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Exploring the Sea to Sky Highway

One of the most scenic drives in North America

One of the many viewing platforms you can hike to after riding up the Sea to Sky Gondola. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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The Sea to Sky Highway, a section of Canada's Highway 99, stretches from Horseshoe Bay past Whistler to Pemberton in British Columbia. The winding highway received its name due to the change from a coastal highway at sea level, which follows along the edges of coastal mountains, to a mountain highway as it climbs in elevation to Whistler, a skier's paradise. It is one of the most scenic drives in North America. All along the way you can stop at viewpoints, many with interpretive boards that share the history of the native peoples, the Coast Salish Aboriginal People.

Your first stop is Britannia Beach to tour the Britannia Mine Museum, a national historic site. This is one of the best tours I have been on. The museum tour really gives you a feeling of what life was like as a miner. After watching a movie about the mine, you will climb aboard the mine train and travel through the mine tunnel just like the miners did in 1914.

Once inside, the tour guides, who are very knowledgeable and fun, will demonstrate mining gear throughout the years. You will never forget the sound of a working drill or how dark it is with only a headlamp. You will also tour the large mine building where the copper, and other minerals, were extracted from the ore.

Allow yourself plenty of time to explore the other buildings at Britannia. There is so much to see. Don't leave without trying your hand at gold mining. There are troughs of varying height so everyone can participate. They really go all out with the equipment and even keep the water warm, which is nice in the winter. They also seed the dirt so you really do have the opportunity to find gold or other gemstones. I have to admit, it was pretty exciting to see a flake of gold appear in your pan.

Continue a couple of more miles down the road towards Squamish. Keep an eye out for Shannon Falls, which you can see from the highway. It is the third highest waterfall in British Columbia.

Just past the waterfall is the Sea to Sky Gondola. This park offers a ride to the top with breathtaking views of Howe Sound Fjord on your way up on the 10-minute gondola ride. You arrive at the top and can enjoy the deck surrounding the Summit Lodge. Then head out to the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, which is not for the faint of heart. There are multiple viewing platforms, some as close as the lodge, and others reached by hiking trails. Even on cloudy, foggy days, when the view is obscured, it is still beautiful with the eerie gray colors of the mist rising up from the sound. Snowshoes are available for rent or you can just hike some of the many trails. Insider Tip: Make sure you keep your ticket, as you will need to show it to board for the return gondola trip.

Make the time to stop at Squamish where you can enjoy a variety of shops and restaurants. Another quick activity you won't want to miss is to drive a few minutes out of town to the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park and Eagle Viewing Shelter to view North America's largest collection of wintering bald eagles. The Eagle Run Dike is a great viewing spot and you can easily view the bald eagles with your bare eyes. With all the bare winter trees, the bald eagles really stand out and are easy to spot. There are plenty of interpretive panels to learn more about the eagles and on weekends volunteers are available to answer questions.

The Sea to Sky Highway is located between Vancouver and Whistler, and either makes a good base for your adventure. For more information, visit:

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