Hiked Black Tusk in September 2009. Here's a trail guide and some photos.
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- Distance: From parking lot to base of tusk is about 16km
- Difficulty: From parking lot to Garibaldi Lake is moderate. From Garibaldi Lake to base of tusk is moderate. The trail is very well established and in good shape. Climbing the tusk is difficult and very risky, make sure you are comfortable with climbing and heights, and be very careful for loose/falling rocks. Keep in mind that climbing to the peak is discouraged by BC Parks.
- Hiking Time: About 3-4 hours one-way from parking lot to Garibaldi Lake. About 2-3 hours one-way from Garibaldi Lake to the base of the tusk.
Many people do this as a day hike with a light pack, but it can be a very long day. We did it in 2 days, staying one night at Garibaldi Lake, which made for a nice pace with no rush and more time to enjoy it.
- Camping Fees: $10 per person per night camping fee paid at parking lot/trailhead. Be sure to bring receipt with you to be posted at your campsite.
- How to get there: Take highway 99 north from Vancouver towards Whistler. 37km north of Squamish you will cross Rubble Creek Bridge, take your next right onto Rubble Creek Road (if you see a big dam on your right hand side you have gone too far). Rubble Creek Road leads you to the parking lot/trailhead.
- This trail would be best in summer and fall, although lots of people also snowshoe up to Garibaldi Lake in the winter. In August, Taylor Meadows is supposed to be beautiful with all of the alpine flowers coming into full bloom.
- The weather can deteriorate quickly at higher elevations. Always dress appropriately and watch the weather carefully.
- This area can be crazy busy and camping spots fill up fast. In summer months, all the sites at Garibaldi Lake are usually taken by Saturday at 10am, in which case you will need to hike all the way to Taylor Meadows to find a spot.
- Camping is available at Garibaldi Lake (about 9 km in) and Taylor Meadows (about 7.5km in). There are areas for tents and outhouses. At Garibaldi Lake there is also an Emergency Shelter.
- There are no fires or dogs permitted in Garibaldi Park at any time of year.
- Garibaldi Lake and the rivers into/out of it can provide drinking water. We filtered all water from the lake. Above Taylor Meadows there was not much water available, so you should pack it up.
The gigantic volcanic spire known as Black Tusk lies in the heart of Garibaldi Provincial Park, surrounded by some of the most incredible scenery in BC. This entire area is a hiker’s paradise, and a weekend adventure of hiking through Taylor Meadows, climbing to the summit of the tusk, and camping along the shores of the aquamarine Garibaldi Lake barely scratch the surface of what this park has to offer.
I did this hike in late September and we lucked out with great weather the entire time. We arrived at the parking lot early on a Saturday morning and started our journey by about 8am. The first part of the trail is a steady climb of switchbacks up a mountainside forest filled with cedars and Douglas fir. There are occasional viewpoints of the valley created by Rubble Creek that flows downwards toward the parking lot. After about 6km you arrive at a junction, going left will bring you through Taylor Meadows, and going to the right will bring you to Garibaldi Lake. Both ways continue on to Black Tusk. We continued to the right and headed towards our anticipated campsite at Garibaldi Lake. Shortly after the junction, you follow the shorelines of both Barrier Lake and Lesser Garibaldi Lake, and then up the river to another trail junction. Going left takes you to the tusk, and going down the path on the left takes you to the shores of Garibaldi Lake. This is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. The turquoise water colour and the outstanding mountains and glaciers that surround it are breathtaking. To get to the campsite, you cross a bridge over the outflow river from the lake and follow the path to ranger station/emergency shelter. We set up camp and had lunch on the shore of the lake before getting ready to hike to the top.
We hiked back to the junction and continued ascending towards the upper part of Taylor Meadows. Unfortunately, because we came in late September most of the alpine flowers were no longer in full bloom, although it was still quite colourful in the meadows. Soon we could see the tusk ahead, and the trees started becoming more sparse. There is another junction in the upper meadows where you take the left to go to Black Tusk. Another option is taking the right and hike past a few small lakes and on to Panorama Ridge. As we climbed up, looking backwards started to provide us with a great view of Garibaldi Lake below. Soon, we came over a ridge where landscape becomes rocky terrain and Black Tusk lies straight ahead. We climbed up the loose shale up to the ridge at the base of the tusk and stopped for a break.
As we had hiked through the day we had spoken to many people who had climbed to the summit of the tusk. None of them used any special climbing equipment, and most said it was not terribly difficult, but all said to be careful. We decided that we wanted to make it to the top. We carefully made our way around the base of the tusk to an area that looked climb-able. However, after trying it out it seemed way too difficult to be done safely without any equipment. We continued along the base and found the right place, which is called “the chimney”. The first 20-foot climb up the near-vertical face is the most exposed and the most dangerous part. Since the rocks were quite loose we had to make sure only one person went at a time, and very carefully selecting their holds. After this first pitch, there is a narrow chute that you must maneuver up, and then climb to the top of. After this it is fairly easy to get to the peak.
The view from the top was absolutely incredible. Looking south provided an unbelievable view of Garibaldi Lake, surrounded by Mt. Price, Table Mountain, and the towering Mt. Garibaldi. To the north, you could see Whistler Mountain and the surrounding area. We took some photos and enjoyed the view for about a half hour before heading back down the way we came. Descending through the alpine as the sun hovered low in the sky provided a golden glow through the upper meadows. We got back to our campsite just as the sun had set. We made dinner and went to bed pretty early, partially from being exhausted from the day and partially because it got really cold after the sun went down.
We took our time getting ready and enjoyed the morning hanging around the lake. After we packed up camp, we headed down but were in no hurry since we had all day. On the way back, we hiked down to Barrier Lake to check it out. We also stopped for lunch at a big rock bluff overlooking Rubble Creek. We got back in good time and were able to catch a 5pm ferry back to the island. I will no doubt be doing this hike again, same itinerary, only hopefully in August to see the flowers out in full force. Hopefully we’ll be able to find somewhere to set up camp!
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