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Garibaldi Provincial Park Hiking Guide 2018

Panorama Ridge Aerial Video - Whistler TrailsRusset Lake Aerial VideoWedgemount Lake Aerial Video

Garibaldi Provincial Park Guide 2018

Wedgemount Lake is a Challenging Hiking TrailGaribaldi Provincial Park is an enormous mountain wilderness park stretching from Pemberton to Squamish in British Columbia.  At almost 2000 square kilometres, the park partly surrounds Whistler and is accessible by foot or by gondola from Whistler Village. Garibaldi Provincial Park is characterized by dense British Columbia coastal rainforest, snow-capped mountains, glaciers and innumerable mountain lakes.

Whether you are standing in Squamish or high up on Panorama Ridge, Mount Garibaldi towers in the distance.  Named after a 19th century patriot and soldier, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Mount Garibaldi is a massive 2678 metre giant at the southern end of the park.  It was named after Garibaldi by Captain George Henry Richards of the Royal Navy in 1860.  Guiseppe Garibaldi had gained worldwide acclaim that year by unifying Italy by repatriating Sicily and Naples.

Panorama Ridge Aerial Video Part 3

In 1907 a group of Vancouver climbers reached the summit of Mount Garibaldi and provided the inspiration to develop Garibaldi Lake as a climbing and hiking base.  In 1920 the Garibaldi Park Reserve was established and in 1927 became Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Garibaldi Provincial Park Reservations 2018

In 2018 a lot of changes with Garibaldi Provincial Park’s campsite reservations.  The first big change is that overnight camping fees are required at all campgrounds, year-round. It is still free to day hike in the park, but sleeping in the park requires a reservation and camping fees apply in all areas of Garibaldi Provincial Park.  You can’t pay by cash or at the trailheads or at the campgrounds.  Reservations must be made in advance via the BC Parks online reservation service or at the call center.  It is a pretty organized and fair reservation system.  Fairly easy to use online and reasonably priced.  The revenue goes into maintaining trails, access roads, parking lots, park buildings and snow removal.

Staying at the Elfin Lakes hut costs a bit more at $15 per adult, per night and kids 6-15 pay $10 per person, per night.  Kids under 6 are free.  The Elfin Lakes Hut fee includes your backcountry camping permit, so one adult staying in the hut pays a total of $15.  If you want to stay in the Wedgemount Lake hut or the Russet Lake hut, you simply buy a campsite pass and if the hut has an empty bed when you arrive, you take it.  There are no reservations for these two smaller huts and the rule is simply first come, first served.

The second big change this year for Garibaldi Provincial Park is that for the first time you can legally register and pay to camp in the backcountry beyond the official campsites. Wilderness camping permits are available to mountaineers, climbers, ski tourers, and other visitors with advanced skills in wilderness travel and camping, within the wilderness camping zone. The areas you can wilderness camp is quite restricted in an effort to not overrun the park and maintain some control over the massive numbers of hikers in the park.  Backcountry Camping Permits for Garibaldi Park cost the same as the campsite fees: $10 per person, per night.  Children 6-16 years old pay $5 per person, per night and kids under 6 years old are free.

There are two ways to book a reservation to camp in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Reserve online 24 hours once the inventory is available for booking.  For mobile devices, scroll to bottom of page and click “Switch to Full Site”.  Or via the Call Centre (an additional $5 surcharge applies): 1-800-689-9025 (toll free Canada) +1-519-826-6850 (International) 7:00 am-7:00 pm seven days a week.  Some of the Garibaldi Park trailheads don’t have reliable cell coverage, so don’t forget to book your reservation before you start hiking!  When you book online or by phone you will need the following information.  Your arrival date, your desired campground, your group size.  Then you have to pick the number of tent pads your party requires.  At tent pad is 10 feet by 10 feet and usually accommodates one tent.  Each tent pad can fit a maximum of 4 people.   For Elfin Shelter choose one “tent pad” per party (up to 4 people).  Choose your itinerary for each night.  Click “reserve”  Fill in the permit holder and camping party information.  Pay for your reservation with your credit card.

