Camping at Garibaldi Lake is one of the most popular things to do in British Columbia and for good reason! Providing unparalleled access to iconic sites like Panorama Ridge, the Black Tusk, Mount Garibaldi, and Garibaldi Lake, the Garibaldi Lake Campground should be at the top of your backpacking bucket list. In this article, we’ve included all the information you need to plan your next Garibaldi Lake camping trip!
Garibaldi Lake Campground Overview
Sitting right on the banks of Garibaldi Lake and surrounded by glacier-capped peaks, old growth forest, and endless hiking trails, the Garibaldi Lake Campground is the perfect base to explore the western Canadian Rockies!
Located just 90 minutes north of Vancouver in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Garibaldi Lake Campground is one of the most popular backcountry campsites in British Columbia. While camping at Garibaldi Lake, you can continue on to Panorama Ridge, perhaps the most iconic view in the southeastern corner of Canada. Or hike to Black Tusk Viewpoint, the easily-distinguished peak that resembles, well, a big black tusk.
If your legs are tired from the 5.6 mile/9 km (3,211 feet/978 meters) hike to reach Garibaldi Lake Campground, you can relax right on the lake shore for the afternoon. Soak in the mind-blowing views and cool off in the cerulean, glacial-fed waters.
In this article, we’ve provided all the information you need to plan your next Garibaldi Lake camping trip, including everything you need to know about permits, what to bring, and what to do once you’re there!
Where is Garibaldi Lake Campground?
Garibaldi Lake Campground is located in the backcountry of Garibaldi Provincial Park in the southwestern corner of British Columbia. Garibaldi Provincial Park sits between Squamish and Whistler, along the iconic Sea-to-Sky Highway.
The trailhead for Garibaldi Lake Campground is about 90 minutes north of Vancouver.
Garibaldi Provincial Park is best known as a hub for outdoor adventures, as it is home to seemingly endless hiking trails, mountains, lakes, and stunning forests. The tallest point in the park is Wedge Mountain (9,485 feet/2,891 meters).
There are approximately 150 glaciers within the park, although recent studies have estimated that the glaciers are the smallest they have been in thousands of years.
- As far as backcountry campsites go, permits are reasonably easy to get.
- Situated right on the shore of a stunning alpine lake with bright teal waters.
- Provides access to several great hikes in the area.
- Busy campground with some sites rather close together. Don’t expect a secluded, remote backcountry experience.
- No views from the campsites.
Other PNW Resources
Looking for more to do in the Pacific Northwest?! We’ve got lots of resources to help you plan your trip!
When is the best time to go camping at Garibaldi Lake?
The best time to go camping at Garibaldi Lake is in July through early October, but depends on what you want to do while you are visiting the campground.
For instance, if you’re planning to hike up to Panorama Ridge or Black Tusk, the trail to the campground might be clear of snow in early July but the trail continuing up to higher elevation will take longer to clear of snow.
Of course, every season is a little bit different and you should always check current conditions before your trip, but we’d say that the trail up to Garibaldi Lake Campground is usually snow-free by early July, while the trail to Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk won’t be snow free until late in July.
If there is a bit of lingering snow, you can certainly still hike, just be prepared with microspikes or other snow gear, such as an ice axe or crampons as needed.
Reservations for camping at Garibaldi Lake
Reservations are required for all overnight stays at the Garibaldi Lake Campground. Garibaldi Lake Campground sites can be reserved up to 4 months in advance of your planned arrival date.
For example, if you want to arrive on July 25 and stay for two nights, you can reserve both nights beginning on March 25.
Reservations become available at 7:00am PT. We made our reservation as soon as the window opened, knowing how popular the campground is. However, we didn’t have any trouble getting a site, so you may be able to get a reservation closer to your arrival date. Regardless, we highly recommend making a reservation as early as possible.
When you make a reservation, you are guaranteed one of 35 tent pads at the Garibaldi Lake Campground. You are not assigned a specific tent pad. When you arrive at the campground, you can find any open site.
Backcountry sites cost $10 per adult per night, with a $6 per tent pad per night transaction fee. Kids under the age of 16 cost $5 per night and kids under age 6 are free.
Garibaldi Lake hike overview
- Distance | 11.3 miles/ 18 kilometers
- Elevation | 3,211 feet/ 978 meters
- Difficulty | Hard
- Dogs allowed | Dogs are not allowed at Garibaldi Lake campground or on the trail to the campground.
