With a stunning turquoise alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains and glaciers, Garibaldi Lake is one of the most scenic, iconic and popular hiking destinations in British Columbia.
The first 6km of the trail to Garibaldi Lake is a gradual, uphill hike with switchbacks and it seems like it will go on forever, but then it levels out for the last 3km. Then you’ll reach a stunning turquoise lake oasis and think it’s Garibaldi and that the last 2.5km went by really quickly, but this small lake and the lake behind it are only two small turquoise lakes that Garibaldi drains into. But the last 2.5km really does go quickly because the trail levels out and seeing the two small turquoise lakes inspires you to walk faster.
The hike to Garibaldi Lake is 18km roundtrip, with an 820m elevation gain. Expect to hike for around 5-6 hours roundtrip, depending on your speed. And you’ll want a decent amount of time at the top to admire the beautiful scenery, picnic, hang out and maybe even swim, if you’re brave/hot enough. I hiked with four friends and just the hiking took around 5 hours roundtrip and then we spent quite a bit of time at the top.
Even at the higher elevation, it was very hot in mid-August on the day I hiked, so bring a lot of water. Luckily, the majority of the hike is shaded in the trees, which makes it cooler on a hot day. At around 1500m in elevation, Garibaldi Lake is usually cooler at the top, so depending on when you go, you may want to bring a jacket, but this was definitely not needed on the day I went. But despite the hot weather, the lake water was still and will always be very cold, no matter how hot it is that day, as it’s glacier fed.
Garibaldi Lake is located between Squamish and Whistler. If you’re coming from Vancouver, hiking Garibaldi is definitely a full day adventure as the drive is around 70km and takes about 1:45 hours.
The hike is best in July till October. It’s a very popular hike, so on a sunny day the weekends get crazy, which makes the trails very busy and if you get there too late, parking is a problem. If possible, try to avoid the hike on a weekend at all costs. But if you can only go on a weekend, make sure you get there really early. I went on a Tuesday and arrived in the late morning and it was fine.
You can also camp at Garibaldi Lake, but you need to reserve a spot in advance.
As usual, wear and bring sunscreen, bring lunch and snacks, and bug spray. And take your garbage with you.
There is an outhouse at the parking lot and at the lake, but it’s a good idea to take toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you.
For more information on hiking to Garibaldi Lake and how to get there, see here.