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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16 thoughts on “Spectacular Garibaldi Lake

  1. Hey you,
    I found the link to your blog on the hiking meetup webiste – well, I’m stuck at home with a torn ACL and have too much time for surfing the net ;)
    Amazing pictures and nice stories!

  2. Fantastic photos. I’ve been living in Vancouver since 2006 myself and I’ve wanted to do this hike since I arrived – we’ve just got a tent so may do some backcountry camping up there this summer *crosses fingers*

  3. Fantastic pictures and very detailed and informative writing. I use to go quite often and backpack at Garibaldi, but now it’s so popular I just do day hikes :-( I now live in Washington, but will be doing Black Tusk this weekend-can’t wait! Thanks again for sharing!

  4. Salut Marie-Chaton,

    Hmmm… Tough question. I never paid attention to that detail as I don’t have kids to worry about.

    As a rough estimate, I’d say 80%-90% of the trail *could* be chariot carrier friendly — the first 6km close to 100% friendly –, but an obvious spot where you’d have trouble with it is the Barrier (one of the three major viewpoints).

    But since I never paid *real* attention to that detail, I wouldn’t give any guarantee on that.

    If someone reading this article has experienced hiking Garibaldi Lake with a kid, feel free to let her know how it’s like. :)

  5. Thank you for your answer!
    Maybe we will have to try to find out.

    We did the Seymour Peak (spectacular view) last week and we did the Grouse Moutain trail last Saturday with Élizabeth on the Kelty Kids Carrier Backpack… that was a big workout for the daddy, but he did it.

    Our next ride will probably be at the Lighthouse, so Élizabeth can walk too.

    Thanks again

    (we are planning on making a new blog for Parents/childrens hikes in BC :)) )

    • In May? It might be a bit early, unless you don’t mind finishing off in the snow at higher altitude. My first time was on July 10th and there was still some snow surrounding the lake (see the “Entering Garibaldi Lake” photo). Having said that, I’m sure it will still be doable if you’re equipped to handle the snow. Have a good one! ;)

  6. i been there once before with my husband, but he is out of shape now after a stroke. I heared that there is a BChydro trail where you are allowed to drive close to the lake so you don;t have to hike that far.
    anybody knows that?

    • Hi Estela,

      Sorry for the late reply… I have not heard about that BC Hydro trail myself. As far as I know, the parking lot near Rubble Creek is the only official access point to get to Garibaldi Lake. Then it’s the usual 9km hike up to the lake. Hope you guys get to experience this amazing hike some day!

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