Garibaldi Lake Hike near Whistler

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Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park is a stunning, glacier-fed lake that sits 1,450 m high, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows and volcanic structures. It is a great day hike, and even better camping destination. Camping at Garibaldi Lake provides opportunities to explore other nearby hikes such as Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge.

There are 50 campsites at the lake, which are only available by reservation as of 2016 through the Discover Camping website.

This is a very popular hike, so expect crowds unless you go outside of July and August, which is when the flowers are in full bloom.


Garibaldi Lake Hike Summary

Rating: Moderate
Distance: 18 km
Elevation Gain: 810 m
Highest Point: 1,450 m
Time Needed: 5 – 6 Hours
Type: Out-and-back
Season: July to October
Dogs allowed: No
Est. Driving Time from Vancouver: 90 Minutes
Trailhead Coordinates: N49.957284, -123.120488

For a better understanding of the stats and difficulty rating, check out the Hiking Guides page for details. Always carry The 10 Essentials and fill out a trip plan.


garibaldi-elevation

Elevation profile for Garibaldi Lake hike, return


Starting the Hike at Rubble Creek

Starting at the Rubble Creek parking lot, it is a 9 km hike to reach Garibaldi Lake. The first 6 km take you up through a forest of plentiful Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees. Around the 30 minute mark of the initial ascent, there is a creek crossing, and the only opportunity for water for a long while. The next hour or so of climbing is not very noteworthy – just a relentless uphill battle. If you’re camping and have your heavy backpack, the continuous switchbacks on the steep trail can be especially grueling. Put your head down and count off the kilometer markers: 3. 4. 5…

A few minutes past the 5 km marker you will get a nice view of The Barrier, which is a lava dam that actually contains the Garibaldi Lake system and is 300 m thick on the containing wall. The sheer cliff you see was formed during a massive landslide in 1885, which is also how Rubble Creek received its name. If The Barrier were to collapse, Garibaldi Lake would release down onto the town of Squamish below, and it is thought the impact-wave hitting Howe Sound could even reach Vancouver Island. [1]

Just beyond the 6 km marker, there is a major junction with options for Taylor Meadows campground or Garibaldi Lake. Here, you will be at 1,360 m elevation. The junction is a good point to take a break, and if you bring some bird-seeds, the whiskey jacks here will eat out of your hand. Please don’t feed them human food.

garibaldi-lake-hiking

Approaching Garibaldi Lake

Alternate route: If you want to head left at this junction, towards Taylor Meadows, you can do so creating a partial loop to the lake. If you head left here, you will pass the Taylor Meadows campground, and carry on towards Black Tusk Meadows. There is a large junction where you can follow the trail down to Garibaldi Lake. This route adds some time, distance, and elevation to the stats above, but not a significant amount.

From the 6 km junction, take the trail to the right. Most of the elevation gain is behind you. During the final 3 km towards Garibaldi Lake, you will pass by Barrier Lake and Lesser Garibaldi Lake. Both are beautiful, but only provide a taste of what’s to come. Along the way, you will cross a few small creeks that feed into Lesser Garibaldi Lake. After leaving Lesser Garibaldi Lake you’ll cross a wooden bridge over Taylor Creek. 20 minutes later you’ll come to another fork which can take you up into Taylor Meadows. Stay on the path for Garibaldi Lake and you will quickly be descending down a few final switchbacks to the lake. Once you get around the final bend, you are rewarded with the spectacular view of the pristine, turquoise Garibaldi Lake, and Sphinx Glacier hovering above it.

Cool fact: The turquoise colour is caused by “rockflour” (sediment from the glacier) that is suspended in the water and absorbs and scatters the sunlight.

Garibaldi Lake is 5 km long, 4 km wide, and 300 m in depth. Alongside the lake, you will find a few day-use cooking shelters, pit toilets and the campground. Now you can set up your tent, have lunch, and take a dip in the chilly lake if you wish to cool down. ‘Chilly’ might be an understatement. There are also trout in the lake which were introduced in the 1920s, so fishing can be done here. If you are camping overnight, you should still have time to climb up Panorama Ridge or Black Tusk and return to the campsite before sunset. To return to the parking lot from Garibaldi Lake, simply retrace your steps.

Download the PDF version of this guide for offline use

garibaldi-lake-trail

A trail skirts the side of Garibaldi Lake

The Great Hikes of Vancouver eBook
This hike is included in The Great Hikes of Vancouver eBook, which contains a hand-picked selection of the top ten must-do hikes for your next adventure in Southwest British Columbia’s impressive wilderness. Get the book and take this trail guide with you on your hike.Learn More

Editor's and Reader's Hike Rating
  • Variety of the terrain - 85%
    85%
  • Views and scenery - 90%
    90%
  • Not too crowded - 60%
    60%
  • Overall 'fun factor' - 85%
    85%

Summary

The first 6 km of this hike will leave you wondering why you decided to spend your day hiking this particular trail, with its endless uphill switchbacks. However, all the grueling climbing is soon forgotten as the trail flattens out and you approach the lake itself. Once you're up at Garibaldi Lake, you'll wonder why you haven't been up there before.

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garibaldi-lake-hike

Garibaldi Lake

Camping at Garibaldi Lake

Camping is permitted at Garibaldi Lake and nearby Taylor Meadows. In 2016, these campsites became reservable through the Discover Camping website.

These campsites MUST be reserved in advance between the dates of June 29 and Sep 30.

Self-registration stations are no longer be available at the trailheads as they used to be. All campers must pay in advance using the online system.

More details on the camping in Garibaldi Park and backcountry camping permits can be found here.

Directions and Parking

Take Highway #99 heading north passed Horseshoe Bay towards Squamish. Keep driving along the Sea to Sky highway all the way to Squamish. Once you hit downtown Squamish, watch your odometer and keep driving north for about another 37 km.

Keep a sharp eye out for the Garibaldi Provincial Park sign on your right. Just over the Rubble Creek Bridge you will take a right onto a small paved road that is not hard to miss. Just continue on for a few kilometers until you reach the Rubble Creek parking lot.

There is a Google Map with Directions here.


Other great hikes in this area

garibaldi-lake-panorama

Looking up to Panorama Ridge on the other side of the lake

Download the PDF version of this guide for offline use

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