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Recommended This Week

Best Challenging Hiking Trails in Squamish

Adit Lakes Aerial Video - Sea to Sky TrailsJoffre Lakes Aerial Video - Sea to Sky TrailsCheakamus Lake Aerial Video - Sea to Sky Trails

These are some of the best of the best challenging hiking trails around Squamish.  Black Tusk tops this list for so many reasons.  The difficult final ascent is tough, yet rewarding.  The endlessly scenic hike to reach it, and of course the summit of Black Tusk itself.  It is literally a pinnacle of recently molten lava hardened into this amazing tower of black rock.  Incredible!  Cirque Lake is pretty fantastic as well.  It is a hidden, circular world of perfectly clear water reflecting mirror-like everything above.

Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial ParkBlack 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.  You can't help but sense the curvature the planet from looking at the horizon from Black Tusk.  Whether that is an illusion or not, it is hard not to see the world, or at least Garibaldi Provincial Park the same way again.

Why is Black Tusk one of the best hikes in Squamish?

The 360 degree views from the summit of Black Tusk are amazing.  You will find several bivouac areas built up from rocks to shield from the wind, making the top of Black Tusk an incredible and certainly feasible place to spend the night.  The two main directions to access Black Tusk are from the Rubble Creek trailhead and the Cheakamus Lake trailhead.  Both are of comparable distance, yet have very different attributes.  Rubble Creek takes you past Garibaldi Lake and/or through Taylor Meadows, depending on your route there and back.  Both Garibaldi Lake and Taylor Meadows are well worth seeing.  Taylor Meadows sits in a spectacular setting of forest, grassy meadows, fields of flowers and idyllic creeks everywhere you look.  Garibaldi Lake is a short, 15 minute detour from the main trail and gives you a chance to swim in a glacier fed lake if you are brave or just take pictures if you are not.  The Cheakamus Lake trailhead to access Black Tusk starts you hiking 1.5 kilometres through a massive forest of giant trees.  Huge cedars fill the air with that amazing cedar scent.  You hike along the Cheakamus River for much of this part, then abruptly turn right and cross the raging river via a suspension bridge.  The trail then ascends relentlessly to the Helm Creek campground, where the amazing views open up.  Black Tusk from Helm Creek takes on a new, striking appearance.  Though from any side, Black Tusk looks beautiful, from this angle it takes on a strangely animal form.  Like a birds head and partly folded wings.  The Squamish people had legends referring to Black Tusk as the "Landing Place of the Thunderbird", but from Helm Creek it looks like the Thunderbird itself.

Hiking Info for Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Squamish >>

Cirque Lake - Best Sea to Sky TrailsCirque Lake is an unbelievably beautiful paradise high up above Callaghan Lake in the Callaghan Valley.  It requires a canoe to get you to the trailhead at the far end of Callaghan Lake and therefore is seldom hiked. 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.

Cirque Lake Aerial Video 3

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.

Why is Cirque Lake one of the best hikes in Squamish?

Spectacularly beautiful and incredibly remote feeling, this hidden lake is a challenge to get to and a paradise to arrive to.  Wonderfully secluded, untouched wilderness hiking.  Seemingly endless hiking opportunities beyond Cirque Lake.  Trailhead must be reached by canoe, amazing!  Challenging trail to Cirque Lake due to its steepness, however the trail is short, just under 2k, and should pose no difficultly for a moderately experienced weekend hiker.

More on Cirque Lake in Callaghan Provincial Park near Squamish >>

Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial ParkPanorama Ridge is easily one of the most amazing hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park.  The 15 kilometre hike from the trailhead at Rubble Creek to Panorama Ridge takes you through beautiful and deep forests, across countless idyllic streams, through meadows filled with flowers, and past dozens of jaw dropping viewpoints.  The amazing views start once you reach Taylor Meadows and get even more spectacular as the trail progresses.  Once you arrive at Panorama Ridge and its phenomenal vantage point, high above Garibaldi Park, you will stare in wonder.  Mesmerized first by Garibaldi Lake, far below you and looking unnaturally blue, the lake looks amazing surrounded by green, untouched wilderness and snow capped mountains.  The Table, the massive and unusual looking mountain with its bizarre flat top lays across the lake with the enormous Mount Garibaldi just beyond.  In the distance, where Garibaldi Lake ends, a massive glacier rises out of the blue and jagged crevasses can be seen even from such a great distance.  Behind you, Black Tusk lays across the valley.  Close to the same elevation as Panorama Ridge, you get this wonderful view of it.  Certainly the best and closest viewpoint to this iconic mountain.

Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park - Aerial View

Panorama Ridge sits, along with Black Tusk in the midst of some of the most popular and beautiful hiking trails in Garibaldi Park.  There are two main trailheads for Panorama Ridge, Cheakamus Lake and Rubble Creek.

Why is Panorama Ridge one of the best challenging hikes?

Challenging, 30 kilometre roudtrip hike.  Jaw dropping views from Panorama Ridge as well as several places along the trail to the ridge.  Often cited as the best hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park.  Panorama Ridge is often combined with other hikes in the area such as Black Tusk, Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake, over several days of amazing hiking.

Hiking Info for Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Squamish >>

Squamish Hiking Trails - The Lions Binkert and Summit TrailThe Lions or Twin Sisters lie in North Vancouver, only 25 minutes 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.  People have fallen here.  As recently as 2006 two capable hikers lost their way on their descent from the West Lion summit and one man lost a hand hold and fell a frightening 100m.

Why is the Lions(West Lion) one of the best hikes?

The trail to the West Lion is only moderately difficult and very scenic with terrific views of Howe Sound.  The final, class 3 scramble ascent to the summit is very difficult and dangerous, however, it is a tremendous accomplishment.  Every time you spot the Lions from a distance, you will hardly believe you made it to the top of such an impossible looking mountain.

More Info on the Lions West Lion Hiking Trail near Squamish >>

Squamish Hiking Trails - Brew LakeBrew Lake is beautiful mountain lake in the Callaghan Valley, north of Squamish.  Compared to Garibaldi Provincial Park across the valley, the Callaghan Valley is relatively unknown and seldom hiked.  Brew Lake lays in a massive alpine valley of enormous erratics scattered around and in the lake.  On first seeing it, it looks serene, yet wild and hostile.  The lake is surrounded on one side by idyllic tree covered hills and lakeside cliffs and on the other side a brutal looking wasteland of huge boulders sloping up from the lake to the skyline.  Hiking into this wasteland of erratics reveals an amazing paradise of small, island forests, cute streams and endless worlds within worlds to explore.  You find yourself wandering along like a kid mesmerized at what you will find next.  Brew Lake itself doesn't come close in wow factor to the postcard-perfect alpine lakes such as Wedgemount Lake, Joffre Lakes, Cheakamus Lake or Garibaldi Lake, but I does beat these lakes in other aspects.  Because Brew Lake is outside of Garibaldi Provincial Park, few people have heard of it.  More often than not you will have both the lake and entire valley to yourself.  An increasingly rare occurrence elsewhere that gives the place a quiet calm and that strange and satisfying feeling that there are no other humans for quite some distance.  You have that exhilarating wilderness feeling that sometimes gets lost on other Whistler area hikes when you start the trail from a parking lot packed with cars.  The fact that the Brew Lake trail doesn't have a parking lot or proper trailhead actually makes it more mysterious, adventurous and in some ways more fun.  Brew Lake is shallow and absolutely crystal clear.  Mesmerizingly clear.  You can look across the lake and see smooth and rounded rocks scattered across the lake bottom.  The lake is also relatively small at just a few hundred metres across and unexpectedly warm to swim in.  Breathtakingly cold lakes are the norm in the Whistler area.  Try swimming in Wedgemount, Joffre, Russet, Cirque, Cheakamus or Garibaldi Lake for any length of time and you will be shivering cold.  You can manage a minute or two swimming in these lakes, but certainly not 20 or 30 minutes as you can in Brew Lake.  There are even some massive, flat topped erratics in the lake to swim to and lounge on.  The sun makes them amazingly warm on a sunny day...

Why is Brew Lake one of the best challenging hikes?

The Brew Lake trail is a very tough hike with considerable elevation gain of 745 metres in just 5k!.  The trail is well off the radar of most hikers, and takes you well out of civilization just minutes after exiting your car.  The trail is difficult yet constantly changing.  Views, dramatic boulder fields, more views, bizarre forests, more views and a wonderfully remote lake.  Though Brew Lake pales in comparison to the previous hikes shown here, it has a wonderful rugged and remote charm about it.  Sometimes a place so clearly brutalized by nature gives it some hard to identify beauty.  You know it when you see it though, and you see it and feel it at Brew Lake.

Hiking Info and Maps for Brew Lake near Squamish >>

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