Where: Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC
Cost: Free (if you carry on to Elfin Lakes and plan to camp, it’s $10 to pitch a tent and $15 to stay in the Elfin Lakes shelter)
Time: Variable based on how far you go. If you just want to go to the warming hut, it should take around 1.5 to 2 hours to get there (more if you go at a very relaxed pace). If you want to go to the top of the peak (this is worth it, as the views are amazing), allow another half hour (the stretch from the warming hut to the peak is approximately 1 km but far steeper than the rest of the trail). If you want to go on to Elfin Lakes, factor in at least 2 additional hours. The total distance for the whole route is 11 km (22 km round trip). The time required to complete the full trail is quite variable depending on the conditions. Allow 6-8 hours for a one-way trip to the lakes to be on the safe side.
Difficulty: The trail is easy for the first bit. You walk uphill the whole way to the warming hut, but the hill isn’t very steep. There is a steeper stretch past the warming hut if you want to go to the top of the peak, but technical climbing skills are not needed, just a decent fitness level (or time and determination).
Required Equipment: It depends on the time of year – in the summer, wear comfortable hiking clothes and shoes; in the winter, bring snowshoes and a ski jacket.
- The forest trail is beautiful and there are amazing views, especially if you carry on to the top peak.
- There is a cute warming hut after the first 5 km stretch. This small cabin has a woodstove and picnic tables, and you can spend as much time as you like there in the daytime, though staying overnight is prohibited.
- This hike is scalable to suit various ability levels. The hike to the warming hut is a good one for most fitness levels as this stretch of hill is not very steep, whereas fitter people will probably want to do the peak or beyond.
- If you carry on to Elfin Lakes and get a space in the cabin, it has cooking stoves, heating, wooden bunks, and lights (solar powered). I haven’t slept there, but various sources say that it sleeps between 30 and 34 people.
- Dogs are prohibited.
- The Elfin Lakes shelter tends to fill up quickly, so you’re not guaranteed a spot if you get there (bring a tent just in case, especially during peak times).
- The warming hut gets pretty full during peak times as well, and it can be difficult to find a place to sit.
- There are lots of bears in the area. If you’re hiking outside of hibernation times, bring bear bangers and be aware of your surroundings (most bears are well-behaved, but occasionally a bear goes rogue).
- Unless you’re very fit, keep your pack light, especially if you want to ascend to the final peak.
- See the SquamishHiatus.com Elfin Lakes page and the Vancouver Trails Elfin Lake page for more information.
For more activity descriptions, visit the main Activities page.
*Conditions and prices may have changed since the time of this writing.
For more photos of the Red Heather Trail, see the Red Heather Trail Gallery.