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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 and one of our favorite day hikes in British Columbia.
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 takes 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. Easy to reach from Vancouver, Squamish, or Whistler there are several excellent hiking options in Garibaldi Provincial Park including, Panorama Ridge and hiking to the Black Tusk. Garibaldi Lake is a great camping spot, where you can swim or hike some more trails in the park.
Hiking to Lake Garibaldi is an amazing day trip from Vancouver, Whistler, or Squamish.
The Garibaldi Lake trailhead is not located inside Vancouver but is close enough to reach by car or public transport to do day hikes. 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
The reported return distance for the hike is 18 km with 820m elevation gain, and 4 to 7 hours is the average time it takes to complete the hike. The hiking statistics below were from my last hike to Garibaldi Lake measured with my Garmin GPS watch.
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Total Distance round trip 20 km
- Distance Trailhead 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
Booking the Garibaldi Lake Hike 2023
A free day pass is required to hike to Garibaldi Lake in season (from June 14 – Oct 9), the pass is free and can be bought ahead from 7 am two days before your visit. I understand the idea behind the passes was to limit the people on the trail per day since it can get very busy in season.
Day passes are required for hiking from the following trailheads; Diamond Head (Elfin Lakes) trailhead, Rubble Creek (Garibaldi Lake) trailhead, and Cheakamus trailhead. If you have a valid reservation for overnight camping, you do not need a day-use pass, just carry your reservation with you.
How Difficult is the Garibaldi Lake Hike?
Walking up and down a mountain for hours is challenging. The wide, well-maintained main trail is nice and easy to walk on all the way, especially in the summer months. This is not a technical hiking route. The 820m elevation gain from the start of the trail makes the hike hard work, you go up all the way. Most of the trail is rated by Garibaldi Provincial Park as moderate going up in a series of switchbacks, the first couple of kilometers are the steepest. If you are relatively fit it should not be too hard. The average hiking time is 4 to 7 hours, but if you walk very slowly it can take up to 10 hours to complete the round-trip hike. Snowshoes and microspikes are recommended for this trail in winter.
Garibaldi Provincial Park
Garibaldi Provincial Park is a wilderness park located on the coastal mainland between Whistler and Vancouver. Visiting Garibaldi Park was one of my favorite things to do in Vancouver. It is easy to reach and do long one-day hikes from Vancouver, being located 70 kilometers, about a 1.5-hour 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.
The Rubble Creek Trailhead
The Rubble Creek trailhead is the main access point for some of the best hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park in the Whistler area including the Garibaldi Lake hiking trail. There is a fairly large parking area at the trailhead, but it fills up quickly in summer. The trailhead is located halfway between Whistler and Squamish, about 2 kilometers from the Sea to Sky Highway. The name Rubble Creek refers to a massive rock slide that swept down the valley about 45 years ago.
How to Get to Garibaldi Lake
It is easy to reach the Rubble Creek trailhead by car from either Vancouver (70 km/44 miles away), Whistler (35 km/22 miles), or Squamish (38 km/23 miles). 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 Discover Cars to compare and book a car from all the main reputable car rental companies in and around Vancouver.
From Vancouver, the trails in Garibaldi National Park can be reached by public transport using the Parkbus. The bus service is currently $95 for a return ticket to the Rubble Creek parking area at the trailhead (May 2023). 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.
The Garibaldi Lake Hiking Trail Route
The hike to Garibaldi Lake starts from the Rubble Creek parking lot, located between Whistler 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 lose.
Rubble Creek Parking Lot to where the Trail Forks
The trail is well-marked with kilometer markers on the way. The trail forks only once where you must choose which direction to go. The first 6 kilometers are steep and rated as “strenuous” by Garibaldi Provincial Park ( with a grade greater than 15%). The elevation gain over this first section is 770m. There is one small creek where you can refill your water bottle about 2 km into the trail. The first kilometer is the steepest part of the trail with a series of switchbacks from kilometers 3 to 5. Around the 5-kilometer mark, there is a lookout point over The Barrier, a lava dam. It is a wide, clear, well-maintained trail to Garibaldi Lake. The route winds through a forest of mostly Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees.