Find this hike on AllTrails | Garibaldi Lake
To be super clear, Garibaldi Lake Campground is a backcountry campground, meaning that it can only be accessed via a 11.3 mile/18 km hike with about 3,200 feet/980 meters of elevation gain.
The elevation gain is immediate and constant. While the hike isn’t super steep, the entire journey is uphill, so it’s definitely a bit tiring.
After about 1.5 miles/2.4 km, the switchbacks will start. Over the next 2 miles/ 3.2 km, the trail climbs up a series of 20 relentless switchbacks. Luckily, the trail is wide, well marked, and very well maintained, making the journey just a little bit easier.
After the switchbacks, there is a junction in the trail. The trail to the left goes towards Taylor Meadows. To reach Garibaldi Lake Campground, stay straight and continue along the same trail. This junction is very well marked, so you shouldn’t have any problems.
From the junction, the trail passes by the tiny but picturesque Barrier Lake and Little Garibaldi Lake, before a final push leading up to Garibaldi Lake itself.
Once the lake comes into view, the trail continues on the rocky shore for just a bit longer until it ends right at Garibaldi Lake Campground.
Parking & Getting to the trailhead
The trailhead for the hike up to Garibaldi Lake campground is located off the Sea to Sky Highway, about 20 miles north of Squamish. The trailhead is large and there is additional parking on the road, but parking on the road would add some unnecessary distance to your hike.
This is the same trailhead for both Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk, so expect some crowds. There are pit toilets at the trailhead. From the trailhead, you will immediately enter a beautiful old growth forest, with towering trees and plenty of cool shade.
What to do at Garibaldi Lake Campground
Far from being just another campground in the backcountry, there are tons of super fun things to do while camping at Garibaldi Lake!
1. Hike to Panorama Ridge
Easily the most popular hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park and perhaps the best view we’ve ever seen, hiking up to Panorama Ridge while camping at Garibaldi Lake is a must do!
The hike from Garibaldi Lake up to Panorama Ridge is not an easy one, though. In total, the hike from Garibaldi Lake Campground to Panorama Ridge is 8.3miles/13.3 km and covers 2,312 feet/704 meters in elevation gain.
Even more so, the last stretch of the hike up to Panorama Ridge is rocky, steep, and exposed, so make sure you’re up for a real adventure if you want to tackle Panorama Ridge.
Panorama Ridge was easily one of the most epic hikes we’ve ever done so we wrote an entire article about it here:
2. Hike to Black Tusk
An alternative to the more popular Panorama Ridge trail, the hike to Black Tusk from Garibaldi Lake Campground is 6.4 miles/10 km and covers 2,709 feet/825 meters in elevation gain.
The trail to Black Tusk follows the same path as the trail to Panorama Ridge until a junction about 1.5 miles/2.4 km from Garibaldi Lake. From this junction, you will follow a different trail up to the Black Tusk.
Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to hike up to the Black Tusk viewpoint, but heard that the views are amazing.
3. Paddle board or kayak on Garibaldi Lake
We saw a few fellow campers hike in with inflatable paddle boards and we were super jealous! Of course, it would have been a pain to lug one of those things all the way up to the lake, but spending the afternoon paddling around Garibaldi Lake sounds like absolute perfection.
Try to catch some fishAnother activity we didn’t have the chance to try, Garibaldi Lake is a great fishing spot and is home to a significant population of Cutthroat Trout and Rainbow Trout.
We can certainly think of worse ways to spend an afternoon than relaxing on the banks of Garibaldi Lake while casting a few lines!
Our Experience at camping at Garibaldi Lake
In this section, we’ll tell you all the fun (and not-so-fun) details about our experience camping at Garibaldi Lake. Keep reading for the good stuff!
Getting to the parking lot
We stayed at Garibaldi Lake Campground for one night in early August 2023. We arrived at the trailhead parking lot around 8:45 am and were hiking by 9:00 am.
The parking lot was filling up but not full when we departed. When we arrived back at the parking lot the next day however, it was full and lots of people were parking along the road leading up to the trailhead. We’d recommend arriving no later than 9:00 am in order to get a parking spot close to the trail.
