There are many, many beautiful hikes around Vancouver, one of the reasons I love this city so much. Over the years I have been steadily ticking different hikes off my list, a list that just keeps growing longer.
One hike that I have been really wanting to do since I first heard about it the last time I was in Vancouver two years ago is the hike to Garibaldi Lake.
A brilliant blue lake, backed by snowcapped mountains. Fresh alpine air and thick evergreen forest. A few of my favourite things in one long hike. I needed to hike there!
Technically not in Vancouver but within easy day tripping distance, Garibaldi Lake can be reached by a trail north of Squamish, almost two hours drive from Vancouver.
There is no public transport to reach the start of the trail so luckily my friend Jasmine and a couple of her fellow nursing friends were keen to do it also and we drove up there on a sunny (and hot!) Friday in July.
The drive up there was a gorgeous journey in itself as we passed the north shore mountains then joined the Sea to Sky Highway – one of the most beautiful drives in the world. With Howe Sound sparkling in the morning sun to our left and verdant mountains reaching to the heavens all around us, I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful drive. British Columbia is my happy place and this drive reminded me why I love it here so much.
After a short stop for coffee at the Galileo Coffee Company in Brittania Beach we reached the trail head.
It was a hot start to the hike because of the ongoing heat wave in the Pacific North West. I struggled to deal with the heat as the trail rose up into the mountains, luckily tall stands of Douglas Fir providing much needed shade from the merciless sun.
The first 6km is switchbacks which aren’t too steep but the constant uphill does get tiring. We rested and had a snack about half way through this section and for me, it was much needed.
There was thick forest cover most of the way up until we reached a plateau with views over emerald forest coating the steep mountain slopes. It showed us how far we had come.
Passing a dark green lake we knew we must be close to Garibaldi Lake. We crossed over a beautiful waterfall where we re-filled our water bottles with cool glacial water.
From there we started seeing glimpses of the lake, a gorgeous shade of aquamarine, as the trail switchbacked down for a kilometre.
We reached a clearing where a river draining from the lake is crossed by a small wooden bridge. The full beauty of the lake was suddenly laid out in front of us. It was an absolutely stunning sight with the snowcapped peaks and a glacier in the background. The colours mesmerised us.
Continuing around the lake we found a quiet spot where we stopped to soak in the views and to eat our lunch.
There was a chipmunk hanging around, flitting back and forth hoping to secure some food. I love those cute little guys.
Jasmine being a fearless Canadian got into the cold but inviting waters of the lake easily. I was very hot from the hike and the scorching weather but I only got in waist deep before chickening out. What can I say, guess I have been living in Australia too long.
After eating my lunch I was determined to have another go and this time it was easy and I submerged myself in the glacial waters of the lake. It was a surreal feeling to be swimming in this fairytale lake surrounded by snowy mountains. I felt fearless and brave. It doesn’t take much for a wuss like me.
Sitting on a bench looking over the lake, all was quiet. The sun warmed my skin and I felt so alive and invigorated. I love the feeling when you hike hours to get somewhere. It gives you a strong sense of satisfaction and it is one of the reasons I love hiking so much.
I could have stayed up there all day but it was time to start the long return journey back to the car park.
We chose to take a short detour on the way down, hiking through Taylor meadows where there is also a camping ground. The meadow was full of long green grass and wildflowers with an alpine mountain backdrop. It looked like a postcard for the Swiss Alps. The only problem was the large number of flies that buzzed around our heads but even they couldn’t upset the beautiful setting.
The last 3km we were all suffering from either sore knees, or in my case sore toes from pushing into my hiking boots. The girls ran down the last part as it was easier on their knees. I took off my hiking boots and put on my jandalls (flip flops), which although they had no grip on the loose gravel of the path, it was worth wearing them to ease the pain in my toes.
Exhausted but exhilarated, the hike was a resounding success and one of my favourite days of the trip so far. Great company, great views and a glacial lake swim – my first ever.
So after a couple of years of dreaming about it I finally conquered the mountain and set eyes on the lake. It was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.
The Nitty Gritty
Getting there: Unfortunately the trail can only be reached by car and is an easy day trip from Vancouver, Squamish or Whistler. The trail begins from the car park at Rubble Creek.
Length: 19km return when hiking via Taylor meadows on the way back
Elevation Gain: 900m
Difficulty: I would rate it Intermediate/Difficult if you aren’t an avid hiker.