Garibaldi Provincial Park Whistler Hiking Trails
Garibaldi Provincial Park is an enormous mountain wilderness park stretching from Pemberton to Squamish in British Columbia. At almost 2000 square kilometres, the park partly surrounds Whistler and is accessible by foot or by gondola from Whistler Village. Garibaldi Provincial Park is characterized by dense British Columbia coastal rainforest, snow-capped mountains, glaciers and innumerable mountain lakes.
Whether you are standing in Squamish or high up on Panorama Ridge, Mount Garibaldi towers in the distance. Named after a 19th century patriot and soldier, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Mount Garibaldi is a massive 2678 metre giant at the southern end of the park. It was named after Garibaldi by Captain George Henry Richards of the Royal Navy in 1860. Guiseppe Garibaldi had gained worldwide acclaim that year by unifying Italy by repatriating Sicily and Naples.
In 1907 a group of Vancouver climbers reached the summit of Mount Garibaldi and provided the inspiration to develop Garibaldi Lake as a climbing and hiking base. In 1920 the Garibaldi Park Reserve was established and in 1927 became Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Five Main Access Trailheads Garibaldi Provincial Park
There are currently five main access points to Garibaldi Provincial Park and all are marked from the Sea to Sky Highway running near the western border of the park. The Rubble Creek trailhead is the main access point for Garibaldi Lake, Taylor Meadows and Black Tusk. This trailhead is located off of the Sea to Sky Highway, partway between Squamish and Whistler. From this trailhead, Garibaldi Lake is 9 kilometres along a well used and moderately difficult trail. Taylor Meadows branches off from this trail partway to Garibaldi Lake. From Rubble Creek to Taylor Meadows is 7.5 kilometres. Both Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake have pay-to-use campgrounds with toilet facilities and park ranger maintaining them. Beyond Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake, another trail leads to Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge. These are two amazing and challenging destinations for this area of the park. Black Tusk is 13.5 kilometres from the Rubble Creek trailhead and Panorama Ridge is 15k.
Black Tusk is the descriptively named stark black mountain that can be seen from almost everywhere in Whistler. The massive black spire of crumbling rock juts out of the earth in an incredibly distinct way that appears like an enormous black tusk plunging out of the earth. Whether you spot it kilometres away, from the top of Whistler Mountain or from dozens of vantage points along the Sea to Sky Highway, its unmistakable appearance is breathtaking. Seeing Black Tusk from closer vantage points such as Taylor Meadows, Helm Creek, Panorama Ridge or Garibaldi Lake, all views make climbing to the top look impossible. In fact, Black Tusk seems to look more impossible to climb the closer you get to it. Even when you are close enough to touch its vertical, black and crumbling sides, you wonder in amazement how anyone can ever reach the top. Panorama Ridge is easily one of the most amazing hikes in Garibaldi Park. The 15 kilometre hike from the trailhead at Rubble Creek to Panorama Ridge takes you through beautiful and deep forests, across countless idyllic streams, through meadows filled with flowers, and past dozens of jaw dropping viewpoints. The amazing views start once you reach Taylor Meadows and get even more spectacular as the trail progresses. Once you arrive at Panorama Ridge and its phenomenal vantage point, high above Garibaldi Park, you will stare in wonder. Mesmerized first by Garibaldi Lake, far below you and looking unnaturally blue, the lake looks amazing surrounded by green, untouched wilderness and snow capped mountains. Taylor Meadows is a beautiful campsite and alternative to the much busier Garibaldi Lake campsite. Located in between Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk itself. It is reached from the same trailhead to Garibaldi Lake. There are 40 very nice tent platforms, toilets, a good water source and a food cache, all in the lush forest of Taylor Meadows with the distant view of Black Tusk. The hike is a relaxing 7.5k through a deep, big tree forest. The first half is a series of switchbacks and then the thick forest gives way to Taylor Meadows. The grassy meadows open up the view of snowy mountains and the spectacular Black Tusk just a couple kilometres away. Garibaldi Lake is the centre and base for much of the hiking in Garibaldi Park. The Garibaldi Lake campsite is located on the amazing, turquoise shores of this massive and mostly undisturbed mountain lake. There are no trails around the perimeter of the lake with the exception of the small section leading to the campsite, so your view of the lake is a sea of unnaturally coloured water ringed by swaths of forest and a magnificent glacier towering in the distance. The water is painfully cold, though plenty of brave hikers swim here as well as camp. The camping area 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 9k, 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 for there are nice and clear signs and sometimes maps, showing where and how far everything is.