Reserve Now Garibaldi Provincial Park Camping


Panorama Ridge Garibaldi Park Aerial Views


Five Main Access Trailheads - Garibaldi Provincial Park

Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Provincial ParkThere are currently five main access points to Garibaldi Provincial Park and all are marked from the Sea to Sky Highway running near the western border of the park.  The Rubble Creek trailhead is the main access point for Garibaldi Lake, Taylor Meadows and Black Tusk.  This trailhead is located off of the Sea to Sky Highway, partway between Squamish and Whistler.  From this trailhead, Garibaldi Lake is 9 kilometres along a well used and moderately difficult trail. Taylor Meadows branches off from this trail partway to Garibaldi Lake.  From Rubble Creek to Taylor Meadows is 7.5 kilometres.  Both Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake have pay-to-use campgrounds with toilet facilities and park ranger maintaining them. Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial ParkBeyond Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake, another trail leads to Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge.  These are two amazing and challenging destinations for this area of the park. Black Tusk is 13.5 kilometres from the Rubble Creek trailhead and Panorama Ridge is 15k. Black Tusk is the descriptively named stark black mountain that can be seen from almost everywhere in Whistler.  The massive black spire of crumbling rock Cheakamus Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Parkjuts out of the earth in an incredibly distinct way that appears like an enormous black tusk plunging out of the earth.  Whether you spot it kilometres away, from the top of Whistler Mountain or from dozens of vantage points along the Sea to Sky Highway, its unmistakable appearance is breathtaking.  Seeing Black Tusk from closer vantage points such as Taylor Meadows, Helm Creek, Panorama Ridge or Garibaldi Lake, all views make climbing Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Parkto the top look impossible.  In fact, Black Tusk seems to look more impossible to climb the closer you get to it.  Even when you are close enough to touch its vertical, black and crumbling sides, you wonder in amazement how anyone can ever reach the top. Panorama Ridge is easily one of the most amazing hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park.  The 15 kilometre hike from the trailhead at Rubble Creek to Panorama Ridge takes you through beautiful and deep forests, across countless idyllic streams, through meadows filled with Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Parkflowers, and past dozens of jaw dropping viewpoints.  The amazing views start once you reach Taylor Meadows and get even more spectacular as the trail progresses.  Once you arrive at Panorama Ridge and its phenomenal vantage point, high above Garibaldi Provincial Park, you will stare in wonder.  Mesmerized first by Garibaldi Lake, far below you and looking unnaturally blue, the lake looks aTaylor Meadows in Garibaldi Provincial Parkmazing surrounded by green, untouched wilderness and snow capped mountains.  Taylor Meadows is a beautiful campsite and alternative to the much busier Garibaldi Lake campsite. Located in between Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk itself. It is reached from the same trailhead to Garibaldi Lake.  There are 40 very nice tent platforms, toilets, a good water source and a food cache,  all in the lush forest of Taylor Meadows with the distant view of Black Tusk.  The hike is a relaxing 7.5k through a deep, big treeBlack Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park forest.  The first half is a series of switchbacks and then the thick forest gives way to Taylor Meadows.  The grassy meadows open up the view of snowy mountains and the spectacular Black Tusk just a couple kilometres away.  Garibaldi Lake is the centre and base for much of the hiking in Garibaldi Provincial Park.  The Garibaldi Lake campsite is located on the amazing, turquoise shores of this massive and mostly undisturbed mountain lake.  There are no trails around the perimeter of the lake with the exception of the small section leading to the campsite, so your view of the lake is a sea of unnaturally Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Parkcoloured water ringed by swaths of forest and a magnificent glacier towering in the distance.  The water is painfully cold, though plenty of brave hikers swim here as well as camp.  The camping area is well laid out and stretches deep into the forest with 50 tent clearings.  You can, except for the busiest of days, put your tent out of earshot and sight of others.  The trail to Garibaldi Lake from the Rubble Creek trailhead, just off of the Sea to Sky Highway takes about two hours.  You gain a fair amount of elevation, 900 metres in just 9k, trailhead to lake.  Partway along the trail to Garibaldi Lake the trail forks.  Right to Garibaldi Lake and left goes to another beautiful campground, Taylor Meadows.  Past Taylor Meadows you can link back to Garibaldi Lake by yet another linking trail.  At every trail for there are nice and clear signs and sometimes maps, showing where and how far everything is.


