Elfin Lakes


One of the Sea to Sky's most classic backcountry hikes

The Elfin Lakes hike is typically a full-day affair, but there is the option to camp if you’re feeling like an overnighter (highly recommended, it’s a gorgeous place to wake up!). The trail begins at the Diamond Head parking lot and the first 5km are spent on a wide, gravel road that winds its way through old growth forest, past a small waterfall and eventually up to the Red Heather Meadows. There is a day use shelter here with a wood stove, and it makes for a good rest stop. Just after the Red Heather Shelter, the second part of the hike (6km to Elfin Lakes) gains some elevation onto Paul Ridge and breaks into the sub-alpine. The views here are breathtaking and continue all along the trail. Shortly after, about a half hour into the hike, the trail climbs to the high point of Paul Ridge, at 1660m. From here, the trail moves slightly downhill to wind its way toward Elfin Lakes. 

The two Elfin Lakes are visible from a ways off and the mountains and glaciers beyond provide an achingly beautiful backdrop to the area. The first and larger lake is fine for swimming and on a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than jumping in to cool off. The second lake is for drinking water and swimming is forbidden.

Adjacent to the second lake are the ranger cabin, day-use shelter and the Campground. There are over a dozen, wooden camping pads that overlook the valley beyond and once you see them, you’ll have wished you brought a tent. The Elfin Lakes Cabin is just beyond the campground and is a fully equipped hut with cooking utensils, stove and can sleep up to 22. Contact BC Parks for more info.

This is one of the best hikes in Squamish and is not to be missed. Plan on a full-day adventure, so bring plenty of water, extra food and clothing and remember that weather in the mountains can change in an instant. Be prepared for self-rescue.

Getting There

From the Sea to Sky Highway, turn east onto Mamquam Road (there are signs for Garibaldi Park Diamond Head) at the Canadian Tire Store. Turn left onto Highlands Way S and take the first exit at the roundabout onto The Blvd which will change to University Blvd. After passing Quest University take a left back onto Mamquam Road. The road will turn to gravel and while it is maintained year-round, in the winter months it can be hard-packed snow and a 4WD and chains are required to reach the upper parking lot. From there, the trail begins right at the sign.

Oh, You'll Want To Read This

Beginning June 14, 2023, people using the trailhead at Garibaldi Park will need to obtain a free day-use pass. Passes are available to book starting at 7am, two days in advance of your planned visit.

The second lake is for drinking water and swimming is prohibited.

Between October and April, tire chains are mandatory on the Garbalid Park access road due to ice and snow. If the road is clear of ice or snow, you are still required to have tire chains available in the vehicle.

Snowshoes or skis and skins are required for winter travel.

Cycling is permitted from the parking lot to the Elfin Lakes shelter. Bicycles are not permitted beyond this point and must stay on the main trail.

Type: Biking, Hiking, Trail Running
Area: Diamond Head
Difficulty: Intermediate
Duration: 6 - 8 hours
Distance: 22 km
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