spots have narrow lanes and tight turns, but overall, it’s not too bad of a drive.

Here are a few other tips for safe traveling along Highway 99 in British Columbia.

Drive It June-September During the Week

Although the Sea to Sky Highway is open all year, we suggest driving it during the summer. Winter tires are required from October 1st to March 31st, and there are places where it’s very narrow and winding.

We also recommend driving during the week to avoid traffic. You’ll have a much more enjoyable time with fewer people on the road. We drove it midweek in August and had a wonderful time.

The Tantalus Lookout sign with the mountains in the background.

Take Your Time And Go Slow

The views are stunning. But as mentioned, the road can be treacherous at times. Heavy fog, rain, and snow can affect driving conditions.

So take your time and go slow. Enjoy the drive itself instead of trying to get from Point A to Point B. We highly recommend spending the night somewhere along the highway.

We technically broke the drive up into two days, with a full five days in Whisliter in between. On our first day, we drove from Lillooet to Whistler. We then spent Rae’s birthday week there, splurging on activities such as a helicopter tour and an off-roading adventure.

We then drove from Whistler to Vancouver, using the pullouts to take in the views and make lunch.

Rae in a helicopter overlooking Whistler, BC.
On Rae’s birthday, we got to see the Sea to Sky Highway from the air!

Always Check Weather Conditions

We don’t advise driving the Sea to Sky Highway during or after heavy rain. You also want to avoid this route when it’s foggy.

Highway 99 is a road you want to have full visibility as you make tight turns, climb mountain passes, and go from four lanes to two. Of course, this is our comfort level when hauling the truck camper.

If you have experience driving in unfavorable conditions, by all means, feel free to tackle the Sea to Sky Highway in the colder months. We heard the skiing in Whistler is fantastic!

Fill Up With Fuel Before Driving

There aren’t many services along the Sea to Sky Highway. Squamish is your best place to stop along the way for fuel, food, and shopping.

So fill up your tank before leaving Vancouver. You’ll also want to keep snacks and drinks handy since there are few places to grab food. Of course, once you make it to Whistler or Pemberton, you’ll have plenty of options for food and fuel.

A view from the sea to sky highway showing the mountain terrain on the left and the stunning blue ocean water on the right.

Stop At the Interpretive Signs

Finally, the interpretive signs along Highway 99 are worth stopping for. You’ll see traditional cedar bark hat kiosks that display information about the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations.

You’re traveling through their ancestry territories, so it’s good to brush up on the history of the land and learn all you can.

Are There Places To Stop On the Sea To Sky Highway?

Whytecliff Park is a cool place to stop outside Vancouver. At low tide, you can hop from rock to rock out to an island just offshore.

If you’d like to stretch your legs and go for a hike, Lions Bay is an ideal stopover. You’ll find incredible views atop the summits here.

For history buffs, you may want to stop at the Britannia Mine Museum and take an underground mine tour. You even get to ride a mine train as you explore what life was like for a miner.

If you’re looking for a place to swim, Browning Lake in Murrin Provincial Park is a popular spot with a beach.

Other popular attractions include Shannon Falls (the third-highest waterfall in British Columbia), Mount Garibaldi/Garibaldi Lake, and Brandywine Falls.

We loved listening to the Sea to Sky audio tour by Guide Along. We learned so much as we enjoyed the drive from Whistler to Vancouver.

Pro Tip: Another one of our favorite drives in Canada is the Icefields Parkway. Here are The Best Stops Along the Icefields Parkway!

Browning Lake on beautiful August day. You can see it direct from the sea to sky highway.
You can’t miss Browning Lake when driving the Sea to Sky Highway

Is The Drive Along the Sea To Sky Highway Worth It?

The Sea to Sky Highway is another beautiful drive in Canada. The entire drive is breathtaking, from the ocean views over Howe Sound to peaceful mountain lakes to snow-capped mountain peaks to cascading waterfalls. It’s probably one of our favorite drives ever!

We highly suggest taking the time to complete this route – or at least part of it – whenever you’re in the Vancouver area.

Don’t stress about the drive itself. Just drive cautiously and pay attention to your surroundings. You don’t want to miss out on the incredible scenery by avoiding Highway 99 in British Columbia.

Have you ever made the drive along the Sea to Sky Highway?

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