Garibaldi Lake is in southwestern British Columbia, roughly 37 km north of Squamish and 19 km south of Whistler. It sits in a large subalpine basin in Garibaldi Provincial Park. The park is a hub of recreational activity for locals and tourists alike who enjoy hiking, climbing, ski touring, and sightseeing in its picturesque landscape.
Garibaldi Lake formed over 9,000 years ago when lava flows from nearby volcanoes blocked the valley. This natural dam caused meltwater from glaciers and winter snow to pool in the valley creating the popular turquoise lake that we know and love today.
The lake is surrounded by volcanoes along its north, west, and south sides, and it was lava flows from Clinker Peak that created the 2.1km long dam known as The Barrier. This ancient formation now holds back Garibaldi Lake from flooding the nearby town of Squamish.
Inflow to the lake is from the neighbouring Sphinx and Sentinel glaciers and outflow occurs mostly through cracks in The Barrier that appear at Rubble Creek. It is the glacial flour in the meltwater from these inflows that is responsible for the lake’s mesmerizing turquoise colour.
During periods of heavy spring melt water, there can be enough outflow for drainage to occur across a shallow channel in the lava dam into the small and less well known Lesser Garibaldi Lake and Barrier Lake.
In 2014 professor Steve Quane, of Quest University in Squamish, received $12,00o to assess the danger that Garibaldi Lake posed to the town of Squamish. In an interview with the Squamish Chief newspaper Quane said: “The potential energy at 1,400 metres elevation, of 1 trillion litres of water, is 200 times the energy released by the bomb on Hiroshima”.
BC’s government deemed the area immediately below the lake to be unsafe for human habitation in 1981 due to its instability in the face of volcanic activity, tectonic activity or heavy rainfall
Top Sights around Garibaldi Lake (other than the lake)
You might be surprised to know (or not if you’ve read our other Garibaldi Lake blog post) that there is a lot more to see there than just it’s beautiful glacial waters. Here’s a list of the tops sights to see at Garibaldi Lake:
A series of lava outcrops along the northwestern shore of the lake form the numerous tiny Battleship Islands, several of which have been connected to the shore by simple man-made stone causeways.
The Table is part of the Garibaldi Lake volcanic field, a volcanic field that includes a group of nine small andesitic stratovolcanoes and basaltic andesite vents that are part of the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt and of the Cascade Volcanic Arc that runs from southwestern British Columbia to northern California.
Mount Price is one of the three main volcanoes in the southern segment of the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt. Clinker Peak, a breached volcanic crater on Mount Price’s western flank was responsible for creating the Garibaldi Lake. At least three phases of eruptive activity have been identified at Mount Price, the first event was 1.2 million years ago.
The Black Tusk is considered to be the remnant of an extinct andesitic stratovolcano which formed between about 1.3 and 1.1 million years ago. At 2,319 m (7,608 ft) above sea level, the upper spire is visible from a great distance in all directions.
To Squamish people, this mountain is known as t’ak‘t’ak mu’yin tl’a in7in’a’xe7en. In their language, it means “Landing Place of the Thunderbird” and the jagged shape of the mountain and its black colouring are said to come from the Thunderbird’s lightning.
Sightseeing by air is the easiest way to see all of these sights in one go. And one major advantage of a birds-eye-view is that you get a much better understanding of the landscape’s geography, and the orientation of the mountains and features, that you would on the ground.
To help feed your curiosity, we’ve created this interactive map showing all the major sights around Garibaldi Lake.
The hike to Garibaldi Lake is an 18km (return) intermediate-expert hike that is accessible in the summer months of July – September. Elevation gain on this hike is 820m and according to vancouvertrails.com should take around 5 hours (add on extra time for sightseeing and rest stops).
Garibaldi Provincial Park’s rich geological history, diverse vegetation, snow-capped mountain, iridescent waters, abundant wildlife and scenic vistas all contribute to the immense beauty.
The park is located in the heart of the Coast Mountains just 70 km north of Vancouver. Offering over 90 km of established hiking trails, Garibaldi Provincial Park is a favourite year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
NEW for summer camping at Garibaldi Lake: Due to the growing popularity of Garibaldi Lake, reservations are now required for camping at Garibaldi Lake campground and Taylor Meadows campground in peak season (June 29th – September 30th). There are no payment options at the park and camping fees must be paid before entering the park to secure your campsite reservation.
Because of Garibaldi Provincial Park’s close proximity to the coast, the weather can change very quickly at Garibaldi Lake. Visitors should also consider that being 1,484 m (4,869 ft) in a subalpine basin means that temperatures at the lake are also often around 10ºC cooler then they are in the valley, even on the hottest days in summer.
If you’re planning on staying overnight at the Garibaldi Lake campsite mountain-forecast.com is a great resource for checking forecasts for the freezing level, temperatures, snow and rainfall, and sunrise and sunset times.
Sign up to our email newsletter to get regular news, blog posts, and adventure inspiration for Garibaldi Provincial Park and the rest of the Sea To Sky Corridor.