Tips for avoiding crowds at the Chief: 1) go late in the day, 2) do the route in reverse. Sure, it was still busy but by the time we descended off second peak, we only encountered one small group along the narrow chains-and-ladder section. Some of the polished granite required a bit more care than usual on the descent. Still very busy, though, especially before we reached the turnoff to first and second peaks. And still populated by many people in inappropriate footwear/clothing carrying little or nothing with them.
Nothing really to add about the trail – it’s steep, has lots of steps, is easy to follow (although more than a few people seemed to end up off-trail…), and there’s only a tiny amount of mud near third peak. Note that the old bridge over Olsesen Creek has been removed: if you hike in from Shannon Falls you now have to take a new trail (which goes via the Sea to Sky gondola) that joins the Chief trail right at the bottom.
It was easy to lose the trail in the gully up to third peak – it’s a bit of a mess in places and we had to stop and look around a few times. Mind you, it’s not like there’s anywhere else to go, so you never end up far away! :-) Overall, I would not recommend this approach for newcomers to the Chief: stick with the usual route, and get to know it before trying something different. And don’t be an idiot and do the reverse route in the middle of a busy day – that’s one way to piss off a lot of people in a hurry.
Only encountered a couple of people playing music, one of whom even turned it off after we asked. If you read this, thank you – much appreciated :-) But it’s hard to make the argument about wanting to enjoy the peace and quiet of the backcountry when you can hear 1) the constant drone of the gondola machinery, 2) traffic on Hwy 99, and 3) a hundred conversations around you.
Wildflower report: the usual suspects down in the campground – western starflower and false lily-of-the-valley in bud, salmonberry and bleeding heart past peak, streambank spring beauty at its peak. Higher up, we found some more heart-leaved twayblade (of which I even managed to get a half-decent photo!). Lots of salal beginning to flower too. And I noticed a lone sitka spruce at the top of the gully between first and second peaks.
Wildlife report: a couple of booming grouse (one of which was very close to us), ravens, Steller’s jays, chipmunks, and – the highlight – a garter snake swimming in the tarn on third peak.
Amusement report: being asked by two separate groups about how far it was back to the parking lot after we’d been hiking for 30 and 45 mins respectively. Both times they asked “Is it only 5 mins away?”… Full marks for not having a clue about where you are!
A couple of Instagram photos: