Backpacking at Garibaldi Provincial Park

Jul 25, 2018

Going backpacking at Garibaldi Provincial Park? In this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know before you go, including how to get permits, what to pack, where to camp, and hiking to Panorama Ridge!

In July 2018 we visited one of the top spots on our PNW bucket list: Garibaldi Provincial Park. Ever since we moved to Seattle, we have been dreaming of seeing the beautiful blue lake and mountains in real life (instead of in our Instagram feeds) and after almost 2 years we finally did!

We left Seattle after work on Friday night and drove all the way to the trailhead along the Sea to Sky Highway, slept in our car (it’s our new favorite thing to do!), and started on the trail bright and early with our heavy packs in tow.

The trip was challenging, breathtaking, and lived up to every expectation we had. We did quite a bit of research before our backpacking trip and wanted to share our experience with y’all, as well as everything you should know before and during your trip!

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Reminder: Leave No Trace

Before starting your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave the places you explore even better than you found them.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare: Know the regulations, prepare for different weather conditions, and pack the 10 essentials.
     
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Travel on designated trails and camp at designated sites at least 200 ft away from water sources.
     
  3. Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out. Carry ALL trash with you and dig a 6-8″ cat hole for human waste, 200 ft away from water.
     
  4. Leave what you find: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
     
  5. Minimize campfire impacts: If fires are allowed, use established fire rings. Keep fires small and put out fires completely.
     
  6. Respect wildlife: Do not approach or feed wildlife, keep pets under control, and store your food properly.
     
  7. Be considerate of others: Yield to hikers going uphill and keep noises down.

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

Planning your trip to Garibaldi Provincial Park

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There are a couple ways to approach planning a trip to Garibaldi Provincial Park. One of the main attractions at the park is Panorama Ridge, a 30 km/18.6 mile trail that takes you to a stunning viewpoint. This is the trail we hiked and 100% recommend doing!

The trail takes between 10-11 hours to complete and many people do it as a very long day hike. However, we recommend splitting up the hike a tiny bit and camping in the park, which shaves off some of the mileage in a day and gives you more time to enjoy the park.

Permits

If you decide to backpack and camp overnight at the park, you’ll need to grab a permit. The permits are available up to 4 months in advance and we recommend snagging one early because the park is very popular in the summer! We got ours exactly 4 months before and ran into no issues getting one.

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Campgrounds

When getting your permit you have to choose which campground to stay in. If your goal is to hike Panorama Ridge and visit Garibaldi Lake there are two options: Taylor Meadows Campground and Garibaldi Lake Campground.

We stayed at Garibaldi Lake Campground and highly recommend it! We were a minute walk to the lake, which is huge and has a nice shoreline to walk around, a cool island that you can walk out to, food storage, and pit toilets.

The campsites are not assigned, so you grab whatever spot is free when you get there (if you have a permit you’re guaranteed a spot). The check out time is 12 PM and check in time is at 1 PM, but we arrived around 11 AM and just grabbed an empty spot early so we could set up camp and continue hiking without having to carry our heavy packs. 

What to Bring

Beyond the essentials, here are some key items you’ll need when backpacking at Garibaldi:

  • Beyond the essentials, here are some key items you’ll need when backpacking at Garibaldi:
  • Bug spray–the mosquitos were CRAZY!
  • Something to filter or boil water. We use this water filter!
  • Tons of water! The hike is challenging and very long.
  • Your permits (2 copies!)
  • A bag to store your trash–please pack out what you pack in and follow the Leave No Trace principles. We saw SO much trash in the toilet area and it bummed us out.
  • A stowaway day pack for the second half of your hike. You won’t want to carry your big pack!
  • Spikes! While we were the only ones using them, they really helped us get up some of the steeper, snowier parts of the trail without sliding around. We have these spikes and they are awesome!
  • A portable charger so you can keep your phone charged in case of an emergency. We recommend this charger!

The Trails at Garibaldi Provincial Park

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Now on to the best part–the trails! From the parking lot, there is one trail you take for 6km until the trails split off to go to either Taylor Meadows/Panorama Ridge or Garibaldi Lake.

Well, they are supposed to split off, but they were doing work on the Garibaldi Lake trail, so we continued along Taylor Meadows and met up with a different trail just past the Taylor Meadows campground to head towards the lake.

We aren’t sure how much extra mileage this added, but it definitely made the hike longer. The first part of the hike to the campgrounds is alllll uphill and would be a killer workout without packs, but was even more so with our packs on.

Once you get on the trail towards the lake, it’s not too much longer until you reach the lake. We cheered when we finally saw the lake because 1. We were exhausted and excited to finally be there and 2. It was GORGEOUS!

The water was some of the clearest we have seen and the mountain views were endless. We quickly found a campsite that was empty, set up our tent, ate some lunch, and then headed to the Panorama Ridge Trail.

To get to the Panorama Ridge Trail from the campground, we took an uphill trail through the woods and a meadow until we eventually connected with a trail from Taylor Meadows.

From there, we continued to Panorama Ridge. One great thing about this park is that the trails were super well marked and we always knew where we needed to go.

Before and after the junction where we connected with Taylor Meadows, the trail is relatively flat for a while, which was a nice break. 🙂 We crossed over rivers and walked by small lakes and since a lot of the trail is exposed, we had views almost the entire time!

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After hiking for a while we eventually starting gaining elevation again and the terrain changed from dirt to rocks. To get to the summit, you have to hike up many, many rocks, some of which are loose, so be careful!

The entire hike up from this point is steep and was really tough on our tired legs. There was also still quite a bit of snow in between some of the rock sections that we had to cross.

We saw people in a wide variety of shoes sliding all around on the snow, so we threw on some spikes just to make it easier and got to the top fairly quickly.

Once we got to the top, any tiredness disappeared and was replaced with excitement as we soaked up the epic view. It was one of our favorite hiking views so far and reminded us a little bit of being back at Banff as we looked down at the blue water. We looked just like the heart eyes emoji the whole time!

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After a quick break at the summit, we headed back to our campground, napped at the lake, made dinner, and went to bed before sunset because we were pooped!

The next morning we woke up for sunrise, but the sun took too long to fully rise and we needed to get home, so we quickly hiked back to the car, grabbed coffee and breakfast in Squamish (see our recommendation below!), and headed back to Seattle.

In total, the hikes took us just under 3 hours from the car to the campground, 5 hours round trip from the campground to the summit and back, and then 2 hours from the campground to the car the next morning.

Other Tips for Garibaldi Provincial Park

  • Get there early–parking fills up fast! When we finished the hike around 8:50 AM on Sunday the lot was completely full.
     
  • If you arrive in the area the night before and need a place to sleep (and don’t want to rough it like us), we recommend staying in Squamish or at a nearby campsite, like Alice Lake.
     
  • After you finish backpacking, head to Fuel + Forest Cafe for breakfast and coffee!

    While we are big meat eaters, this is a delicious meat-free spot that has tons of healthy options, including gluten free AND vegan muffins (which are amazing! You would never know they weren’t regular muffins!). The cafe is also super cute!

If you want a mini-Banff experience, but without the far drive or flight, head to Garibaldi Provincial Park! Just ~1.5 hours from Vancouver, and ~3.5 hours from Seattle (without traffic and border delays), it’s an easy to access piece of paradise!

Planning to go backpacking at Garibaldi Provincial Park?

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about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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2 Comments

  1. nicolas desjardins

    awesome picture, i would love to be there too! Thanks for sharing

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      Thank you Nicolas! It’s an absolutely gorgeous place!

      Reply

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