Elfin Lakes Trail Hiking Trail
A beautiful alpine vista with panoramic views of the Coast Mountain Range
- Destination: Southwest British Columbia
- Season: April-November
- Difficulty: Medium
- Distance: 10.3 kilometers (point‑to‑point)
- Elevation Gain: 640 meters
- Duration: 6-7.5 hours
About Elfin Lakes Trail
A great trail for those looking to access the alpine quickly for either a day trip, an overnight camp out, or to use as a basecamp to reach the deeper regions of Garibaldi Provincial Park.
This trail is the access route for both summer hikers and winter skiers, split boarders and snowshoers.
The trail is also the access road for the Elfin Lakes rangers cabin, so hikers can expect an easy going trail grade and gravel track wide enough to permit small off road vehicles.
The trail was previously the access road for the old Diamond Head Lodge and ski area that resided by the lakes where the Ranger Cabin now sits.
Drive north from Vancouver to Squamish for approximately 45 minutes. Turn east off Highway 99 onto Mamquam Road 4 kilometers north of downtown Squamish (not to be confused with the Mamquam FSR). Follow the paved road alongside the Squamish Golf and Country Club. Turn North onto Highland Way S, turn East at the roundabout and head up and through Quest University. Turn left or Northeast onto Mamquam road which becomes Garibaldi Park road. Follow this gravel road until you arrive at the parking lot. It is 16 km from the highway to the parking lot, located at 914 m elevation.
Chains are mandatory in winter as the road can ice up quickly after a snowfall.
From the parking lot, pass by the gate and begin the slow uphill climb along the gravel road.
At the 5-kilometer mark you arrive at the Red Heather Meadows. There is a warming hut/shelter and outhouse here.
Follow the gravel road, or for more of an adventure take the narrow trail past the shelter for the next kilometer, continuing into alpine meadows before it joins back up with the gravel road and continues uphill. Paul Ridge will be on your right on the way up and is a popular backcountry ski area.
The trail will level out for the last kilometer or two and at the 11-kilometer mark you will reach Elfin Lakes.
The bottom lake is for drinking water, however you can swim in the top lake.
Beyond the second lake you will see the ranger cabin, outhouses, camping platforms and the overnight shelter (with room for 30+ people) used by overnighters and those who wish to continue on to Opal Cone, the Gargoyles, Mamquam Lake, or cross the Nevé Glacier and traverse around to exit via the Rubble Creek Trail head.
- Water available at Elfin Lakes, boiling and treating is advised
- All overnight stays at Elfin Lakes Campground or at the Elfil Lakes cabins needs to be pre-booked
- Fires are not allowed
- Dogs not allowed
- Expect to see no cell service throughout the park
- Red Heather warming hut and Red Heather Campground at 5-kilometer mark
- Elfin Lakes Hut for 33 people with cook stove and bunk beds (bring own sleeping bag and pad)
- Elfin Lakes Campground with 13 available tent sites
- You can find toilets at the trailhead and at the campground
- There are food containers by the campground
Where to stay
In summer camping on provided platforms is the preferred travel style. However, in the winter the warming shelter at Red Heather and the upper Hut see a lot of use by backcountry snow travellers.
Questions or comments? Let us know.
By Keegan Pearson
Keegan is a photographer and storyteller who was born and raised on Salt Spring Island. He now lives in Squamish, BC.