Cheakamus Lake in June
Cheakamus Lake is an incredible lake to hike to. The trail is beautiful and relaxing as it meanders through a forest of huge, old growth trees. The smell of the giant cedars fills the air and the distant sound of Cheakamus River fills the otherwise pure silence of the forest. In June the 8k gravel road is free of snow enough to drive to the trailhead. From the trailhead it is just 3k to the beginning of Cheakamus Lake and the first set of campgrounds. The campgrounds are beautifully laid out in that they sink into the surroundings and in fact are hard to spot (there are 10 tent sites). Aside from the noticeable apparatus to hang food out of reach of bears and the visible outhouses, you would possibly not even notice that this is a campground.
A further, and considerably more beautiful 3k along the trail gets you to the second campsite (7 tents sites) which is similarly beautiful and understated. This is the end of the maintained trail, but if you are keen to explore more, the trail continues further into the wilderness. Aside from several fallen trees across the trail this unmaintained part of the Cheakamus Lake trail is easy to hike and well worth a look. It leads you to dozens of small pocket beaches that are wonderfully sun drenched all hours of the day due to their perfect south facing directions. Don't look for trails to these beaches as this area is so rarely hiked that these spots don't even have worn paths, but most are just steps from the main (unmaintained) trail.
There are no parking or hiking charges at Cheakamus Lake, however there is a charge for overnight camping at Cheakamus Lake, $10 adult, $5 children. Payable online here.. This money goes into paying for the exceptional, though underfunded parks service who maintain Garibaldi Park to an amazingly high standard.
The Cheakamus Lake trail is an excellent hike suitable for all. Due to it's minimal elevation gain/loss and easy, wide gait, the trail is perfect for kids, though you'd have trouble pushing a baby stroller over the innumerable, huge tree roots.
Though you will almost certainly see a bear at some point either on the trail or the 8k gravel road to Cheakamus Lake you shouldn't let that worry you. The Whistler area bears are very timid and at first sight or sound of you coming they will lazily amble into the trees and continue munching on grass or berries. Be cautious though and try to keep your distance from them and give them a chance to move away from you. Take a look at the excellent BC Parks information on bears if you want more info.
Cheakamus Lake is well known for its fishing, so if you like to fish, remember to bring your rod along to go with your picnic. Also, the swimming, though very cold is wonderful and refreshing. The water is strikingly clear in Cheakamus Lake and the small beaches have nice, smooth rocks and pebbles to walk on. If you want to carry a canoe or kayak to the lake be prepared for the 3k hike. It's a long way to carry a boat, though you do see the occasional canoe/kayak on the trail, though usually with a wheel apparatus to assist in the portage.
The Cheakamus Lake trail is also the starting point for the Helm Creek Campground trail. The Helm Creek trail splits off of the Cheakamus Lake trail at 1.5k from the trailhead/parking lot and takes you steeply up into the mountains toward Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge, Garibaldi Lake and quite a lot more. This trail to Helm Creek is buried in snow and hard to follow and hike for most of June, but if you attempt it make sure you have snowshoes and a GPS or good map skills. And if you do make it to Helm Creek or beyond in June the place will be deserted and spectacular. You will have this wonderful part of the world to yourself.
Taylor Meadows in Garibaldi Provincial Park
In June the trail is usually packed with snow at least on the upper reaches of the trail. In 2015 however, the snowfall was very small and the trail to the lake was almost snow free in May! Garibaldi Park is breathtaking anytime of the year, but in June it is particularly beautiful. The ground is freeing itself from the winter snow, the trees bright green, the sky blue and the days long and warm. An unusual feeling to be hiking on snow in t-shirt weather and daylight that stretches almost to 10pm. Sleeping under the stars and waking to the starkly contrasting black, Black Tusk, visible so clearly and closely to your camp in Taylor Meadows is really something.
Taylor Meadows is wonderfully positioned near a crossroads. Go one way leads to Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge. Go another way and you end up at the surreal, bright, unnaturally looking, turquoise Garibaldi Lake.
Though it is only 7.5k from the trailhead to Taylor Meadows it may take you longer if you encounter patches of snow along the trail and winter deadfall strewn across the trail. So it may take over 2 hours to reach your campsite. If you are doing a day hike into the area you can do a partial circle route through Taylor Meadows, then right at the crossroads and see Garibaldi Lake on the return journey. There is also a through hiking route if you have transportation at both ends. Starting/finishing at Rubble Creek, hiking to Taylor Meadows, then continuing on through to Helm Creek and exiting at the Cheakamus Lake trailhead, 25k from where you started. Which in reverse is the popular trail running race in Whistler called the Rubble Creek Classic, held every year in late summer.
Taylor Meadows gets very busy at times as well with 40 campsites with full service (water, security, etc) and fees (May 1 - Nov 15). There are some small rivers close by but no swimming. The draw for Taylor Meadows camping is the wonderful location. It lays in a beautiful forested meadow full of hills and flowers and views of the towering Black Tusk. It has a less crowded feel than Garibaldi Lake does, though bear in mind that even when crowded these campsites don't feel crowded - they are just that organized and thick with trees and hills. Also, if you were to feel crowded, you could easily wander in any of several directions and become immersed in the wonderful forest and beautiful desolation in these vast meadows.
The Helm Creek Campground across the valley from Taylor Meadows is smaller at 9 campsites, however it is in a beautiful setting on the quiet side of Black Tusk, though 1.5 hours away from the approaches to Black Tusk. Helm Creek is another beautiful campground. Most of the 9 campsites are next to the beautiful Helm Creek. The main draw of this campsite is that it is on the quieter side of this area and can be approached from Cheakamus Lake.
The trails through Garibaldi Park are in such a vast area that suitable places far into the wilderness away from anyone, to put up a tent are limitless. People bivy on top of Black Tusk, put up a tent on the far slopes of Panorama Ridge, or tent in any number of other places. Being located in British Columbia means that you are never far from a creek, river or lake wherever you hike in Garibaldi Park.
Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Elfin Lakes is an amazing hike in June. With the exception of weekends you will beat the impending summer crowds and have much of Garibaldi Provincial Park and the wonderful Diamond Head area to yourself. Early June in past years you usually find several metres of accumulated snow on the trail. In 2015, you you likely only find patches of snow along the very highest areas of the trail.
By late June, all of the snow will have melted and the two Elfin Lakes will be breaking out of their six months of their year frozen solid. You would still be very brave to swim in June, but after the 11k hike in 22c weather, any bit of thawed water you encounter invites a dive into.
Garibaldi Provincial Park is an absolutely phenomenal, though long, snowshoeing trail that begins at the Diamond Head area in Squamish. From Whistler Village, the trailhead is just over an hours drive away, located near the south end of the massive Garibaldi Park.in
The is very well marked and maintained and leads to the wonderful, Elfin Lakes Hut. This amazing hut sleeps 33 and is solar powered and propane heated. There is a charge of $15/person to stay the night there which is a small price to pay for the beautiful comfort after the long, 11 kilometre snowshoe hike to get there.
This area is very popular with skiers as well as snowshoers in the winter and deep snow covers the trail usually from November to June. The trail to Elfin Lakes starts out ascending through deep forest, reaching the Red Heather Hut after 5k. This is a small warming hut equipped with a wood stove complete with a stack of wood free to use, though sleeping here is for emergencies only. The final 6k from this hut to Elfin Lakes takes you along a beautiful ridge with amazing views of snowy mountains all around. The considerable day-trip distance of the Elfin Lakes trail rates it as difficult.