Garibaldi Lake Hike near Whistler, BC Canada

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 activity 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.

Hike Garibaldi Lake Map
Map created with our Garmin Fenix 5 GPS Watch

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

Garibaldi National Park

Garibaldi National Park is a wilderness park located on the coastal mainland between Whistler and 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.

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.

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