Elfin Lakes (Garibaldi Provincial Park)

Elfin Lakes (Garibaldi Provincial Park) near Squamish, BC


This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars
23 kms
8hours
moderate
Snowshoeing, Hiking, Back Country Skiing, Mountain Biking
Fall, Summer
Squamish, BC
User trailpeak
NTS Map: 92G15. Easy access and high alpine make this a classic hike. Few hikes put you in such exceptional terrain so quickly.

The route is an old road once used to access the old Diamond Head Lodge -- now a part of history. What remains is a jeep road that is still used by B.C. Parks to supply the ranger station at Elfin Lakes. It's generally a good double-track except for some loose rock and a few muddy areas after a rain.

The hiking trail-head is 16 kilometers from the Sea-to-Sky highway (99) at an elevation of 1000 metres. If you park at the trail-head the area has seen a bit of criminal activity by local dysfunctionals so be sure to take valuables with you or keep them out of site.

The first 3.5-4 kilometres from the trail-head are the steepest until you get to Red Heather Meadows (1450metres). A great waterfall on the way provides a fresh cold drink. The meadows in winter provide perfect terrain to practice your tele-turns. In another 2.5 kilometres the high point of Paul Ridge (1660metres) is reached. The vistas open up and you can see your destination another 5 kilometres in the distance. Mt. Atwell can be seen as the diamond shaped peak to the north, the areas namesake. On the north the spire in behind is the actual summit of Mt.Garibaldi (2678metres). The route is completely surrounded by mountains: the Tantalus Range to thewest, Mt. Garibaldi and Diamond Head to the north, Mt. Mamquamto the east. All have glaciers which cascade to tree line.

Before and during the last ice age about 15-20,000 years ago Garibaldi Provincial Park was one of the premier volcanic areas of the Cascades. The Garibaldi Massif is in fact an old volcano. The sides have eroded away leaving a lava plug that still stands today. Mt. Atwell (Diamond Head) is mostly composed of compressed unstable muds. Black Tusk in Northern Garibaldi Park is another example of this volcanic geology.

A gentle descent to Elfin provides superb riding around granite outcrops, past stunted alpine fir and through meadows of flowering heather. Eventually, the 11-kilometre track ends atthe shelter and ranger outpost at the lakes. Campsites in the area make the trip suitable as an overnighter. Deeper in the park, many hiking options exist. Don't forget the sunscreen.

One final note, if hiking up in late July or August, the hot hike up (or ride, this is one of the few areas that allow bikes up to the Elfin Lakes shelter area), is compensated for by an incredible swim in the larger of the lakes. On a hot end of July day, our trio made straight for the lake, and while some find it still cold, others swim. It's clear cold water. The adjacent lake near the Ranger station is for drinking water.

Elevation Gain 850 MetresNote: Add 1000 metre if starting from Highway 99.

High Point 1660 Metres

Hiking Options:

Hike NW to the saddle between the The Gargoyles and Columnar Peak? for better views of the Garibaldi Massif and if you have the energy, dip down and hike up Little Diamond Head (1750metres) the often snowy cone below Mt Atwell.

Hike NE out to Opal Cone(1710metres) on the edge of the Garibaldi Neve ( permanent snowfield) a 13 kilometer round trip from Elfin Lakes. Or continue on to Mamquam Lake further to the east which is a 22 kilometre round trip from Elfin Lakes.

Approach

Travel north to Squamish on Highway 99 (Sea-to-Sky). Continue 5 kilometres past the town cross the Mamquam River. At the third set of lights turn right on the Mamquam River Road. Follow the signs to the Diamond Head Parking Lot at 1000metres. Once the road enters Garibaldi Park it steepens. The road is maintained a few times a season but sees a lot of traffic, use the pullouts and keep and even speed to lessen the creation of potholes. Cars can easily make this trip in the summer months.

