Camping at Helm Creek

Camping at Helm Creek

Camping at Helm Creek in Garibaldi Provincial Park is a complete treat. The meadows where the campsite is located are surrounded by snowcapped mountains and it is a brilliant starting point for several epic hikes.

Most people seem to want to stay at the more popular campsites at Garibaldi Lake or Taylor Meadows, so Helm Creek Campground is quieter and a little easier to get a reservation. I am not sure why this area is not more popular; The meadows where you camp have gorgeous views and the hike up from Cheakamus Lake is far shorter than the slog to the campgrounds from the other side of the park at Rubble Creek.

Map to Helm Creek Campground

This map just shows the way to the Helm Creek campground. Click here for our full route.

Helm Creek Campground – the basics

Distance: 15.76 km (20.8km if you take the diversion to Cheakamus Lake)
Elevation Gain:
940m (1080m if you go to Cheakamus Lake)
High Point:
1550m
Time: 2.5 hours up, 2 hours down
What to bring:
The 10 essentials, plus bug spray, bear spray and swimming things.
Camping gear if you’re staying at the campground
Facilities: There are 30 tent platforms, pit toilets, bear cache lockers as well as bear hangs
Dogs: No dogs in Garibaldi Provincial Park’s alpine areas.
How hard is it? Intermediate
Where to book: You need to book in advance to camp at Helm Creek. Book through the Discover Camping website (click on backcountry camping, then select Garibaldi park.)

Camping at Helm Creek – getting started

The start of the trail is the same as if you are visiting Cheakamus Lake. To drive there, turn off the Sea to Sky Highway at Whistler Interpretive forest. Take the first left onto a dirt road (Cheakamus Lake road) and drive up for about 6km to reach the trailhead. Once you’re on the trail, the turn off to Helm Creek is 1.8km into the walk, on the right.

After the turn off, hike down to the Cheakamus river and cross it on this gorgeous bridge. There are holes that allow you to look into the crazy-blue waters of the Cheakamus river.

The steep section

Next comes the part that will get your heart pumping! The trail uses switch backs to climb steeply through the forest. The worst part is closest to the river; So if you can haul your camping gear after those first few turns, you can totally manage the rest!

There are a few places where you can look down to Helm Creek, but mostly you’ll be hiking through the shade of the forest. As you get closer to Helm Creek campground, the trail flattens out and you get to traverse through pretty meadows.

Helm Creek Campground

After less than 8km, this is the gorgeous campground where you will get to sleep. You’ll need to set up your tent on a tent platform so you won’t squish the wildflowers in the meadow. There are 30 to choose from.

Helm Creek Campground facilities

There are a couple of loos with fantastic views of Black Tusk. (I may need to add this to my list of amazing loos with views.)

The campground also has two possible ways to stash your food away from critters and bears. They have lockers as well as bear hangs (where you put your food into a waterproof bag an hoist it up on cables.)

Helm Creek runs along the west side of the campground, so if you bring some kind of filtration system, you can replenish your water from that.

Camping at Helm Creek views

This is where we chose to camp. We were close to the creek, so we could listen to the sound of running water. It was a relaxing spot to sleep.

If you decide to stay at Helm Creek Campground, these are a few of the spectacular hikes you can do from here:

Helm Lake

Distance from Helm Creek: 8km
Elevation gain: 215m
Time: 2 hours
If you fancy a short-ish hike from the campground, it’s just over an hour up to the volcanic area around Helm Lake. From the Helm Creek Campground, you get to wander through pretty meadows with plenty of marmots, then through the lava fields left when Black Tusk erupted.

Panorama Ridge

Distance from Helm Creek: 13.8km
Elevation gain: 610m
Time: 5-6 hours
If you have a little more energy, keep hiking beyond Helm Lake up to one of the prettiest places in Western Canada, Panorama Ridge. You can also hike to Panorama ridge in a day hike from the opposite direction.

Black Tusk

Distance from Helm Creek: 17.7km
Elevation gain: 910m
Time: 6-7 hours
Slightly further than Panorama Ridge is the other epic hike of Garibaldi Provincial Park; The incredible Black Tusk. The best thing about camping at Helm Creek after this hike, is you can see Tusky from the campground once you’ve made it back down.