Wedgemount Lake - Hiking in Whistle

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Wedgemount Lake - Garibaldi Provincial Park

Wedgemount Lake is a Challenging Hiking TrailDue to lingering snow, the Wedgemount Lake trail will be very difficult to hike until mid June(2018). Wedgemount Lake is one of the most spectacular hikes in Garibaldi Park. Though it is a relentlessly exhausting, steep hike, it is mercifully short at only 7 kilometres (one way).  The elevation gain in thatAerial View of Wedgemount Lake short distance is over 1200 metres which makes it a much steeper hike than most other Whistler hiking trails. Compared with other Whistler hikes, Wedgemount Lake is half the roundtrip distance of either Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, for example,  at 13.5k and 15k respectively (one way).

Wedgemount Lake itself is a magnificent destination for a day hike or spectacular overnight beneath the dazzling mountain peaks and stars. Many sleep under the stars on one of the many beautiful tent platforms that dot the landscape.  Solidly built, wooden tent platforms are everywhere you look at Wedgemount Lake.

Strategically positioned, these platforms manage to maintain an amazingly secluded feel despite their numbers.  In all Wedgemount Lake has 20 of these tent areas.  Most are wooden, but several down by the lake shore are gravel, yet every bit as nice.

At a fast hiking pace you can reach Wedgemount Lake from the trailhead in just an hour and a half but at a leisurely or backpack laden pace you Wedgemount Lake Tent Site Viewwill likely take over two hours.  The trail is well marked and well used.  The steepness of the trail doesn't require any technical skill, however that last kilometre before the lake you will be scrambling on all fours quite a bit.

The elevation gain makes a tremendous difference when carrying a heavy backpack and unprepared for the exertion.  There is hardly a section of the trail that is not steeply uphill. The first 15 minutes takes you into the deep forest as you run along Wedgemount Creek.  This crashing creek can be heard from quite a distance and gives you a hint of the steepness of the trail to come.

The source of Wedgemount Creek is of course Wedgemount Lake which tumbles down almost 300 metres in the spectacular Wedgemount Falls.  You will be able to see Wedgemount Falls around the 5 kilometre mark along the trail.  It is far off to the right in the distance.  Despite the distance, you will hear it loud and clear and some easy to find and get to areas off the trail give amazing views of it.

One of the defining features of Garibaldi Provincial Park, and Wedgemount Lake in particular, is the staggering number of branching hikes from the main destination of the lake itself. For many, Wedgemount Lake and the Wedge Hut is the base for hikes to Wedge Mountain, Mount Cook, Mount Weart, Mount Moe, Mount James Turner and Mount Currie in Pemberton, crossing glaciers such as Wedgemount Aerial Video of Wedge GlacierGlacier, Weart Glacier, Armchair Glacier, Mystery Glacier and the Needles and Chaos Glacier to name a few.

Dozens of unforgettable peaks can be reached from this quiet little hut overlooking this perfect, turquoise lake.  In short, if you were to design a paradise in the mountains, Wedgemount Lake would be the standard to which all others would pale.

The sheltered valley, beautiful turquoise lake, wonderfully huge glacier across the valley and brutally jagged mountains all around all contribute to making Wedgemount Lake something special.  It's challenging and exhausting to hike to and an absolute paradise to relax in. Down by the lakeside you can actually find two recliner chairs, built out of the rocks by the lake.  Such a perfect way to enjoy the sun rising over the not-so-distant glacier across the lake.

The hut at Wedgemount Lake is a wonderful thing. Built by the BC Mountaineering Club in 1970, and since donated to Garibaldi Park, it is free to use by anyone, however you still have to pay the overnight camping fee of $10 per person, per night.  It's cozy with two large tables and a loft. Often, during busy times you will find the tables used as beds, a couple on Wedgemount Lake Hut Sunset Viewthe floor and four people up in the loft.  The Wedge Mountain Hut is positioned in a spectacular part of the world.

High up overlooking Wedgemount Lake.  In the massive shadow of Wedge Mountain, the highest mountain in the entire Garibaldi Ranges.  It's a cozy and compact little house in the middle of the carnage of massive rocks, erratics left over the centuries by glaciers and rock slides.

