We absolutely loved camping at Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park near Whistler. The lake itself is nice; But it is the surrounding scenery that will take your breath away. It is simply incredible. The Russet Lake Campground is at an elevation of 1890m so you need to be prepared for it to be a bit chilly. You also need to put in some effort to reach it, especially as you’ll be lugging up your camping gear to stay the night. Still, this is one of those campgrounds that is worth every huff and puff that gets you up here.
There are a few different options to reach Russet Lake. I’ll provide all the details below so you can hike up and meet the local marmots.
Routes to reach Russet Lake:
Half Note trail and Musical Bumps trail
Distance: 11.5 km
Elevation gain: 556 m
This is the route we took (read more here) It’s a gorgeous the entire way.
High Note trail and Musical Bumps trail
Distance: 11.46 km
Elevation gain: 586 m
Similar to the Half Note trail. I have a post about the first half here.
Musical Bumps Trail
Distance: 11.70 km
Elevation gain: 693 m
If the chairlift to Whistler Peak is closed, you can hike up from the Roundhouse Lodge.
Singing Pass trail
Distance: 15 km
Elevation gain: 1418 m
This is the free route, so you don’t need to shell out for the gondola BUT you pay with extra effort with a longer distance and elevation gain. We returned via this route.
Map of route to Russet Lake Campground
Russet Lake Campground Facilities
This is a backcountry campground so you need to bring everything you need, and be ready to pack out all your rubbish. There are 20 camping spots. Some of them are on grassy patches, some on gravel. Lots of them have little dry stone walls built up to provide some shelter from the wind.
Russet Lake Campground Loo – BYOTP
There is a loo with an incredible view! This year Garibaldi Provincial Park switched to BYOTP (bring your own toilet paper) for all backcountry outhouses. This is because rodents (like marmots) shred up the loo roll for their nests, creating litter and mess.
This is the view from one of the campsites including the epic outhouse.
Russet Lake Bear Cache
There is a pretty hefty food locker between the camping area and the outhouse. If you stay here, you should remove all food (as well as any toiletries and cooking pot) and leave them in this locker over night.
Choose a spot to camp
Click here for more information or to book. Make sure you’re in the backcountry camping section, and select “Garibaldi Provincial Park” to book the Russet Lake Campground.
You need a reservation to camp at Russet Lake, but you don’t choose the specific location. So whenever you arrive, you can pick any of the campsites that are free. There were a few sites on the crest of the hill with great views, but it was quite windy, so we chose a sheltered campsite instead.
Our view was not too bad though!
We set off on our hike a bit late, so we arrived at Russet Lake just as the sun was setting. We made dinner straight away then watched the Fissile Peak turn orange (to match me and my hat!) We were so tired that we were asleep as soon as the light started to fade.
The best part about camping at Russet Lake was the views we had for our morning cuppa. I think this is the most picturesque tea location I’ve ever experienced.
Snow-bridge to Russet Lake
We camped here in July, so there was still a bit of snow around and Russet Lake was still partly frozen. I love seeing it like this! The main campground is one side of a creek, with the lake on the other side. Early in the season you can easily reach the lake via a snow-bridge. We could hear the water flowing beneath the snow, so this probably melted away soon after our visit.
Russet Lake views
If you do go camping at Russet Lake, you need to spend a bit of time at the lakeside as it is so pretty. It doesn’t have the crazy glacial blue of Garibaldi Lake or Joffre Lakes. However I loved it early in the morning, when it reflects the surrounding mountains so perfectly.
This is the view towards the Kees and Claire Hut that sits just above the lake. If you don’t fancy camping, you can stay in the hut for $50. (book it here.) There is space for 38 campers in bunkbeds up there.
Fancy going a teeny bit further? There is a bit of a rocky pathway that leads up to a tarn just above the Russet Lake Campground. It is nice to go for a mini wander up there to meet the local marmots and for some great views of the lake.
This is the teeny tarn. There were some ice-caves that were melting away behind here. We didn’t see any other hikers bother to explore this area so we had the lovely views to ourselves.
These are the views looking North. It’s such a stunning area.
Have you ever seen a marmot before? I always like to see them! These are the floofy fellas that gave the name to Whistler (they like to make whistle-like sounds.) They are a type of large squirrel that live in the alpine munching flowers. We spent some time up by the tarn watching this marmot dig holes and gather grasses and flowers.
We had left our main backpacks and hiking poles down at the Russet Lake Campground while we explored the tarn and watched the marmot. However once we made it back to our things, it turned out a different marmot was doing his best to gnaw his way through our hiking poles! He was not shy at all and Marc had to chase him away (while I helpfully took a photo!)
Russet Lake Panoramas
I’ll finish with panoramas again so you can take in some of the views near Russet Lake.
We may have finished this camping adventure with chewed hiking pole straps (and marmot teeth marks in the poles) but other that that, we loved camping at Russet Lake. It wasn’t very busy, the views were outstanding and it just felt very adventurous. I hope you like the look of it and that this encourages you to go hiking or camping to this fabulous spot.