For the past two years I’ve hiked to Garibaldi Lake in late November. It’s become a fun tradition. It’s a great time of year to go since it’s a winter wonderland at the lake but the trail on the way up is not so snowy that you have to break trail. This year we chose a beautiful sunny day that wasn’t too cold.
The majority of the trail is in the trees and before long we hit the snowline and put on our microspikes.
About 2/3 of the way to the lake you can take a short side trail to the Barrier Viewpoint. The views of the Squamish valley are pretty good, the whiskey jacks are cute (but aggressive) and it’s a great place to soak up some sunshine after slogging uphill in the shade.
After leaving the Barrier you pass by two small lakes before finally descending to Garibaldi Lake where you get the first views of the snowcapped mountains that surround you.
After crossing the outflow of the lake we made our way around the shoreline to the Battleship Islands area where the campground is. The reflections were insane and we spent a long time wandering around taking photos and oohing and aahing.
Eventually it was time to leave. The light was fading and it was getting colder so we headed back down the trail towards the car. Along the way we did catch golden hour in the forest.
It was a gorgeous day to be on the trails and even though I’ve been here many times, I never fail to be amazed by how beautiful it is. And in the winter you get a tiny fraction of the crowds that can plague the trails in the summer.
If You Go:
The trail is a long one even in the summer at 18km return with about 800m of elevation gain so make sure you allow yourself lots of time and realize that you’ll travel slower on snow.
It gets dark really early in winter and since the trail is all in the trees, it will be very dark so make sure you pack a headlamp and some extra batteries just in case. On our trip we ended up helping a group who had no lights.
The trail is often very icy on the lower sections and snowy higher up. You’ll need crampons or other traction devices and snowshoes too. This isn’t optional as you’ll probably slip and fall a lot without them and your travel will be at a snail’s pace.
The road to the parking lot is not plowed in winter and can be very slippery or just plain impassable. Chains and 4wd are recommended but be prepared to walk in from the highway, adding another 2km or so each way to your journey.
You’ll want to dress warmly since its cold up there, especially if it’s windy. Read my tips for What to Wear for Winter Hiking. And for more tips on how what to bring, how to prepare, and how to stay safe, read my blog post about Hiking Through the Cold Season.
Have you been to Garibaldi Lake in winter? Tell me about your trip in the comments.
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