Squamish Hiking Trail RatingGaribaldi Lake is the centre and base for much of the hiking in Garibaldi Provincial Park. The Garibaldi Lake campsite is located on the amazing, turquoise shores of this massive and mostly still wild mountain lake. There are no trails around the edge of the lake except the small section leading to the campsites, so your view is an impossibly coloured lake edged by swaths of forest and a magnificent glacier towering in the distance.

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The water is painfully cold, though plenty of brave hikers swim here as well as camp.  Garibaldi Lake, though beautiful enough as a primary destination, is often a base camp for further hiking. The summit of Black Tusk is just a 2 hour hike from the lake. Panorama Ridge is a bit further at about 3 hours from the lake. Taylor Meadows is a beautiful, often flower filled valley, and home to the other campsites in the area.

Helm Creek campsites are located past Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge, on the way to Cheakamus Lake. If you can manage transport, you can start at Rubble Creek trailhead and finish at Cheakamus Lake trailhead. This allows for a linear route instead of a there and back route. Garibaldi Lake, Taylor Meadows, Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge, Helm Creek and Cheakamus Lake are all beautiful destinations on their own, but combined in a 2 or 3 day hiking expedition are extraordinary.

Reservations are now required for camping at Garibaldi Lake campground and Taylor Meadows campground from June 29th-September 30th. Camping fees must be paid before entering the park.  Before June 22nd pre-pay via before your trip. There are no cash payment options. You can pay online here.. In 2016 the trail to Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake was reasonably easy to hike through the quickly melting and tracked out snow in late May. Hiking to Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge before mid June this year will remain very challenging and potentially dangerous. The camping area at Garibaldi Park is well laid out and stretches deep into the forest with 50 tent clearings.  You can, except for the busiest of days, put your tent out of earshot and sight of others.  The trail to Garibaldi Lake from the Rubble Creek trailhead, just off of the Sea to Sky Highway takes about two hours. You gain a fair amount of elevation, 900 metres in just 9 kilometres, trailhead to lake.

Partway along the trail to Garibaldi Lake the trail forks.  Right to Garibaldi Lake and left goes to another beautiful campground, Taylor Meadows.  Past Taylor Meadows you can link back to Garibaldi Lake by yet another linking trail.  At every trail fork, there are nice and clear signs and often large mapboards showing where and how far everything is.  Beyond the main camping areas of Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake, there are several amazing hikes. Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge lay just beyond these two camping areas. Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake can be done in one long 30 kilometre dayhike, trailhead to trailhead, but expect to take 8-10 hours. The Garibaldi Lake trailhead is located just 30 minutes south of Whistler.  Keep your eye out for the hard to miss Garibaldi Provincial Park highway sign.

The Rubble Creek Trailhead - Garibaldi Lake

The Rubble Creek Trailhead to Garibaldi LakeThe most scenic and direct hiking trail to Black Tusk is from the popular Rubble Creek trailhead, just off the Sea to Sky Highway, 25 kilometres south of Whistler Village. As this trailhead is also the best route to access Garibaldi Lake, Taylor Meadows and Panorama Ridge, it is sometimes very busy and some weekends find both campgrounds full. The Rubble Creek trailhead is easy to find, just keep your eye out for the large highway sign that reads, "Black Tusk(Garibaldi)" along the side of the Sea to Sky Highway 25 kilometres south of Whistler Village. The huge and free trailhead parking has a map and information board as well as an outhouse. Often you will find it full in the summer, however overflow parking extends down the side of the access road. 

Rubble Creek is so named because of the large boulder(rubble) field deposited from The Barrier in previous, massive debris flows. The last occurred 80 years ago, when The Barrier partly gave way and an estimated thirty million cubic metres of rock crashed down near the now, Rubble Creek trailhead. The Barrier can be viewed along the trail to Garibaldi Lake just past the y junction after the 6 kilometre mark along the trail. A sign indicates the short path to the viewpoint. The trail from Rubble Creek starts off by quickly ascending a wide, dirt path into deep forest.  For the first 6 kilometres you only catch glimpses of the sky through the the thick forest of startlingly tall trees. Several switchbacks along the trail continue until you get to the first fork in the trail about 6.2 kilometres from the trailhead. Right takes you to past the Barrier, Lesser Garibaldi Lake and then to Garibaldi Lake(in 3 kilometres). There is a nice mapboard at this trail junction which gives you a good chance to plot your course. A good way to hike if doing a one day hike to Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, is to take this left fork through Taylor Meadows and then return via Garibaldi Lake for a swim near the end of the journey.

If you take the left fork toward Taylor Meadows you will finally escape the heavy forest cover and emerge to spectacular scenery in about 20 minutes. Taylor Meadows is in a beautiful valley of gnarled, weather beaten trees, endless green meadows and in July and August, alpine flowers as far as you can see.  What immediately comes into view towering in the distance is Black Tusk and the wooden boardwalk through Taylor Meadows continues straight as Black Tusk looms far ahead and to your left.  This is where you will start taking photos almost continuously of Black Tusk, and probably not stop until you touch its sheer black sides.  Though you are only half way there, from now on the views from the trail are amazing, varied, and progressively better.  Just past Taylor Meadows the boardwalk ends and the dirt trail crosses a creek and then past a small, locked BC Parks building and another trail junction.  The trail to the right leads to Garibaldi Lake and campsite area in 2 kilometres.  The trail that continues straight goes to Black Tusk(5.5k), the Panorama Ridge(7k) and much further away, Helm Creek(9.2k) and Cheakamus Lake(18k). The views along this 2 kilometre section of trail between this junction and the Black Tusk junction are beautiful.  Green meadows, flowers everywhere you look. Distant snow capped mountains and the starkly beautiful Black Tusk towering to your left.

The next junction you come to has a nice mapboard and more nice kilometre markings and direction signs.  Once again you can turn right and head towards Garibaldi Lake or continue straight for Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge, Helm Creek and Cheakamus Lake.  There is an outhouse here and ropes along the edge of the trail here to try to keep hikers on the trail.  The area is ideal for camping with a beautiful creek and endless flat grassy areas, however a sign indicates not to camp here in order to not damage the fragile alpine areas off the trail.  In just a hundred metres further another fork in the trail takes you left towards Black Tusk(3k) or straight toward Panorama Ridge(4.5k), and you begin ascending steadily through patches of forest occasionally breaking to reveal amazing views of Garibaldi Lake to your right and Black Tusk on your left.  This section of trail, from this junction to Black Tusk is fairly steep and the most challenging.  You will cross dozens of tiny creeks so water is never in short supply.  This section of trail is often snow covered well into July, however, the snow is hard-packed, easy to walk on, and the trail is hard to stray from.

Garibaldi Lake Trail Map

Trail Map - Squamish Hiking TrailsGaribaldi Lake sits at the heart of the enormous Garibaldi Provincial Park. Trails head in all directions, and all of them to breathtaking destinations. Black Tusk is a starkly black, extinct volcano core that is crumbling slowly. It is, as its name suggests, looks like a Black Tusk coming out of the earth. It looks impossible to climb from a distance, yet is actually possible to summit without technical skill. The final small chute is quite challenging, and if you have a fear of heights, looking down from it may freak you out. Panorama Ridge is another great destination beyond Garibaldi Lake. This is the source of all the stunning images you will find on the internet, showing the impossibly blue Garibaldi Lake. If you are more adventurous, you will find a route from the Garibaldi Lake campground to Price Mountain. A bit more challenging than the other, well laid out and travelled trails in the park.

