We were home again this weekend, for what might be the last time for a while, as life's about to get very busy again. So we decided on Saturday morning to get up early, to drive up near Whistler to do the Garibaldi Lake hike. I've done this a few times in the past, but Justine had never done it. It's a tough hike, but the destination makes the journey worthwhile. Or at least it had in the past.
We had great ambitions to get out early and on the trail. I have heard that it gets busy pretty early, and so we got off by about 6:30 - only to get foiled by construction on the Lion's Gate Bridge. It was being resurfaced, and was down to one lane, causing us about a half hour delay. As a result, by the time we got to the trailhead parking lot, both the main plus overflow parking were already full! So we ended up parking on the side of the road, just outside the parking lot. I'd never seen it like that, but it was nothing compared to what we returned to.
The first 7 km of the hike are pretty much the same - uphill, through a series of switchbacks as you climb up to the level where the lake is situated. It's a nice hike through the forest, but the view doesn't really change much. And did I mention it was all uphill? We ended up with almost 1,200m of elevation gain on the hike.
At the 6 km marker, the trail splits off and you can either go straight to the lake, or head left up to Taylor Meadows. We chose the longer route and continued up a bit more, until it opened up in a pretty meadow with a view of Black Tusk.
Wes topped for a short break and to enjoy the scenery. There were a ton of people continuing on to Black Tusk, another 9 km past where we were. That seems a bit much for a day hike, but good on them. Our hike then continued on to the lake, through more of the same terrain.
We eventually came back to the main trail, before starting a steep descent down to the edge of the lake. Within about a km, we were rewarded with our first view of Garibaldi Lake.
The lake is spectacular, that can't be argued. But the steady stream of people headed out to the end of the trail at the lakeside made it less appealing.
From the end of the lake, the trail continued along to shore towards the backcountry campgrounds. I'd love to come up and spend some nights here. but those permits are hard to come by!
We continued on to the main rest area at the lake side. It has amazing views out over the lake and it many small islands, to the glaciers on the far side of the lake. On a day like today, the water is this amazing turquoise colour - a blue gem in the mountains.
There was something of a land bridge out to the biggest island, so after sitting and enjoying the view and having a bit of lunch, we walked out and explored the island.
The island, as you can see is quite small, so it didn't take long to walk around it. There were lots of people that had staked out spots along the edges of the island, giving them a bit of private space away from the rest of the crowds. The walk around provided some additional views of the area.
After exploring the island, we walked back to the main path and continued up the path along the lake. It didn't go a lot further, and ended at a dock that the rangers use, I assume to patrol the lake. While the dock was already filled with people, there was another little island that we were able to stake out an area to sit and relax, and put our feet in the icy cold water. Very refreshing!
After enjoying the lake for a couple of hours, it was time to head back. As we made our way back towards the trail, I was shocked to see how many people must have continued up after us! There were somewhere between 150 and 200 people, most jammed into the first area, and scatter back to where you first come to the lake. I have no idea why they didn't continue down the path, but that main area was packed.
We extracted ourselves and made the hike up to the main path. What a disaster. On a lark, we decided to keep track of how many people we passed, coming up the trail as we headed back.
As you might imagine, the hike back was a big of a slog, although the fact that it was pretty much all downhill helped. We took a different path, which led us past Lesser Garibaldi Lake, Barrier Lake, and to a lookout over the Barrier, this massive geological feature that dominates the area.
Other than a couple of minor diversions, the walk back was uneventful, but it was unbelievably busy. We passed 547 people that were hiking up at 2:00 p.m. or later, to do a 5-6 hour hike. 547. I still can't believe it. It made what should have been a beautiful hike a complete disaster. Many of these people should not have been doing that hike at all.
After getting back to our car, stretching and getting sorted, we had to drive back out. I've never seen so many cars at a trailhead - they stretched on for miles. There's no way they should be letting that many people up on that trail every day. It's crazy, and the amount of garbage that was along the route show that most people aren't taking care of what should be a pristine environment. They need to figure this out. Sadly, it has made an amazing hike something less.