From Helm Creek to Black Tusk is about 5.5k and takes about two hours and there are a couple options. One of course is to keep to the marked trail as it runs past Black Tusk far to your right and get on to the Black Tusk trail up the conventional, Rubble Creek trailhead way. The better option from Helm Creek is to veer off the trail about 400 metres before reaching Helm Lake, cross the shallow, though wide Helm Creek and follow the obvious route to Black Tusk. This route is faster and absolutely amazing.
The terrain is breathtaking from the moment you leave the established trail until you reach the summit of Black Tusk. Though it looks daunting from the start, near Helm Lake, it is only moderately challenging. No excessive climbs, no ropes needed. The distance from the Helm Creek crossing to the summit is about 2.6k as you follow a relatively straight line. Climbing quickly and reaching the shockingly black rock that has crumbled from the Tusk. To your right you will eventually see the broad sloping side of Black Tusk give way to a massive valley of snow. To your left the valley descends away from you into a breathtaking valley of dead trees, green grassy meadows and the distant river flowing through the mountains.
This route joins with the normal Black Tusk trail route near the base of Black Tusk. From this point you walk the black bridge-like ridge of rock to touch Black Tusk itself. Then you walk the trail that runs at the top of the scree around the left side to reach the perilous looking chute up to the summit. This resting area has incredible views of the valley below and the amazingly blue Garibaldi Lake contrasting with the black rock all around and the pure white snow more distant.
This final chute turns back quite a few people at this point as it looks extremely dangerous. Chunks of rock tumble down it from people above. Handholds routinely crumble in your hands. And looking down reveals the distinctly real possibility of tumbling down a brutal scree slope for several hundred metres. There have been some injuries here requiring emergency airlifts out, however they are remarkably few.
If you have the courage to make this final ascent, you quickly realize that it is much easier than you thought. There are plenty of good hand and footholds along the way and the gentle slope ensures a comforting feeling of safety. This chute is just a dozen metres until it slopes to a crawling scramble and finally walking on top of the world with absolutely phenomenal views all around.
Keyhole Hot Springs - Squamish Trails in July
Sometimes called Pebble Creek Hot Springs, Keyhole Hot Springs is a very beautiful place to see. All natural, except for some cementing modifications to create three spring filled tubs on the edge of the loud, crashing, and wonderfully beautiful, Upper Lillooet River. Located just 7k past the old, and now destroyed Meager Creek Hot Springs turnoff and bridge, is the only realistically viable hot springs for over 100k. The next closest, nice, well known, and easily accessible hot springs are back past Pemberton and up along and past the huge Lillooet Lake. Which of course is where the Upper Lillooet River flows into. Skookumchuck and Sloquet Hot Springs are both accessible by car and both are equipped with fairly nice, pay-to-use campgrounds.
Keyhole Hot Springs is named after the beautiful Keyhole Falls that can be seen up river a couple kilometres. If you drive a bit higher than where you park for the hot springs you will be able to see them. There are a few keyhole-looking falls you will notice if you hike the area. In fact on the hike into Keyhole Hot Springs there is an amazing viewpoint five minutes into the trail with a view across the river valley to a beautiful keyhole-looking falls.
The official Keyhole Falls is located at the end of the river valley a few kilometres from Keyhole Falls. Though you can hike to them with great difficultly, most get there by driving. If you continue past the parking area for Keyhole for about 4 kilometres you pass through a massive construction area, then ascend quickly before the road bends back down and through another massive construction area. The road zig-zags downhill quickly and then comes to a sharp right at a bridge. If you park just before this bridge in the large clearing you will spot a trail going into the trees(keep the river on your right). About 3 minutes in you will come to Keyhole Falls.
The springs at Keyhole are incredible and varied. From the three pools at the rivers edge, to the more serene and varied, do-it-yourself pools you dig into the sand with the resident shovel. This area of sand is beautifully located just steps from the rushing river and has plenty of room for a fire, several cut log chairs and interesting rock features everywhere. The water temperature is perfect and perfectly adjustable. Though the taps in the two cemented pools are not functioning. They just let hot water flow through. The temperature can be cooled by adding river water with a bucket provided. Originally the taps could be closed and opened to moderate the temperature.
The new 50 minute hike to the hot springs is fairly steep and some may have difficulty with it as it requires using branches and tree roots at times to climb up and down the trail, which is often on loose and steep dirt. If you can manage to carry all your things in a pack on your back you will be happier and safer on the hike. Although bears are in the vicinity, sightings are extremely rare between the trailhead and springs. There are however, frequent deer sightings in the area. The campsite has a safe cooler up a ladder to a bear-proof loft that can be readily be used to avoid bear conflicts. For more info and directions to click here.
Meager Creek Hot Springs - Squamish Trails in July
With the catastrophic mud and debris slide let loose from Devastator Peak in 2010, the nice new (in 2009) million dollar bridge to the Meager Creek Hot Springs was destroyed. Though destroyed doesn't even begin to describe it. Looking on the now, dead end road, where the bridge once stood, the place still looks a mess. , and evidently quite accurate.