Almost entirely surrounded by ex-volcanic peaks, fed by the Sphinx and Sentinel glaciers, Garibaldi Lake, the turquoise heart of Garibaldi Provincial Park beats 1500m above sea level. Anyone with Instagram or a good old hiking book has seen pictures of this alpine heaven.
I know, these photos probably look amazing. But trust me, they can’t contest experiencing the park for yourself.
Views this amazing usually don’t come easy, or don’t come free. However, getting up to Garibaldi Lake couldn’t be easier. It’s located 37km North of Squamish and 19km South of Whistler. Getting to the lake takes a few short hours and requires climbing 820m of switchbacks over 9km.
There are two additional worthwhile marked trails in the area, The Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge. You can hike both of these trails in a day and make it back to the trailhead. But, ideally, adventurers should spend 1 or more nights at the lake in order to make the most of it. Camping is allowed in the park and reservations are required prior to hiking. This is a great backpacking adventure for first timers and experienced vets alike. I’ve lived in BC my entire life, and 2021 was the first time I hiked in the Garibaldi Lake area, and the views were so much better than I ever expected.
This hiking guide will provide you with all the information you need to hike and camp at Garibaldi lake.
Remember the Backcountry Basics
- Carry your Survival Kit & Essentials
- Let someone know where you’re going with a Trip Plan
- Know how to avoid negative wildlife encounters
- Practice Leave No Trace to keep the wilderness pristine
- Carry a Satellite Communicator like SPOT X
The Garibaldi Lake trail begins at the Rubble Creek Trailhead.
From Squamish, drive North on the Sea to Sky highway (BC-99 N) for 36.4km or 30 minutes and take a left onto Daisy Lake road. Continue up Daisy Lake road for 2.7km to the trailhead.
From Whistler, Drive South on the Sea to Sky Highway (BC-99 S) for 28km or 24 minutes and take a right onto Daisy Lake road. Continue up Daisy Lake road for 2.7km to the trailhead.
Note: Due to the Day Pass/Reservation requirement there is a park ranger stationed on Daisy Lake Road near the parking lot. In peak hours, around 8-10am (when everyone wants to start hiking) there will likely be a long line of cars stretching down the road waiting for the Ranger to check your permit. We sat in this line for about 30 minutes on our recent trip, so keep this in mind when timing your day.
2 Day Itinerary (Recommended)
Day 1: Rubble Creek Trailhead to Garibaldi Lake & hike (Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge), Camp at Garibaldi Lake
Day 2: Hike (Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge), Return to Rubble Creek Trailhead
Option 2 (What we did)
Day 1: Rubble Creek Trailhead to Garibaldi Lake & hike (Black Tusk + Panorama Ridge), Camp at Garibaldi Lake
Day 2: Return to Rubble Creek Trailhead
3 Day Itinerary
Day 1: Rubble Creek to Garibaldi Lake, Camp at Garibaldi Lake
Day 2: Hike Black Tusk & Panorama Ridge, Camp at Garibaldi Lake
Day 3: Return to Rubble Creek Trailhead
Campsites & Reservations
Backcountry reservations are required year-round for all overnight stays in Garibaldi Provincial Park. The reservation must be made in advance online or via phone using the BC Parks Backcountry Reservation System. The fees are $10/person a night and $5/night for children (6-15 years old). Reservations can be made up to two weeks in advance and must be made before 5pm prior to your arrival date. There is no self-registration at the trailhead. Make sure to print off your reservation and keep it on your person so you can display it at your campsite and show it to park staff if requested.
Garibaldi Lake Campsite
Located on the gorgeous shores of Garibaldi Lake, it’s the best of the two campsite options. The Garibaldi Lake campsite has 35 tent pads, 4 outdoor picnic tables, 4 day use shelters (each with 2+picnic tables), counters, wash sinks and pit toilet facilities. There are not any ‘prime real estate’ lakefront campsites at the Garibaldi Lake Campground. But, fear not, because all of the tent pads are located just steps away from the lake. All drinking water is filtered from Garibaldi lake. Remember to bring your own toilet paper (BYOT)!!!
Taylor Meadows Campsite
Taylor Meadows was traditionally the ‘quieter’ of the two sites, but now the park is so busy, that every site in both campsites will be full, every night. The campsite has 25 tent sites, pit toilets, 2 day use shelters with picnic tables, counters, and wash sinks. It’s the worse of the two camping options as you’re trading off beautiful lake and glacier views for a forest and meadow view. But, given the overall popularity and how competitive campsites are to book it’s best to not be picky if it works with your schedule. There is a creek that runs through the campsite for filtering water. Remember to (BYOT) bring your own toilet paper!!!
