Elfin Lakes Snowshoeing Trail in Garibaldi Park
An amazing ridge walk with great views in all directions, ending at a beautiful and well equipped mountain hut
Elfin Lakes is a wonderfully accessible mountain paradise at the southern end of the mighty Garibaldi Park in Squamish. An amazing destination on its own, Elfin Lakes is also part of a gateway to so much more. The Gargoyles, Little Diamond Head, Opal Cone. This beautiful and well marked 11k (one way) trail is popular year-round. On foot July to October and on skis or snowshoes November to June.
There is a wonderful, extremely well equipped hut and campsites as well as a ranger station at the lakes. Staying at the amazing hut costs $15, cash only. Which sounds expensive until you see it. It looks more like a ski lodge than a mountain hut. Complete with solar powered lights, heat, propane stoves and room for 33 to sleep. You will find envelopes to pay at the trailhead or you can pre-pay online on the BCParks site.
Camping away from the hut costs $10. Once again that seem expensive, but the area is very beautiful and popular so park rangers are nearly always around to keep things nice and functional.
The 22k route to the Elfin Lakes Hut and back is well marked and well used. Unlike most other Garibaldi Park trails, this one can be safely navigated in the dark if needed with a flashlight. You will often find people on the trail in the dark on the lower section from the Red Heather Hut to the parking lot in Squamish...
Garibaldi Lake & Taylor Meadows Snowshoeing
Deep snow and a wonderful valley make this a beautiful snowshoeing trail
, in Garibaldi Park is an amazing place to snowshoe in the winter near Squamish. Beautiful snowy meadows surrounded by mountains everywhere you look. Black Tusk towering in the distance so close and blanketed in wonderful, beautiful snow. Garibaldi Lake is accessible as well on this snowshoeing hike. The Taylor Meadows trail forks partway up, left goes to , right to Garibaldi Lake (the trail joins again at the far side of both campsites).
Garibaldi Lake, so massive and dramatically beautiful in the winter, a huge frozen valley. The downside to this hike is the length of hiking to get to the beautiful parts. In the summer it's not so bad as the trailhead is a moderately difficult 9k from Garibaldi Lake. In the winter however, the trailhead parking lot is unplowed almost down to the highway. So just to get to the trailhead requires about a 2k uphill snowshoe slog.
If you snowshoe the beautiful route to and return via Garibaldi Lake the route is 25 kilometres long and very strenuous as a one day snowshoe trip. Camping at either or Garibaldi Lake are great options if you can stand the cold and are well prepared. If you plan to do this trip in one day be sure to leave very early and be well prepared for winter hiking. In the winter the days are very short so always have lights with you. Although the trail will likely be tracked out by previous hikers and skiers, having a gps is an excellent backup in case you lose the trail.
High Falls Creek Hiking Trail in Squamish
Tough and challenging, this beautiful and steep trail has great views
High Falls Creek is a great hike not only for the beautiful scenery in and around the trail, but the drive to it as well. The often passed by Squamish Valley Road, just of the Sea to Sky Highway, opposite the Alice Lake Provincial Park access road, is wonderful. This glacier carved valley stretches on and on, along the majestic Squamish River as you follow forest service roads 26 kilometres to the trailhead.
The High Falls trail is well marked and difficult to moderately challenging. There are some short chain assisted areas to climb and overall the trail is fairly steep. You gain a gruelling 622 metres in less than 4 kilometres.
Past the beautiful falls viewpoints the trail leads to a few more cliff viewpoints before ending at the Branch 200 FSR. You can either turn back and retrace the steep trail you came back to your car (8 kilometres roundtrip).
Most prefer to walk the forest service road back to the trailhead instead. It is much longer (almost 2 kilometres longer), but it is easy and relaxing and there are some stunning views of the river valley below. This road takes you back to the S Main FSR where you will turn left onto and walk about 1.4 kilometres to get back to your car.
The West Lion Summit Trail, South of Squamish
Amazing views of Howe Sound from this challenging hike and dangerous summit
The Lions or Twin Sisters lie in North Vancouver, south of Squamish. The two distinct, rocky peaks are visible from downtown Vancouver. The view from the top is spectacular. Howe Sound stretches out into the blue distance. A tough but wonderful hike.
The first half of the hike is very easy as you follow a disused, though beautifully overgrown logging road gently uphill. After the first 30 minutes of hiking you come to a Y junction, take the path on the right and continue as the path eventually narrows and beautiful views of Howe Sound become visible. You will pass two waterfalls, then come to a sign "The Lions>" that blocks the old, very overgrown logging road and points to a narrow path to the right.
