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:
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.
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.
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.
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.