Hiking Elfin Lakes

Nestled in the mountain ranges of Garibaldi Provincial Parks are two small, serene lakes surrounded by astonishing views. Along the 22km out-and-back trail, there’s an abundance of sights for sore eyes. The lengthy experience that the Elfin Lakes trail brings is an incredible escape from the city. I’m a firm believer that everyone needs to escape to nature after long periods of time in the city. The hustle of working and commuting in the city-scape can become tiresome and it is landscapes like these that bring you back to a natural, peaceful setting away from the internet and cellular signal. 

The trailhead leading to Elfin Lakes is located at end of a dirt road leading from Mamquam Road, just off of the town of Squamish. Keep in mind, that low-clearance vehicles might experience a few potholes and bumps in the road. I recommend bringing a higher clearance vehicle with AWD. Located at the trailhead is a parking lot that can fit many cars, but sometimes can fill up quickly during peak visiting months. In the event there are no spots available, a friendly park ranger will instruct you to park about a kilometer down the road in another lot. This adds some time to your hike, but is not the end of the world. 

Currently, Garibaldi Provincial Park requires hikers to obtain a BC Parks Day-Use Pass to be permitted onto the trail. These can be obtained in the early morning on the day before, or day of your hike. These are free, and help limit traffic for the protection of hikers the surrounding environments. 

Depending on the time of year, the hike welcomes you with some nice flies and mosquitos that are more than happy to join you for your entire hike. If you prefer not to bring them along, make sure to bring some bug spray. And while we’re on the topic of trail friends, you might also come across a black bear or two! Knowing appropriate behaviour around bears in important to consider before embarking on your hike and a bear bell is recommended. In my experience in British Columbia, fellow hikers are very friendly and will promptly warn you if there is a bear nearby.

As you progress along the trail, you’ll find yourself being continuously amazed by the landscape surrounding you. Each time you turn a corner, there’s an even more scenic alpine terrain that tempts you to stop and take photos. My favourite portion of the trail is the stretch that treks the ridgeline of Round Mountain at more than 1500m elevation. The vast scale of the mountains around you is quite humbling. You are reminded that the land surrounding you represent long lifetimes that both precedes and proceeds. 

After about 11 kilometers of hiking, you will finally reach the Elfin Lakes. If you had hiked on a hot day like me, a dip in the lake is almost necessary. This area is dedicated to both day-hikers and backpack campers. If you plan to camp, plan ahead and make sure to reserve a site and pass before heading up there. If you are day-hiking, I highly recommend allotting time to have lunch at the lakes. Take some time to appreciate the views of the mountains and glaciers all around.

Leave No Trace!

Please consider your impact on the environment by actively leaving no trace. To protect the habitats and wildlife in Garibaldi Provincial Park, please pack all garbage and waste to bring back to your car or waste bins at the trailhead!

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