The hike to Garibaldi Lake is a popular one, but don’t let that stop you from going there!
Garibaldi Lake is nestled in Garibaldi Provincial Park and is a real treasure. If you like beautiful lakes, glaciers, impressive peaks and unforgettable views, then this place is for you. It was my first Canadian overnight hike after moving here, and I couldn’t have wished for a better one.
The plan: to hike to the campground at Garibaldi Lake, stay two nights and explore the area. The campground is a great base for hiking in the park. If you have the chance, try to stay more than one night, as there is always so much to discover in the Canadian mountains.
Zigzag up, up, up!
The hike to the lake is on a very neat trail. If you’re a person who slowly gets into a hike, be prepared. The track starts climbing immediately from the car park, giving you no chance to stroll into it. The first six to seven kilometres are just up. You’ll sweat, but it isn’t too bad, as the track isn’t technical at all.
You’re zigzagging your way up until you’re almost above the treeline. There isn’t much to see, besides LOTS of trees and now and then a cute chipmunk. Once you’re up high, the scenery gets better. At one moment you pass a clear blue lake on your right, which is perfect for a lunch break.
Not much later you start walking down to Garibaldi Lake. Believe me, you’ll get excited when you see those first blue colours peeping through the tree leaves.
The lake is turquoise blue, because of the glacier melt into the lake.
The campground is just at the lake, but still in between trees. I would’ve loved to have views on the lake, but in the end it was quite nice to have your little, private area. The tent units are spread out, which makes camping a more intimate experience.
Our first evening we just enjoyed a sunset at Garibaldi Lake, as we started hiking quite late.
Sunrise Hike to Panorama Ridge
As you know by now, Nico and I like to do sunrise hikes, to get the best light. ‘Like’ might be the wrong word, because getting out of your warm sleeping bag at 3.30am does NOT feel nice.
It’s hard to get out of bed, but once you’re walking you get into a zone and quickly make progress. We wanted to hike to Panorama Ridge, which is an impressive ridge at 2133m high, and can be seen from the lake. The hike there is about 2,5 hours, so we started walking at 4am.
Hiking in the dark in Canada is a totally new experience for us.
Coming from New Zealand, where the ‘most dangerous’ animal is a possum, Canada is something else. There are bears, cougars (this is a mountain lion!), and moose… With my wild imagination I saw animals in every dark shape. We made so much noise while hiking that morning. And we did well, as we didn’t encounter any wild animal.
At 6am we arrived at our sunrise spot. Just before the top of Panorama Ridge there is this cool view on Black Tusk and some lakes. We knew the sun was going to hit the mountain face and thought that would make for some nice pictures.
I loved how the light touched Black Tusk, and not much later us. It was so cold that morning, so when the sun finally hit us we were so happy.
Black Tusk sticks out from all the other mountains around you,
because of its unique look.
After shooting, we made our way up to the ridge and were stunned. We thought our morning couldn’t get any better, but the peak provided breathtaking 360 views of Mt. Price, Black Tusk, Mt. Garibaldi and Garibaldi Lake. The water was incredible blue, just out of this world.
After the must-do Instagram shots we had some breakfast and took in the scenery. On our way back to the campground I was impressed by how beautiful the track actually was. I saw lots of wildflowers, little creeks, lakes, and mountains. The advantage of shooting at sunrise is that you’re all by yourself. On our way back down we passed loads of people hiking up. I was glad that we were able to take in the scenery by ourselves.
That evening we stayed again for sunset at Garibaldi Lake, as there were some cool clouds popping up (which we definitely want, to get some nice colours in the sky).
Some information to get you on your way!
How To Get There?
The hike starts at the Rubble Creek parking lot, roughly 37 km north of Squamish and 19 km south of Whistler (British Columbia). It’s also quite close to Vancouver, only a 70km drive.
So about 37km after Whistler, you turn off Hwy 99 just after you cross the Rubble Creek Bridge, onto a paved road that leads 2.5 km to the Garibaldi Lake parking lot.
It is ok to leave your car for a few days. We spent two nights in the park, and our car was just fine when we got back. Don’t leave any valuables visible and also make sure you don’t leave any food in the car, because it will attract mice!
9km one way // Elevation gain: 920m // 4-5 return
The trail starts at the wooden steps along the top section of the Rubble Creek parking lot. The first 6km of the trail is uphill, through a dense forest. After the 6km mark, you reach a junction with a map of the surrounding area. Going right takes you directly to Garibaldi Lake. You’ve done most of the climbing, and the rest of the way is fairly flat. The last meters you head down to the lake and arrive at a wooden bridge. Cross the bridge and find a site to put of your tent or just enjoy your lunch with a spectacular view!
7km one way from Garibaldi Lake campground // Elevation gain: 630m // 5h return
You can either start hiking from the campground or straight from the carpark. When you leave from the campground, you retrace your steps as how you came, but instead of going left you go straight and follow the marker. The marker at the trail will indicate where you should go right. Follow the track and enjoy beautiful alpine meadows until you reach another fork.
At this fork the trails to Black Tusk and Helm Lake branch off to the left, and the Panorama Ridge trail goes right. From that point it will get a little tougher, as the track goes steep up. Depending on the season you also may have to cross some snowfields on the way up. The last 30 minutes you’re hiking and climbing on rocks. There are a few tracks, but you can also just take your own route and go up. Enjoy the view!
7km one way from Garibaldi Lake campground // Elevation gain: 850m // 4-5h return
You can either start hiking from the campground or straight from the carpark. If you start from the campground you follow the same trail that goes to Panorama Ridge, until you reach a fork, where you follow the Black Tusk trail to the left.
The trail will become more rocky and emerge onto a small ridge with a view of Black Tusk ahead of you. There isn’t a maintained trail from this point on, however there is still a path visible from the many hikers who trek through here. In the next section there is a scramble over loose shale towards the base of Black Tusk.
What is provided at Garibaldi Lake campground?
- Tent unit (if booked)
- Four cooking shelters (with tables and a grey water disposal sink)
- Pit toilets
- You can get water from the lake, but don’t forget to filter it
- Beautiful scenery
What to bring?
- Sleeping bag
- Camping permit: reservations are only necessary during peak season (June 29 – October 17). Book via http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/garibaldi/
- Food and good food storage that keeps mice out (we saw mice crawling over plastic bags in the cooking shelter). We used a strong dry-bag.
- Warm clothes and rain jacket (the weather can change quickly, so be prepared)
- Camera: it’s beautiful, you’ll want to take a lot of pictures
- Bear spray (yes, there are also bears here – let’s not forget we’re in Canada)
- Water filter or water purification tablets
Have you been to Garibaldi Provincial Park? Are there any spots I missed, which I should check out? Let me know in the comments.