The name Panorama Ridge did not come about by accident. The chance that you have already seen a photo from the area of Garibaldi lake is really quite high. The reason? This is one of the most stunning vistas to be experienced in the Sea To Sky Corridor and one of the top bucket list day trips from Vancouver for local hikers.
The deep turquoise blue of Garibaldi Lake below and the rows and rows of mountains fading into the distance as far as the eye can see. Here you get a real feel for the sheer size of the Coast Mountains, home to Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Whistler, Squamish and the surrounding peaks are part of the Coast Mountains. These are the most westerly range of the Cordilleran Mountain system which extends from Alaska south to Mexico. To the west are the Coastal lowlands or Insular Belt, and to the Interior Plateau, Monashee, Selkirk, Purcell and Rocky Mountains.
From Panorama Ridge itself, you can take in views of the unique Table Mountain with its cropped top, Mt Price rising in the distance and the gnarled crevasses of the glacier rolling down the slopes towards the lake. Spin around and you find yourself at an elevation that matches that of the famous Black Tusk.
Panorama Ridge is in Garibaldi Provincial Park on the east side of the Sea To Sky Highway. The Park covers an area of over 1,950 square kilometres (753 sq mi) and was designated a Provincial Park back in 1927.
The to Panorama Ridge has a few different options for access, all of which make their way up under the shadow of Black Tusk.
This is the most popular route and is the closest one to Vancouver. The trailhead goes right from the parking lot just of highway 99 and winds its way up past The Barrier via some tight switchbacks through stands of Douglas-fir and Red Cedar. The trail continues to climb as it enters Taylor Meadows and passes Lesser Garibaldi Lake. There are a few options here to drop down to Garibaldi Lake and explore, but it’s recommended to push on as there is still some ground to cover before making the final ascent to panorama ridge, so keep left at the campground.
For the next few kilometres, you meander through lush wildflower meadows and climb an established trail keeping the cinder cone of Black Tusk to your left. Eventually, you round the valley and the Helm Creek meadows come into view. The trail forks and you head right to climb the final pitch to Panorama Ridge. Following established cairns and rugged alpine terrain until you crest the windy ridge and are rewarded with the full extent of the view.
This route is the longest option at 30km and 1520m of elevation gain. Expect to take 10 to 12 hours from the parking lot depending on your pace.
Distance: 30 km
Elevation Gain: 1,563 m
Highest Point: 2,133 m
Time Needed: 10-12 Hours
Dogs Allowed: No
This lesser-known route actually takes you from the Whistler side of Garibaldi Lake. The trailhead is accessed by following a route into Cheakamus Lake. This the first right-hand turn as you enter the Whistler municipality and is well signposted as the Cheakamus Forest Service Road and Cheakamus Lake. After about 1.5km on the trail from the parking lot, there is a signpost and a route down to a bridge that crosses the Cheakamus River and begins the ascent on the other side of the valley via some steep switchbacks. If you are a fan of solitude, this is a route for you.
The Rubble creek access can get a little crowded, and with a little more adventure, the rewards from this approach can be blissful. The climb continues up through thick forest until it begins to give way to Helm Creek in the alpine. As the trees thin, you are rewarded with an imposing view of Black Tusk as you are directly beneath its steepest face.
Helm Creek is a beautiful spot to take a lunch break and absorb some of the surroundings for all their beauty. The established trail continues its meander through the alpine meadows for a few more kilometres until it meets the same junction as the Taylor Meadows route, just from the other direction. Hang a left and continue your final climb up onto Panorama Ridge.
As all the hiking routes into Panorama ridge are a full day affair, an overnight camping stop can be a wonderful addition to your trip. Hike halfway, pitch your tent and complete your route the next day with plenty of time to stop and smell the flowers. Both Taylor Meadows from the Rubble Creek side and Helm Creek Meadows from the Cheakamus side have tent pads in a wonderful alpine setting. Be sure to check all of the local camping restrictions that may be in place before heading out via the BC Parks website.
Sightseeing by plane is one of the most extraordinary things to do in Whistler. The Sea To Sky’s mountainous region was formed during the last ice age. A time when active volcanoes erupted into the vast icefields that once dominated the landscape.
Photographers, hikers, walkers, and geologists will be equally amazed as we fly shoulder to shoulder with iconic landmarks including Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk. Do not forget your camera!
Flight: Whistler Backcountry Air Safari