2 hours drive from Vancouver
Moderate / Difficult hike
(Moderate from parking lot to Taylor Meadows / Garibaldi Lake. Difficult last scramble to Black Tusk summit.)
Trail begins by Rubble Creek parking lot. Distance from parking lot to Taylor Meadows: 7.5km, 915m elevation change.
Taylor Meadows to Black Tusk: 7km, 850m elevation change.
Garibaldi Lake return to parking lot: 9km, 810m elevation change.
Garibaldi Provincial Park is about a two hour drive from Vancouver and definitely boasts some serious scenic views with snow capped mountains and glacier lakes. The trails are well marked and it’s a popular destination for day hikers and backpackers with lots of traffic when I went for a weekend during late August.
We parked at Rubble Creek (a tip whilst parking here is to empty your glove box and leave it open as well as storing nothing in the car in plain sight – there have been occurrences of car break-ins) and I started my first and very memorable backpacking trip. The start of the hike feels a little long with not much scenery aside from the trees as you go along the switchbacks. It’s a gradual uphill on well maintained trails with plenty of signage informing you of directions to the various destinations (Taylor Meadows, Garibaldi Lake, etc.) how many kilometers you’ve climbed and how many remaining. The weather was perfect for a weekend trip so the park was quite busy with backpackers hoping to get a camping spot. When we started at the trail head at about 10am we heard from a park ranger that the campgrounds at Garibaldi Lake was full. So at about the 6km mark we decided to turn left at the junction for another 1.5km to Taylor Meadows where we set up camp.
(Note there is a backcountry camping fee for those camping at Garibaldi Lake, Taylor Meadows, Red Heather, Elfin Lakes of Mamquam Lake. I find the easiest is to just pay for the backcountry permit online through the BC Parks Website.)
Taylor Meadows is about 7.5km from the start of the trail. At a nice steady pace it took us about 3 hours to get there and set up on the provided tent platform. There is a cooking shelter equipped with a sink for you to dispose your gray water and available to protect you from the elements (and hordes of bugs) while you refuel. Bring your own cooking stove – no camp fires are allowed. Beside the cooking shelter is a bear cache for your convenience. I heard that Taylor Meadows is a beautiful area normally filled with alpine flowers – the time I went, however, there wasn’t really anything in bloom. Summer did come quite late this year. Beside the campground runs a creek where you can collect water – be sure to boil, filter or treat the water before drinking. You don’t know what sort of funny things are in that water, better safe than spending time in a backcountry pit toilet.
After a quick lunch we continued on to hike to Black Tusk. Passing by alpine meadows and crossing several creeks, the vegetation does begin to thin out until you reach the end of the maintained trail by BC parks and face a lot of loose rock to scramble on with the view of Black Tusk ahead. There were some snow fields to cross from here which was manageable with just hiking boots, but having crampons for traction and a mountaineering axe to balance would have made it easier. The loose rock was a little tricky to hike up requiring some good calf power on my part. Once you reach the top of the Tusk be careful, it does drop on the other side of the ridge. We didn’t choose to climb to the top of the peak instead settling below it to take in the amazing view of Garibaldi Lake and the surrounding area. There was this one gentleman that did climb to the top of the peak without any gear at all – we saw him up there on our way down. It makes me wonder how difficult the climb to the top of the peak really is as I’ve read you go up this chute – I would like to try it in the future but with a helmet at least. Protect your noggin.
The total trip up to Black Tusk and back to Taylor Meadows took about 5 hours. I think a hike up to Black Tusk would be possible as a day trip but it would probably be a long day of about 10 hours. It would be faster without a backpack filled with weekend supplies, but when you’re hiking with such great scenery around, what’s the rush.
The next morning we made our way to Garibaldi Lake from Taylor Meadows passing by smaller lakes and heading down more switchbacks. Swimming is allowed at Garibaldi Lake and if you like an excellent dose of ice cold refreshment search no more! Most of the lakes in Garibaldi Park are glacier fed – I definitely enjoyed jumping in and swimming around while being surrounded by snow capped mountains! I also had the sudden urge to release my inner Julie Andrews and start belting out “The Sound of Music”. I didn’t want to start any avalanches though.
The hike back down to the parking lot from Garibaldi Lake is 9km and took us about 4 hours. An incredible first backpacking experience and I now definitely have a craving for great hikes that yield super awesome views.