Hike Breakdown

0km1000m Leave parking lot and start hiking up to Paul Ridge

3.5km1450m Red Heather Meadows and shelter

6km1660m Paul Ridge high point

11.5km1470m Descent to Elfin Lakes

ContactsBC Parks Squamish 1-604-898-3678 Free Through Inquiry BC 604-660-2421 If phoning out of the lower mainland 800-663-7867

Note: Rates!
If you are planning to go overnight camping, reserve online at http://www.discovercamping.ca. The park charges $10 per night for staying on the campground, and $15 per night for staying in the Elfin Lakes shelter.

lots of footage snowshoeing into Elfin



Please check the bottom of the Description (above left; click) for the author's written directions.

Post a Review

Please  Sign-In  or  Register for free in order to post reviews


Instructions:


(a) Click Wiki Edit This Page to get placed in edit mode

(b) When finished, your update is available to view as draft

     (click wiki update pending in trail to see draft)


* note: editors are notified and must approve the change
Download Gps
By cat22222Posted By: cat22222  - Sat Jul 05 06:40:01 UTC 2014 Not Rated Question Hi, I am thinking of heading up to Elfin Lake in mid-August, but am a little worry about whether or not my little Corolla can make it to the Diamond Head parking lot. Does anyone have know how good (or bad) the road is and if my city car can make it? Thanks for any advice you may have!

ANSWERS are in this forum:   road conditions
By abovetheclouds87Posted By: abovetheclouds87  - Mon Aug 05 17:59:22 UTC 2013 Not Rated Question I recently hiked up to the summit of Golden Ears on the west side trail and met this guy named Matt who was an avid hiker, I asked him what hikes I could conquer next and he was saying Elfin Lakes was a good one-I thought he said Elephant lakes?- anyway, he was saying that there are cabins you can stay in with a kitchen and its all solar power for $15 a night and I cant find anything about that, any links or help? Anything will help. Thank you!

ANSWERS are in this forum:   Cabins
By driyonPosted By: driyon  - Fri Jun 07 13:29:57 UTC 2013 Not Rated Question me and some friends are planning to head up to Elfin Lakes. We are wondering when would be the best time to go because we dont want to snowshoe or anything like that

ANSWERS are in this forum:   conditions
By maybe_sparrowPosted By: maybe_sparrow  - Fri Feb 22 20:20:33 UTC 2013 This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars Upside Stayed at Red Heather (tented) and it was so nice and quiet. Not the zoo that the lakes can be. Downside Quite packed snow when hiked on Feb 2nd. Comment The trail conditions can be found at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/garibaldi/trail_report.pdf

This will tell you if the trail is marked and whether it is open.

Note that you must have chains to drive from the lower parking up to the trail head parking in the winter. The PFO was stopping people from driving up without chains, even if you have winter tires.
By materPosted By: mater  - Thu Nov 15 00:12:09 UTC 2012 Not Rated Comment Looking to find out the current conditions but can't find an updated source. Last is more than one month old. Looking to do the hike this weekend, nov 17-18th 2012.
Can anyoen tell me if there is snow on the trail, and how much and if the guide poles are in place yet?
By krynikrPosted By: krynikr  - Fri Nov 12 01:41:54 UTC 2010 Not Rated Question I'm planning on heading up to Elfin Lake on Monday just for the day and was wondering if anyone knows what the weather conditions are generally like in November? ie how much snow? Are hiking shoes sufficient or do I need boots, goggles, snowshoes etc?

ANSWERS are in this forum:  Gear requirement
By jearsyPosted By: jearsy  - Sun Jun 06 02:30:54 UTC 2010 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside Fantastic views, well marked trial and a very good cabin to use at the end of the day. Downside A very dull trial for the first 6 or kms that goes straight up until you reach the plateau. Comment This is another one of my favorite hikes in the southern BC area. I have done this hike twice and both times I have loved every moment of it. You do need to pay for your car to be parked and there is no way to know whether or not it is a safe place to park it, but this is a fantastic hike.

