3 challenging hikes in Squamish and Garibaldi Provincial Park
We spent our last week in Canada going on lots of hikes in Squamish and Garibaldi Provincial Park. It was a pretty intensive end to our year in Canada, but I’m so glad we pushed ourselves to see all of these beautiful places – we got to experience such gorgeous views! If you’re into hiking just like us, check out this list with my top 3 challenging hikes in Squamish and Garibaldi Provincial Park.
My favourite hikes in Squamish and Garibaldi Provincial Park
How long is the hike to Elfin Lakes?
Depending on if you have a car that can handle the rough road up to the main parking lot or not, this out-and-back trail is between 22-24 kilometres long in total. We parked our van right before the last hill and probably had to walk around 1 kilometre extra to get to the trailhead.
How difficult is the hike to Elfin Lakes?
The hike to Elfin Lakes is classed as moderate, but be aware (especially if you’re doing it as a day hike) that 22+ kilometres can be tough. The elevation gain is almost 1000 metres!
What kind of view can you expect when hiking to Elfin Lakes?
It might be obvious from the name itself – the hike leads to 2 stunning lakes, with beautiful mountains in the background. Add some amazing views on the way up and down and you’ll probably find, just like us, that this long hike definitely is worth it!
Things to know before hiking to Elfin Lakes
There are several things to know about this hike before you go. The best time to hike this trail is between June – October. Be aware that you’ll share parts of the trail with cyclists, and they go fast! During the winter months, the trail is instead used for snowshoeing and backcountry skiing.
You can do the hike to Elfin Lakes and back as a day hike if you’d like, or buy a camping permit and stay at one of the pads at the lakes. You’ll wake up to an amazing view!
The trailhead for the hike to Elfin Lakes is found at Diamond Head Trail Parking Lot, around 20 kilometres north-east of Squamish. GPS coordinates: 49.750189, -123.052996
How long is the hike to Panorama Ridge?
The hike is around 28 kilometres in total, depending on which way you choose. You can do it as an out-and-back trail or choose to go via Garibaldi Lake on the way up or down, which will make the hike a bit longer.
How difficult is the hike to Panorama Ridge?
The Panorama Ridge hike is classed as hard and has an elevation gain of over 1500 metres. The first kilometres consist of quite steep switchbacks, but then the terrain is rather flat and nice until the last part of the hike – where you’ll have to walk on loose rocks to get to the top. When we went, in July, there was still snow left and it was a bit slippery in some parts, so be careful!
What kind of view can you expect when hiking to Panorama Ridge?
The view is gorgeous pretty much from the end of the switchbacks and all the way up to the top! You’ll have an amazing view of the Black Tusk, from different angles, and when you get to the very top you’ll get the amazing panorama view of Garibaldi Lake and the mountains. Simply stunning!
Things to know before hiking to Panorama Ridge
Be prepared and start early, this is a long hike! When we left around 6 in the morning to start the hike, there were no signs of rain at all. When we got to the top around 5-6 hours later though, we just had enough time to see Garibaldi Lake before the rain started to fall. Not only did we no longer see anything more than one metre ahead of us, but it also made it way more slippery to get down – be prepared for weather changes!
You can choose to do this hike as a day trip or stay overnight. If you’re thinking about hiking to the Black Tusk as well, you’ll also start on this trail that leads to Panorama Ridge. I’ve met some people who did both these hikes in 1 day, but that’s nothing I would recommend unless you’re very fit and an experienced hiker. That’s a lot of kilometres if you just have 1 day! We didn’t do it, which probably was smart since it started to rain during our hike.
Between June – October is the best time to do the hike to Panorama Ridge. During winter, I’ve heard some people go snowshoeing here, but it’s very tough and can be dangerous if you’re not experienced.
Another tip when hiking the Panorama Ridge Trail
If you choose to go past Garibaldi Lake, keep an eye for a sign saying “viewpoint”, just before the two different trails merge. If you don’t go to Garibaldi Lake, you can still walk back about 200 metres to see this viewpoint on your way back to the parking lot. It’s right before the switchbacks start on the way down, where the trail splits up. It’s definitely worth it and you might even get the view for yourselves – we did!
You’ll find the trailhead at Daisy Lake Road, 35 kilometres north of Squamish. Coordinates for your GPS: 49.957282, -123.120304
The Stawamus Chief, known as The Chief by locals
We sadly never got to do this one since the weather wasn’t on our side, but several locals we met told us it’s one of the must-do hikes in Squamish – so it still made the list!
How long is the hike to The Chief?
It depends on how many of the peaks you’d like to visit. There are 3 summits to hike to, all accessible from the same main trail. It’s hard to say since we didn’t get the chance to do this hike, but according to Tourism Squamish, you should allow anything between 3-6 hours!
How difficult is the hike to The Chief?
Despite being rather short if you compare it to the other hikes in this list, this is still a moderate/hard hike – it’s steep!
What kind of view can you expect when hiking to The Chief?
Expect lovely views of Squamish! You’ll get a perfect bird’s-eye-view over this beautiful town, the sea and – of course – the mountains.
Things to know before hiking The Chief
This is the second largest monolith (=single massive rock) in the world – that alone is worth the hike! The best time to hike The Chief is between March – October.
This is the perfect hike if you want to stay in Squamish – it’s just 4 kilometres from the town centre. You probably don’t need your GPS to find it, but here are the coordinates: 49.678670, -123.154529
Remember to stay safe while hiking
As always when you go hiking, be well-prepared. Bring plenty of water, snacks, clothes and a first aid kit. You should make sure to be back before dark, but it’s still always good to bring a headlamp. If you’re not already used to hiking in Canada, or in other parts of the world where you could run into dangerous wildlife, read this information about how to stay safe in bear country.
Remember that it can be cold at higher elevations and that the weather can change quickly. It’s also always a good idea to have a hiking buddy and to let people know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
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