Cheakamus – Garibaldi LakeTraverse: On and Off the Beaten Hiking Path


View from Panorama Ridge, Garibaldi Provincial Park—C.Helbig

Less than two hours from downtown Vancouver, Garibaldi Provincial Park epitomizes the Super, Natural British Columbia tourism tagline. Its extraordinary alpine scenery and iconic hikes to Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk make it extremely popular with day hikers and backpackers. Despite the knowledge that we would not be alone, a couple of my hiking pals and I were lured by the beauty and proximity of this park. Our three days of backpacking took us on and off the beaten hiking path—from busy but stunning Panorama Ridge, to the overlooked gems of Mount Price and Clinker Peak.

The majority of hikers visit the Garibaldi Lake area as an out and back from Rubble Creek trailhead. We decided on the less trodden option, starting at Cheakamus Lake trailhead and doing a traverse to Garibaldi Lake, and out at Rubble Creek—about 27 km, not including our roughly 14 km of side trips. This involves having cars at both ends, or other shuttling option, but the added logistics are totally worth the effort. We spent one night at Helm Creek camp and two night at Garibaldi Lake camp.


Our route from Cheakamus to Rubble Creek. Map from

The trail from Cheakamus parking lot to our overnight stop at Helm Creek campground (8.2 km/600m gain) was a bit of a grunt, but I much preferred it to the busy Rubble Creek access with its groomed, monotonous switchbacks. The uphill trudge was quickly forgotten as we emerged from the forest onto the open alpine. Helm Creek campground is a beauty—bright and ultra peaceful with dramatic views of Black Tusk.


Helm Creek campground with Black Tusk in the distance—C.Helbig

The next day, our destination was Garibaldi Lake campground with a side trip to Panorama Ridge (about 15.5 km total). Continuing on from Helm Creek campground the scenery keeps getting better with looming Black Tusk continuously in view. Much of the trail approaching Helm Lake is through a volcanic field. The contrast of the dark volcanic debris with the snow patches and wildflowers is breathtaking.


Stunning scenery between Helm Creek campground and Helm Lake—C.Helbig


Wildflowers, snow, and volcanic rock make a great combo—C.Helbig


I love this stark scene near Helm Lake—C.Helbig

Just beyond Helm Lake is a junction with a turnoff to a short, steep trail up to Panorama Ridge. It’s busy on clear days and an absolute must-do. I have been to Panorama Ridge several times; it’s one of my all-time favourite “perches” and I could sit there all day looking down at shimmering Garibaldi Lake way below and the majestic snow-capped peaks and glaciers that surround it.


Morag and me on Panorama Ridge—C.Helbig

We took a shortcut down, running and sliding through the snow—very fun. If you decide to do this, take a good look at the route on your way up. We noticed a big icy patch and veered to the side. A group before us was not so lucky and got scraped up badly—nurse Morag to the rescue.


The fast (potentially dangerous) way down Panorama Ridge—C.Helbig

After coming down from Panorama Ridge, we were in for another treat. The meadows enroute to Garibaldi Lake were ablaze with wildflowers. Our very long, cold winter has pushed wildflower season much later into the summer.


Colourful meadows on the trail from Panorama Ridge to Garibaldi Lake—C.Helbig


Awesome views of turquoise Garibaldi Lake—C.Helbig

Although we had made reservations for Garibaldi Lake campground, when we arrived there was not one available spot (unfortunately, some hikers pitch their tents without reservations.) With no ranger on site to remedy the situation, and it being late in the day, we decided to set up camp just beyond the campground boundary, on a small dock. We had the best real estate on the lake (almost all the official campsites are hidden in the forest with no lake views).

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Our illegal camp spot on Garibaldi Lake—C.Helbig

Thanks to my friend Eva, who is always up for exploring something new, we decided to set out the next day for Mount Price and Clinker Peak, part of the Garibaldi volcano belt. The trail, starting just beyond our “illegal” camp spot on Garibaldi Lake, is not shown on any of the park’s signs, hence it gets very little traffic. In fact, even with the 50 overflowing Garibaldi campsites we never came across any other hikers. They were all heading the other way, to Black Tusk (another must if you haven’t done it).


Trail to Mt. Price/Clinker is the dotted line—Garibaldi Provincial Park topographical map

The start of the hike didn’t look too promising as we pushed through the brush on the overgrown trail. Luckily, that didn’t last long and the pink trail markers were easy to follow. It’s only about 4km to the peaks but it’s very slow going over several impressive lava rock flows and steep sections. The great views to Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk provide nice breather stops. At the base of the peaks, the trail markers change to cairns, providing some guidance up the rocky, rubbly route. We ended up on Clinker Peak rather than Price as the snow covered and steep scree alternatives to the latter didn’t look appealing. Clinker, at only 60m lower than Price, was well worth the slog with “wow” views in every direction, and only the sound of the wind.

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Trail marker along route to Clinker Peak—C.Helbig


Amazing scenery as we slog up the rubbly slope to Clinker Peak—C.Helbig

Our campsite on Garibaldi is on the far left side of the lake (photo above) by the tiny set of islands called the the Battlefield Islands.


Clinker Peak view to Table Mountain and Garibaldi glacier flows—C.Helbig

If you go back to the photo of Morag and me on Panorama Ridge, you can see Table Mountain (above) across the lake.

Our trip to Garibaldi was likely my last backpacking trip of the summer. What a way to end the season… hiking favourite trails and discovering new ones in Garibaldi with wonderful friends, perfect weather, and plenty of chocolate in our packs.