Day Use Pass/Reservation System
In light of increasing traffic and popularity of the Garibaldi Lake hike, Parks BC has implemented a day use reservation system (June 23- October 15). Hikers are required to book a free day use pass prior to arriving at the park. The Day-use pass can only be reserved online on the BC Parks Website and cannot be reserved over the phone. The passes are free and are available to book starting at 7am, one day in advance of your planned visit. Ensure you are on your computer and logged into your BC Parks account when the clock strikes 7am because the competition to get a day pass is fierce.
Note: If you have a Camping Reservation you do not need to reserve a day pass.
Trail Maps & Descriptions
Rubble Creek Trailhead to Garibaldi Lake
|Distance (One Way)||9km|
|Time (One Way)||2-3 hours|
The hike begins from the trail-map and outhouses at the top section of the Rubble Creek parking lot. The wide gravel trail begins. Get ready for a few sweaty and mundane hours of hiking. The wide gravel trail traverses climbing at a 20% average grade for about 2.3km. At around the 2.3km mark you will see the trail turning left and a small offset of the trail continuing straight to the first viewpoint of ‘The Barrier’. The Barrier is a natural dam that aided in forming Garibaldi lake over 9000 years ago. Lava flows from Mt Price and Clinker peak stopped in the valley creating the 2.1km, 300m thick dam. Over thousands of years the glacial runoff from the neighbouring Sphinx and Sentinel glaciers, and the glacial flour created the beautifully turquoise coloured Garibaldi Lake that we know and love today.
The switchbacks continue through the thick Douglas Fir forest. As you near the 6km mark you will arrive at the junction to Taylor Meadows, a beautiful zone filled with the gorgeous colours of alpine flowers. If you are doing Panorama Ridge or Black Tusk as a day trip, I would follow the Taylor Meadows Trail on the way there, looping back along the Garibaldi lake trail on the way back. This way, you can see it all.
For those headed to Garibaldi Lake continue along the trail straight. A few hundred meters after the junction you will see another viewpoint of the Barrier, this one is the better of the two. Shortly after you will loop around Barrier Lake, at first I was mistaken and though it was lesser Garibaldi lake and was not to impressed, since the water colour was that of a pond. I was quickly proven wrong when the vibrant colours of Lesser Garibaldi burst into view.
After lesser Garibaldi the final 2km of trail is practically flat gaining less than 100m until you arrive at the lake. At the 8.3km mark you will reach sign post marking the way to Black Tusk/Panorama ridge (straight) and Garibaldi Lake (to the right). Head to the right, cross over the small rubble creek bridge, and prepare to have your mind blown. Follow the shoreline of Garibaldi Lake to the right doing your best to keep your boots dry. Loop around to the front of the campsite. From here you will be able to see it all!
Many people tend to congregate near the lake by the day use shelter and outhouses. If you’re doing this as a day hike, do yourself a favour and walk along the shoreline to find yourself a more secluded spot to sit. There are actually some awesome benches built along the shoreline.
For anyone who is backpacking, pop into the campsite in the forest and find a suitable tent pad, get situated, and get excited for the next, even better portion of the adventure.
|Distance (One Way)||7.4km|
|Time (Round trip from Campsite)||3-5 hours|
The Panorama Ridge trail is the most popular of the two hiking options near Garibaldi Lake. For lake and glacier lovers, you really cannot get a better view then this. Panorama ridge is the go-to spot for those epic Instagram shots you always see. The Panorama Ridge trail itself is a beautiful experience, weaving through pristine meadows, tucked between mountains filled with smaller alpine lakes and ponds.
From the Garibaldi Lake campsite head back the way you came and take a right at the junction towards Black Tusk and Garibaldi Lake Trail. The forest begins to thin and the trail converges with the Taylor meadows trail as you enter the Black Tusk Meadows. This is a super common spot to encounter bears so keep your eyes peeled. After about 30 minutes you will arrive at the turnoff to the Black Tusk trail. Continue following the trail for another 2km through the beautiful meadow enjoying some peeks of Garibaldi lake through the trees as you traverse across the hillside.
To the right you will see mimulus lake and will be able to somewhat make out the route up Panorama ridge. A few hundred meters ahead you will encounter Black Tusk lake to the right, and to the left, Helm Lake. You should be beginning to get consistent eyes on that big old black stratovolcano (The Black Tusk) perched above.
