Three Days at Garibaldi Lake

“This place was natures eye candy”

The Garibaldi hike is rated one of the most scenic hikes in the Vancouver area. It has fantastic views of Garibaldi Lake, the Garibaldi Park Mountain range and the infamous Black Tusk. Not to mention it’s easy accessibility and well maintained trail, makes it great choice for many hiking abilities.

Garibaldi Lake, BC

My friend Emma and I camped at Garibaldi Lake last summer. It is true what they say about this hike. The views are captivating. It is a Vancouver bucket-list item for sure.

Garibaldi Lake

Like every place I visit, there are many things I learn along the way. During my three days spent in Garibaldi Provincial Park, this is what I learnt.

1. Planning to Camp?? Book in Advance

When I say it’s one of the most popular hikes in the Vancouver area, I mean it. Gorilla camping (pitching your tent anywhere) is not allowed and you must be holding a backcountry permit. If you are caught without a permit and/or not camping in a designated campsite, there is a chance you can be fined.

View of Garibaldi Lake, from Garibaldi Campsite
View of Garibaldi Lake and mountain range from Garibaldi Campsite

Emma and I stayed at the  Garibaldi Lake Campsite. Another option is the Taylor Meadows Campsite. It is less scenic, but an alternative if Garibaldi Lake is fully booked. That being said, each has limited space available and they fill up fast.

You can check availability of the campsites here.

2. Best Time to Book

The campsites are available all year round. However, from the end of June till October you must make a reservation for a campsite.

Taking photos around the campsite at Garibaldi Lake
Taking photos around the campsite at Garibaldi Lake
  • The best time to go terms of  nice weather would be from June to August.
  • Best time to avoid crowds are May and September. Just be aware there may be more chance of rain those months.

As the Garibaldi Lakes popularity grows, the campsites book up earlier and faster.

3. Allow For a Minimum of 3 Days

Emma and I consider ourselves “fair hikers”, but more on the slower side. We decided to give ourselves 4 days at the campsite just in case we need axtra time to hike different areas. In the end, we did everything in 3 days.

Black Tusk, British Columbia
Emma and I at the base of the Black Tusk

Our original plan was:

  • Day 1: Hike to the Campsite
  • Day 2: Hike to Panorama Ridge
  • Day 3: Hike Black Tusk
  • Day 4: Hike Out

However, we didn’t make it to the top of Black Tusk on the third day, as there was a storm predicted to role in later.

We had managed to reach the base of Black Tusk, where we could see the clouds approaching. The clouds had already began to engulf the peak of Black Tusk. At which point we decided turn back. Black Tusk is not a mountain I want to be stuck on with no visibility.

Garibaldi Lake View, British Columbia
View of Garibaldi Lake from the base of Black Tusk

Once back at the campsite, we quickly packed our stuff and rushed down the mountain. With 1 kilometer left to the parking lot, we were caught in the storm and got completely drenched. However,  thankful that we made the call to come down a day early instead of staying that extra night. It would have been miserable.

Garibaldi Lake, BC
Emma and I back to the parking lot, soaked from the storm.

Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk can also be done as day hikes if you prefer. Just be prepared for a long and challenging day.

4. Great for Beginners

The trail head is about an hour drive from Vancouver. The trail itself to the Garibaldi Lake campsite is well-marked and maintained. If anything it is so well maintained, it’s one grade below a paved trail.

Trail up to Panorama Ridge, Garibaldi Range, BC
Trail up to Panorama Ridge,

There are no exposed areas or steep sections. From the parking lot it starts flat for the first little bit, followed by 9 kilometers of switchbacks at a steady incline. Making it much easier than your typical Pacific North West Trail, which are full of steep ups and steep downs, roots, rocks, snow and mud.

Check out more about the trail description on Vancouver Trails.

Black Tusk
Hiking up to Black Tusk

5. Garibaldi Lake is Not the Place to Find Peace and Quiet

Camping at Garibaldi Lake is scenic, not peaceful. I know my photos depict tranquility, but that is not the case.

Panorama Ridge Look out to Garibaldi Lake

This hike, being such a great place for beginners, attracts many school groups, summer camps and families with young children.  Thus, leaving not a shred of silence anywhere. Especially at the campsites.

Emma and I did not anticipate this and wish we had brought ear plugs. There were kids running around screaming nonstop till almost 10pm. I have other friends who have also done this hike and have said the same thing.

6. Expect Snow

**This is only if you are hiking to Panorama Ridge and  Black Tusk.

Each had snow, but Black Tusk so more than Panorama Ridge.

Garibaldi Range
Emma and I hiking through some snow to get to Black Tusk

Emma and I didn’t bring any snow gear, making the hike up a constant fight. We managed to make it with just our hiking boots and trekking poles. However, we wished we brought proper gear.

If I were to do it again, I would have brought a pair of yak tracks or micro spikes.

Trail to Panorama Ridge, Garibaldi Range
Trail to Panorama Ridge

 7. Get Up Early to Get There Early

When you book your spot at Garibaldi Lake, you don’t actually get to choose what site you get. You choose your spot upon arrival.  Meaning, the first to arrive get the best selection of campsite. The only way to score a good spot is to get there before anyone else. Meaning wake up early to get there early.

Garibaldi Lake Campsite
View from Garibaldi Lake Campsite

Emma and I were lucky and arrived early afternoon. Many of the lake front sites were taken, but we found a nice area close to the outhouse (without the smell) and to the cooking shelter. We felt like winners.

 8. Don’t Pack 3 litres of Water

I made this mistake and humped an extra 2 litres (5 pounds) up the mountain, when 1 litre would have been enough! The Garibaldi campsite is next to lake where you can fill up, as long as you have some sort of water cleansing system. Whether it be a filter, a way to boil the water or purifying tablets. Myself, I used purify tablets, followed by boiling the water.

Garibaldi Lake/Black Tusk

 9. Prepare to be Blown Away

I’ve seen many incredible vistas and landscapes during my adventures, this makes one of my of top 5.

View of Garibaldi Lake
View of Garibaldi Lake from Panorama Ridge

For a relatively easy hike, the pay off was phenomenal. From the endless mountain Ranges, to Black Tusks raw rugged landscape. This place was natures eye candyAll within an hours drive of Vancouver.

Black Tusk, BC
Me standing at the base of black tusk

Even though you may not get the peace and quiet of nature here, you will get to see some of Mother Natures brilliance.

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