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. If you’re feeling energetic you can hike both of these trails in as day trips and make it back to the trailhead. Camping at Garibaldi lake is another great way to explore the park and surrounding trails.
This hiking guide will provide you with all the information you need to day hike from Rubble Creek to 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
Table of Contents
|Distance (Round Trip)
|Time (Round Trip)
|Yes (Reservation Required)
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.
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 through 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.
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. Continue straight along the trail following signs to Garibaldi Lake. A few hundred meters after the junction you will see another viewpoint of the Barrier (this one is the better of the two). A short walk after the viewpoint you will reach a ‘normal colored’ body of water named Barrier Lake, then right around the corner you will be met with the vibrant colours of Lesser Garibaldi lake. These lakes act as drainage basins for Garibaldi Lake during spring snow melt via a shallow channel 1.6km west of the main lakes shore.
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. Do yourself a favour and walk along the shoreline to find yourself a more secluded spot to sit. There are some awesome benches built along the shoreline which are perfect for a lakeside picnic.
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 last visit we ran into two Grizzly bears, an hour before sunset, munching on berries near the Black Tusk trail. Remember to always carry bear spray, know how to use it, and understand what to do if you encounter a dangerous animal.
Garibaldi Lake FAQ
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.
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.
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!
The trail begins at the Rubble Creek Trailhead, 37km North of Squamish and 19km South of Whistler, BC.
$10/Adult per night and $5/Child per night.
No - Dogs are prohibited 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!
The 9km trail usually takes the average hiker about 2-3 hours one way.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments?