19 kilometers south of Whistler and 37 kilometers north of Squamish, you will come across Garibaldi Lake. The lake is located inside the Garibaldi Provincial Park and is a turquoise colored body of water. The lake lies nestled among the mountains and is one of the most beautiful offerings of nature that people can see in the province of British Columbia.
The Garibaldi Lake is located at a height of 1,500 meters (4,900 ft) and has a depth of more than 250 meters (800 feet). A nice detail about the lake and its surroundings is the fact that it lies among mountains and volcanoes. This makes for some of the most scenic hiking trails and camping sites in the province.
And that is exactly what we will be looking at, in this post as we address all the things that you need to know about hiking and camping in the Garibaldi Provincial Park, around the lake.
Garibaldi Lake: 6 Exciting Ways to Hike and Camp
Hiking Trails in Garibaldi Park
Garibaldi Provincial Park is almost a hundred years old. It was established in March of 1927 and has been named after the highest mountain within the borders of the park, Mount Garibaldi. The park is located about 70 kilometers away from the prominent city of Vancouver, in the heart of the Coast Mountains.
There is a seemingly endless supply of hiking trails and places to explore around the lake. Let’s take a look at all of the hiking trails that you can choose to conquer when you’re at the park.
Garibaldi Lake Trail
The Garibaldi Trail takes about five hours to complete. The total length of the trail is 18 kilometers (11.2 miles) when it is hiked as a round trip. There are two different ways that one can choose to hike the Garibaldi Lake Trail. While some choose to hike the Garibaldi Trail as a complete one day hike, others choose to camp at the Garibaldi Lake or the Taylor Meadows Campgrounds, which we will address later.
The trail leads the hikers to the shores of the Garibaldi Lake. It starts at the Rubble Creek Parking Lot and is a relatively easy and steady hike for the first seven kilometers. The elevation gain from sea level is about 820 meters (2690 feet).
On the hike from the parking lot to the lake, you will come across the Barrier Lake and the lesser Garibaldi Lake. Three junctions will lead you to the turquoise waters of the lake in the mountains, the last one located on a hill a little ways away from the shore.
The best time to hike the Garibaldi Lake Trail is during the summer months of July through August. The wildflowers are in bloom during this time and add to the overall beauty of the area around the lake. The trail along the lesser Garibaldi Lake and the Barrier Lake serves as a two-way stretch, as you can use it to get back to the parking lot from the shore of the lake itself.
Panorama Ridge Trail
As the name suggests, the Panoramic Ridge Trail ends in a stunning panoramic view of the Garibaldi Lake and its surrounding mountains. However, this is one of the more challenging trails in the area and is recommended for the more experienced hikers. The length of the trail varies depending on the way you go about it.
There are three ways that you can go about hiking this trail. The first being from the Rubble Creek Parking lot, which is the most challenging way to go about the hike. It will take you about 11 hours to complete the 29-kilometer long hike from the parking lot at a gentleman’s pace.
The other two ways to hike the Panorama Trail are from the Taylor Meadows and the Garibaldi Lake Campground, each of which is about 10 kilometers long.
Black Tusk Trail
The Black Tusk is essentially a volcano that has been built out of layers of the cooled lava flow, which give it a very dark appearance. While it hasn’t erupted for a very long time, the Black Tusk has been dubbed a prime example of volcanic rocks in Canada.
At a towering 2,319 m (7,608 ft), it can be seen from a great distance away in all directions. One of the best places to see it from afar is from the sea to sky highway.
The trail that most hikers follow leads them to the base of the Tusk. One may choose to climb the mountain, but it is extremely important to be aware of the danger of doing so, due to the very steep nature of the slope. Due to the extremely difficult nature of the slope, it is rarely scaled.
Although the start of the journey presents a fair amount of vegetation to the hikers, once hikers enter the alpine region, the land beneath their feet becomes almost entirely composed of hard rocks.
Keep in mind that this trail is the most difficult hiking trail in the region and should be only traversed by the more experienced hikers.
Helm Creek Trail
This 20-kilometer long hike starts from the Cheakamus Lake parking lot. Also among the more challenging hikes in the region, it gets difficult once you reach the bridge over the Cheakamus River. Once you’re at that spot, you will come across a very difficult, steep hike that will truly test your fitness.
The strenuous hike does come with a rewarding experience. The reward is the extremely beautiful scenery that you will find yourself in when you’re hiking along the Helm Creek Trail.
There are multiple ways of going about the hike. Some even choose to spend the night at the Helm Creek Campgrounds and then take a detour to the Panorama Ridge Trail to elevate the backdrop that they find themselves in.
Elfin Lakes Trail
The Elfin Lakes are a couple of small lakes that can be found within the Garibaldi Provincial Park. The hike to the lakes is among some of the most frequently visited trails due to the amazing sights that the tourists see along the way.