The Junction to Taylor Meadows Campground
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. From the junction to Garibaldi Lake campground is 3 kilometers, this part has a moderate grading with an elevation gain of 130 meters over the last 3 km. Taylor Meadows Campsite Route – 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 Black Tusk Mountain. The trail gains about 125 m in altitude over 1.5 km as you ascend to Taylor Meadows Campground. Passing the campground itself (with a little wooden cook shelter) you will reach another junction, turn right and re-enter the trees to a well-maintained trail. Going right at the junction is the direct route to Garibaldi Lake. Heading to the lake you will pass two smaller lakes Barrier Lake and Lesser Garibaldi Lake during the last 3 km before reaching Garibaldi Lake. Barrier Lake is a natural dam formed by lava flows thousands of years ago.
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. 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 a campsite. There are some trout in the lake so fishing can be done here. To get back to the trailhead just follow the same way down. Walking on trails next to the lake added another 1.6 km to my hike.
Swimming in Garibaldi Lake
The dock next to the lake is a great spot for lunch and to take a swim! The perfect blue water was a bit cold, but not freezing. The water in Garibaldi Lake was nice for a quick dip. We were a couple of people swimming on a cloudy day in late August.
Garibaldi Lake Camping
Camping on the Garibaldi Lake hike is allowed all year at the Garibaldi Lake campsite and at at the Taylor Meadows campsite. If you spend the night in the campsite there are some 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 for Camping here. The campsite can accommodate 35 tents, an additional 40 tent pads 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 trailhead, 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 camping fees are $6 per tent pad and $10 per night for each adult (16+).
Garibaldi Lake camping offers four day-use shelters, each with 2 picnic tables, washing sinks, and pit toilet facilities. Taylor Meadows Camping offers two day-use shelters, with two picnic tables, a wash sink, and pit toilet facilities.
Camping in Garibaldi National Park is a popular weekend getaway from Vancouver. For a great weekend of hiking and camping hike to Garibaldi Lake and set up camp here as a base for the weekend. Hike to Panorama Ridge on one day and Black Tusk on the next before breaking up camp and returning to your trailhead.
- 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, and no dogs are allowed in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Bears on the Garibaldi Lake Trail
Both black and grizzly bears are present in the area surrounding Garibaldi Lake. Grizzly bears are rarely seen. It is best to carry bear spray to protect yourself, especially if you are camping overnight.
Are Dogs Allowed in the Garibaldi Provincial Park?
To protect the biodiversity and for bear safety concerns dogs and other pets are not allowed in the park.
Best Time to Hike to Garibaldi Lake
Garibaldi Provincial Park is open for hiking all year round. Hikers are generally found on the trail from May until October, but the best time to visit the lake is the second half of July or early August. During winter, the trail is generally covered in snow, wearing winter boots and carrying microspikes and snowshoes with you is recommended. The access road to the Rubble Creeks is plowed, but can still be covered in snow and difficult to drive.
Accommodation in Squamish and Vancouver
I have hiked in Garibaldi National Park from Vancouver and Squamish, and reaching the trailhead was easy from both locations. This is a great weekend trip from Vancouver
- Accommodation Squamish
- Highly rated accommodation in Vancouver with a good location.
More Great Hikes in Canada
Garibaldi 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 a 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 Marine 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 helpful and important hiking parameters.
For 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 no snow since it is a well-established trail that is usually not too muddy.
Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof is a fantastic hiking shoe 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 are an amazing pair of boots, for winter, summer, mud, snow, and rain comfortable, light, and completely waterproof.
I always pack a BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – for sun and wind protection (doubles as a face mask).
Trekking Poles are very helpful in the mud or if it is slippery on the trail, TrailBuddy Hiking Sticks are very well-rated, good value for money, aluminum 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.
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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.