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Garibaldi Lake Hike near Whistler, BC Canada

The beautiful Garibaldi Lake with turquoise glacial waters, sits at 1450m above sea-level surrounded by snow-capped mountains, alpine meadows, and volcanic structures. Hiking to this beautiful lake in Garibaldi Park is a very popular day hike from Vancouver. It is not an easy stroll to the lake, it is an 18 km out and back hike to the lake, uphill the whole way that take most people about 6 hours. The 9km trail to the lake is wide and well-maintained ascending through old growth forest, passing creeks in a series of steep uphill switchbacks. Garibaldi Lake is a great camping spot, swimming in the lake and hiking some more trails in the park.

Amazing view of Garibaldi Lake.
Amazing view of Garibaldi Lake.

If you want to do a challenging hike inside Vancouver, consider hiking Grouse Mountain. If there are non hikers present, they can always take the cable car and meet you at the top!

Garibaldi Lake Hike Statistics

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 
    • Total Distance round trip 20 km
    • Distance Trail head to Lake Garibaldi 9km
    • Walk around the lake : 1.6 km
  • Max Elevation: Peak 1612 m
  • Total Elevation Gain: 900 m
  • Time: 4 hours 50 minutes
  • Average Hiking Time: anything from 4 to 7 hours
Hike Garibaldi Lake Map
Map created with our Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Watch

Garibaldi National Park

Garibaldi National Park is a wilderness park located on the coastal mainland between Whistler and Vancouver. Visiting Garibaldi National Park was one of my favorite things to do from Vancouver. It is easy to reach and do long one day hikes from Vancouver, being located 70 kilometers, about 1.5 hours drive, north of the city. The park is named after the glacier-ringed Mount Garibaldi (2,678-meters) and is a hiker’s paradise offering over 90 km of well marked trails including several of the top trails in Canada such as Garibaldi Lake, Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge and Elfin Lakes.

Transport from Vancouver to Garibaldi National Park

It is easy to reach the trail head by car from either Vancouver (70 km away), Whistler (35 km) or Squamish (38 km). To get to Garibaldi Provincial Park from Vancouver, take Highway 99 known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway. For car rental options I recommend using Rentalcar to compare and book a car from all the main reputable car rental companies in an around Vancouver.

From Vancouver the trails in Garibaldi can be reached by public transport using the Parkbus. The bus service is currently $53 for a return ticket to Rubble Creek parking area at the trail head. The bus leaves early in the morning and gives you about 10 hours to hike before the return bus picks you up, this should be enough time to do any of the trails.

The Rubble Creek trail head is even easier to reach by public transport from Squamish with the Shred Shuttle for $CAD 22 return. The Stawamus Chief is a fantastic day hike to do in Squamish

If you are alone and don’t want to hike alone you can always try to hook up with someone on the bus since everyone is on the same itinerary, most people go to hike to Garibaldi lake.

Wide, clear, well maintained trail to Garibaldi Lake.
Wide, clear, well maintained trail to Garibaldi Lake.

Hiking to Garibaldi Lake – The Route

The hike to Garibaldi Lake starts from the Rubble Creek parking lot, located between Squamish and Vancouver. The hiking distance to the lake is 9 km (18 km return). It is a wide well maintained trail that would be hard to loose. The trail is well marked with kilometer markers on the way. There is one small creek where you can refill your water bottle about 2 km into the trail. The first kilometers is the steepest part of the trail with a series of switchbacks from kilometer 3 to 5. The route winds through a forest of mostly Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees.

Small creek on the way where you can refill your bottle
There is only one small creek on the way where you can refill your bottle

Around the 5 kilometer mark there is a lookout point over The Barrier, a lava dam.

Shortly after the 6km mark, you reach the Taylor Meadows Junction, there is a map of the surrounding area here. The steepest climb is over at this stage and many people stop here for a bit of a break. Going right at the junction is the direct route to Garibaldi Lake, going left takes you through Taylor Meadows, a beautiful area with colorful alpine flowers during the late summer and early fall. You also walk this way to head to the Black Tusk mountain.

You pass two smaller lakes Barrier Lake and Lesser Garibaldi Lake during the last 3 km before reaching Garibaldi Lake.

Perfect blue Garibaldi Lake.

The lake is big, it is 5 km long and 4 km wide. A couple of hundred meters walk on the lakeshore there is a wooden doc, this is a nice spot to swim from and to just sit and enjoy the beautiful lake. Yes, you can swim in the lake! the water is a bit chilly, but not freezing, definitely swimable. The perfect turquoise color of the lake originates from glacial flour suspended in the meltwater from its two primary inflows, the large Sphinx Glacier and the Sentinel Glacier.  Alongside the lake there are cooking shelters, pit toilets and the campsite. There are some trout in the lake so fishing can be done here. To get back to the trail head just follow the same way down.

The doc next to the lake is a great spot for lunch and to take a swim from!
The dock next to the lake is a great spot for lunch and to take a swim from!