I have done this as a three day hike each time and on the second day we have hiked out to the Opal Cone which was an amazing experience as well. However, back to the lakes, you couldn't have asked for a better least of all a spectacular place to stay in for how ever many nights you are going to be there. There are bunk beds on the second level but that is all that is provided and I think it can hold at least 40 people up there and the cabin has propane there as well. However, I just prefer to use my own stove though it is really nice to sometimes be able to snatch a big pot that is there when you are cooking or heating up a lot of water for something.

This is a must-do hike!
By DB Photo and FilmPosted By: DB Photo and Film  - Fri Jun 04 17:10:40 UTC 2010 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside I have only done this hike once on December 24th. It was about -5 light snowfall our group some were in snow shoes some on skis. We finished near dusk which was later than it should have been but it was an absolutely sensational trip. The lodge is a guarantee you can dry off, cook spread out and relax! Not sure what it is like in summer but winter is amazing..... Downside I dont remember any.
By bionicflitePosted By: bionicflite  - Tue Feb 16 09:03:11 UTC 2010 Not Rated Upside Heavy snowfall produced awesome features going into the ridge just before dropping down to Red Heather shelter on the way back. Downside Experiencing vis so bad one could barely view GPS is a reality and goggles are recommended. Comment Just did this snow shoe trek to Elfin Lake Shelter for the second time Friday Feb 12th.Luckly had way points from previous trek the week before because the weather got ugly and a blizzard produced white out conditions with wet snow which covered the reflectors on the usual marker poles.Broke trail the last 2 i/2 km with 3-4 ft. snow drifts.Even though I had waypoints having my girlfriend wait at the previous pole while I search for next would have been easier if I would have saved the tracking profile.
Thanks to the warm shelter kept at 70F...my girlfriend was at her limit.
Lesson...be prepared.
Only had sunglasses which thought I would only need and didn't count on arriving at the shelter in the dark.

Goggles will be with my gear in the future you bet.
The avalanche warning was moderate.

A Valentines Day weekend I will never forget

By ShieckPosted By: Shieck  - Mon Jan 11 01:44:35 UTC 2010 Not Rated Question I'm heading up to the shelter for the first time on tues Jan 12th. I'm wondering if there are mattresses in the cabin for the beds or do you need to bring a Thermarest?
Should I bring a tent as back up? Will there really be 30 people on a tuesday night in the winter?

Thanks A.J.

ANSWERS are in this forum:  Elfin Lakes Cabin
By habs4evrPosted By: habs4evr  - Mon Oct 19 13:59:21 UTC 2009 Not Rated Question Anyone know approx. date when Elfin Lakes have skateable ice?

ANSWERS are in this forum:  freeze-up at Elfin Lakes
By CquinlinPosted By: Cquinlin  - Wed Jan 14 20:35:15 UTC 2009 Not Rated Question We are thinking about hiking to Elfin Lakes on Saturday(Jan 17 2009), does anyone know the current avalanche warnings?

ANSWERS are in this forum:  Does anyone know the current avalanche warnings for Elfin Lakes?
By DaylanPosted By: Daylan  - Tue Aug 19 00:47:23 UTC 2008 Not Rated Question I was just wondering how much snow there might be right now at elfin lakes?

ANSWERS are in this forum:  hey got a question?
By botaniquePosted By: botanique  - Sun Aug 17 17:57:57 UTC 2008 This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars Upside A beautiful bike ride, steady climb, easy grade with some short steeper bits, the payoff is the alpine meadow at the Elfin Lakes - worth the grunt. The ride down is a gas! Downside Track is rocky most of the way up, past the treeline, there is about a kilometre of loose scree type rock that can be a challenge. Bugs are an issue so to stay sane and happy, cover yourself well with bug dope before you set off. Comment The trails of Squamish and surroundings are an annual pilgrimage for me. This one was a "must do" and was well worth the ride. We were the only two bikes on the trail - a lightweight XC bike with at least 100mm of suspension travel is recommended. This is just one beautiful place among all the beautiful places in the most beautiful place in the world.
By trailrunnerPosted By: trailrunner  - Sat Aug 09 04:29:50 UTC 2008 This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars Upside Easy straight forward path wide enough for fullsize pick up truck to nudge up the hill. Full opening and no chance of getting lost.
Beautiful scenery of mountains in all directions. Crowds. Beautiful warm enough lake to swim at the top.
Downside
Some times rocks are loose, sharp, and protruding and easy to trip your foot, forcing you to slowdown often.


