Explore Squamish - March 15, 2018

10 Things to Expect on a Trip to Elfin Lakes

Photo: Photo: @tyrelljohnstone

10 Things to Expect on a Trip to Elfin Lakes

If you plan on heading up to Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Park this spring there a few things you should know before you go. To help, we created a top 10 list of useful information. Know before you go!

1. Chains Are a Must

Yes, you will absolutely need chains to reach the parking lot for the trailhead, not only are they required (October to April)  but they make the drive up a much smoother process. We recommend putting the chains on before you need them to keep the flow of cars moving smoothly.

Turn east off Hwy 99 onto Mamquam Road 4 km north of downtown Squamish (not Mamquam FSR). Follow the paved road alongside the Squamish Golf and Country Club. Turn north onto Highland Way S, turn east at the roundabout and head up and through Quest University. Turn left onto Mamquam road. which becomes Garibaldi Park road. Follow this road until you arrive at the parking lot. It is 16 km from the highway to the parking lot, located at 914 m elevation.

2. The Return Trip is an All-Day Affair

The trail to Elfin Lakes is 11km each way, it is not an after-work activity so please leave yourself a full day to complete the hike.

3. Watch for Skiers (and Snowboarders)

Share the trail with the skiers, they stick around pretty late in the season so be aware and try to move over if you see them coming so they can get down easily.

4. There is a Permit System for Overnighters

If you wish to camp overnight or sleep in the hut you will need to purchase a permit prior to arrival at the trailhead. Permit prices are $15 per person for the cabin and $10 per person for the campground. You can purchase your permits on the Discover Campsites website.

5. The Snow Sticks Around Longer Than You Expect

Due to the elevation of the trail, snow often lingers many months of the year, the lakes themselves sometimes remain frozen until early July! You can check conditions of the trail on the BC Provincial Parks website under trail report or try typing Eflin Lakes into the search bar of Instagram to see recent posts.

6. The Scoop on Parking

You will use the Diamond Head parking lots to access the Elfin Lakes Trailhead, there are two available lots one lower and one upper. If there is still snow on the access road and you don't have a 4-wheel drive vehicle we recommend parking in the lower lot and walking the extra 2km to reach the trailhead. This section of the road is much tougher to drive on, and it's an easy walk. 

7. What Lies Beyond the Lakes?

People often ask what lies beyond Elfin Lakes. If you plan on being in the area for multiple days and want to go exploring you can continue along the trail to the Gargoyles or to Opal Cone. Please note these trails are far less travelled than the trail up to Elfin Lakes so if you plan to go please be sure to bring a map and compass and understand how to use them. 

8. What is Red Heather Hut?

You will pass by another, smaller hut on your way to Elfin Lakes. Red Heather Hut is a warming cabin and is not meant for sleeping except in the case of emergencies. It is an excellent place to warm up and have lunch on your way up to Elfin Lakes, there is a stove with gas, two tables with seating as well as a log burning stove that heats the hut. 

9. Follow the Marked Poles Not the Ski Tracks

You will see plenty of ski tracks zig-zagging in every which direction along the trail. Be careful not to confuse these tracks with the actual path. The trail to Elfin lakes is marked with poles the entire way, so look ahead for the next orange poll to make sure you are on the correct path.

10. Where Are the Best Views

There are many beautiful views along the Elfin Lakes trail. The first of which occurs about halfway to Red Heather. Keep your eyes peeled for a clearing in the trees and look left for sweeping views of the Howe Sound naturally framed by snow-covered trees. After that, the most breathtaking spots lie beyond Red Heather Hut along Paul Ridge (a few kilometres after the warming hut). Once you arrive at Elfin Lakes you will be surrounded by towering snowy peaks. If you plan on staying the night remember to look up after the sun sets, the stars have a habit of twinkling brilliantly above the hut.

Snowshoe rentals are available at Escape Route, Valhalla Pure OutfittersFlying Spirit Rentals and at the Sea to Sky Gondola.

Not experienced in the backcountry? Why not brush up on your skills or hire a guide with one of our partners, Altus Mountain GuidesCanada West Mountain School and Mountain Skills Academy.


Related News, Blogs, Events & Experiences

Canada West Mountain School

Escape Route

Flying Spirit Rentals

Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures

Sea to Sky Gondola

Valhalla Pure Outfitters