Garibaldi Lake Hiking Trail
Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia
- Destination: Southwest British Columbia
- Season: July-October
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 18.4 kilometers (out‑and‑back)
- Elevation Gain: 1,340 meters
- Duration: 5-6 hours
About Garibaldi Lake
Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park is a stunning, glacier-fed lake that sits 1,450 m high, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows and volcanic structures. It is a great day hike, and even better camping destination. Camping at Garibaldi Lake provides opportunities to explore other nearby hikes such as Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge.
There are 50 campsites at the lake, which are only available by reservation through the Discover Camping website.
This is a very popular hike, so expect crowds unless you go outside of July and August, which is when the flowers are in full bloom.
Take Highway #99 heading north passed Horseshoe Bay towards Squamish. Keep driving along the Sea to Sky highway all the way to Squamish. Once you hit downtown Squamish, watch your odometer and keep driving north for about another 37 km.
Keep a sharp eye out for the Garibaldi Provincial Park sign on your right. Just over the Rubble Creek Bridge you will take a right onto a small paved road that is not hard to miss. Just continue on for a few kilometers until you reach the Rubble Creek parking lot.
Starting at the Rubble Creek parking lot, it is a 9 km hike to reach Garibaldi Lake. The first 6 km take you up through a forest of plentiful Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees. Around the 30 minute mark of the initial ascent, there is a creek crossing, and the only opportunity for water for a long while. The next hour or so of climbing is not very noteworthy – just a relentless uphill battle. If you’re camping and have your heavy backpack, the continuous switchbacks on the steep trail can be especially grueling. Put your head down and count off the kilometer markers: 3. 4. 5…
A few minutes past the 5 km marker you will get a nice view of The Barrier, which is a lava dam that actually contains the Garibaldi Lake system and is 300 m thick on the containing wall. The sheer cliff you see was formed during a massive landslide in 1885, which is also how Rubble Creek received its name. If The Barrier were to collapse, Garibaldi Lake would release down onto the town of Squamish below, and it is thought the impact-wave hitting Howe Sound could even reach Vancouver Island.
Just beyond the 6 km marker, there is a major junction with options for Taylor Meadows campground or Garibaldi Lake. Here, you will be at 1,360 m elevation. The junction is a good point to take a break, and if you bring some bird-seeds, the whiskey jacks here will eat out of your hand. Please don’t feed them human food.
Alternate route: If you want to head left at this junction, towards Taylor Meadows, you can do so creating a partial loop to the lake. If you head left here, you will pass the Taylor Meadows campground, and carry on towards Black Tusk Meadows. There is a large junction where you can follow the trail down to Garibaldi Lake. This route adds some time, distance, and elevation to the stats above, but not a significant amount.
From the 6 km junction, take the trail to the right. Most of the elevation gain is behind you. During the final 3 km towards Garibaldi Lake, you will pass by Barrier Lake and Lesser Garibaldi Lake. Both are beautiful, but only provide a taste of what’s to come. You will also get a wide, open view of The Barrier.
Along the way, you will cross a few small creeks that feed into Lesser Garibaldi Lake. After leaving Lesser Garibaldi Lake you’ll cross a wooden bridge over Taylor Creek. 20 minutes later you’ll come to another fork which can take you up into Taylor Meadows. Stay on the path for Garibaldi Lake and you will quickly be descending down a few final switchbacks to the lake. Once you get around the final bend, you are rewarded with the spectacular view of the pristine, turquoise Garibaldi Lake, and Sphinx Glacier hovering above it.
Garibaldi Lake is 5 km long, 4 km wide, and 300 m in depth. Alongside the lake, you will find a few day-use cooking shelters, pit toilets and the campground. Now you can set up your tent, have lunch, and take a dip in the chilly lake if you wish to cool down. ‘Chilly’ might be an understatement. There are also trout in the lake which were introduced in the 1920s, so fishing can be done here. If you are camping overnight, you should still have time to climb up Panorama Ridge or Black Tusk and return to the campsite before sunset. To return to the parking lot from Garibaldi Lake, simply retrace your steps.
The turquoise colour of Garibaldi Lake is caused by “rockflour” (sediment from the glacier), that is suspended in the water and absorbs and scatters the sunlight.
There are pit toilets at the parking lot, Taylor Meadows campground, and the Garibaldi Lake campground. The Garibaldi Lake campground also has a small hut suitable for eating (no sleeping allowed).
Where to stay
Camping is permitted at Garibaldi Lake and nearby Taylor Meadows. As of 2018, reservations are required for all overnight stays in Garibaldi Provincial Park, year-round, and can be made up to 4 months in advance.
Self-registration stations are no longer be available at the trailheads as they used to be. All campers must pay in advance using the online system.
More details on the camping in Garibaldi Park and backcountry camping permits can be found here.
Questions or comments? Let us know.