Garibaldi Lake: Ablaze in Fall Colours

Impossibly turquoise water of Garibaldi Lake—C.Helbig

Impossibly turquoise water of Garibaldi Lake—C.Helbig

We thought the crowds might have thinned out by late September. No such luck. We and hundreds of other folks took advantage of our seemingly endless summer and enjoyed a classic hike in Sea to Sky Country: Garibaldi Lake. Despite the full parking lot and highway of hikers making their way up the 9 km trail to the lake, it was a splendid day. I’ve done this hike a few times and the colour of Garibaldi Lake always takes my breath away (it reminds me of the garish turquoise freezies I used to love as a kid). The lake wasn’t the only thing that screamed in technicolour, the meadows above were ablaze in Fall colours.


Fall colours in meadows above Garibaldi Lake—C.Helbig

The 18 km round trip (with many extension possibilities) makes for a great day hike with plenty of time to relax by the lake and enjoy the stunning scenery. Although the trail to the lake is mostly uphill (810 m elevation gain), the path is wide and smooth, and the switchbacks through the thick forest aren’t unpleasant. Look up on occasion and check out the crazy tall Douglas firs. At about the 5km mark, catch your breath at The Barrier viewpoint—a giant natural dam. At 7 km, beautiful Lesser Garibaldi Lake is a teaser for even more spectacular things to come.


View of Black Tusk from junction to Taylor Meadows—C.Helbig

The trail approaches Garibaldi Lake from above and the views through the trees get more and more dramatic. Soon you get to a bridge crossing a creek and you’ve made it to the gorgeous lake. The trail travels along the water’s edge for another kilometer or so, passing the campground that is so peacefully nestled in the trees you might miss it if not for the day shelter. Now comes the best part of the hike: chilling by the lake and soaking up the sun and beauty.


Garibaldi Lake with tip of Black Tusk peaking out—C.Helbig


Garibaldi Lake with Battleship Islands in foreground—C.Helbig

All too soon, it’s time to head back. Rather than retrace our steps, we took a 2.5 km detour and “switchbacked” our way up the trail in the direction of Black Tusk/Panorama Ridge (turn right at the first junction after leaving Garibaldi Lake). This is a small effort for some really sublime scenery. Right now, the meadows above Garibaldi Lake are glowing in warm yellows, russets and burgundy. An added bonus of this little detour is that you get a closer look at imposing Black Tusk.


Great Fall colours near Garibaldi Lake—C.Helbig

It’s tempting to continue to Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, but this is better left for a multi-day trip using Garibaldi Lake or Taylor Meadows campground as a base. At the well marked junction (with a large map) for these trails, we veered left towards Taylor Meadows campground. This pretty, easy-going trail weaves its way through alpine meadows before reaching the campground. From there it’s down through the forest where the trail eventually meets up with the Garibaldi Lake trail (about 6 km from the parking lot).

I doubt I’ll ever get tired of doing this wonderful hike.


To get to the trailhead take Highway 99  (Sea to Sky Highway). About 37 km north of Squamish, watch for a sign for Garibaldi Park-Black Tusk. Turn right and it’s about 3 km to the parking lot.

Allow at least 6 hours for the 18 km hike and spending time at the lake. Add another couple of hours if you plan on returning via the Black Tusk-Taylor Meadows route.

If you’re seeking some measure of solitude, go during the week.


Elfin Lakes – Opal Cone

Howe Sound Crest Trail

Friends along the way at Garibaldi Lake—C.Helbig

Friends along the way at Garibaldi Lake—C.Helbig




Categories: Activities, British Columbia, Canada, Hiking, Places | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Garibaldi Lake: Ablaze in Fall Colours

  1. Pingback: Cheakamus – Garibaldi LakeTraverse: On and Off the Beaten Hiking Path | Writes of Passage

  2. Pingback: Late Summer Hiking at its Best: Garibaldi Provincial Park’s Opal Cone | Writes of Passage

  3. Pingback: A High Note on Whistler Mountain | Writes of Passage

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