Hiking up to Garibaldi Lake
Our plan was to hike to Garibaldi Lake Campground, relax, eat lunch, and set up our tent for the afternoon and then continue on to Panorama Ridge for sunset.
We seriously underestimated how long and steep the hike up to the lake was going to be! In less than 6 miles/9.65 km, it gains 3,200 feet/975 meters and the climbing is relentless. I don’t remember any flat or downhill sections at all.
The trail is wide, well-kept, and very well-marked. Every junction is clearly marked and a few of the intersections even have maps posted. You’d seriously have to try hard to get lost here!
Setting up camp at Garibaldi Lake
With sore feet and tired legs, we arrived at Garibaldi Lake Campground around 12:00 pm and we were pretty wiped. It was really nice to stop at the campground, unload our packs, and take a good rest, before continuing up to Panorama Ridge.
After the hike up to Garibaldi Lake, we both agreed that we were glad we weren’t trying to do the climb to Panorama Ridge as a day hike.
After arriving at the campground, we looked for a good tent site to set up camp. As we mentioned above, we thought most of the campsites were pretty similar. Some might be a little more private than others and you definitely want to avoid the sites right next to the bathrooms, but besides that, there’s no need to be too picky.
The tent pads themselves were sturdy, in good condition, and definitely made sleeping a bit nicer, providing a flat and elevated surface to sleep on. The Garibaldi Provincial Park website says you can fit two tents to each tent site but we thought that would be really, really tight.
After enjoying lunch sitting on the banks of Garibaldi Lake, we set up our tent, and rested for about 2 more hours. Of course, I was able to fall asleep for a quick nap with ease, while Sarah tossed and turned, unable to get much needed shut eye.
Hiking to Panorama Ridge
With lighter packs and sore legs, we left Garibaldi Lake Campground and began our journey up to Panorama Ridge around 3:00 pm. Knowing that we had plenty of time until sunset at 8:55 pm, we took our time hiking to Panorama Ridge, stopping to take pictures and videos of every new viewpoint.
We were also definitely dragging a bit from having already hiked 6 miles/9.65 km! We finally arrived at Panorama Ridge around 6:00 pm.
You can definitely make it faster than we did. I’d budget probably about 2-2.5 hours from Garibaldi Lake Campground to Panorama Ridge, hiking at an average pace.
Sunset at Panorama Ridge
As you ascend towards Panorama ridge, the views get better and better until you crest the final ridge and are met with the absolute best view I’ve ever seen.
I know it probably sounds like an exaggeration when I say that, but I’m being serious. It’s absolutely insane!
You get 360 degree views, with Mount Garibaldi, the Sphinx glacier, and the teal waters of Garibaldi Lake to one side. Turn around and you get head on views of the Black Tusk! Add in the countless glacier-capped mountains and it’s simply alpine perfection.
The summit of Panorama Ridge is rocky and exposed, so make sure to bring some layers to block the inevitable wind. There are a few different viewpoints along the final ridgeline and they are all spectacular.
We whipped out the Jet Boil, some snacks, some tea, and of course, three cheese mac and cheese and just enjoyed the views for a few hours.
Hiking back to Garibaldi Lake Campground in the dark
We stayed up at Panorama Ridge right up until the sun set but didn’t want to scramble down entirely in the dark so left probably a little earlier than we should have, as the sky absolutely lit up in shades of orange, red, and purple as we were hiking down. It was the absolute best sunset we’ve ever seen!
We arrived back at Garibaldi Lake Campground around 10:45 pm, hung our bear attractants, enjoyed a Snickers, and quickly hit the hay.
We’ve really come to enjoy hiking in the dark – either early in the morning or after sunset. I know some people may be worried about critters rustling around in the woods at night, but as long as you aren’t in prime grizzly country, most animals are going to be more scared of you than you are of them.
There are always risks when you’re hiking alone in the backcountry, whether it’s in the middle of the day or at night. Just make sure you have a good headlamp and extra batteries!
Morning at Garibaldi Lake
The next morning, Sarah woke up early to catch the sunrise at Garibaldi Lake but it didn’t end up being as colorful as sunset the night before. It was still beautiful thought!
We made breakfast, packed up our tent, and started hiking around 9:45 am. We arrived back at the trailhead around 12:15 pm.
Garibaldi Lake camping Itinerary Options
With so many things to do while camping at Garibaldi Lake, we thought it’d be helpful to provide you a few itinerary options based on our own experience.