Continue straight towards Panorama Ridge as the Helm Creek trail veers off to the left. The walk on the ridge begins. You will gradually gain elevation as the vegetation thins and the soil trail becomes rock. Enjoy the gradual incline and the views before the steep climbing starts.
The trail heads left up the steep rocky mountainside. From this point forward the trail markings are not as obvious as before. There are occasional rock cairns and flashes, but it is easy enough to follow the worn walking paths of previous hikers as you make your way up. It’s a very moderate scramble up the rocks and for many, you won’t even have to use your hands.
Once you begin to see the lake, you’re getting very close. Just push a tad further, the view is so worth it. At the summit you will be welcomed by one of the most exceptional alpine lake views you have ever seen. Garibaldi Lake is larger than life, and the gorgeous glaciers and snow-capped peaks make for the ideal backdrop.
This is a very busy trail so you will likely be sharing the summit with quite a few hikers. Once you get your fair share of photos, I would recommend you continue along the ridge descending slightly and walking a few hundred meters further. People don’t tend to walk any further than the proper summit, but, changing your perspective makes the views even more amazing. This is also the best spot to eat your lunch since you will more or less have it to yourself.
Depending on your itinerary, you can spend a lot of time up there, maybe even bring your stove to cook lunch. However, if you are on a tighter schedule like us, have a quick snack and boogey on over to the next breathtaking trail, the Black Tusk.
|Distance (One Way)||5.2km|
|Time (Round trip from campsite)||2-4 hours|
The Black Tusk is probably the most recognizable and unique feature of Garibaldi Provincial Park. If you’ve ever skied Whistler you’ve probably wondered, “Hmmm what is that big looking horn thing in the distance”. The Black Tusk is the hard lava core of a once powerful stratovolcano that existed over 1 million years ago. Getting up close to this geological masterpiece is truly something special. But, the Black Tusk trail isn’t just special because of the huge hunk of black volcanic rock, the surrounding views are absolutely stunning. To make things even better, the Tusk is usually quieter than the Panorama Ridge trail allowing for a more remote feeling hiking experience.
From the Garibaldi Lake campsite head back the way you came and take a right at the junction towards Black Tusk and Garibaldi Lake Trail. The forest begins to thin and the trail converges with the Taylor Meadows trail as you enter the Black Tusk Meadows. This is a super common spot to encounter bears so keep your eyes peeled. After about 30 minutes you will arrive at the turnoff to the Black Tusk trail.
The Black Tusk trail is short, steep and sweet. You will be climbing the majority of the 700m within 3km. The Black Tusk trail begins in the Black Tusk meadows and climbs relentlessly from the beginning.
You will switchback through the meadows between two alpine creeks. The Tusk will be visible in front of you, and Garibaldi lake behind. The higher you climb the better the views get. After about 2km the trail will become rock and you will reach an interpretive sign with info about the formation of the tusk and stipulating that this is the end of the marked trail.
From here the path is quite easy to follow. Walk up the rocky switchbacks until you reach the ridge. Once you are on the ridge head left towards the base of the tusk. The views from the ridge are ridiculous. You can see Garibaldi Lake, the entire valley, glaciers, snow-capped peaks, and can even see the ocean tucked behind the mountains.
For experienced hikers you can scramble up to the top of the Tusk. If you decide to do this make sure to bring a helmet along to protect you from falling rocks. We brought helmets along but did not push to the top of the tusk due to the setting sun, cold/damp weather, and honestly having very little desire to climb loose rocks straight up and down.
Even if you don’t go all the way to the top of the Tusk you can still touch its side and enjoy some of the most spectacular alpine views you have ever witnessed.
We ended up booking a cancellation and it luckily coincided with a decently sunny weather forecast day 1. On day 2 the forecast looked grim so we decided to hike it all in one day. We hiked to the lake, setup camp, hiked panorama ridge, hiked black tusk on the way back, slept over, and hiked out to rubble creek the next morning in the rain.
What view is better? Black Tusk vs Panorama Ridge?
Both views are spectacular and it is absolutely necessary to hike both if you have the time. However, if I had to choose one, I would choose The Black Tusk. This is because I’m a bit of a buff for mountain views. I thought the view from the Black Tusk had more depth, It still spotlighted the lake but displayed more of the park and even a bit of the ocean.
Panorama Ridge is usually the winner in most people’s eyes and that is very understandable to me. If you love close up expansive views of alpine lakes and glaciers then this will be your favourite. The lake view is very ‘in your face’ and it is the ideal place to capture that perfect hiking photo.