Garibaldi Lake

Distance from Helm Creek: 18 km
Elevation gain: 566m
Time: 5 hours
If it’s a hot day, hike to Garibaldi Lake for a dip in the glacial waters. This is only an extra 1.5 hours from the turn off to Black Tusk, so you can add this on to cool down after that hike.

Bonus Extra – Cheakamus Lake

Distance from main trail: 5km
Elevation gain: 140m
Time: Add 1-1.5 hours onto your return hike
On your way back from Helm Creek Campground, you can take a mini detour over to Cheakamus Lake. This only added on an extra 5km, and it feels pretty flat. I always love any excuse to visit one more gorgeous glacial lake.

We stopped at Cheakamus Lake on our return hike from Helm Creek. After the hot hike down it was lovely and refreshing to have a quick swim in the lake.

The nitty gritty details…

We did all the hikes I listed above over 2 nights and three days in Garibaldi Provincial Park. We hiked up to Helm Creek, set up our tent, then continued on to Panorama ridge (and back) on the first day. The second day we hiked up Black Tusk, then popped over to Garibaldi lake for a swim. On the third day we just hiked down and had a dip in Cheakamus Lake.

The only thing is, I haven’t quite got to grips with what to do with my hair on multi day hikes. I braided it to keep it off my face, but this meant it was a curly mess by the second morning! I’d be interested in what you all do to cope with looking like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards after you go camping!?

Here are a few panoramas from our Garibaldi Provincial Park Adventure.

Do you fancy camping at Helm Creek and accessing the spectacular trails of Garibaldi Provincial Park? You can click on the pins below to save them.

Camping at Helm Creek in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Canada Helm Creek Campground in BC, Canada - Hike to Black Tusk Camping at Helm Creek near Whistler, BC

33 thoughts on “Camping at Helm Creek

  1. The Helm Creek campground looks like an amazing place to stay! I love the beautiful views, those would be incredible to wake up to! Also, those hikes all look like so much fun!

  2. Such a beautiful area. I fully believe that glacial lakes are for looking at, not for swimming in, haha! I’m a big ol’ wuss when it comes to the cold.

    I have super long hair, (almost down to my butt), and I normally just put it up in a bun on multi day hikes. But I also have the most well behaved, easy to manage hair on earth.

    1. Heheh I totally understand! I have really been challenging myself to have a dunk (I’m inspired by my friend Robin who always goes for a dip in freezing water…)

      BUT I have to admit, Cheakamus and Lake and Garibaldi lake were not actually too chilly, at least it was warner than I expected and no worse than the Pacific Ocean.

      I need your magical hair!

      1. After my friend, who’s Canadian and therefore almost impervious to the cold, fell in one of the Joffre lakes and exclaimed how bloody cold it was, I decided the best course of action was to keep at least two metres away from any bodies of water in Canada!

        It’s funny, people have been telling me for over 20 years that my hair will get ruined from constant dying, but it’s actually in better condition now than it was 10 years ago, haha. I don’t even have to brush it.

  3. The lakes look beautiful but I would have to work up a sweat to go in. I just keep my hair in a ponytail for days so have no recommendations my dear.

    1. We did it is July, but August and September can be fab too. You get more flowers in July, but fewer bugs at the end of August/September. The scenery is stunning (but different) in each season…

  4. Wow! I can’t believe you did all those hikes in two nights! I’ve done all the hikes you mentioned, but it took me 3 multi-day trips to hit everything! Well done!

  5. the trails & the lakes looks gorgeous, but also such nice accommodations at helm creek… i love that it’s somewhat off the beaten path… and I will definitely add this to my list for the next time i’m in BC.

  6. This looks like the perfect escape! I want to go swimming in Garibali Lake! So jealous of that blue water! Love the bridge going over the water too!

  7. I love your site and your hair 😉. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. My husband and I bush camp few times a year for about 20 years. We’re “pandemic hikers”. I’ve been wanting to combine the two together. Hubby is not sold on the idea yet. I’ll let him read this maybe it’ll convince him.

    1. Yeees I know what you mean. Once we were freezing because I didn’t bring enough layers…having the right equipment/clothes really helps.

  8. Helm Creeks looks like a stunning place to camp! Black Tusk caught my attention right away. It really stands out on the horizon, and it looks like the views you get when you hike up there are equally impressive. Panorama Ridge also looks really cool, and seems to be aptly named!

    1. Yeah those two were both incredible hikes. Black Tusk is one of those landmarks that you see from all over the area, so we were soooo excited to get up there!!

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