Cheakamus Lake Trailhead Access Garibaldi Provincial Park
Cheakamus Lake is an easy, relaxing hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park just a short, 16 kilometre drive from Whistler Village. The trail to the lake is in an amazing forest of giant cedars. The first 3k of the trail takes you along the beautiful Cheakamus River to the start of Cheakamus Lake and the first campsite area. There are 10 very nice and hidden tent pads on or near the lake shore. There is excellent water from several creeks in the area and a bear proof food hang as well as tidy outhouses here. Another 3k further on the trail takes you to some beautiful viewpoints on the ever increasingly majestic Cheakamus Lake trail. Huge trees, turquoise lake, snow capped mountains, and even the occasional bear siting make this hike one of Whistler's best and most family and kid friendly hikes around. The trail is never strenuous and constantly beautiful with the wonderful smells that come with an old growth cedar forest. The campsite at 6k on the Cheakamus Lake trail consists of another 7 tent sites beautifully blended into the surroundings, another bear proof food hang and outhouse.
Helm Creek is a beautiful, meandering creek that winds its way from beyond Black Tusk, down the valley to the wonderful campground that takes its name. From the Helm Creek campground it descends further along the Helm Creek Trail, until it joins the Cheakamus River near where it leaves Cheakamus Lake. The location of Helm Creek campground has two tremendous advantages. First it is just a great location in Garibaldi Park. About halfway between Cheakamus Lake and Black Tusk it lays in some amazingly scenic areas. Beautiful, climbable mountains all around. Amazing fields of snow that run all the way to the base of Black Tusk. Rivers, creeks and waterfalls everywhere you turn. And the campground area itself is very nice. A large, grassy field ringed by trees and Helm Creek. The area really has no trails except the Helm Creek trail that runs past it, but there are infinitely numerous directions you can wander. Exploring in any direction takes you to more and more pristine, green fields, streams, pocket lakes and mountain views. Though most just use it as a base to extend onto Black Tusk, it is a great base for so much more. Helm Peak, Corrie Peak, Cinder Cone, Empetrum Peak as well as the more frequented Panorama Ridge, Black Tusk and Garibaldi Lake. The second great aspect of Helm Creek as a campground is that it is quiet and serene when compared with the other two area campgrounds. Garibaldi Lake and Taylor Meadows are very busy all summer long. In fact there is a posting part way up the trail to Garibaldi Lake indicating how crowded it is and if it is full.
Singing Pass Access in Whistler Village Garibaldi Provincial Park
Russet Lake, in Garibaldi Provincial Park is the wonderfully expansive hiking area located just a few spectacular steps from Whistler. Among the various ways to reach Russet Lake, possibly the most impressive are the approaches from either the Musical Bumps Trail or the High Note Trail. Both begin from high up on Whistler Mountain. Musical Bumps starts near the Roundhouse on Whistler and the High Note Trail begins at the top of Whistler near the Peak Chair. Though Russet Lake is not terribly impressive in terms of size or colour, the valley around it is remarkably beautiful. The colours change from moment to moment in and extraordinary way. The distinctive colour of the Fissile and the stark grey of the mountains around contrast amazingly with the blue of the lake and green grass in the valley. So many different factors fill the place with colour. There are, in fact, several ways to get to hike Russet Lake. The Singing Pass Trail from the base of Whistler Mountain near the Whistler Gondola. The Musical Bumps Trail that begins near the top of the Whistler Gondola. The High Note Trail that begins at the top of the Peak Chair on Whistler Mountain. There is an increasingly popular route that begins from Blackcomb Mountain. And finally, a very infrequently hiked route from Cheakamus Lake that runs along Singing Creek.