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History of Garibaldi Lake

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Geology of Garibaldi Lake

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Camping & Bivouacking at Garibaldi Lake

Pay Use Campsites - Squamish Hiking TrailsGaribaldi Lake campsites: The most busy camping option in the area is at Garibaldi Lake with 50 campsites with full service (water, security, etc) and fees (May 1 - Nov 15).  The campsites are well laid out and disappear into the forest. All are steps from the amazing Garibaldi Lake with great, though very cold swimming.  There is good fishing here for rainbow trout, which were introduced back in the 1920's. Taylor Meadows campsites: gets very busy at times as well with 40 campsites with full service (water, security, etc) and fees (May 1 - Nov 15).  There are some small rivers close by but no swimming.  The draw for Taylor Meadows camping is the wonderful location.  It lays in a beautiful forested meadow full of hills and flowers and views of the towering Black Tusk. It has a less crowded feel than Garibaldi Lake does, though bear in mind that even when crowded these campsites don't feel crowded - they are just that organised and thick with trees and hills.  Also, if you were to feel crowded, you could easily wander in any of several directions and become immersed in the wonderful forest and beautiful desolation in these vast meadows. The Helm Creek camping area is smaller than the Garibaldi Lake and Taylor Meadows camping areas at just 9 tent platforms, however it is in a beautiful setting on the quiet side of Black Tusk, though 1.5 hours away from the approaches to Black TuskHelm Creek is another beautiful campground. Most of the 9 campsites are next to the beautiful Helm Creek. The main draw of this campsite is that it is on the quieter side of this area and can be approached from Cheakamus Lake.  The trails through Garibaldi Park are in such a vast area that suitable places far into the wilderness away from anyone, to put up a tent are limitless. People bivy on top of Black Tusk, put up a tent on the far slopes of Panorama Ridge, or tent in any number of other places. Being located in British Columbia means that you are never far from a creek, river or lake wherever you hike in Garibaldi Park.

Facilities at Garibaldi Lake

Toilets - Squamish Hiking TrailsPicnic Tables - Squamish Hiking TrailsThere are outhouses (toilets) at various places in Garibaldi Park and one at both the start and end of the trail to Garibaldi Lake. The parking lot/trailhead at Rubble Creek has an outhouse.  The campsites at Taylor Meadows and at Garibaldi Lake have outhouses.  There is also an outhouse at the trail junction where the Black Tusk trail ascends from the main trail to the base of Black Tusk.  These are very basic, pit toilets, usually equipped with toilet paper and serviced surprisingly often by BC Parks staff.

Restrictions at Garibaldi Lake

No Fires Allowed - Squamish Hiking TrailsDogs Not Welcome - Squamish Hiking TrailsNo Bikes Allowed - Squamish Hiking TrailsNo Motorized Vehicles - Squamish Hiking TrailsDogs are not permitted on the Garibaldi Lake trail or any other Garibaldi Provincial Park trails out of courtesy to the resident animals. There are a large number of black bears in the park and encounters with dogs result in unpredictable and potentially dangerous conflicts. There are quite a few excellent hiking trails in Whistler that are dog friendly. Whistler's Valley Trail and Lost Lake Trails are dog friendly and run throughout Whistler. The Sea to Sky Trail, which runs over 30 kilometres through Whistler is a paradise trail for dogs as it runs through numerous parks, beaches and forests.  Ancient Cedars is a nice, dog friendly hike that is 5 kilometres roundtrip and takes you into a thousand year old forest. Whistler Train Wreck is also dog friendly. The trailhead, marked Flank Trail is located in Function Junction, just a short drive south of Whistler Village. Further south you will come to Brandywine Falls, which is a short, 2 kilometre(roundtrip) dog friendly hike to the amazing falls.  About 25 minutes north of Whistler, Nairn Falls is another beautiful and dog friendly hiking trail.  For a look at some of the best dog friendly hikes in Whistler try here.. And for some more challenging dog friendly hikes try here..