Back in the late 60's the British Columbia Mountaineering Club went forward with building five huts in the Coast Mountains of BC.  Two of the five were built in Garibaldi Provincial Park, they were The Russet Lake Hut in 1968 and the Wedgemount Lake Hut in 1970.  Because structures like these cannot be owned as they are in BC Parks, they are open for use by anyone.  There are two large wooden tables along the left and right walls and a little window across from the door.  On entering you notice a ladder going straight up to the loft.  Everything is bare, weathered wood, but tidy and secure.  It's simply a nice, solid, secure little house in a hostile wasteland of beauty.  As you walk in you notice right away a feeling of warmth hits you.  The Wedge Hut is as wonderful thing.

Wedgemount Lake Hiking Trail Map

Wedgemount Lake Aerial Views


Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Singing Pass - Garibaldi Provincial Park

Russet Lake - Musical Bumps Trail ViewRusset Lake is a Challenging TrailRusset Lake is a fantastic alpine lake that lays at the base of the Fissile.  The Fissile is the strikingly bronze coloured mountain so visible from Whistler Village.  From the Village look into the distance at the Peak to Peak hanging between Whistler and Blackcomb and you will see The Fissile.  Its pyramid shape in the distance perfectly separates the two mountains.

Though Russet Lake is not terribly impressive in terms of size or colour, the valley around it is remarkably beautiful.  The colours change from moment to moment in and extraordinary way.  The distinctive colour of The Fissile and the stark grey of the mountains around contrast amazingly with the blue of the lake and green grass in the valley.  So many different factors fill the place with colour.

There are several ways to get to hike Russet Lake.  The Singing Pass trail from the base of Whistler Mountain near the Whistler Gondola.  The Musical Bumps Trail that begins near the top of the Whistler Gondola.  The High Note Trail that begins at the top of the Peak Chair on Whistler Mountain.  There is an increasingly popular route that begins from Blackcomb Mountain.  And finally, a very infrequently Russet Lake - Musical Bumps Trailhiked route from Cheakamus Lake that runs along Singing Creek.

In short, the three ways to get to Russet Lake are 1. Musical Bumps (direct route and beautiful), 2. High Note Trail (a bit longer but even more beautiful), and the Singing Pass trail (not as nice as the previous two and constantly uphill, but no expensive gondola charge).

All three routes are have signs and well established trails.  None are very difficult with the exception of being long trails.  Though each can be done in a day, 28 kilometres of hiking in one day is quite a long way.  Russet Lake is a beautiful place to camp.  It has a wonderful hut available to use by anyone.  It is a basic wooden hut with no facilities, but surprisingly comfortable.  It holds up to 12 crowded or 8 comfortable.  There is also an outhouse and a beautiful stream that runs along the massive camping area.  There are no tent platforms but over a dozen tent clearings.

Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park - Whistler Aerial Views

There is a considerable amount of exploring available in the valley around Russet LakeThe Fissile is a difficult but very feasible hike from Russet Lake.  Below Russet Lake is a very accessible glacier as well Russet Lakeas a bonanza of glacier formed landscape features, inviting hours of interesting exploration.  Above Russet Lake there is a beautiful snow covered ridge that commands incredible views all around and if you have the energy makes for a spectacular tent site.

The Musical Bumps Trail to Russet LakeTaking the Musical Bumps Trail that begins at the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain is arguably the best route to Russet Lake.  It is fairly direct(12.5k to Russet Lake) and full of incredible views.  Alpine forests, massive valleys, small alpine lakes, dramatic mountain views all around.

The trail has considerable elevation gain and loss though.  The trail is well marked with signs directing you along the Musical Bumps trail.  You won't see Russet Lake signs until you reach the trail junction at the Singing Pass trail.  This route is a very popular trail running route in Whistler.  From the Roundhouse to the Village is 24k, and much of it downhill.

