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Black Tusk Trail | Day Hiking Guide

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.

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.

This hiking guide will provide you with all the information you need to day hike from Rubble Creek to the Black Tusk.

 

The Breakdown

Distance (One Way)5.2km
Elevation Gain 700m
Time (Round trip from campsite)2-4 hours
Difficulty Moderate
Highest Point2319m

Remember the Backcountry Basics

 

Watch Our Black Tusk Hiking Video Here 

Driving Directions

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.

 

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 Route

 

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 Barrier in Garibaldi Provincial Park
The Barrier

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 as a day trip,  follow the Taylor Meadows trail on the way in and the Garibaldi lake trail on the way back. This way, you can see everything!

The creek at the Taylor Meadows campsite is a good spot to filter/refill water if you need to do so. Continue straight for 2km towards the Black Tusk Meadows (a super common spot to see bears) until you reach the junction with the Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk Trails. Follow the Black tusk trail to the left and begin climbing almost immediately.

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.

Black Tusk Hike, Panorama Ridge Hike, Garibaldi Provincial Park

 

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.

Black Tusk Hike, Panorama Ridge Hike, Garibaldi Provincial Park

Black Tusk Hike, Panorama Ridge Hike, Garibaldi Provincial Park

 

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.

 

Black Tusk Hike, Panorama Ridge Hike, Garibaldi Provincial Park

 

Black Tusk Hike, Panorama Ridge Hike, Garibaldi Provincial Park

Black Tusk Hike, Panorama Ridge Hike, Garibaldi Provincial Park

 

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.

Black Tusk Hike, Panorama Ridge Hike, Garibaldi Provincial Park

On the return trip follow a similar path down the rocks until you once again meet with the maintained trail. Follow the trail until you reach the junction. Follow the signs pointing left to the Garibaldi Lake Campsite. The trail enters the forest and after 2km you will begin to see Garibaldi Lake to your left. Follow the trail left to the campsite, 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!

Garibaldi Lake View, Garibaldi Provincial Park

Garibaldi Lake View, Garibaldi Provincial Park

 

Many people tend to congregate near the lake by the day use shelter and outhouses. If  you want to feel a little more secluded, do yourself a favour and walk along the shoreline to find a spot to take photographs or sit. There are actually some awesome benches built along the shoreline.

Garibaldi Lake View, Garibaldi Provincial Park

Garibaldi Lake View, Garibaldi Provincial Park

 

Once you have enjoyed the lake it’s time to head back down the Garibaldi Lake trail to the Rubble Creek trailhead. On the 9km hike back to your car you will pass by Lesser Garibaldi Lake, Barrier Lake, and be sure to take a quick peek at the upper Barrier viewpoint.

Lesser Garibaldi Lake, View from Garibaldi Lake Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Lesser Garibaldi Lake

Hiking to Panorama Ridge in a day, although long and tiring, is do-able for anyone with a reasonable fitness level. Remember to bring along lots of water, snacks, headlamps, and wear good set of hiking boots.

 

Wildlife

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.

 

Black Tusk Trail FAQ

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.

The summer season (July-Sep) is the ideal time to hike Panorama ridge  because the snow should be at least partially melted allowing you to safely reach the summit.

The Black Tusk can only be accessed by hiking and begins a few kilometres after Garibaldi Lake.

The trail to Garibaldi lake begins at the Rubble Creek Trailhead, 37km North of Squamish and 19km South of Whistler, BC.

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!

  • A good pair of hiking boots/trail runners
  • 3 litres of water + lots of snacks
  • Survival Kit/Essentials 
  • Bring a helmet if you want to scramble to the top of the Tusk

Nope. But it used to be the hard lava core of a once powerful stratovolcano that existed over 1 million years ago.

Absolutely!

Just be sure to give yourself lots of time.

 

Happy Hiking! 

 

 

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