Spectacular Garibaldi Lake

Oh my God! And I thought Deeks Lake was Heaven… This must be 7th Heaven then! :D

Snowy Mountains
Wow! What a beautiful lake (Sphynx Glacier is in the background)!

I have hiked Garibaldi Lake twice in 2007 and it is hands down my favorite hiking destination so far.  And I say “so far” because BC has taught me in the past year that you shouldn’t put a limit on just how beautiful a place can be.  I have had 3-4 different favorites throughout my 25 hikes or so in 2007 and I know that there’s so much more to see, still.

An 18km, 6-8 hour hike — depending on your pace and how long you stand in awe at the beauty of the lake — might seem daunting for some, but let me reassure you that the 9km uphill hike is very gradual, being spread out over 810m of elevation (roughly under 100m of elevation gain for each kilometer; not that bad, eh?).  I personally feel like this is an “easy, but long” hike, but I do live an active lifestyle.  If you caught yourself saying “I’m out of shape” recently, it may be wise to refrain from doing this one as a first hike. EDIT: warning #2: if the idea of going up up up, no matter how gradual the ascent is scares you, don’t do it. I have a couple of friends who disliked the hike because of that and one in particular compared it to “torture”. lol  I disagree with that statement, but hey, no two person is alike… 

The trail is basically made up of switchbacks and has a soft feel to it, almost like walking on a carpet.  Hiking purists might squeal at the monotony of the trail, but I didn’t think it was all that bad myself.  At least it’s not some old gravel/logging road, like some other hiking trails tend to have, in some parts…  There are a few streams here and there on this one and I find the douglas firs lining up the trail to be quite beautiful too.  And 2/3 of the way up, things start to get really interesting!

Trail Leading to Stream
Typical trail “incline” on the way to Garibaldi Lake

A little over 6km into the uphill hike is a fork in the trail that let’s you choose whether to continue towards Garibaldi Lake via “Taylor Meadows” or “The Barrier.”  Taylor Meadows is a delicate area teeming with wildflowers — “in season” though (around early August I’d say, since I went there early July and late August and both times it didn’t look like it was in full bloom) –, while the Barrier is an impressive volcanic area.  This latter trail also has a couple more smaller lakes (the Lesser Garibaldi Lake and the Barrier Lake) along the way that are no match, though, for THE lake.  Whichever path you choose on your way up, you can still come back down through the other one, as both are part of the same loop.  I chose to go up towards Taylor Meadows both times myself (note: if anyone who has already done it has an opinion on which side to choose first, please leave a comment and tell us why going through the Barrier or Taylor Meadows first is better (sunlight, “traffic”, etc.); thanks!).

Garibaldi Lake, Entering Taylor Meadows Section
Taylor Meadows
Very Much
The Barrier

Aside from the majestic lake — which is pretty close by now –, another great thing about Garibaldi Provincial Park is the fact that there are still so many options to choose from once you make it to the top — or this top I should say…  There is still some elevation gain to be made if you feel so inclined to do so.  Fit hikers might actually come to the park for a 29km day hike to the Black Tusk or a 30km one to Panorama Ridge.  But for the more casual hikers out there, if you’re into camping, both Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake have a number of sites where you can set up camp.  The two extended hikes just mentioned could be part of the second leg of your journey there.  But wait!  There’s still more! (hehe, sounds like some infomercial).  On my second time there, I extended my Taylor Meadows hike up to the Black Tusk Junction (minimal elevation gain; about 2.5km extra to the junction, about 5km extra for total hike) where you can get a nice, close view of the Black Tusk mountain/hillside while passing by yet more wildflowers on your path.

Taylor Meadows
View on the Black Tusk, from Taylor Meadows
Garibaldi Lake, Black Tusk Junction
At the Black Tusk Junction, on a cloudy day :(
The Black Tusk, Up Close
The Black Tusk (can you make out the face? ;) )

But the main course is Garibaldi Lake, so why don’t we move on towards this most amazing of lakes now…  Shall we?

Garibaldi Lake, First Peek
A first peek at Garibaldi Lake, coming from the Black Tusk Junction

Snowy Trail
Entering Garibaldi Lake

Bambi's Back!
Bambi casually passing by :)

Garibaldi Lake, Blue Waters
Garibaldi Lake’s peaceful, turquoise waters

An underwater resident :)

Creek flowing down from Garibaldi Lake

Picturesque Garibaldi Lake
This tiny island rocks!

Volcanic Inukshuks

Again, this is an amazing place…  I’m not a geologist; I don’t know exactly what gives the lake its wonderful turquoise color (the glacier?), but it sure is pretty!  A friend I was hiking with who also went to famous Lake Louise said that Garibaldi Lake is more interesting — no kidding!  Make sure you bring enough warm clothes so you can enjoy a nice, long, relaxing break on the shores of the lake — it can get a little chilly up there!

All good things come to an end and we must head our way back down now…  Well, we can expect a little more excitement down the road at the Barrier.  This spot is quite unique with its rock face that comes alive every so often with falling rocks and smoke coming out of some openings.  Apparently, the Barrier has been the setting of “several catastrophic rock avalanches” in the past.  There was some activity on my first visit, early July, but everything was quiet on my second outing there, late August.  And apart from the other-worldly nature of the site, it also gives us an excellent vantage point on the landscape at large from there.

Lesser Mighty
Mighty stream, early July,  flowing into the Lesser Garibaldi Lake

Molten Rocks
Molten volcanic rock formation

Smoking Chimney
Falling rocks and smoke coming out of a hole in the Barrier :o

Garibaldi Lake, The Barrier
Enjoying the view

(Tough) Like a Rock
Tough little wildflowers at the Barrier

What a long, but extremely rewarding day this has been!  I can’t wait to go back!  It’s good advice to arrive there early though — especially on weekends — as this is a very popular spot and the parking space tends to fill up quickly I’ve been told.  3$ for the day or 5$ for an overnighter is what it will cost you to park at Heaven’s doorstep.  See directions to get there by clicking the “Directions” tab at the top of this page and enjoy! ;)

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Christmas time is over for 2007, but the following reviews of some of the Christmas activities that took place during that period might help you decide which one you’d like to try in 2008:

1. Christmas at Canada Place

Conveniently located near the Waterfront SkyTrain for easy access to the general public, this exhibit shows a variety of intricate displays along the “Woodward’s Windows” on the inside, while the exterior part lining up the “Holiday Promenade” consists mostly of theme-decorated Christmas trees made by local organizations and businesses.

Unfortunately, although the displays themselves were quite elaborate, the linear route left very little room for the holiday spirit to seep into us.  My visit was over rather quickly, as Canada Place is not that big to start with either.

Location: Canada Place
Cost: Free

Santa's Little Helper

Reindeer and Canada Geese?

Santa's Workshop

2. Lights of Hope at St-Paul’s Hospital

Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the “Lights of Hope” display is just that, a display, but a very large and colorful one at that.  And taking into account that it is for a good cause (funds go towards buying new equipment for the hospital, thus providing better care for the patients), the few minutes it takes to appreciate the lights is still worth the detour.

Location: St-Paul’s Hospital
Cost: Free

Lights of Hope

10 Years Running


3. Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden

The most elaborate of the five reviewed here; the only one that is a paying one too; but I’d say it’s worth every penny.  The moment you enter VanDusen Botanical Garden, you are literally surrounded by Christmas lights of all kinds everywhere!  The garden’s ponds also complement the lights very nicely.  This is a very sought after Christmas event as people were swarming all around the site throughout the evening.  Aside from the ever-present Christmas lights, there were also a few other activities on site: the “Dancing Lights” show was somewhat disappointing to me, as the “dance” was only a shutting on and off of lights synchronized to some music; there was also a magician performing some basic magic tricks that was nonetheless a huge success with the kids; the interaction between the magician and the kids made the show that much more enjoyable.  I had a good laugh and the magician gave a good show.

Location: VanDusen Botanical Garden
Cost: too many options :p

Fountain Splash

Gingerbread House

Bouquet of Flowers

4. Bright Nights at Stanley Park

Another free event, this one was quite impressive too.  Lots of lights crammed into a tight, but well thought of area of Stanley Park.  Displays are colorful as they should, quite elaborate too.  For those who prefer to have some space for themselves, it might be wise to avoid “rush hour” though (let’s pretend it’s officially from 6:30PM to 8:00PM).  An optional train ride (not free) through some Christmas-themed areas can be enjoyed too.

Location: Stanley Park
Cost: Free (optional train ride (2007 prices): $7.50 for adults, $4.50 for kids)

Christmas Figurines

Christmas Pond

A Christmas Carol

5. Roger’s Santa Claus Parade

Just go back to my article on the St Patrick’s Day Parade…

Haha… All joking aside, the usual suspects were back: The criss-crossing police motorcycles starting the show, the Vancouver police marching band not too far behind, bagpipes, Work Safe BC (who thankfully traded their usual propaganda for chocolates this time around), etc.  Although this parade had its so-so moments too, it did feel more alive than the previous St Paddy’s Day one.  Musical numbers were varied, so were the costumes, and the floats were much more elaborate for this parade.

Location: Downtown Vancouver
Cost: Free

Snow Queen

Christmas Carol

The Gift of Christmas

For those of you who need specific ratings for these events in order to decide where to go, here are my picks, in order of preference:

1. Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden
2. Bright Lights at Stanley Park
3. Rogers’ Santa Claus Parade
4. Lights of Hope at Saint-Paul’s Hospital
5. Christmas at Canada Place

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