To find the Russet Lake trailhead take the Whistler Gondola up to the Roundhouse Lodge.  Walk out Inside the Russet Lake Hutof the Gondola and past the Peak to Peak building, up a gravel slope about 50 metres.  On your left you will see a trailhead.  Trail names have been evolving over the recent years and keep in mind that you may not see any mention of Russet Lake, Singing Pass trail, or even the Musical Bumps Trail until you get a couple kilometres into the trail.  From the Roundhouse, look for the trail marked as Harmony Lake Trail and continue onto the High Note Trail.  See the map below.  At the bottom right corner, the Musical Bumps Trail continues to Russet Lake, where the High Note Trail bends to the right, towards Whistler Peak.

The Musical Bumps trail next takes you to Flute Summit.  At Flute Summit follow the signs to Singing Pass.  The signs on this route are sometimes confusing as some get destroyed during the winter.  Just be sure to aim for Flute Summit, then Singing Pass, then Russet Lake.  From Russet Lake, you can return to Whistler Village the way you came, or via the High Note Trail, or via the Singing Pass trail, which brings you back to the Village.

Russet Lake Aerial View from Adit Lakes

Village to Russet Lake via the High Note Trail(14.5k)

Russet Lake via the High Note TrailThe Peak Chair, High Note Trail route to Russet Lake is the most scenic, however two kilometres longer than the Musical Bumps Route.  The 2k is well worth it though for the views from the HighPeak Express Video from the Summit of Whistler Note Trail as well as the Peak Chair.  Any time  of year the Peak Chair is like a carnival ride, exhilarating, and wonderful, but in the summer, it’s surreal as well.  Great walls of snow pass under you far below, as you glide upward at times at a shocking degree.

The incline of the ride is extreme, so steep as the breathtaking scenery cannot even distract fully from the nervousness you will surely feel as you glance down, 20 metres to the boulder field below. Then you arrive, the peak of Whistler, what a magnificent way to start a hike.  You are still four hours from Russet Lake, but the adventure is well underway.

From the top of the Peak chair, follow the signs for the High Note Trail and Singing Pass. The trail is 14.5k with several ascents and descents on the way.  The High Note Trail eventually joins with the Musical Bumps Trail part way along and continues to the junction of the Singing Pass trail.  Left goes to Whistler Village and right goes to Russet Lake (3k).

Aerial Video from the High Note Trail

Village to Russet Lake via Singing Pass(14.5k)

Russet Lake via Singing PassThe Singing Pass trail access to Garibaldi Provincial Park has the great benefit of being free.  The other two routes require purchasing a lift ticket for the Whistler Gondola.  The Singing Pass Trail is 14.5k to Russet Lake and constantly uphill, though by no means difficult.  It is a relentless ascent, however, and fairly boring.  The trail is fairly uneventful as is runs through deep forest for much of the first 10k.  The trail has a couple of washouts.  One, about 40 minutes into the trail is quite bad.  Looks like a large avalanche across the trail, trees, loose dirt.  It is passable though with a little scrambling,  but be prepared for this inconvenience. This area has  caused some confusion in recent years as for a time the Whistler Info Centre mistakenly called the Singing Pass trail closed because of this section.  Also, in recent years there have been cases of bridge damage along the trail, however, parks staff quickly repair the bridges.  Keep this in mind when hiking this trail, certainly in June, you will find extensive damage to the trail left over from the winter.  Usually just fallen trees criss-crossing the trail, but don't be surprised if you come to a washed out bridge that has to be scrambled across with some difficulty. After this the trail is well maintained with small bridges over cute creeks.  At 10.5k it finally opens up to the alpine.  The views immediately become magnificent.  The junction at 11.5k splits the trail.  Left goes to Russet Lake (3k), and right goes to Whistler Mountain via the Musical Bumps Trail.  If you are confident in making the Whistler Gondola during open hours, returning to Whistler by this route is a beautiful option.

Russet Lake Map

Russet Lake Aerial Views


Cheakamus Lake - Hiking in Whistler

Cheakamus Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Cheakamus Lake is an Easy to Moderate Hiking TrailCheakamus Lake is a wonderfully relaxing way to get in the wilderness easily and quickly from Whistler Village.  The trail begins on the far side of Whistler Mountain, 8 kilometres Cheakamus Lake From Whistler Mountainfrom the Sea to Sky Highway at Cheakamus Crossing across from Function Junction.  This 8 kilometre stretch of logging road is fairly bumpy and potholed, but does have the benefit of allowing you to drive the elevation gain instead of hiking it.