Wildlife at Garibaldi Lake

Wildlife - Squamish Hiking TrailsGaribaldi Lake sits in the midst of a pristine wilderness with plenty of wildlife to see. Black bears and hoary marmots can be occasionally spotted. Black bears in the park are reclusive and not easily spotted.  Hoary marmots, however, will emerge from nowhere and whistle to each other to help monitor any threats. Hoary marmots are cute, invariably pudgy, twenty plus pound ground squirrels that have evolved to live quite happily in the hostile alpine areas of much of the world. In the northwest of North America, marmots have a distinct grey in their hair, a hoary colour, so have been named hoary marmots. They manage to survive quite happily in the alpine, largely by hibernating for 8 months of the year and largely for having a surprisingly varied array of food in such an inhospitable environment. They live off of grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, and roots and flowers. And live quite well it seems, as they always look chubby, which has one great drawback. They are sought after by bears and wolves. They have a wonderful defence system though. They are constantly on watch and whistle loudly at the first sign of danger, alerting the colony. The prevalence of these "whistlers" as they came to be locally called, in the early days of London Mountain resulted in it's name being changed to Whistler Mountain in the 60's. Hiking on Whistler Mountain, Blackcomb Mountain or Wedgemount Lake in the summer will almost guarantee an encounter with a chubby, jolly little whistler marmot.

Driving, Biking & Public Transit to Garibaldi Lake

The best and closest parking lot to access Garibaldi Lake is the Rubble Creek trailhead just off of the Sea to Sky Highway halfway between Squamish and Whistler.  The Rubble Creek trailhead parking is well equipped with direction signs, a mapboard and outhouse. The access road that connects it to the Sea to Sky Highway is even paved and it is generally free of snow from May to November.  Rubble Creek is the most popular route to Garibaldi Lake and consequently the most chaotic. The huge parking lot is often filled to capacity, with additional cars parked along the access road.  This road is the only paved(not a heavily potholed, gravel road) to access a trailhead to Garibaldi Lake.  Though very busy, the Rubble Creek trail to Garibaldi Lake is constantly maintained to a high standard.  Plenty of helpful mapboards and trail signs keep you on track and aware of where you are.  The tidy, natural dirt trail is wide enough to hike side-by-side most of the time.  The constant ascent from here gets you to the Garibaldi Lake in just a couple hours.  To get to Rubble Creek from Squamish(zero your odometer at Canadian Tire) on Hwy 99.  At 32 kilometres look for the Black Tusk(Garibaldi) sign on the highway indicating you to turn right.  150 metres up this road it will fork. Take the right fork and continue up the paved road for 2 kilometres to the Rubble Creek trailhead for Black Tusk, Taylor Meadows, Panorama Ridge, Garibaldi Lake and much more.

Biking Directions to TrailheadBiking to one of the further trailheads to access Garibaldi Lake is not terribly difficult.  If you are starting in Whistler, the Cheakamus Lake trailhead is just 15.1 kilometres(9.4 miles) from Whistler Village. The last 8 kilometres is a bit of a grind though as you ascend quite a bit to the Cheakamus Lake parking lot. Bikes are allowed on the Cheakamus Lake trail, so you can ride the nice and easy trail for 1.5 kilometres, park your bike, then start your hike(bikes are prohibited on the connecting trail to Black Tusk. The route to Black Tusk via the microwave tower is an excellent way to bike, then hike. In fact, biking to the microwave tower is the preferred way to get there by most. It's a bit of a long, boring hike along a gravel, deep forest road. On a bike, however, it is much quicker and riding out at the end of your trip is all down hill. The Rubble Creek trailhead is probably the least bike friendly trailhead owing to its distance from Whistler Village. 27.2 kilometres(16.9 miles) is too far for most to bike to a trailhead and begin an arduous hike!

Public Transit Icon - Squamish Hiking TrailsCan you get to the Garibaldi Lake trailhead by public transit? Not even close. No bus service will stop at the highway turnoff to Rubble Creek. The Cheakamus Lake trailhead is a possible option. The Whistler Public Transit goes between the Village and Cheakamus Crossing almost constantly. The problem of course, is you then have to hike 8 kilometres to the Cheakamus Lake trailhead. A taxi to the trailhead may be an option, however you will have to let the taxi company know where you are going as, depending on the driver, some won't drive any logging roads. Taking a taxi to the Rubble Creek trailhead is a decent option, depending on your budget. The ride will cost you about $45, each way. It does, however give you the amazing option to exit at Cheakamus Lake so you don't cover the same ground twice.

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