Hiking Opal Cone: Squamish's Land of Ice and Fire

Posted on: September 4, 2018

Hiking Opal Cone: Squamish's Land of Ice and Fire

Please check BC Parks website for updates and further information before heading out into the backcountry.

Hiking Opal Cone: Squamish's Land of Ice and Fire

Opal Cone is one of the crown jewels of Squamish. The remnants of an ancient eruption, it is surrounded by iridescent colours across the spectrum. In front of you lies the thousand-year-old ice of Lava Glacier, to your right are numerous teal glacial tarns and to your left is mesmerizing red and black volcanic ash. Small scuffs of snow can be seen year-round only adding to the range of colours. 

Similar in distance and difficulty to hikes such as Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk, the views from Opal Cone rank just as high and we assure you the journey is well worth the effort.

DirectionsHiking Opal Cone: Squamish's Land of Ice and Fire Image

Photo: @wildcoasttales

Opal Cone shares the same trailhead as Elfin Lakes beginning at the Diamond Head parking lot above Quest University. From Highway 99 take the Mamquam Road exit  (next to Canadian Tire in Garibaldi Village). Take a left on Highlands Way before turning right to follow University Boulevard past Quest University. Past the university, turn left turn left on Mamquam Road and continue on the Garibaldi Park road all the way to the parking lot. Though steep in sections, most cars can handle the dirt road section on Mamquam and Garibaldi Park Road, 4x4's are not required. Chains are required from October to April. 

The Route Hiking Opal Cone: Squamish's Land of Ice and Fire Image

Photo: @cassieberkson

Follow the Elfin Lakes Trail all the way to the lakes before splitting off to reach Opal Cone. Many choose to spend the night in the shelter or camping to split up this otherwise very long 35km hike. From Elfin Lakes go in front of the shelter to a marked junction approximately one hundred metres from the cabin. Follow the trail marked Opal Cone/Mamquam Lake. After a few kilometres and some elevation loss watch for Ring Creek winding through the valley below you and for views of Opal Cone on the right-hand side of the creek. Descend to the creek and cross it via a sturdy metal bridge. 

After crossing the creek, the trail recoups the elevation you lost by grading itself uphill parallel to the creek before leading to a series of switchbacks. After the switchbacks enter a lush meadow, depending on the time of year wildflowers can be seen from every direction.

Continue to follow cairns leading upwards and right through a section of trees. Once past the trees go left at the marked junction to Opal Cone, continuing straight leads to Mamquam Lake. Gain a ridge and enjoy views of numerous glacial tarns on your right. The final push after the ridge is very steep and on loose dirt. Keep in mind you will descend the same way you came so assess your level of comfort before continuing.

Make your way to a very large boulder at the top of the slope, follow the cairns to cross the boulders and reach the top of the cone. After enjoying the views at the top descend the way you came. 

Good to KnowHiking Opal Cone: Squamish's Land of Ice and Fire Image

Photo: @dani__sea
  • Time: Plan for the trail to take you between 10-11 hours
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Distance: 35km round trip from the Diamond Head parking lot, 7km roundtrip from Elfin Lakes
  • Dogs: Dogs are not allowed in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
  • Camping: Camping and hut reservations must be made in advance on the Discover Camping website. 
  • Facilities: There are outhouses at Red Heather Hut and Elfin Lakes. There are no toilets past Elfin Lakes, carry a waste bag and pack it out.

BC Adventure Smart​Hiking Opal Cone: Squamish's Land of Ice and Fire Image

Photo: @acrohiker

Your investment in Trip Safety can mean the difference between a successful outcome and becoming a statistic. Whether your activity is during the summer or winter, or on land or water; make sure you take the essentials, have a trip plan and have the proper training. You can find out more at BC Adventure Smart's website

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