Sky Pilot – Hiking at the Top of the Gondola
Photo By Paul Bride
With stunning views of Mount Habrich, the jagged peak of Sky Pilot Mountain, and Howe Sound, hiking to the top of gondola draws many people to it every year. While the classic panorama is breathtaking and worth a ride up to summit lodge in its own right, it is just the start. For adventurous, backcountry hikers and climbers rom the summit, Sky Pilot Valley Trail allows you to explore the distant mountain peaks.
Sky Pilot Valley Trail
The first 20 to 25 minutes of the Sky Pilot Valley Trail is relatively flat, smooth, and wide. This part of the hike is therefore an easy and tranquil walk through the forest. Many people choose to mountain bike along the first section of the trail to save time. They take advantage of the slope for an easy ride back down.
From there, the trail becomes more difficult and narrow – though never technical or too steep. When mountain biking becomes to difficult, many people chain their bikes to a tree and continue by foot. The smooth section of the trail now gives way to a pebble and rock strewn path, making good hiking shoes a must.
The trail is well marked, but pay attention to the signs so you don’t go astray at the junctions. The trail branches off to Shannon Basin Loop after about 25 minutes and to Mount Habrich after about 50 minutes.
The last portion of the trail is the most difficult, but also the most scenic with views of small waterfalls and closer views of Mount Habrich and Sky Pilot. The Sky Pilot Valley Trail ends abruptly at 3.9 kilometres, marked by a yellow sign that is almost impossible to miss. However, experienced climbers can continue on the unmarked trail to ascend the 2,021-meter peak, one of the most prominent.
Sky Pilot Peak & Mount Habrich
Don’t let the Sky Pilot Valley Trail lull you into a false sense of security – making it to the top of the peak is no easy task, and only experienced climbers should attempt it. However, if you do have the training and the right equipment, you’re in for the mountaineering experience of a lifetime.
The start of the unmarked trail requires going over fallen trees and brush on a rocky, steep path through Douglas firs. Breaking out of the forest, it opens up to a slope covered by small, loose boulders and a snowy plain – Stadium Glacier.
At this point, nothing is marked, but the open space makes it fairly clear where the best paths lie. After scrambling up the rocks, the real climbing begins – a series of cliffs follow, most of which are Class 3, with a pink slab of Class 4. There are plenty of notches to get a good grip, but climbers should be well equipped for their own safety and prepared to do some route finding.
Few people make the climb to Sky Pilot’s jagged peak, but making it to the top is beyond rewarding, as are the unmatched views of Howe Sound, Stadium Glacier, Mount Habrich, the Copilot, and the Tantalus mountain range.
Climbers also have the option of ascending Mount Habrich, Follow the signs at the junction after about 50 minutes on the Sky Pilot Valley Trail to Mount Habrich. This trail adds about 3.8 kilometres one way onto the hike, and is very steep, requiring scrambling and climbing. Experience climbers should bring appropriate equipment.
Sky Pilot Valley Hike Details
- Dog Friendly: No
- Season: March to November
- Public Transit: No
- Difficulty: Intermediate
- Time: 3 to 4 hours round trip
- Distance: 7.8 km round trip
- Elevation Gain: 380 m
Getting to the Sea Pilot Valley Trail
Drive south on the Sea to Sky Highway for about 8 minutes until you reach the parking lot for the gondola on the left. For quick access to the Sky Pilot Valley Trail, take the gondola to the top.
If you start early in the morning, you can also take the Sea to Summit Trail or the Shannon Basin Trail up to the top of the gondola for a full day of intense hiking then take the gondola down. You can buy roundtrip gondola tickets online in advance or at the ticket window when you arrive. A one-way ride down is also available at the ticket window up top. Keep your timing in mind – the gondola closes between 5:00pm and 8:00pm depending on the day and season.