Snowshoeing to Garibaldi Lake

Snowshoeing to Garibaldi Lake

Snoweshoeing to Garibaldi Lake near Whistler, Squamish and VancouverOne of the most incredible summer hikes near Vancouver and Whistler is to Garibaldi Lake (and then on to Panorama Ridge if you have enough puff.) However it is also a stunning area to go snowshoeing. After checking the avalanche warnings for the Sea to Sky Region, we decided to make the most of a gap in the rain to have a look at Garibaldi Lake in winter.

If you fancy a fabulous adventure through snow-encrusted, sparkly trees, this is a great option. You might be exhausted by the end of the day, but it is well worth the effort.

Garibaldi Lake Snowshoeing trail map

Garibaldi Lake Snowshoeing – the basics

Distance: 18km
Elevation gain
: 970m
Highest Point: 1500m
Time: 6 -7 hours – We took 6 hours in summer but 7 in winter (including breaks)
What to bring:
Camera!
It is extra important to bring the ten essentials (with extra layers of clothes) in wintertime.
We used both microspikes and snowshoes.
You will also want tire chains and a shovel to help you park.
Facilities:
There are several loos with views! There is a loo in the car-park, one at the first turn off to Taylor Meadows, as well as one at Garlibalidi lake.
Dogs: No doggos for this walk. Dogs are not allowed in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

How hard is it? It is around 1000m elevation gain, so you know it’s going to be hard-ish. The thing is, the path is very easy to follow and not particularly steep. This means although it is challenging as a long snowshoeing trail. It doesn’t feel as hard as the statistics make it sound.
Extra hints: Make sure you check Avalanche Canada as well as the weather before you go!

Is Garibalidi Lake accessible in winter?

BC Parks introduced a day-use pass registration system in 2020 because sooo many people were flocking to just a few crowded hiking spots. I tried to get passes a couple of times in the summer, but never had any luck; So we did not visit Garibaldi Provincial Park this summer. In winter you normally have to park at the base of Daisy Lake Road and hike up. However this year BC parks have an agreement to plough the road all the way to the parking lot. Woot!

When we visited, the road was semi ploughed. One driver had attempted to do a u-turn into a snowbank, so there was a bit of a delay while everyone else tried to pull them out. If you want to do this hike in winter, you should bring tire chains as well as a shovel, as you may need to dig out a parking space on the edge of the ploughed area.

Garibaldi Lake Snowshoeing – Getting started

You might have to be flexible if you’re out and about in winter. We arrived later than our original plan because there was a large traffic jam of skiers heading to Whistler. After that, there was the blockage on Daisy Lake Road. We spent a while putting chains onto our tires, and then had to park about 700m away from the main car park…so all in all we started about 1.5 hours later than our original plan. There is only one trail leaving from the Rubble Creek Car park, so once you make it that far, the start of the trail is obvious.

Garibaldi Lake trail switchbacks

If you are not a fan of trees, you might not love the start of this snowshoeing adventure! The first 6.5 km follow switchbacks up towards the barrier, so you only really get views of the forest. We found the trail was icy by the car park, then gradually the snow became deeper and softer as we hiked higher.

Views from the Barrier

This is one of my favourite views along the trail is from the Barrier Viewpoint. Cloudburst Mountain and valley of the Sea to Sky look beautiful in the snow. It is definitely worth hiking the extra 100m to see it.

Barrier Lake and Lesser Garibaldi Lake

Once you’ve made it as high as the barrier, the trail gets a little easier and more interesting. You can look down to the two smaller lakes; Barrier Lake and Lesser Garibaldi Lake.

I loved how the fluffy snow is piled up on the trees, rocks and bridges. It is such a winter wonderland.

Whoomf – Snow bombs

Once the snow starts to warm up, it becomes less stable piled up on the trees above you. Every so often massive piles of snow would drop from the upper branches of trees with a massive “whoomf” sound. Marc and I both got snow dumped on us several times from these tree-dumps. There isn’t much you can do to prevent it, apart from run forward it you hear the sprinkle sound  when one is triggered.

Busy areas at Garibaldi Lake

We’re all attempting to stay apart on the trails in 2020, and mostly, this was easy on the way to Garibaldi Lake. The only place where we couldn’t avoid a bunch up of hikers was at bridge at the edge of Garibaldi Lake. Just like in the summertime, this little area was full of people waiting to cross the bridge, before they could spread out at the edge of the lake. Bring a mask for moments like this.

Garibaldi Lake in the snow

This is the view from that bridge – isn’t it stunning!? There is now a thin layer of ice over most of the lake, just not at this edge where the water runs off to Upper Rubble Creek towards Lesser Garibaldi Lake.

Then once you hike past that open section of water, this is the view of Garibaldi Lake covered in ice. *Swoons*.

This has to be the prettiest view for a reward for snowshoeing. We ate our leftover turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches feeling pretty happy.

Snowshoes vs Microspikes

Although I think of this as an adventure for snowshoes, we didn’t actually put our snowshoes until we reached the deep powder at Garibaldi Lake. Before that, the trail was so packed down by other hikers that microspikes were actually more useful. I’ve included a photo of both so you can see the difference. Both options fit over your hiking boots. Our spikes stretch over our boots, while you need to strap snowshoes onto your shoes.

It is easier to walk with microspikes if the trail is hard-packed. However once you reach powdery or melting snow, you’ll sink down into it. This happened to us once we started to walk around Garibaldi Lake, so we were glad we had lugged up our snowshoes. Most people on the trail seemed to carry both. I would recommend doing the same.

We continued to walk around Garibaldi Lake (with snowshoes) to see more of the lovely winter views.

This is the view from the snow-covered dock on Garibaldi Lake.

This is the view of the Black tusk in the snow (left) and Panorama Ridge (right). You can see why this area is so popular at all times of year.  We decided to head back once the shadows started to lengthen. Most other people had left by this point (3pm).

Return Journey

Head back the same way you came. Cross the bridge at Rubble Creek, then follow the trail passed the two lower lakes, the barrier and all the switch backs.

Golden Hour on the trail

We didn’t expect to be out this late but after all the traffic jam issues we only just reached the barrier as the sun was setting behind the mountains.

My photos don’t do it justice. The views from the barrier were even more pretty as the snow turned pink.

The Barrier is a massive rock face which was formed as part of an even larger lava-flow, (from Mount Price) that was blocked by a glacier. This created an enormous ice-cooled volcanic dam, which now holds back Garibaldi Lake. In summer it looks all crumbly like it might give way, unleashing a massive flood on the valley below. It actually looks a little more stable in winter once the snow covers all the crumbling rocks.

After this golden moment, the light faded as we walked down the rest of the switchbacks. We needed our headlamps for the final couple of switchbacks and it was dark by the time reached our car. Last time we did this hike we ran down the switchbacks. We didn’t feel safe doing that in snow as the light faded. It may have taken slightly longer to descend but we were safe and happy by the end of the day.

Panoramas from Snowshoeing to Garibaldi Lake

I’ll finish with a couple of panoramas from the trail to Garibaldi Lake in winter. Just click on them to see the larger versions.

Garibaldi Lake is a fantastic, if challenging snowshoe or winter hike. Let me know if you like the look of it in the comments, or please click on the pins below to save them for later. If you live nearby, would you be tempted to snowshoe here?

Snoweshoeing to Garibaldi Lake near Whistler, Squamish and Vancouver Winter walks - Garibaldi Lake in the snow Garibaldi Lake in the snow - Snowshoe trails near Whistler

40 thoughts on “Snowshoeing to Garibaldi Lake

  1. Oh you had the perfect day for it! That reflection by the bridge over Rubble Creek is gorgeous. The lake looks so perfect with its first dusting of snow before it’s solid enough for people to walk across it. We always like to go up into Taylor Meadows for the views of Black Tusk. However that route isn’t obvious in winter so a GPS track is handy.

    1. Oooh that is good to know. We stayed in the trees this time, but I’d like to go to Taylor Meadows then the avalanche danger is lower. It looked like the paths in that direction were pretty well trodden, but I’ll make sure we have some kind of GPS tracker if there is fresh snow.

  2. Despite buying you part of an avalanche safety course for xmas, what really makes more sense is not to go to places that have them. I shall now stop worrying about you and bears and instead worry about Avalanches. But it all looks glorious Love, LIs

  3. What a magical looking winter wonderland! I have to be honest, as much as I love hiking, I’m not much of a fan of snow, so I tend to hide away indoors when it is cold out! This looks so beautiful and picturesque though! You’ve got me rethinking! Thanks for the great guide!

    1. I totally understand. I used to be exactly the same. Warm clothes and pretty views just started to tempt me out after we moved to Canada! 😉

  4. WOW! I’ve done this hike so often in summer, but now I really want to do it in winter. What a perfect day you guys had. And turkey leftover for lunch…it doesn’t get much better!

  5. Beautiful light in all the photos! Looks like you had fabulous weather for your day out. I haven’t been snowshoeing before but this beautiful hike is tempting!

  6. Wow Canada looks stunning in every season. I’ve always wanted to do a proper hike in snow so hopefully I can visit Canada in the winter season in the future. I also love your red jacket, looks great with the landscape!

  7. Wow what a great guide and beautiful photos!! It’s looks like a magical winter wonderland. I’m not crazy about the snow, even though I’m Norwegian, but I would definitely love to try snowshoeing. And I can’t wait to visit Canada one day 😀

  8. Just love this time of year when these posts come along. Loving the snowy pictures and the descriptions you have created. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I typically hike alone, and I’ve never been snowshoeing or used microspikes, so this hike kind of scares me! But I would love to practice on a shorter trail and go on this trail because it looks just beautiful. And to see the pink you are describing in person because (like you said), it’s kind of hard to see in the photos!

    I’m just so enamoured by all that snow. It looks so pristine and thick and, well, fluffy haha. I’ve never been in or around snow like that, so that would be another new thing to tackle!

  10. Wow Garibaldi Lake looks truly incredible! With all of that snow it is seriously a beautiful winter wonderland. Even though the winter hike is challenging, I’d definitely love to try it one day!

  11. Wow. I hiked to Garibaldi Lake in the summer and it was incredible! Perfect blue glacial water and bright purple flowers blooming everywhere – literally a dream worthy view. But to see it in snow?! I may have to “hike” it again!!

  12. Gorgeous trail and area. It is so fun to see snowshoeing hikes! An all day snowshoe adventures sounds perfect for this time of year. You live in a beautiful place.

  13. So beautiful, Josy! I had so hoped to get to Canada for a snowshoe trip but things are not looking favorable for yet a while. I’m glad you got out in between all the raindrops to capture this bluebird day!

  14. What a cool adventure! I have never snowshoed in my life and now I feel like I’m missing out. I was a terrible skier at school growing up in Russia, but snowshoeing sounds to be less challenging in terms of coordination. I would’ve certainly pushed myself for a chance of seeing such fairytale winter wonderland. The untouched snowscapes look absolutely superb

  15. Wow, your photos are absolutely stunning! I love the snow covered scenery. Interesting thought about getting snow bombed by the trees several times.
    When I saw the title of your post I immediately thought: Ha, finally a hike where Josy will not pack bear spray. So I intentionally checked that out and, yes, you did not mention it. Of course, the bears are hibernating.

  16. Yet another great post Josy! This sounds like a perfect adventure during the winter when visiting Vancouver and Whistler. You captured the beauty of the hike so well through the amazing photographs. Glad to know that although the hike is somewhat challenging, the route is easy to follow. I completely agree that those panoramic views from the Barrier Viewpoint are worth the effort. Thanks for your tip regarding checking the weather at Avalanche Canada.

  17. Wow, so you may have sold me!! To be clear, I HATE THE COLD & I especially hate backpacking in the Cold…the only thing worse is backpacking in the rain when it is cold! BUTTT, with that said, these white views you captured in and around Garibaldi Lake are amazing! By the way, who isnt a fan of trees? Those kind of people deserve to get snow bombed! I laughed when I read that!
    I loved those views from the Barrier Viewpoint of the Cloudburst Mountains & the Sea to Sky Valley. That was an amazing slight detour. I think the views of the Upper Rubble Creek from the bride were really cool too! Remined me of backpacking around Iceland at Easter a few years ago where there were all these waterfalls rushing amid the snow!

  18. Wow, the gorgeous snow and the bluebird sky leaves me pining for some BC winter fun. The photos as always are stunning. The logistics seem challenging so I’m glad it all worked out.

  19. Those photos and your writing paint the most idyllic of trips. I desperately want to go snowshoeing now, and will have to add Garibaldi Lake to my wanderlust list!

  20. Another winter wonderland to add to the bucket list! I love that you add the panoramas – your photos are amazing.

  21. Such cuties! Looks like another incredible adventure. I was just wondering the other day about snowshoes versus yaktraks. I think what you mentioned makes total sense but I often see people wearing snowshoes on packed down snow, which seems like it just makes it unnecessarily harder to walk. But maybe they’re on their way to snowier trails!

  22. These photos are so gorgeous! I love the one of snow-covered Garibaldi Lake with just one set of footprints through it. Looks like you had the snowshoeing trail to yourself – thankfully everyone from the traffic jam was headed for the ski areas!

  23. This look gorgeous! We’ve had REALLY nice weather this fall and winter in the Black Hills, unfortunately that means we haven’t gotten much snow. 🙁 Hopefully we can get out snowshoeing soon!

  24. Wow! I am always up for a good hike in the summer but don’t think I’ve ever done a serious (6-7 hour) hike in the snow, but clearly there are rewards for those willing to brave the cold! The loos with views made me laugh, and I also checked out your 10 Hiking Essentials post (the whistle is such a good idea I never would’ve thought about!). All of your shots on the trail look like paintings, and I’m sure the sun setting over that panoramic view must’ve been truly stunning. Glad you included the warning about the snow bombs as well! I can just imagine that sound of the snow falling and a scramble to avoid it if possible!

    1. Thanks Kevin!
      lol I didn’t manage to avoid all of the snow bombs, but at least they were powdery rather than icy!

      There must be some fab winter trails near your home in Seattle if you are ever back at this time of year. I’d like to go snowshoeing near Mount Baker! 😀

  25. I never really like hiking in the snow because it always seems to be 10x harder then without snow XD but the views look absolutely amazing. Such a picturesque hike, and your photos are beautiful – especially on the way back with the sun placement.

    1. Yeah it is a bit harder than without snow. I am not sure I’d go with 10x as hard…maybe just 1.5 times harder (depending on the snow!) It was worth it for the views though!

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