1. What we did with one night
On day 1, we hiked to Garibaldi Lake Campground, set up our tent, then continued on to Panorama Ridge for sunset. We hiked back to camp in the dark, then packed up and hiked back to the trailhead the next day.
If you are looking to do Panorama Ridge as part of your Garibaldi Lake camping trip, this is the itinerary we’d recommend for you.
We’d highly recommend catching the sunset from Panorama Ridge, but you can also go up there earlier if you don’t want to hike back in the dark.
2. Black Tusk + Panorama Ridge with one night
If you can hike quickly and can handle a long day on the trails, you could hike to Garibaldi Lake Campground, drop your gear, then continue up to Black Tusk, over to Panorama Ridge, and back to camp in one day. Spend the night at Garibaldi Lake and the hike out the next morning.
Day 1 of this itinerary would be an absolute beast so only attempt this if you are an experienced hiker and very fit! And start early!
3. Black Tusk + Panorama Ridge with two nights
If we could do it again, this is the itinerary we would do.
On day 1, hike up to Garibaldi Lake Campground, drop your gear, then continue on to Panorama Ridge and back to camp. On day 2, you can leave everything at camp again and do a day hike up to Black Tusk.
Then on day 3, you could hike out from camp and back to your car.
Other Garibaldi Lake campground details
Here are a few more details you’ll need to know before you head out on your adventure to Garibaldi Lake Campground.
Packing list for Garibaldi Lake camping
Below is a list of gear we’d recommend packing for camping at Garibaldi Lake.
Bug Spray | The mosquitos and flies around Garibaldi Lake Campground can be pretty brutal.
Warm Layers | Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody
Prepare for a chilly evening and morning! Pack extra layers for when the sun goes down. My Arc’teryx jacket is incredibly warm, lightweight and packs down small!
Water shoes | Chacos
Great for wearing around camp or for wading into the lake.
Bathing suit | Is there anything better than laying in the sun on a warm summer day beside the river after hiking 12 miles? The water is cold, but dipping your feet in feels great after long day of hiking!
Compact towel | PackTowl lightweight towel
This compact lightweight towel packs down small, making it great for carrying on backpacking trips and perfect for drying off after taking a dip in the lake!
Bear Spray | Counter Assault
Since there are black bears in the area, carrying bear spray with you is a good idea.
Backpack | 40L Osprey Tempest / 65L Osprey Ariel / 55L REI Co-Op Flash
For one-night backpacking trips, I (Sarah) love my 40L Osprey Tempest! It fits the essentials but is super lightweight. For longer trips and/or carrying more weight, the 65L Osprey is more spacious, really comfortable, and provides more hip support. Matt’s go-to pack for most trips is the lightweight 55L REI Flash.
Backpacking Tent | Mountain Hardwear Aspect 3
A reliable tent makes all the difference in the backcountry, and the Mountain Hardwear Aspect 3 has not let us down. Though it’s not cheap, it’s lightweight (less than 4 pounds), durable, easy to set up and feels spacious enough to fit 2 people comfortably.
Campstove | Jetboil Flash
Picture this: you wake up in the dark in the backcountry, aiming to catch the sunrise somewhere nearby but its so cold you don’t want to get out of bed… then you remember you’ve got a Jetboil and piping hot coffee can be ready within minutes! Morning made.
Coffee | Sea to Summit Collapsible Coffee Filter
If you’re a coffee snob (like me…) who needs *real* coffee in the morning, even in the backcountry, the compact Sea to Summit collapsible filter makes it easy. Pair with the Jetboil Flash and Sea to Summit cups and you’ll have your cup of joe in no time!
Sleeping Bag | REI Co-op Women’s Magma 30 / REI Co-op Men’s Magma 30
At this price point, you can’t beat the REI Co-op Magma 30 (Women’s and Men’s). We both use this sleeping bag, and it’s lightweight enough for backpacking without sacrificing on warmth and durability.
Sleeping Bag Liner | Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner
I’m a very cold sleeper so I often bring this Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner,even for summer nights. It’s super cozy, lightweight, adds 8 degrees of warmth and helps keep your sleeping bag cleaner.