Comment Path starts with gravel road gated at the parking. Ascent is lot more gentle and than Garibaldi Lake, yet sometimes number of rocks and their looseness makes it more difficult to run from the starting point. This is effectively a 4x4 road for off road trucks.

After a while the road under the crown of trees starts opening up as it approaches meadows with cabin and small buildings. Sparsely growing trees, mainly mountain hemlock, and other grasses cover the area.
Here there is a sign for hikers to take more direct route that is branching off the road which is intended for trucks/bikes for gentler ascent. But I wasn't paying attention and didnâ??t realize till on my way back. After a while you get to the ridge where you get a great view of Diamond Head as well as other mountains in other directions. Here you see road cutting up the grassless ridge like a mining road in the distance.

When you actually get to the high point at the ridge, then you see the cabin at Elphin Lake in the distance. Quite disappointingly I saw them at the lot lower elevation; Somehow I got an idea this was a continuous uphill to the lake, but this is the highest point between the parking and the Elphin Lake.

Although the decent starts towards the lake, I had hard time picking up speed because of piled up loose sharp rocks and some firmly buried yet protruding rocks. Small descent and ascent repeats towards the lake going through occasional trees, you arrive a point with view of two Elphin lakes and grand mountains behind them. From here, less than a km, you would breeze down with speed with straight downhill. There are three or so buildings at the lake and two benches. Lake water is warm enough to swim(when there is no snow bank present near by). One lake was designated for drinking water though, and bigger one was for swimming.

