Squamish sits in the midst of some amazing places to hike. Garibaldi Provincial Park sprawls from Squamish up and beyond Whistler. Tantalus Provincial Park lays across the valley to the west and the beautiful and desolate, by comparison, Callaghan Valley to the north. Add to that the smaller and locally cherished Provincial Parks, Alice Lake, Stawamus Chief, Shannon Falls and Murrin, make Squamish a world class hiking destination.
Alice Lake is a great place for camping swimming, fishing and hiking. Alice Lake Provincial Park is comprised of four lakes. Stump, Fawn and Edith Lake as well as the much larger Alice Lake. There is a nice trail that runs amongst them all. There is a large beach area, a pier and dock along with an astonishing 107 vehicle accessible campsites and 55 of those have electrical hookups. The campsites are open March 15 to October 31. This place is a hive of activity in the summer due to its beautiful setting and convenient location. Alice Lake Provincial Park is located just 10 minutes north of Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway. Driving from Squamish you will see a huge "Alice Lake Provincial Park" sign on the right side of the highway and the park is almost immediately after the turnoff. Fires are allowed near the beach in the fire rings scattered throughout the park. You can bring your own firewood or buy it at the park. Pets must be on a leash in the park at all times. Bears and cougars frequent the area. Though bears are relatively skittish, cougars are potentially very dangerous, especially with regards to small children or other pets. Though encounters are infrequent, they are possible and you will see signs regarding both cougars and bears at Alice Lake.
Why should you go to Alice Lake Provincial Park?
Alice Lake is an idyllic lake surrounded by lush, green forests and endless snowy mountains beyond. The swimming and fishing are great and the relaxing hiking trails in the park are nice. Picnic tables and BBQ pits dot the park's grassy field adjacent to the lake. It is a wonderful place to easily enjoy the wilderness and lakes around Squamish.
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.
Why should you hike to Black Tusk in Garibaldi Park?
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, though equally great attributes. Rubble Creek takes you past Garibaldi Lake and/or through Taylor Meadows, depending on your route there and back. The Cheakamus Lake trailhead to access Black Tusk starts you hiking 1.5 kilometres through a massive forest of giant trees leading to the Helm Creek campground, where the amazing views open up. For the next few kilometres to Black Tusk you get ever-changing views of this amazing pinnacle of rock.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is a beautiful stop in between Squamish and Whistler. It's about 25 minutes north of Squamish, 11k south of Whistler. The hike from the parking lot to the falls is less than a kilometre and on a wide and flat trail. Most people miss the other viewpoint from above the falls, from the train tracks bridge. To find it is easy. As you walk toward the falls from the parking lot you will have to cross train tracks. Standing at the train tracks look to your right and you will see a bridge that the train tracks cross. Walk over to that to see the falls from above. Amazing! Brandywine Falls drop an amazing 66 metres (216 feet) into the chasm far below that the viewing platform extends over. Another trail extends past this viewing area leading to another, quieter area overlooking Daisy Lake. This area is just a short, minute or two walk from the first viewing area. During the winter months the parking lot gate is locked and buried in snow. The snowplows make room for cars at the edge of the highway making Brandywine Falls open year round. With the deep snow however, you may need snowshoes. Brandywine Falls is popular with cross country skiers and snowshoers in the winter. The Sea to Sky Trail runs through Brandywine Falls Provincial Park and you will immediately see Sea to Sky Trail signs from the parking lot. From the parking lot you cross the covered bridge, turn right and after just a couple hundred metres you will see a Sea to Sky Trail branch off to the left. This trail meanders through the forest and rises up to a plateau with views of Black Tusk and the distant Daisy Lake. Further along, (3 kilometres from the trailhead), you will come to the amazing Bungee Bridge that crosses the Cheakamus River from a dizzying height.
Why should you go to Brandywine Falls Provincial Park?
Brandywine Falls is amazingly beautiful and very easy and quick to hike to. Just a 20 minute pit stop on the drive between Squamish and Whistler allows you to see this amazing falls. Brandywine Falls and Shannon Falls, just south of are both convenient, quick and beautiful stops on the drive from Vancouver to Whistler.
Brew 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...
Why should you hike to Brew Lake?
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.
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.
Why should you hike to Cirque Lake in Callaghan Lake Park?
Spectacularly beautiful and incredibly remote feeling, this hidden lake is a challenge to get to and a paradise to arrive to. Wonderfully beautiful, untouched wilderness hiking. 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 and should pose no difficultly for a moderately experienced weekend hiker.
Elfin Lakes is a wonderfully accessible mountain paradise at the southern end of the mighty Garibaldi Park. 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... 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. You can pay with cash using an envelope drop-box at the trailhead or you can . 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. 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 Elfin Lakes trail starts out ascending through deep forest, reaching the Red Heather Hut after 5k. This is a small warming hut equipped with a wood stove complete with a stack of wood free to use. Though sleeping here is for emergencies only, the Red Heather Hut is warm and welcoming. The final 6k from this hut to Elfin Lakes takes you along a beautiful ridge with amazing views of snowy mountains all around. The sheer distance of this snowshoeing trail ranks it as difficult. Also, there is a considerable amount of elevation gain and loss along the way and you move through several gradual peaks and valleys...
Why should you hike to Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park?
Elfin Lakes is a stunning mountain paradise. Deep forest, lush green meadows, hills, valleys, and mountains all around. The trail is a fairly challenging, and consistently ascending route through this magnificent wilderness near the southern end of Garibaldi Provincial Park. This Diamond Head entrance to Garibaldi Park in Squamish is quite busy, however, even on popular weekends it is nice and serene. The 11 kilometre length to the Elfin Lakes Hut, spreads out the hikers quite a bit and the terrain around the hut offers endless hiking opportunities in a number of directions. What an amazing place, Garibaldi Provincial Park is!
is the centre and base for much of the hiking in Garibaldi Park. The is located on the amazing, turquoise shores of this massive and mostly undisturbed mountain lake. There are no trails around the perimeter of the lake with the exception of the small section leading to the campsite, so your view of the lake is a sea of unnaturally coloured water ringed by swaths of forest and a magnificent glacier towering in the distance. The water is painfully cold, though plenty of brave hikers swim here as well as camp. The camping area is well laid out and stretches deep into the forest with 50 tent clearings. You can, except for the busiest of days, put your tent out of earshot and sight of others. The trail to Garibaldi Lake from the Rubble Creek trailhead, just off of the Sea to Sky Highway takes about two hours. You gain a fair amount of elevation, 900 metres in just 9k, trailhead to lake. Partway along the trail to Garibaldi Lake the trail forks. Right to Garibaldi Lake and left goes to another beautiful campground, Taylor Meadows. Beyond Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake is the amazing Black Tusk. Black Tusk, Taylor Meadows and Garibaldi Lake can be done in one long 30k dayhike, trailhead to trailhead, but expect to take 8-10 hours. The Garibaldi Lake trailhead is located just 25 minutes north of Squamish. Keep your eye out for the hard to miss highway sign.
Why should you hike to Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Park?
is amazingly beautiful with its huge size and unbelievable colour. The trails are beautiful and well signed and laid out in the well organized Garibaldi Provincial Park. The trails are relatively easy and there is quite a lot to see. Black Tusk, Taylor Meadows and Panorama Ridge are all within hiking distance and some of the most amazing hikes around. The only slight downside to Garibaldi Lake is the somewhat uneventful trail to the lake. With the exception of the last 3k before the lake, the trail is deep forest and switchbacks.