Looking for a scenic Vancouver day hike that isn’t too far from the city? Then check out my experience doing the Garibaldi Lake Hike – a stunning hike to a beautiful turquoise lake.
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 had been really wanting to do for a few years is the Garibaldi Lake trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Garibaldi Lake is a brilliant blue lake, backed by snow-capped mountains. The alpine air is fresh and thick evergreen forest surrounds the trail. A few of my favorite things in one long hike. I needed to do the Garibaldi Lake hike!
Technically not in the city limits but an easy day trip from Vancouver, Garibaldi Lake can be reached by a trail north of Squamish, an 80-minute drive from Vancouver.
There is no public transport to reach the start of the Garibaldi Lake 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.
Driving to the Garibaldi Lake Trail
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 in Brittania Beach we reached the trailhead.
Beginning the Garibaldi Lake Hike
It was a hot start to the hike because of the ongoing heatwave in the Pacific North West.
I struggled to deal with the heat as the Garibaldi Lake trail rose up into the mountains, luckily tall stands of Douglas Fir providing much-needed shade from the merciless sun.
The first 6km/3.7 miles is switchbacks that weren’t too steep, but the constant uphill got tiring. We rested and had a snack about halfway through this section and for me, it was definitely 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 Garibaldi Lake, a gorgeous shade of aquamarine, as the trail switchbacks down for a kilometer.
Reaching Garibaldi Lake
We reached a clearing where a river draining from Garibaldi Lake is crossed by a small wooden bridge. The full beauty of Garibaldi Lake was suddenly laid out in front of us.
It was an absolutely stunning sight with the snow-capped peaks and a glacier in the background. The colors mesmerized us.
Continuing around Garibaldi 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 Garibaldi Lake easily. I was very hot from the hike and the scorching weather but I only got in waist-deep before chickening out.
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 beautiful Garibaldi Lake.
It was a surreal feeling to be swimming in this fairy tale 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 Garibaldi 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 staring at Garibaldi Lake all day but it was time to start the long return journey back to the car park.
Making Our Way Back on the Garibaldi Lake Trail
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/1.8 miles 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 jandals (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 Garibaldi Lake hike was a resounding success and one of my favorite days of the trip so far. Great company, great views, and a glacial lake swim.
So after a couple of years of dreaming about it, I finally conquered the mountain and set eyes on Garibaldi Lake. And it was one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen.
How to Hike the Garibaldi Lake Trail
Getting to the Garibaldi Lake Hike
Unfortunately, the Garibaldi Lake 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.
To drive to the trailhead it takes approximately 1 hour 20 minutes from Vancouver, 30 minutes from Squamish, and 25 minutes from Whistler.
Length of the Garibaldi Lake Hike
19km/11.8 miles return when hiking via Taylor Meadows on the way back
Elevation Gain of the Garibaldi Lake Hike
Difficulty of the Garibaldi Lake Hike
I would rate the Garibaldi Lake hike as Intermediate/Difficult if you aren’t an avid hiker. The elevation gain is definitely decent and the hike is long.
What to Pack for the Garibaldi Lake Hike
For day hikes, the Cotopaxi Luzon is an awesome backpack choice and is lightweight and will pack down easily when you’re not using it.
I highly recommend taking a GRAYL Geopress Water Purifier to filter water from the river, this saves you having to carry a lot of water and is better for the environment. Also, pack a CamelBak to make it easier to hydrate while you are hiking.
Take some trekking poles to help with the downhill – your knees will thank you! Pack a raincoat in case it rains, and if you are hiking in spring or autumn and are starting early or finishing late, wear a lightweight but cozy thermal underlayer top.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
As most people add this hike onto their Vancouver Itinerary as a day trip, I have listed accommodation options in Vancouver, although there are a number of options in Squamish and Whistler too.
If you want to splurge on a beautiful and historic hotel in a great location in Vancouver, you can’t go past one of the Fairmont hotels – the Fairmont Waterfront and the Fairmont Pacific Rim look incredible!
For a solid mid-range option in Vancouver, I would recommend The Burrard Hotel with its retro vibe and pops of color.
If you want your own space then a vacation rental is a great option. Here are my picks for the most affordable, highly rated, and centrally located vacation rentals in Vancouver:
- Modern Luxury Loft in Gastown Heritage Building
- Newly Renovated Condo in the Centre of Downtown
- Elegant One Bedroom Downtown Apartment
- Sunset Beach Apartment With Sea Views
If you are on more of a backpacker budget, HI Vancouver Downtown and HI Vancouver Jericho Beach are both excellent choices.
The Best Insurance for Your Trip
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with.
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
Have you hiked to Garibaldi Lake or would you like to?
If you liked this post, check out some of my other Canada content:
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- The Sunshine Coast, BC: Canada’s Most Underrated Destination?
- Revisiting Victoria: Canada’s English Themed City
- What to do in Summer on Denman Island, Canada
- The Best Vancouver Itinerary for 4 Days in Summer
- Why you Should Visit Vancouver in the Fall