You will cross Harvey Creek over a beautiful little bridge with wonderful views, then the first significant uphill hiking starts. From this point on the trail is very well marked with flagging tape, tree markers and paint indicators on the rock faces.
There are two plateaus before the final, very difficult ascent to the summit of the West Lion. Both plateaus have incredible views and most make the second plateau their final destination. It is at the base of the West Lion. There are not really any suitable places to put up a tent, but if you had to choose, somewhere in the vicinity of these two plateaus would be the place to do it.
If you continue to the summit be prepared for a four metre rope descent. The ropes are there, fixed to a tree above, but are alarmingly worn. If you have ropes, you may want to bring them for this part.
Black Tusk Hiking Trail in Garibaldi Park
Spectacular views through flower filled meadows and alpine lakes to an astonishing and ancient lava dome
Black Tusk is a mountain of unbelievable beauty. It possesses the incredible distinction of looking more impossible to climb the closer you get to it. Even when you are close enough to touch its vertical, black and foreboding sides, you wonder in amazement how anyone can ever reach the top. It’s vertical on all sides.
The barely distinguishable trail skirts its edge along the ledge of a perilous scree slope that runs around its trunk. As you clamour carefully along the trail you come to a chute heading almost straight up. Again, even this close you will wonder, as almost everyone else at this spot, “I don’t think this is a safe way to go.” Then you pause and look around. Many take a seat at this moment and marvel at the view. Spectacular. Just spectacular.
Above the clouds, looking over the impossibly blue Garibaldi Lake, nestled in endless snowy mountains. There is even snow just below you, in the valleys of scree that crumbled from Black Tusk. The scree is black, very black. Contrasted with the snow, clouds, lake and sky, the view is breathtaking.
Most people don’t continue up the final chute to the top, it’s that scary. This is justifiable. It is unquestionably unsafe. Chunky rock holds pull free as you grip them. Above you jet black, jagged rocks tumble and ricochet down on and around you. And the view is so spectacular around you that it’s easy to justify turning around.
But the final ascent is not really that hard. Keep your head down, three points of contact at all times, slow and steady and you reach the top of the world.
Hiking the Stawamus Chief
The wonderfully massive tower of rock dominating the skyline in Squamish
The Chief is the mammoth rock face that towers over Squamish. Though hardly believable from looking at, the summit is an easy two hour hike. In fact there are three peaks, South (First), Centre (Second), and North (Third). Each accessible from the single trailhead.
Growing in popularity as the newest brother to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver because there are quite a few stairs and considerable elevation gain. 540 metres in 1.5k. (The Grouse Grind is 853 metres in 2.9k)
The trailhead to the Chief is easy to find. From highway 99, in Squamish. As you approach the Chief, visible for several kilometres, watch for the sign for "Stawamus Chief." The large parking lots are arranged next to the trailhead.
There is a nice campground with 47 tent sites. This part of the world is somewhat expensive so this is an amazingly cheap option at $8 per person, per night. Officially open May 15 - October 12. If you go outside these dates you just have to walk in from outside the gates and camping is free however there are no services available which means that the washrooms may be locked and no water available (though there is a river nearby). There are no shower facilities here any time of the year but a large river near the campsites.
Cirque Lake - Hiking North of Squamish
A cirque lake is an extraordinary thing to see
There is something magical about starting a hike in a canoe. A childlike sense of adventure and novelty. The hike to Cirque Lake begins with this sense of excitement. Sheltered by mountains Callaghan Lake is eerily calm and mesmerizingly clear. You slip away from the shore in tranquil silence as if floating on air. The other end of this once glacial valley is the trailhead. Hidden in the forest and so little used as to remain invisible until you stumble onto it after repeated aborted attempts to find it. The key to finding it is to aim toward the waterfall in the distance. Cascading almost straight down a couple hundred metres from its starting high up the steep mountains.
A perfectly arranged glacier is required to form a cirque lake. A magical combination of size, a certain slope and more unexpectedly, a certain angle away from the sun. In the northern hemisphere, this means the glacier must be on the northeast slope of the mountain, away from the suns rays and the prevailing winds.
Thick snow protected in this way grows thicker into glacial ice, then a process of freeze-thaw called nivation, chews at the lower rocks, hollowing out a deep basin. Over a thousand winters you are left with a magnificently circular lake with steep slopes all around. If you arrive at Cirque Lake on a favourably sunny, summer day, you will almost certainly fall silent, gaze in wonder at this spectacular place, and feel in that moment that this place is as perfect as it is possible for a place to be.