Garibaldi Lake And Panorama Ridge Trek: Hiking In British Columbia
Panorama Ridge trek in Garibaldi Provincial Park is one of our all-time favorites. It was our first hike after we landed in Canada, and we couldn't choose better one to start exploring this country.
Whistler area and British Colombia overall have all aspects how we imagined the land of the maple leaf. Beautiful forests, crystal clear lakes, glaciers, meadows, wildlife, and snow-capped peaks, and the best part is, that we could see all of it in one day and didn't even need to go that far.
Garibaldi Provincial Park is only an hour and a half drive from Vancouver and 30 minutes drive from Whistler. If you plan to visit Garibaldi Provincial Park from Vancouver, you can find your accommodation HERE. To get to Garibaldi Provincial Park from Vancouver, take Highway 99 alias Sea-to-Sky Highway. The very name of the road suggests that you'll enjoy panoramic views of the sea, blue sky above, green islands in the water and towering mountains along the way. To stretch our legs, we also briefly stopped near Shannon Falls and Brandywine Falls. The perfect position and accessibility are main features why are Garibaldi Lake and Panorama Ridge trek so popular among people visiting the area. But the location, fortunately, isn't the only highlight here.
Our Travel Tip: We did the trek in late August and arrived in Rubble Creek Parking lot around 9 AM when all spots were already taken, so we had to drive back and park at the side of the road. Because of that, we had to walk extra kilometer only to get to the beginning of the trail, so arrive early to secure your place and don't waste your energy.
BEFORE YOU GO
Trek to Panorama Ridge shares its first half with the trail to Garibaldi Lake, favorite a half day journey which also starts at Rubble Creek Parking Lot. Trek to Garibaldi Lake is 9 km long one way, should overall take 4-6 hours depending on your level of fitness and you will gain 900m elevation. This hike is well-known among Canadians and foreign travelers as well, especially during high season from June to October, so do not expect to have it just for yourself. It gets much better after you reach Garibaldi Lake where the most of travelers end their journey and if you carry on further the crowds thin out.
Round trip to the top of Panorama Ridge and back is about 30 km long (so it is extra 6 kilometers one way from Garibaldi Lake) and should take approximately 9-12 hours, which makes it a very long day. If you don't want to rush, there are campgrounds on the way so you can split the hike into two days and add up, for example, the trek to Black Tusk, 2319 meters high stratovolcano. The peak of Black Tusk with its unmistakable shape can be seen from the highway when you're getting closer to the Park. If you want to stay overnight, you can camp right at the Garibaldi Lake Campground, or at Taylor Meadows Campground, reservations are required year-round from 2018.
GARIBALDI LAKE TRAIL
After leaving a car in the parking lot, the well-maintained and well-marked gravel trail gradually climbs through the forest of Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir trees. We didn't count how many switchbacks we had to go through in the first section of this walk, but let's say a lot, at least more than we would've appreciated. Approximately after 6 km, you'll reach the Barrier Viewpoint with the first open view of the valley below.
It is also a convenient place for a snack. Shortly before Garibaldi Lake, you'll pass a smaller Barrier Lake, ushering in you are getting closer to today's point of interest. After 9 km long hike from the starting point, you'll finally reach the shore of Garibaldi Lake with azure-colored water surface created by glacier melting.
PANORAMA RIDGE TREK
Garibaldi Lake is a great relaxing spot but to make it to Panorama Ridge viewpoint in one day, you must carry on six kilometers further after a short break on the shore. The positive thing is that most of the one day-trippers finish at Garibaldi Lake and from here the trek is almost abandoned. The trail again snakes up through several switchbacks but only for a short while, and after about 30 minutes you'll get on the flat path. From here the views open up, you'll walk through beautiful meadows and will be able to see the ridge, Mimulus Lake, and towering Black Tusk Peak. Slowly carry on to Panorama Junction from where is a stunning view towards Helm Lake, Cinder Flats and the top of Cinder Cone.
Continue another 1 km or so, and you'll get to Black Tusk Lake area. This spot undoubtedly belongs among the best we've seen in BC. To get a view of Garibaldi Lake from above, you must climb the last part of the trail on unsteady rock path, only beware of falling stones. It is the hardest part - for every step you take forward you slide half a step back, so it requires some strength, and if you took hiking poles with you, this is the place where it comes handy.
Once you reach the top, nothing can keep you away from amazing vistas combining turquoise water, surrounding mountains, and when lucky, a barrier of white clouds.
We could've enjoyed the view much longer, but firstly, it was too windy up there, and secondly, the journey back was considerably long, and we wanted to arrive before it gets dark. Although the way from Panorama Ridge to Rubble Creek Parking Lot is mostly downhill, we still had about 15 kilometers ahead of us, and we knew this time we'll go slower because of tiredness.
The fact, that Panorama Ridge hike is in and out trek and not a loop is probably the only fly in the ointment.
Our Travel Tip: It is necessary to have at least average level of fitness to appreciate this hike and not to suffer on the way. Especially the second half of the Panorama Ridge trek is exposed, take with you lots of water, sturdy boots, windproof jacket, strong sunscreen, and hat. Have a bear spray with you for your safety and watch out for wildlife.