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 Garibaldi Lake hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Garibaldi Lake is a brilliant blue lake, backed by snowcapped mountains. The alpine air is fresh and thick evergreen forest surrounds the trail. A few of my favourite 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, almost two hours 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.
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.
Hiking the Garibaldi Lake Trail
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 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 is switchbacks which weren’t too steep, but the constant uphill got tiring. We rested and had a snack about half way 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 kilometre.
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 colours mesmerised 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. 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 beautiful Garibaldi 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 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.
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 Garibaldi Lake 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.
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.
The Nitty Gritty
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.
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.
Have you hiked to Garibaldi Lake or would you like to?