The alpine hiking trails on Whistler Mountain are the ultimate in luxurious hiking. Little hiking effort gets you amazing views of turquoise lakes, snowy mountain, valleys of flowers, waterfalls and spectacular glaciers. In the summer months, Whistler Mountain is somewhat divided in two. The lower half of the mountain is for biking and the upper half is for hiking, sightseeing, trail running, eating and drinking. There are a few directions you can start hiking from the Roundhouse Lodge, however, taking the Peak Express(quad chairlift) up to the summit of Whistler Mountain is an amazing place to start. The Peak Express is an exhilarating ride that takes you to the start of Whistler Mountain's best hiking trails. The Half Note Trail, High Note Trail and Mathew's Traverse start here. The High Note Trail in turn leads to the Musical Bumps Trail to Russet Lake and Singing Pass in Garibaldi Provincial Park. The summit of Whistler Mountain is also a destination of its own. Spectacular views all around from this rocky, alpine summit visible from almost everywhere in Whistler. Black Tusk comes into view as you exit the Peak Express. This amazingly distinct pinnacle of jet-black rock is a local icon and remnant of a not too distant history of volcanism in the area. As you admire its absurdly vertical form, remind yourself that there is almost certainly a few hikers looking back at you from its summit. Looking right as you get off the Peak Express you will see an enormous inuksuk. A remnant of the 2010 Olympic Games and now a fixture in thousands of photos. This beautiful stacking of huge rocks is a take-away from the Inuit tradition of marking routes in an otherwise stark landscape with a human form. The inuksuk is part of the Whistler Summit Interpretive Walk.
Wedgemount Lake Trailhead Access Garibaldi Provincial Park
If you were to search your whole life for an absolutely amazing, astoundingly perfect, alpine hiking paradise, you'd have trouble finding a place as great as Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park. To start with, the lake is breathtaking. Every angle you look at it and every hour of the day it alters its appearance dramatically. From its wonderful turquoise, marble-like appearance reflecting bronze mountains at sunrise and sunset. To its startlingly vivid appearance in the darkness of night. Reflecting stars are as clear looking down on the lake as they are looking up at the sky. The massive valley that contains Wedgemount Lake is ringed by impressive mountains and the ever-present Wedgemount Glacier that continuously pulls your attention to it. The trail that leads around the lake to the glacier takes only 20-30 minutes and is quite amazing to explore. Wedgemount Glacier, at its edge, has what is called a glacier window. A huge ice cave, created out of the melting underneath this huge, crushing mass of ice. You can get right up close to this impressive ice cave and have a drink of what was just moments before ice left thousands of years ago before Wedgemount Lake was called Wedgemount Lake.
One of the defining features of Garibaldi Park, and Wedgemount Lake in particular, is the staggering number of branching hikes from the main destination of the lake itself. For many, Wedgemount Lake and the Wedge Hut is the base for hikes to Wedge Mountain, Mount Cook, Mount Weart, Mount Moe, Mount James Turner and Mount Currie in Pemberton, crossing glaciers such as Wedgemount Glacier, Weart Glacier, Armchair Glacier, Mystery Glacier and the Needles and Chaos Glacier to name a few. Dozens of unforgettable peaks can be reached from this quiet little hut overlooking this perfect, turquoise lake. In short, if you were to design a paradise in the mountains, Wedgemount Lake would be the standard to which all others would pale. The sheltered valley, beautiful turquoise lake, wonderfully huge glacier across the valley and brutally jagged mountains all around all contribute to making Wedgemount Lake something special. It's challenging and exhausting to hike to and an absolute paradise to relax in. Down by the lakeside you can actually find two recliner chairs, built out of the rocks by the lake. Such a perfect way to enjoy the sun rising over the not-so-distant glacier across the lake.
The hut at Wedgemount Lake is a wonderful thing. Built by the BC Mountaineering Club in 1970, and since donated to Garibaldi Park, it is free to use by anyone. It's cozy with two large tables and a loft. Often, during busy times you will find the tables used as beds, a couple on the floor and four people up in the loft. The Wedge Mountain Hut is positioned in a spectacular part of the world.
Diamond Head Trailhead Access Garibaldi Provincial Park
Elfin Lakes is a wonderfully accessible mountain paradise at the southern end of the mighty Garibaldi Provincial Park. An amazing destination on its own, Elfin Lakes is also part of a gateway to so much more. The Gargoyles, Little Diamond Head, Opal Cone... There is a wonderful, extremely well equipped hut and campsites as well as a ranger station at the lakes. Staying at the amazing hut costs $15. Which sounds expensive until you see it. It looks more like a ski lodge than a mountain hut. Complete with solar powered lights, heat, propane stoves and room for 33 to sleep. Camping away from the hut costs $10. Once again that seem expensive, but the area is very beautiful and popular so park rangers are nearly always around to keep things nice and functional. Expect to take over three hours to reach the Elfin Lakes hut as you are almost constantly ascending a gradual, though consistently uphill trail. There are several jaw-dropping views along this final 6k stretch. This trail is so well marked with orange poles and tree markers that you can reliably find your way after dark or before sunrise with good lights to assist you.