On return you need to run up again to the highest point amongst often loose sharp rocks. In fact I tripped up with one of them for a rather bad fall. If the weather is clear, make sure to bring sunglasses and tan lotion as you are mostly under the direct run at least half the distance. After the highest point, it is a steady comfortable descent to the parking. From parking to Elphin lake(where main Cabin behind Ranger station is) 67 minutes, return to the parking was 51minutes. Excluding 30min break at the top, go-and-return time is 1hr 58 mins. Took 1 minute longer than Garibaldi lake run. Because of bad fall, I was rather going slow. Fast runner should be able to do a return trip in 1hr 30 to 1hr 40 minutes.
By RedcometPosted By: Redcomet  - Tue Apr 25 21:37:18 UTC 2006 This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars Upside Great bike ride, lots of hill to keep the blood pumping. Not too many chances to ride in the Alpine like this. Downside A few bugs, bring the bug-dope Comment This is an awesome XC bike ride with excellent stops along the way. Only other bike we saw was the forestry ranger. Will be back again for 2006 season with my new dual suspension. The ride down was rocky in spots
By MertinPosted By: Mertin  - Wed Dec 03 17:12:30 UTC 2003 This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars Comment This is a trail that I have done many times both in winter and in summer. ya the beginning is a little borish but once you get to the incredible scenery by the two lakes you quickly forget all that you have just endured. great hike, I would recommend it to anyone!
By trailpeakPosted By: trailpeak  - Thu Jul 31 17:59:22 UTC 2003 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside Views once through the first 6km are awesome, great grunt of a bike ride for those who ride. But mostly, swimming at Elfin Lakes, pure water, cool yes, but I swam around the lake (as did others) July 30 or so, awesome to dip in after a hot hike/bike up. Downside For me, it was the deer flies and black flies, but, the buggers seem territorial and you usually only have one on you at a time. Comment I was surprised to see that the stoves in the shleter are turn-and-go, i.e. no matches, no propane needed, just ready for you. A hiker can cut down on gear simply by brining a sleeping pad and light sleeping bag, no stove, no propane needed. On July 30, there were maybe 10 people staying over in a shelter that holds 34. One other caution, don't leave valuables in your car in the P lot, I remember biking up to the parking lot on a separate occasion (for a separate ride) and seeing 4 very unhappy hikers returning to their car completely robbed of packsacks and other gear left behind.
By QTPahtootiePosted By: QTPahtootie  - Wed Oct 23 00:24:59 UTC 2002 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside This is a great trail...I love the views. Especially of the Gargoyles. Makes for a very enjoyable day hike, or overnight adventure if you choose to camp out at Elfin lakes, or stay at the cabin. Downside Would be nicer if the first part of the trail wasn't a road...but you can't win them all. Comment This is definately a trail that I will be doing again. Looking forward to checking it out in the winter.
By QTPahtootiePosted By: QTPahtootie  - Wed Oct 23 00:24:58 UTC 2002 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside This is a great trail...I love the views. Especially of the Gargoyles. Makes for a very enjoyable day hike, or overnight adventure if you choose to camp out at Elfin lakes, or stay at the cabin. Downside Would be nicer if the first part of the trail wasn't a road...but you can't win them all. Comment This is definately a trail that I will be doing again. Looking forward to checking it out in the winter.
By wanderlustPosted By: wanderlust  - Wed Aug 28 21:50:10 UTC 2002 Not Rated Upside Easy as it gets - great view to sweat ratio. Downside Often plagued with bugs, makes it hard to enjoy the lakes. The first 6 of 11km is on a dull dirt road. Comment Despite it's length, Elfin Lakes is a great intro to would-be hikers. Very gentle grade, and the last leg toward the lakes follows a beautiful alpine ridge, surrounded by the coast mountains on all sides. The cabin at the top is cozy, and a great base for the gorgeous ascent to Mamquam lake.
By thomas.nicolaisenPosted By: thomas.nicolaisen  - Thu Apr 04 04:06:27 UTC 2002 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside This hike is very well marked in the winter time by red poles in the snow, and in the summer you have to be blind to miss the tail. Makes for an excellent introduction to back country skiing or snowshoeing. Downside More then you think Elfin Lakes is a good destination during July and August. The first 5Km is on a gravel road/trail in the trees with only a few nice views until the Red Heather. Comment This is the trail I have done the most times. The Elfin Shelter is always a very welcome sight after a day of hiking, and it's setting by two great lakes is nothing but perfect. It makes a great starting point for a next day hike to Mamquam Lake as part of a longer outing or the Opal Cone and return to the parking lot for a good day hike.

Another option is to hike up the Gargoyls. Thew view from the top is great with Mt Geribaldi and Diamond Head near by.

The easy access, the view after the Red Heather Camp Ground, and the fact that the Elfin shelter is so well maintained makes this hike a must do each year.
By alexkPosted By: alexk  - Tue Mar 12 17:43:58 UTC 2002 This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars Upside Scenery is cool, this is definitely a cool trail, once you get above the tree level.
Make sure you have water with you and a hat! There is not a lot of the shade from Red Heather campsite to Elfin Lakes
Downside The road to get up there is tough, first 20 km of gravel road are ok, but last few kilometers are pit-hole on a pit-hole! (I am still amazed of how cars pass each other when driving head-on)
Out of 5 hours of hiking, 1st 2 hours you spend in th woods, only after that it gets more interesting.
Comment Umm.. talking about the tent, one time we have stayed there, we camped first night in the cabin, and second night in the tent. The second night the camp was hit by a bear, which we knew nothing of until the morning, when two guys complained they were troubled by the bear overnight...
By NielsPosted By: Niels  - Tue Aug 07 03:44:27 UTC 2001 Not Rated Comment Elfin Lakes
I found this trial to be very long. It was hard to stay motivated because the entire trail is actually a road!
The scenery was fantastic, hike up the volcano it is well worth the extra walk. There is also a shelter for the campers to sleep in on a first come first serve basis. I prefered the tent out in the open! Go later in the summer to avoid the snow mmkay!


Copyright © 2001 - 2015 trailpeak.com