Reservations and Tips

  • Obtain backcountry permits and camping reservations at the BC Parks website. Reservations are required during high season: June 29-Oct.17, 2017.
  • Don’t be put off if you can’t get reservations at Garibaldi Lake. Taylor Meadows, only 2km away is a great choice. Garibaldi is very busy, the campsites are in the forest with virtually no lake views, and if you’re going there to swim…well, most people chicken out. Taylor Meadows can be busy too, but it’s pretty, bright, and feels more peaceful. There’s also less elevation gain to get to Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk.
  • Helm Creek campground is by far the smallest and quietest of them all. If you’re not doing a traverse, it can easily be used as a base for day trips to Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk. I think a return trip to Mt.Price/Clinker would be too much for most people.

More posts on Garibaldi hikes:

Elfin Lakes and Opal Cone

Fall colours at Garibaldi Lake and Taylor Meadows

Happy hiking!


Categories: Activities, British Columbia, Canada, Hiking, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

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31 thoughts on “Cheakamus – Garibaldi LakeTraverse: On and Off the Beaten Hiking Path

  1. Pingback: Winter hike to Garibaldi Lake, British Columbia | Writes of Passage

  2. Pingback: Mama bear and baby bear hike Garibaldi’s Panorama Ridge via Helm Creek | Writes of Passage

  3. mike fulton

    Beautiful pics. I did a shorter version a few weeks ago with the scouts, caamping at cheakamus lake and coming up to helm creek camp for lunch then back. We all want to come back and do the tour you cover here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Great you did part of this with the scouts. I imagine there’s still a fair bit of snow up there? The scenery from Helm Creek to Panorama Ridge and beyond to Garibaldi Lake is super pretty, but it gets much busier. Probably best to stay at Taylor Meadows. Hope you get to this tour!


  4. The sight of wildflowers and snow at the same place is crazy! What a hiking treat.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I spent a lot of summer weekends in my early 20’s backpacking through various areas of Montana on weekends and vacations and loved it. You’ve brought back some great memories and the incredible feeling of accomplishment when you reach the top and are rewarded with an incredible view – or the bottom when your second set of muscles are protesting! Your photos are amazing and I loved the contrast of the black volcanic rock, the white snow, the brilliant blue sky and the glorious colors of the wildflowers. A great way to close out the summer! Anita

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Anita, thanks for your lovely comments and I’m glad that the post brought back good memories. Your mentioning of Montana is timely. Unfortunately we had to cancel our trip to Glacier NP last week due to the fire situation (I was so disappointed). Very sad about all the fires and crazy weather. Hopefully we will get there next year. We ended up going to Santa Fe, NM…I know, very different, but we had a great time. Post will come eventually. Cheers, Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Amazing dear friend regards from Uruguay

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is a truly awesome place for hiking, Caroline! When’s the best time of the year to go there?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Parts of the trail can be snow covered until into July. I personally prefer this hike in late August and into September when the fall colours turn the meadows beautiful shades of reds and yellows (though mid-late summer wildflower are very special too). If you go, try to do so mid week when not as busy. Cheers, caroline


  8. Wow it really is a spectacularly beautiful country. The black volcanic rock makes it look very stunning. And you must be very fit. You’d need all that chocolate. I have some catching up reading on your posts.Louise

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Louise. Yes Garibaldi is a stunning place and the effort required for these hikes is really not bad (remember, we are not far from sea level so these hikes are a piece of cake compared to what you did in the Himalayas). Chocolate comes with us wherever we go (usually wine too, but sadly the frozen plastic bottle exploded inside my friend’s pack before we could drink it!) Cheers


  9. Wow! Those views of Garibaldi Lake (the pic right after the amazing wildflower picture) makes me want to go there RIGHT NOW. You have a knack for finding lots of breathtaking areas. Although it stinks your reservation fell through – bonus for having the best views! Always nice when things work out that way 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Ashley. I like that photo too; it looks so idyllic that it almost seems fake (no doctoring though…just incredible mother nature). Cheers, Caroline


  10. In the past, I have mainly been envious of the incredible hiking terrain you have so close by, but now I’m feeling rather jealous of the fact that you also have hiking pals! My hiking friends are so far flung and to be able to spend multiple days trekking with them, some or all of us need to fly somewhere. This trip looks heartfillingly beautiful – yes, I made up that adverb because that’s how I felt when I looked at many of the photos (the wildflower one being the queen) – like my heart would burst with the beauty of nature. Wow.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are absolutely right. I am very lucky to have not just great hiking terrain close by but also incredible, like-minded friends to go exploring with. We make it a priority in spring to book off chunks of time in summer to go on multi-day hikes. That way it’s on the calendar and we stick with it. Your adverb is perfect, and everything came together beautifully on this trip (we’ve also had crappy luck with weather but we always manage to have fun, or at least make the most of it). Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What a trip! This looks like nature at it’s finest lol. This is definitely the way to get out and explore the outdoors. I hope you made many great memories. Helm Lake is so pretty, what views!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Seriously amazing photos. Sounds like an epic trip!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. what a wonderful place and what an experience…… thoroughly enjoyed….

    Liked by 2 people

  14. What a hike! Beautiful photos of BC’s stunning scenery.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Nice trip! Camping on a nice flat deck/dock is not such a bad thing. I wonder if Clinker Peak really is made of clinker (sandstone that was melted by a layer of coal burning beneath it)?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmmm, and I just thought Clinker had a nice ring to it! Thanks for the geology lesson. I know that Clinker Peak is part of a volcanic chain that left large lava flows about 10,000 years ago.
      Yup, camping on the dock was primo…much better than in the damp forest among the mosquitos the next night! Cheers!


  16. Thanks Mike. Let me know if you need more info if you visit Vancouver.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Mike Hohmann

    Very nice, Caroline. Great scenery and photos. I’ll make note of this next time we head to Vancouver. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. ostendnomadography

    stunning landscapes!

    Liked by 1 person

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