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Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Park

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Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park - Vancouver Trails in June


Elfin Lakes up in Garibaldi Park in the Highlands of Squamish is an amazing hike in June.  With the exception of weekends you will beat the impending summer crowds and have much of the amazing Garibaldi Parks, Diamond Head area to yourself.  Early June finally melts the several metres of accumulated snow on the trail and you should have the first couple kilometres, snow free, but the rest of the trail will have considerable snow.  You will need snowshoes or skis to handle the trail as the hot weather makes the snow slushy and terrible to walk on.

By late June, much of the snow will have melted and the two Elfin Lakes will be breaking out of their Elfin Lakes - Vancouver Hiking in Junesix months of their year frozen solid.  You would still be very brave to swim in June, but after the 11k hike in 22c weather, any bit of thawed water you encounter invites a dive into.

Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park is a beautiful, long, yet very rewarding snowshoeing and skiing trail that begins at the Diamond Head area in Squamish.  From the Sea to Sky turnoff at Canadian Tire, the trailhead is just a 15 minute drive away.  Elfin Lakes is located near the south end of the massive Garibaldi Park, and the drive to reach the trailhead is often deep with snow and treacherous to drive in the winter.

The Elfin Lakes trail is well marked and easy to follow to the enormous, Elfin Lakes Hut.  This amazing hut sleeps 33 and is solar powered and propane heated.  There is a charge of $15/person to stay the night there which is a small price to pay for the beautiful comfort after the long, 11 kilometre snowshoe hike to get there.  This area is very popular with skiers as well as snowshoers in the winter and deep snow covers the trail usually from November to June.

Elfin Lakes - Vancouver Hiking Guide JuneThe trail to Elfin Lakes starts out ascending through deep forest, reaching the Red Heather Hut after 5k.  This is a small warming hut equipped with a wood stove complete with a stack of wood free to use, though sleeping here is for emergencies only.  The final 6k from this hut to Elfin Lakes takes you along a beautiful ridge with amazing views of snowy mountains all around.  The sheer distance of this snowshoeing trail ranks it as difficult.

Expect to take four hours to reach the Elfin Lakes hut as you are almost constantly ascending a gradual, though continuously uphill trail.  There are several beautiful viewpoints along this final 6k stretch.  This trail is so well marked with orange poles and tree markers that you can reliably find your way after dark or before sunrise with good lights to assist you.  You often see, with some shock, skiers trudging up the trail, not far from the trailhead well after the sun has set.  Making their way to the Elfin Lakes hut in the dead of night seems to be a pastime of quite a few hardcore skiers and boarders from Squamish, Whistler and Vancouver.

 

Cheakamus Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Cheakamus Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park in Whistler is an incredible lake to hike to.  The trail is beautiful and relaxing as it meanders through a forest of huge, old growth trees.  The smell of the giant cedars fills the air and the distant sound of Cheakamus River fills the otherwise pure silence of the forest.  In June the 8k gravel road is free of snow enough to drive to the trailhead.

From the trailhead it is just 3k to the beginning of Cheakamus Lake and the first set of campgrounds.  The campgrounds are beautifully laid out in that they sink into the surroundings and in fact are hard to spot (there are 10 tent sites).  Aside from the noticeable apparatus to hang food out of reach of bears and the visible outhouses, you would possibly not even notice that this is a campground.  A further, and considerably more beautiful 3k along the trail gets you to the second campsite (7 tents sites) which is similarly beautiful and understated.  This is the end of the maintained trail, but if you are keen to explore more, the trail continues further into the wilderness.

Aside from several fallen trees across the trail this unmaintained part of the Cheakamus Lake trail is easy to hike and well worth a look.  It leads you to dozens of small pocket beaches that are wonderfully sun drenched all hours of the day due to their perfect south facing directions.  Don't look for trails to these beaches as this area is so rarely hiked that these spots don't even have worn paths, but most are just steps from the main (unmaintained) trail.

There is a charge for overnight camping at Cheakamus Lake, $10 adult, $5 children.  You used to be able to pay by cash at the trailhead, however, online is the only option now.  This money goes into paying for the exceptional, though underfunded parks service who maintain Garibaldi Provincial Park to an amazingly high standard.  The Cheakamus Lake trail is an excellent hike suitable for all.  Due to it's minimal elevation gain/loss and easy, wide gait, the trail is perfect for kids, though you'd have trouble pushing a baby stroller over the innumerable, huge tree roots.

Cheakamus Lake - Vancouver Hiking Guide June

Cheakamus Lake - Vancouver Hiking Guide June

Though you will almost certainly see a bear at some point either on the trail or the 8k gravel road to Cheakamus Lake you shouldn't let that worry you.  The Whistler area bears are very timid and at first sight or sound of you coming they will lazily amble into the trees and continue munching on grass or berries.  Be cautious though and try to keep your distance from them and give them a chance to move away from you.

Cheakamus Lake is well known for its fishing, so if you like to fish, remember to bring your rod along to go with your picnic.  Also, the swimming, though very cold is wonderful and refreshing.  The water is strikingly clear in Cheakamus Lake and the small beaches have nice, smooth rocks and pebbles to walk on.  If you want to carry a canoe or kayak to the lake be prepared for the 3k hike.  It's a long way to carry a boat, though you do see the occasional canoe/kayak on the trail, though usually with a wheel apparatus to assist in the portage.

The Cheakamus Lake trail is also the starting point for the Helm Creek Campground trail.  The Helm Creek trail splits off of the Cheakamus Lake trail at 1.5k from the trailhead/parking lot and takes you steeply up into the mountains toward Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge, Garibaldi Lake and quite a lot more.

This trail to Helm Creek is buried in snow and hard to follow and hike for most of June, but if you attempt it make sure you have snowshoes and a GPS or good map skills.  And if you do make it to Helm Creek or beyond in June the place will be deserted and spectacular.  You will have this wonderful part of the world to yourself.

Cheakamus Lake Trail Map - Vancouver Hiking

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