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.
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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Camping in Garibaldi National Park is a popular weekend getaway from Vancouver.
- 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. This is a great weekend trip from Vancouver
- Accomodation Squamish
- Highly rated accommodation in Vancouver with good location.
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
Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Watch is a great tool for hiking measuring speed, elevation, heart rate, mapping and more. I drew the map in this article with mine; TOPO U.S. mapping, GPS and Glonass tracking.
Footwear for hiking your main choices are trail runners, hiking shoes or boots.
Hiking shoes or trail runners work well on the Garibaldi Lake trail if there is not snow since it is a well established trail that is usually not too muddy.
Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof are fantastic hiking shoes that works well in a variety of conditions.
For longer hikes and in snow, we prefer boots and dry feet.
My Salomon X Ultra Prime gortex boots, is an amazing pair of boots, winter, summer, mud, snow and rain comfortable, light and completely waterproof.
Ladies hiking shirts the ladies long sleeve running shirt or ladies short sleeve T-shirt is nice. I like to hike in long-sleeved Columbia hiking shirts, they dry quick and offers maximum sun protection while hiking.
Sunglasses – sunglasses for hiking go for high UV protection and polarized lenses.
I always pack a BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – for sun and wind protection (doubles as a face mask).
Trekking Poles – great if you have knee or ankle problems, also helpful in the mud or if it slippery on the trail, TrailBuddy Hiking Sticks are very well rated, good value for money, aluminum trekking poles. If you want top of the line Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles.
Planning to spend the night at the campsite? I love our MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Lightweight Backpacking Tent, a fantastic, easy light, super quality tent.
About Author – Campbell
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.
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