You can easily manage this road in a car, however carefully and very slowly in parts. Once you reach the trailhead/parking the entire 7 kilometre hiking trail to the end of the maintained Cheakamus Lake trail has barely any elevation gain.  Just plenty of gradual inclines and declines along the winding route.

In fact, this makes it one of the few trails in Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park that can boast that.  The nearby Garibaldi Lake trail and the Wedgemount Lake trail make you work for the views, however, the Cheakamus Lake trail hardly makes you work at all.

The Cheakamus Lake Trail in Garibaldi Park, WhistlerThe trail to Cheakamus Lake takes you through an amazing forest of giant cedars that fill the forest with their amazing aroma.  This forest is so packed with ancient giants that year to year the trail is adjusted by a monster of a tree fallen across the trail during some winter storm.  Sometimes the trail bends around these behemoths, but more often they are laboriously chainsawed by BC Parks staff.  The more enormous of these remain as fixtures of the trail.  Either edging the trail or as a mighty obstacle to climb over.

One monster of a cedar remained sprawled across, actually along a section of the Cheakamus Lake trail for much of 2012.  It surely surprised every hiker to come to an abrupt end of the trail with a tree across the trail too big to even see over. The bypass route was a hilarious, yet dangerous looking scramble underneath and along the edge of the trail for about 20 metres to get back on the trail at the other side.  Look for it when you pass by.  Though it has been mostly moved the tell-tale wreckage is hard to miss and captivatingly beautiful.  What a sound it must have made, exhibited now by giant cedar spears still menacingly pointing from a break in the massive trunk.

Cheakamus Lake in Garibaldi Park, WhistlerEasy to Moderate Cheakamus Lake TrailThe first three kilometres of the 7 kilometre long Cheakamus Lake trail takes you parallel to the beautiful Cheakamus River.  This large, fast and always crashing river can be seen and heard occasionally through the massive forest and up close as you near Cheakamus Lake.  There is a trail sign, 1.5 kilometres from the trailhead, indicating that the trail descending to the Cheakamus River eventually leads to the Helm Creek campground and much further to Panorama Ridge, Black Tusk, Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake.  There is a beautiful bridge across the Cheakamus River that is just a two minute hike from this sign and well worth it.  You can see below your feet through the floor of the bridge the swirling and fast moving river under you.

First Campsites at Cheakamus LakeBack on the Cheakamus Lake trail, at 3 kilometres you arrive at Cheakamus Lake.  The trail continues along the left side of the lake, passing some wonderfully located campsites, and very small beaches.  There are 10 very nice and hidden tent areas in this area, excellent water sources from several creeks, a bear proof food hang as well as tidy outhouses here.  The next 4 kilometres of the Cheakamus Lake trail reveal viewpoints progressively more amazing.  Camping fees must be paid before entering the park.  Parking and day-hiking are always free in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Cheakamus Lake Trail ViewThe trail hugs the edge of the lake, with frequent views of its amazing, turquoise colour, distant snow capped mountains and occasional bear sightings.  With so much to see and such an enjoyable trail, Cheakamus Lake one of Whistler's best and most family friendly hikes around.  The trail is never strenuous and constantly beautiful with the wonderful smells that come with an old growth cedar forest are incredible.

At 7 kilometres from the trailhead/parking you reach the end of the maintained trail and another 7 tent sites beautifully blended into the surroundings, another bear-proof food hang and outhouse.  Around these campsites are dozens of cute little beaches all along the trail which invite swimming in the crystal clear, though bitterly cold water.

Cheakamus Lake is Great for FishingCheakamus Lake has always been known for its good fishing so bring your rod and sit back in the sun.  The entire trail and mini beaches are south facing and capture the sun the entire day.  You can keep what you catch at Cheakamus Lake, however Cheakamus River is catch and release.  For more details read the notice board located at the first main campsite area.

Cheakamus Lake Trail Map


Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Black Tusk(Rubble Creek) - Garibaldi Provincial Park

Black Tusk is a Moderate to Challenging Hiking TrailBlack Tusk is the extraordinarily iconic and appropriately named marvel in Garibaldi Provincial Park that can be seen from almost everywhere in Whistler.  The massive black spire of crumbling rock juts out of the earth in an incredibly distinct way that appears like an enormous black tusk plunging out of the ground.  Whether you spot it in the distance from the top of Whistler Mountain or from dozens of vantage points along the Sea to Sky Highway, its unmistakable appearance is breathtaking.