Garibaldi Lake Camping

The Garibaldi Lake campsite is a spectacular area to camp. If you spend the night in the campsite there are some more fantastic hiking options. You can climb up Panorama Ridge for amazing views of the lake or do the hike to Black Tusk and return to the campsite before sunset. The campsite is very popular and fills up quickly in summer so make reservations well in advance. Make reservations here. The campsite can accommodate 50 people, an additional 40 people can stay at the Taylor Meadows campsite which must also be reserved. Both campsites have pit toilets, however there is no running or drinkable water and all garbage must be packed out with you. The campsite at Taylor Meadows has a hut where you are allowed to store food, but sleeping in the hut is not allowed. The distance from Taylor Meadows campsite is similar to Garibaldi Lake campsite from the Rubble Creek trail head, about 9 km. It is also possible to hike into Taylor Meadows from the Cheakamus Lake parking lot via Helm Creek. This is apparently a tough hike and is usually done as a multi day camping hike.

The Black Tusk is a long hike in one day and is a very popular hike when camping at Garibaldi Lake.
The Black Tusk is a long hike in one day and is a very popular hike when camping at Garibaldi Lake.

Important tips

  • Bring your own clean water or plan to boil water for drinking as there is no clean water in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Even water from the creek at Taylor Meadows is not recommended to drink without treatment. I carried a Lifestraw filter bottle for treating water.
  • There is very limited cell service in the park
  • It is a national park, no dogs allowed in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Accommodation in Squamish and Vancouver

I have hiked in Garibaldi National Park from Vancouver and Squamish, reaching the trailhead was easy from both locations.

More Great Hikes in Canada

Garibaldi Lake National Park has some nice camping options, but if you want to do some longer backpacking trips Vancouver island is the place to go. The famous West Coast Trail is brutal 6 day hike all along the coast. We saw so many animals on the trail from killer whales to bears, all up-close! The Juan de Fuca hiking trail going in the opposite direction on the same coast of Vancouver island was also a fantastic hike with some more flexibility. The beautiful Vancouver island offers incredible nature with beautiful towns and exciting activities, see our Best things to do on Vancouver island post.

Banff National Park in Alberta is home to some of the most beautiful one day trails that I explored in Canada. I stayed in Banff and Lake Louise for more than a week hiking amazing routes around Banff, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake every day.

Packing for Hiking in Garibaldi National Park

Useful gear on this hike

Our Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Watch was great for navigation and drawing maps and elevation profiles.

We love the Lifestraw filter bottle is great for treating water if you are not sure about drinking quality.

To enjoy hiking a good pair of shoes is the basic equipment you will need.

When buying hiking boots/shoes check for the following:

  • waterproof
  • breathing
  • have good grip – sometimes you walk on muddy or rocky terrain
  • fit good – you have some space to wiggle your toes
  • good quality

Should you hike in boots or shoes? In winter for muddy conditions or snow boots are preferable. In dry conditions without snow the need for ankle support is a personal preference. In winter with snow I will strongly recommend that you wear boots and close them up with some gaiters.   Wearing merino wool socks in waterproof hiking shoes is the way to go and I will definitely add gaiters if it is rainy.

Alya hiked more than 3000 km in her Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof hiking shoes before retiring them! Salomon X Ultra Prime is another good option for low cut shoes; durable, waterproof, comfortable, have good grip. For boot cut – KEEN Targhee II Waterproof or more budget option – Columbia Granite Ridge.are good shoes.

If you’re looking for something cheaper Columbia Dakota Drifter is a good option. For ladies that prefer a boot cut Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boot, is an excellent choice.

MSR Hubba Hubba tent pitched at the campsite in the forest
Out favorite MSR Hubba Hubba tent pitched in the forest

I always have a rain jacket with me on a hike. A waterproof jacket ladies or (men’s model) with hood in case of strong wind or rain is a must on this trail.

Great pants for all conditions hiking pants, Alya walks in trekking pants or yoga pants.

Fleece vest- very light to pack,  a fleece vest is nice for extra heat layering, ladies.

Hiking shirt – I never wear cotton, if you sweat under your jacket you will be wet and cold underneath. Alya prefers hiking in breathable, moisture wicking, quik dry long sleeve shirt. I love hiking in Columbia shirts, they do not absorb water so dry quickly and protects me from the sun if I take my jacket off. Quick dry if I get importunity to hand wash on the way. 

Sport bras – they are great for hiking and outdoors, Alya says that she prefers sport bras over normal bras. 

Merino wool socks – a must have especially for long hikes. In the past we didn’t pay much attention to socks – bought any random cheap socks and used to have blisters. We’ve heard a lot from other hikers about merino wool socks and finally decided to give it a go. They do work great, now we always wear them for hiking. Some advantages of merino wool socks; don’t absorb odors, protect your feet, dry quick and very durable. For even more comfortable walk check Darn Tough hiking socks they’re famous for great foot support and blister protection. Alya likes their ladies’ models; colorful and funky.

Cap/hat – a must have in the mountains for sun protection. Alya prefers wearing a cap, I usually takes a hat on hikes. 

Sunglasses – bring sunglasses for hiking in the mountains with high UV protection and polarized lenses.  

Pack a BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – protects your neck and face from sun burn, wind and weather. Get a funky one, mine is a South African flag, awesome for photos!

Trekking Poles – very helpful in the mud, if you don’t have a pair get a stick early on, helped us a lot. TrailBuddy Hiking Sticks, TrailBuddy Hiking Sticks very well rated, good value for money, aluminium trekking poles. Aluminium is strong and a bit heavier than carbon, my advice is save some money, go for these guys! Top of the line Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Pole, 68-140cm.

Planning to do a multi day backpacking hike? I love our MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent, bought mine in Canada, camped in many different conditions, a fantastic, easy light, super quality tent.

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