The 22-kilometer long trail takes about 4 hours to complete. Once you’re done with the hike, you’re allowed to swim in the upper lake. The lower lake does not allow people to swim, and that is because it is reserved for occupying drinking water. Hence, it is almost illegal to pollute the lower lake.
Wedgemount Lake Trail
This 12.6-kilometer long hike is right up there with the most difficult hiking trails around the Garibaldi Lake. You will come across a pleasant waterfall while hiking along the trail. Once again, the difficulty is rewarded by the amazing natural beauty that you will find all around you.
Much like the Garibaldi Lake, the Wedgemount Lake is another water body in the area that boasts of having beautiful turquoise colored waters. It is situated below the Wedge Mountain and is best visited during the summer months of June through October.
Campgrounds around Garibaldi Lake
Camping at Garibaldi Lake is an amazing experience. It offers tourists and locals the chance to have the complete experience of the environment around the lake. Some multiple campgrounds and shelters are intended for this very purpose. Some have reservations, while a lot of others don’t.
Let’s take a look at some of the best campgrounds in the Garibaldi Lake area, as well as shelters and other prominent places that offer lodging facilities to the people who visit the area.
Garibaldi Lake Campground
The Garibaldi Lake Campground is the most popular campsite in the area, due to its closeness to the waters of the lake. Though the campsite is open throughout the year, it is particularly crowded during the summer months, when the tourist season is at its peak.
There are about 50 different spots to camp at the Garibaldi Lake Campground. There is a hut in the campground where the campers are allowed to have a meal, but sleeping at the hut is not allowed. The campground is equipped with pit toilets for the ease of accommodation of the campers as well.
Camping here can be a tad bit risky if you need to get in contact with society. This is because there is no cell reception at the campground. Also, the campers are required to bring their drinking water or arrange for amenities to boil the water that is coming from glaciers or the lake itself.
While you’re there, you might also try your hand at fishing at the Garibaldi Lake. The authorities allow people to fish for Cutthroat or Rainbow Trout in the turquoise waters of the lake. The only pre-requisite is that you have a fishing license in the province of British Columbia.
Taylor Meadows Campsite
Given that the Garibaldi Lake Campground is very quickly reserved by tourists during summer, Taylor Meadows Campsite represents a brilliant alternative. Although it is not as popular as the campground which shares its name with the lake, the Taylor Meadows Campsite can also be filled very quickly so be sure to make haste when you’re about to book a spot for spending the night at the Garibaldi Provincial Park.
The Taylor Meadows Campsite has about 40 camping spots and is equipped with pit toilets and a hut for storing food and dining, much like the Garibaldi Lake Campground. Sleeping in the hut is not permitted here as well, as people are restricted from spending the night in the camping spots that they booked.
To get to the Taylor Meadows, you should take the 7.5-kilometer-long trail to the Taylor Meadows. Along the 6 kilometer mark, you’ll come across a junction from where you would want to take a left turn to reach the campsite.
The same precautions and points to note apply from the Garibaldi Lake Campground.
Helm Creek Campsite
The Helm Creek Campsite is the least frequented and the campsite with the least capacity among the 3 we’ve talked about till now. There are only 9 different spots for campers to spend the night. The Helm Creek Campsite can be seen as a hidden treasure of sorts. The scenery around the Helm Creek Campsite is what makes it so special.
Spending the night at the Helm Creek campsite can offer you the chance to plan a hike to the amazing Panorama Ridge Trail the next morning, or choose to hike the trail that leads to the foot of the Black Tusk volcano.
The 9 tent platforms are equipped with pit toilets much like the previous campsites we mentioned, and the difference lies in the absence of a hut for storing food and dining. Instead, there are amenities for hanging the food that campers bring.
The same precautions and points to note apply as the two campsites mentioned above.
Elfin Lake Shelter
Located around the Elfin Lakes, the shelter is open for reservations throughout the year. The Elfin Lakes Shelter is the most popular hut that you will come across in the region. The shelter houses around 33 people at a time and is provided with propane for burners by BC Parks, the governing body of the Garibaldi Provincial Park. The Elfin Lakes Shelter can also be used as a stop for hiking to the mountains.
Russet Lake Hut
Also known as the Himmelsbach hut, the Russet Lake Hut is owned and operated by BC Parks on a first-come-first-served basis. It houses up to six people and is also equipped with a toilet. The Russet Lake Hut is on numbered days, as there are already plans for the Himmelsbach hut to be replaced by the Spearhead Huts Project.
Burton Hut is the oldest Varsity Outdoor Club hut in existence. It is located very close to the Sphinx Glacier and hence is also known as the Sphinx Hut. The hut sleeps 15 and is equipped with most of the basic facilities. Since the club is operated by the VOC, priority is given to club trips over the general audience. The exact location of the hut is just beyond Moraine Wall in Sphinx Bay.
A Garibaldi Lake hiking trip should be on every person’s bucket list. The sort of natural beauty that you come across is highly comparable to Alberta’s Lake Louise and you must visit both if you ever get the chance to do so.