Black Tusk - View from Mount SproattWhether you see it from the highway or from closer vantage points such as Taylor Meadows, Helm Creek, Panorama Ridge or Garibaldi Lake, all views make climbing to the top look impossible.  In fact, Black Tusk seems to look more impossible to climb the closer you get to it.  Even when you are close enough to touch its vertical, black and crumbling sides, you wonder in amazement how anyone can ever reach the top.

About 170,000 years ago renewed volcanic activity in what is now Garibaldi Provincial Park produced a lava dome within a cinder-rich volcanic cone itself over a million years old.  Cinder-rich simply means that the cone formed out of explosive volcanic action and hardened, to some extent, in the air and therefore filled with air pockets and evidently light and weak in structure.  This lava dome which was to become Black Tusk, hardened inside this more easily eroded cinder cone, so in the past 170,000 years the outer cinder cone has crumbled away to reveal the lava dome within.  The Black Tusk itself is extremely crumbly as well as can be seen when you near it.  It looks as if erupting out of a uniformly sloping mountain of jagged, black boulders.

Black Tusk is within the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt also called the Canadian Cascade Arc.  This volcanic belt contains mostly dormant volcanoes, though also includes the much alive and infamous Mount St. Helens in Washington State, in the US.  Mount Garibaldi from which Garibaldi Provincial Park gets its name was an active volcano as recently as 9300 years ago.  Also

Black Tusk View from Helm Creek

in the area but well north of Black Tusk near Pemberton, Mount Meager had multiple eruptions ending only recently, that is 2350 years ago according to recent studies.  Meager now has become known in the region for its alarmingly frequent mudslides that terrorize the Meager Creek Hot Springs below and the town of Pemberton further down the valley.  The last mudslide occurred just a couple years ago and was one of the largest in recorded Canadian history.  Pemberton was partly evacuated as a result.

The Garibaldi Volcanic Belt that encompasses Black Tusk is a result of the subduction of the Juan de Fuca Plate under the North American Plate at the Cascadia subduction zone along the British Columbia coast.  This fault zone is over a thousand kilometres long and moves at just a centimetre per year, producing large earthquakes on average every 500 years.

Black Tusk is accessible from three different trailheads, all accessible via old access roads. From the nearby microwave tower(also visible from the Sea to Sky Highway), from the Garibaldi Provincial Park, Cheakamus Lake trailhead, and from the Garibaldi Provincial Park, Rubble Creek trailhead.  Of the three routes, only the Cheakamus Lake trailhead and the Rubble Creek trailhead are officially used for access to Black Tusk.  These two have large and free parking lots equipped with an outhouse at each as well as big map and information boards.  Along both trails you will find good signs indicating where to hike as well as kilometre markings.  Most hikers use the more direct and popular Rubble Creek trailhead.

Black Tusk Topo Map and Driving Directions

Diamond Head - Garibaldi Provincial Park

Elfin Lakes is a wonderfully accessible mountain paradise at the southern end of the mighty Garibaldi Provincial Park.  An amazing destination on its own, Elfin Lakes is also part of a gateway to so much more.  The Gargoyles, Little Diamond Head, Opal Cone...  There is a wonderful, extremely well equipped hut and campsites as well as a ranger station at the lakes. Staying at the amazing hut costs $15.  Which sounds expensive until you see it.  It looks more like a ski lodge than a mountain hut.  Complete with solar powered lights, heat, propane stoves and room for 33 to sleep.  Camping away from the hut costs $10.  Once again that seem expensive, but the area is very beautiful and popular so park rangers are nearly always around to keep things nice and functional.  Expect to take over three hours to reach the Elfin Lakes hut as you are almost constantly ascending a gradual, though consistently uphill trail.  There are several jaw-dropping views along this final 6k stretch.  This trail is so well marked with orange poles and tree markers that you can reliably find your way after dark or before sunrise with good lights to assist you.

Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park Trail Map

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