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Elfin Lakes Trail Hiking Guide, Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC

Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC

The Elfin Lakes trail is a fantastic moderate hike which grants easy access to the renowned Garibaldi Provincial Park Backcountry. Camping is permitted at the two beautifully small lakes perched in the mountains. It’s the perfect day or overnight trip for experienced and amateur hikers alike. Mountain biking is permitted on the trail and is becoming more popular. The trail is popular in all four seasons.


Remember the Backcountry Basics


The Breakdown

Distance (Round Trip)20km
Elevation Gain 800m
Time (Round Trip)4-6 hours
Dogs No
Camping Tent (Reservation in Summer), 33 bunks in hut for Winter
Season Year Round
Difficulty Easy
Remoteness Heavily Trafficked
Highest Point1600m


Driving Directions

There are plenty of signs off Highway 99 indicating the Diamond Head Trailhead. However, I’ll break it down for you just in case. Heading North on the BC-99 continue past the McDonalds in Squamish for 4km and take a right on Mamquam Rd. Take a slight left onto Highlands Way S and stay right at the roundabout on The Blvd. Continue until you reach a left turn back onto Mamquam Rd. Follow Mamquam road as it turns into Garibaldi Park Rd and then the Mamquam FSR. The Mamquam FSR will lead you to the trailhead. The Mamquam FSR is gravel and can be rough in some areas. It’s no problem for most vehicles but if you have lower clearance take it slower or, better yet, bring along the truck, van or SUV if you have the option.



The Route

The trail begins from the parking lot just past the yellow gate. You will be following a wide gravel road which was used as the access to the old Diamond Head Lodge, initially constructed in 1938. Now, the road is used by hikers and mountain bikers in order to access Elfin Lakes and the surrounding mountains in the summer and winter Months.



The gravel road switchbacks steadily up the mountainside. We were hiking in September and we ran into a small black bear on the early portions of the trail. Even though it’s a busy trail, it’s always a good idea to bring along your bear spray. After about 400m elevation gain and 4.3km you will arrive at the Red Heather Shelter. The ascent to the Red Heather Shelter is quite mundane other than a cool little waterfall at the 2.5km mark. As we were hiking up the road we were pretty jealous of the mountain bikers cruising up and down. The shelter is used as a warming hut for skiers, mountaineers and snowshoers in the winter months. However, more importantly, in the summer, it’s home to the tallest outhouse in BC. (Well, the tallest I’ve seen)


Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC
Red Heather Shelter


From the shelter take the trail to the hikers left. The path becomes a more traditional hiking trail and gains more character as you near the alpine. The narrow trail will once again converge with the gravel road so follow it left continuing on the gradual ascent. As you walk this portion of the hike you will be welcomed by fantastic views of the mountains and small little ponds tucked between the trees and grass.



At the 8km mark you should be able to get a glimpse of the lakes in the horizon. The trail descends and you will arrive at a viewpoint providing the ideal lookout over both two lakes. Once you’ve taken your share of photos head down the hill to the lakes. One lake allows swimming and another is strictly for filtering drinking water. If it’s a hot day, you’ll surely have to charge down for a dip.



If you walk past the ranger station and down the hill you will see the overnight shelter used by hikers, especially in the wintertime. I’d recommend peering into the window of the hut and checking out the setup inside. Also walk about the campsite as the views of the mountains from the sites are some of the best on the trail. There are many options to extend your hike and head to further destinations such as Opal Cone, the Gargoyles or Mamquam lake.


Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC


Take the same route on the way down and try not to be too jealous of the Mountain bikers joyously riding down.

The entire trail took us approximately 4 hours with a half hour break up top. We are already planning a winter or summer trip with our overnight gear so we can venture higher into the mountains,.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments?

Happy Hiking!


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