Every trail has its strengths and weaknesses and the beauty of a trail changes different months of the year and over the course of time. This is one of the reasons I love hiking so much. Even if you hike the same trail over and over again, the experience is different every single time.
The hike itself is very moderate. Up to Garibaldi Lake is an absolute breeze allowing hikers to bring along lots of delicious heavy foods and drinks. The scenery is what makes the hike so special. From Garibaldi Lake, Panorama Ridge to the Black Tusk everywhere you look is stunning.
I usually don’t have many negative things to say but I think going over some of the negative parts of the experience will help future hikers set expectations appropriately.
- In the daytime the Garibaldi Lake Trail and Panorama Ridge trail is quite crowded. Fortunately, if you are camping the crowds settle down a bit later in the afternoon.
- Booking reservations is very competitive.
- It’s is so hard to snag a day pass let alone a camping reservation for Garibaldi lake which can be very frustrating. The best strategy is to keep watch on the website for cancellations that you can reserve.
- Campsite Litter
- This one really surprised me. I can’t believe hikers would leavea mess in such an amazing area. We saw food wrappers, used tampons, and toilet paper strewn across some of the campsites
All these pitfalls are to be expected on a the trail that sees so much daily traffic. Don’t let these issues scare you away. Spending a night or two here is 100% worth it, just be ready for a less remote feeling experience.
Garibaldi Provincial Park is teeming with flora and fauna. Common mammals you may encounter are grizzly bears, black bears, mountain goat, deer, marmot, and pika. Loads of birds call the park home including whiskey jacks, ptarmigan, golden eagle, bald eagle and blue jay.
On our trip we ran into two Grizzly bears, an hour before sunset, munching on berries directly on the Black Tusk trail. Laura and I gave them lots of space and waited to see if they would move. Unfortunately, their dinner was too delicious so we had to backtrack, and trailblaze our own path up the mountainside. We traversed across, and reconneced with the trail further down bypassing the bears. Thankfully, our plan worked out and we enjoyed our surprise encounter with the bears, and they enjoyed their delightful wild berry dinner.
Food We Packed
Breakfast: Instant Coffee
Lunch: Protein Bar, Apple, Beef Jerky
Snacks: Pepperoni Sticks, Brookside Chocolates
Dinner: Chicken sidekicks pasta
Gear We Packed
Worried about what to pack for the Garibaldi Lake Trail. Check out our post HERE to read about what we pack for every single overnight hike.
- All water must be filtered even if it’s coming from an alpine glacier, river or lake
- If you’re planning on fishing (which you should) make sure to have a valid BC freshwater fishing license
- No dogs are allowed in Garibaldi Park
- Bring some rope and stakes for tarps and your tent fly, some of the tent pads were elevated making it awkward to set your tent up properly without rope/cord
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the fishing good at Garibaldi Lake?
Yes! The trout fishing is fantastic. These starving alpine fish will eat everything that you throw at them. Remember to bring a rod and your BC freshwater fishing license if you plan to fish for trout.
Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk. Which Trail Is Better?
It depends who you ask :).
Both trails are amazing and it depends on your personal preference.
Black Tusk offers the best mountain views, and Panorama ridge offers the best lake view.
Is The Black Tusk An Active Volcano?
Nope. But it used to be the hard lava core of a once powerful stratovolcano that existed over 1 million years ago.
Can you Camp at Garibaldi Lake?
Camping is available at the Garibaldi Lake Campground and Taylor Meadows Campground.
Backcountry reservations are required year-round for all overnight stays in Garibaldi Provincial Park. The reservation must be made in advance online or via phone using the Discover Camping Reservation Service. The fees are $10/person a night and $5/night for children (6-15 years old). Reservations can be made up to two weeks in advance and must be made before 5pm prior to your arrival date.
Best time to camp at Garibaldi Lake
The summer season (July-Sep) is the ideal time to camp at Garibaldi lake because the snow should be melted allowing you to hike Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk.
Also, it's way better hanging out by a beautiful Alpine lake in the summertime!
Where is Garibaldi Lake?
The trail begins at the Rubble Creek Trailhead, 37km North of Squamish and 19km South of Whistler, BC.
How much does camping at Garibaldi Lake Cost?
$10/Adult per night and $5/Child per night.
Are dogs allowed at Garibaldi Lake
No - Dogs are prohibited in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Are there bears in Garibaldi Provincial Park?
Yes - Black bear and Grizzly bear encounters are not uncommon along the trail. Remember to bring your bear spray and to give wildlife lots of space!
What view do you prefer? The Black Tusk? Or Panorama Ridge?