Trekking Poles | Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles / Distance NFZ Trekking Poles
I had always thought trekking poles were silly until one very steep, exposed, slippery hike in Death Valley left me feeling quite insecure even with solid tread on my boots. Immediately after I bought my Black Diamonds and haven’t hiked without them since.
Sleeping pad | Women’s Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad / Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad
I often sleep better on my Therm-a-rest sleeping pad than I do in a hotel bed… this thing is so comfy and weighs only 12 ounces! Only downside I have found is it is a bit noisy if you tend to move in your sleep a lot.
Inflatable Pillow | Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow
This Sea to Summit inflatable pillow is super lightweight and packs down tiny (I’ve actually lost it a few times because it packs down so small), so it’s great for camping and backpacking trips. The best part, it’s shockingly comfortable! I am a light sleeper (in a normal bed), so this is huge for me!
Dehydrated Meals | Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai with Chicken
Backpacker’s Pantry has a huge variety of dehydrated meals that we’ve found to be surprisingly tasty. The Pad Thai and Chana Masala are our all time favorites!
GPS | Garmin InReach Mini
The one piece of gear you hope you never need to use, but is worth its weight in peace of mind. We always carry our Garmin In-reach Mini in case of emergency in areas without cell service and it gives us (and our parents) peace of mind. It can also be used to simply let a loved one know you’ve arrived at your destination.
Headlamp | Black Diamond Storm 400
Navigating around a campsite is nearly impossible after dark without a headlamp. We both use Black Diamond Storm 400’s, and we’ve found them to be reliable and long-lasting despite the compact size.
Water Filter | Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter
There is plenty of water along the trail so we highly recommend packing a water filter to save some water weight. The Katadyn BeFree is small and couldn’t be easier to use.
We’ve compiled a list of our essential backpacking gear, with a downloadable excel spreadsheet to help you prepare for your next adventure!
Is bear proof storage required at GAribaldi Lake Campground?
Bears are active at Garibaldi Lake Campground, so it’s super important that you store your food and other scented items appropriately.
Luckily, there are two bear hangs available at the campground. This means you do no need to brin your own bear cannister or bear-proof bag. However, its a good idea to pack a dry sack or durable bag to pack all your food in that can easily be clipped on the bear hang pulleys.
Be sure to hang all bear attractants (food, toiletries, basically anything that has a scent, etc.) in a bag at one of the bear hangs before you go to sleep.
Are there bathrooms at the campground?
There are two pit toilets available at Garibaldi Lake Campground. We did not use them ourselves so can’t say anything about their cleanliness. However, they smelled pretty freakin’ bad as we walked by, which is honestly why we never used them.
How do I find a campsite at Garibaldi Lake?
When you arrive at Garibaldi Lake Campground, you’ll need to find an unoccupied tent site. The sites are situated up the hill to the right, leading away from the lake. The sites are pretty easy to find and fairly close together (which we didn’t love, honestly).
We walked through the entire campground to see if we could find the best site and didn’t really find much difference between the sites, honestly. Some of the sites are close to the bathrooms so you could catch an unsuspecting whiff of that stench if you choose one of those sites.
But other than that, the sites seemed pretty similar. All of the sites are within a short walk of the lakeshore.
Where can I find water?
You couldn’t ask for a better water source than Garibaldi Lake itself! Usually one of our least favorite camp tasks is filtering water, but when you get views of huge mountains and glaciers, we didn’t mind at all!
Do I need to carry my permit?
When we made our Garibaldi Lake camping reservation online, the instructions said to bring a printed copy of the reservation to hang from your tent site. Of course, we completely forgot to do this and were a little worried we were going to get in trouble! Of course, it wasn’t a big deal.
By our rough estimate, only about half of the tent sites had a permit printed, while the other half was in the same boat as us. We never had any issues and didn’t see anyone else having any trouble.
Now, we might have missed the rangers coming through to check reservations while we were out hiking to Panorama Ridge. So we still recommend printing your reservation and throwing it in a sandwich bag to hang from the post outside your tent site.
Other PNW Resources
Looking for more to do in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon? You may also be interested in these resources:
- A Complete Guide to Hiking Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park
- Backpacking the Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park
- Hiking the Summerland Trail and Panhandle Gap in Mount Rainier
- 20 Best Hikes on the Oregon Coast
- Why You Need to Visit Silver Falls State Park in Oregon
Questions about camping at Garibaldi Lake or hiking in the area? Drop us a comment below!