If you were to ask us what the #1 hike that people ask us about in the Vancouver area, we wouldn’t need any time to consider. Without hesitation, we would both answer Garibaldi Lake.
Garibaldi Lake is the most talked about and most dreamed about hike among travelers and visitors we talk to, no contest. In fact, Garibaldi Lake was our first backpacking trip together and still lives on as a classic no matter how much we hike and camp in the Vancouver area.
The short version of this article is yes; it really is that beautiful. That enchanting. So what are you waiting for?
If you already have the feeling that the above is true, but need a bit more information, than this article is aimed at you. It’s true Garibaldi Lake is well documented on websites, in hiking books and on other blogs already, but we felt there were a few insider tips that are missing.
Choose Your Window Wisely:
Like many of our local hikes, if you go too early, there will still be snow. If you go too late, you risk getting snowed on. In between, there is a nasty bug season. So when is a good time of year to hike to Garibaldi Lake? We don’t know if there is some magical snow-free but also bug-free window to go, but anecdotally, we would rather deal with a few leftover patches of snow then get eaten alive. This puts mid to the third week of July in the ring as a contender, depending of course on what type of snow year we had the previous winter. September is probably also a good bet, but nights will be cold.
We recommend searching when the following events will be held and avoiding these times to visit Garibaldi Provincial Park as Highway 99 (Sea to Sky Highway) becomes very congested during these events, or closes altogether.
- Squamish Valley Music Festival
- Pemberton Music Festival
- Ironman Whistler
- Whistler Gran Fondo
Day Hike or Overnighter?
This comes down to having the necessary gear and comfort to hiking with a large pack, but let’s just say neither of us would do Garibaldi Lake as a daytrip. Always a 2 nighter for us. There is just too much to explore, too many photos to take, too many stars to gaze… you get the idea.
Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge?
Further to the last topic, staying 2 nights at Garibaldi Lake allows you to take a day hike without your pack to two famous destinations beyond the Lake itself, Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge. Both are spectacular hikes and highly recommended. Although Black Tusk is a much beloved local landmark (its distinctive tusk shape is owing to it being an extinct volcano), if you only have time for one Panorama Ridge gets our vote. The views over the lake are unbelievable, as are the peaks as far as the eye can see. The views from Black Tusk are similarly awe-inspiring, but to actually summit the Tusk involves a scramble up a loose chimney, which many people find beyond their comfort zone. Panorama Ridge, on the other hand is a more straight-forward summit.
Taylor Meadows Campsite, or Garibaldi Lake Campsite?
Both are created equal in terms of amenities: tent pads, outhouses and a cooking shelter. However, Garibaldi Lake Campsite has the obvious advantage of being beside the Lake, while Taylor Meadows Campsite is located a 15 min walk away in the higher meadow.
There are people who prefer Taylor Meadows since for dayhikes to Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge the next day, Taylor Meadows is better situated. Starting out on the day hikes from Garibaldi Lake Camp does involve some switch-backing through forest up to the Meadows to get the day started.
Often, the Campsite you end up at is not a matter of choice. Unless you get started early on your hike up to Garibaldi Lake from Rubble Creek Parking Lot, there is a good chance Garibaldi Lake Campsite will be full. So if you have a strong preference, get started early.
It’s very cold at Garibaldi Lake at night, even in the summer. Pack your thick sleeping bag and plenty of layers. The weather is also extremely variable. Every time we have been close to Black Tusk, the weather has gone from sunny and blue to thunderstorms, seemingly before our eyes. The indigenous Squamish people called Black Tusk “the place where Thunderbird perches”, Thunderbird being a mythical creature who spits lightning out of his eyes. Take it from Thunderbird and pack your Gore-Tex.
There is no potable water available at either Garibaldi Lake camp or Taylor Meadows camp, nor anywhere along the trails. That means you’ll be drinking from creeks and the lake, which means filtering or purifying appropriately. Yes our water looks pristine, but we have lots of nasty parasites such as Giardia, so don’t be fooled.
Parking and Fees
Rubble Creek is the parking lot for the Garibaldi Lake hike. It is signed as Garibaldi Provincial Park- Rubble Creek from highway 99 in both directions from Vancouver and Whistler. Parking is free for day use and overnight at this time, however the lot gets very full on weekends, so be prepared to park a ways back on the roadway and walk if this is the case. Also, be aware that theft and vandalism are a big problem at the Rubble Creek parking lot. On sunny weekends, upwards of 20 cars have been broken into in recent summers. The key is to not leave anything, valuable or no, in sight in your vehicle. We empty out glove box and console and leave them hanging open to deter would be vandals. if you plan to rent a car to visit, it would be worth paying the extra for broken glass insurance.
Camping fees ($10 per person per night) are paid at the parking lot in a metal lock box. Cash only and no chance given. There are no park rangers available at the parking lot. Fill out the paper envelope, detach the small section and leave it on your car dashboard, and the money envelope goes in the metal box. There is also a small receipt portion that you need to carry with you while in the park.
Hopefully this post has piqued your interest in exploring one of the most beautiful areas close to Vancouver- Garibaldi Provincial Park. Summer or winter, this is a must-do hike for its breathtaking landscape.