Although the 18 km round trip is fairly long, the hike to Garibaldi Lake not all that difficult, considering the what you’re rewarded with when you reach the lake.
Just 30 minutes from Whistler, BC and 90 minutes from downtown Vancouver, the incredible turquoise-blue water and breathtaking mountain backdrop makes Garibaldi Lake one of the best Vancouver hikes and an absolute must-do for anyone that loves enjoying the outdoors.
I would say it’s doable for most people as long as you’re prepared for the long walk back down after taking in the sheer beauty of the turquoise lake and epic mountainous back drop. You can finish the hike in less than 5 hours including lunch and a swim at the lake, just in time to head back to Vancouver for an afternoon nap!
Garlibaldi Lake Highlights
- easy to find trailhead
- close to Whistler
- can do as a day trip from Vancouver
- absolutely stunning mountain scenery
- take in spectacular turquoise-blue Garibaldi Lake
- camping available at Garlibaldi Lake (reservation only)
- can continue onward to Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge
- well marked and used trail
- swim at the top during the summer month
- lots of space for a picnic at the lake
- can be done in 4-5 hours round trip
- no special gear, shoes or apparel needed
The first 6 km of the trail follows a well-used path that gradually climbs upwards through a peaceful forest of Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir. You can’t see much through the trees as you climb but around the 5 km there is a view point to take in The Barrier. After the first 6 km, you’re done most of the climbing and the rest of the way is fairly flat.
Garibaldi Lake Near Whistler, BC
Distance From Vancouver
The trailhead is located about a 1.5 hour drive from downtown Vancouver and just 30 minutes from Whistler. To avoid traffic, ensure convenient parking and beat the crowds on the popular trail, I would recommend leaving Vancouver at 6 am. I’m an early-riser but even if you’re not, I’d try to hit the road early to get the most out of your hike to Garibaldi Lake.
We arrived at the trailhead at 7:30 am and were able to find a parking spot near the trail head, by the time we returned to our cars parking had extended miles down the road. We were also able to enjoy a quite climb and barely saw anyone on the ascent to the lake however on our way back down there was a steady stream of people just beginning their hike.
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
I wouldn’t say this is an easy hike but it’s very doable for most people. The first 6 km are a bit of a climb but it’s a fairly gradual ascent. The trail is more of a path and can easily be done in running shoes and whatever clothes you’re comfortable in. I would say the most difficult part is the length. At 18 km, the decent back down to the parking lot feels like it never ends but one foot after another and you’ll be back at the car in no time.
Time Needed: 4-6 Hours
This hike took us 5 hours including a 30 minute picnic and swim at the lake. The hike to the lake took 2 hours at a steady pace without any breaks. Depending on how much time you’d like to spend at the lake, I would allow for at least 5 hours. There were some people running the trail, so if you’ve been before and there for more of a workout, you could get there and back in under 4 hours if you were really moving. If you plan to continue on to Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, you’ll have to keep the pace up to finish the entire hike in a reasonable amount of time.
Elevation Gain: 820 m
The elevation gain is very doable and most of it occurs in the first half of the climb. Once you’re up to higher ground, it’s a short, fairly flat hike into Garibaldi Lake. If you’re looking for more of a workout, check out my post on hiking Brunswick Mountain or the Sea to Summit Trail!
What to Bring
I would highly recommend bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy at the lake. After the 2-3 hour climb in, find a quite spot lakeside to eat and maybe take a dip in the lake! Yes, it’s freezing! But on a hot day it’s refreshing and you can say you did!
- towel if you plan to swim
- lots of water
- picnic lunch or snacks for the trail
- bug spray
Vegan Hiking Picnic Lunch
Here’s what I brought to eat!
What to Wear
There aren’t any technical or difficult portions to this hike so it can be done in a good pair of running shoes. However, it’s quite the trek down, so I’d recommend wearing something with a bit of ankle support or at least make sure your shoes fit you well to prevent sore toes and ankles!
The weather can change quickly in this area, so be sure to bring adequate layers. It’s better to start off too warm than freeze at the top! If you’re hiking in the summer months, tights, capris or shorts worn with a tank top and and a long sleeve layers would be suitable. If you’re heading to Garibaldi Lake in spring or fall, I’d recommend dressing warmly with plenty of layers as it can get quite cold.
Well, that’s about all you need to know about Garibaldi Lake! It’s easily accessible, absolutely stunning and should be a must-do on any outdoor lovers hiking checklist! To make it more or an adventure consider consider continuing on to Panorama Ridge or Black Tusk, or even camping at the lake.
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