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Black Tusk Hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park

The view over to the Black Tusk
The view over to the Black Tusk
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The Black Tusk hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park is one of the MUST DO hikes in southern BC. It never fails to amaze.

The Black Tusk, an unmistakable landmark, sticks out from all the other mountain peaks in the area due to its unique appearance. The black volcanic dome is visible from many vantage points along the Sea to Sky Highway. If you ski at Whistler you can’t miss the in your face view from the top of the highest chair lift. It rises to a height of 2319 metres but you don’t have to go to the very top to feel like you’ve done the Black Tusk hike.

Updated December 2020. This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

On the way up to the saddle on the Black Tusk hike
The Black Tusk hike before it gets hard – Photo credit: Anton Bielousov

Details of the Black Tusk hike

Most people start out on the Black Tusk hike from the Rubble Creek parking lot. Initially it’s a tedious six kilometres of switch-backing to reach the junction to Garibaldi Lake.

Fortunately the grade is moderate and you can dispatch with this section quickly. Another 1.5 km of hiking will put you at Taylor Meadows where the views begin – though it’s still 7 km from here to reach the shoulder beneath the Black Tusk.

From the Taylor Creek Campground the trail steadily winds its way up through more meadows and over countless streams. In the summer the area is alive with wildflowers – and in autumn ablaze with fall colours. 

It can be very wet through here too – even in July if it’s a big snow year. Occasional views of the Black Tusk pop into view. It feels more distant than it really is.

It can be wet through the meadows
It can be wet through the meadows

Once through the last of the trees it takes roughly an hour to hike up the moderately steep black talus slopes to the shoulder at the base of the Black Tusk. This section is often snow -covered until well into the summer. When you need to catch your breath turn around and enjoy the views. They become more amazing with each step you take.

Snowfields on the way up to the tusk
Snowfields on the way up the Black Tusk
The view of Garibaldi Lake as you climb the Black Tusk
The view of Garibaldi Lake as you climb the Black Tusk

Stop at the shoulder on the Black Tusk hike or continue?

Once you’ve gained the shoulder you must decide whether to call it a day – which many people do – or to continue to the top of the Black Tusk. The route up from here is well worn and obvious.

It’s the final chute to the top that might turn your stomach especially as it’s a tad airy and the rock is crumbly and rotten.

There’s a gap you need to cross but once over you’re only metres away from the summit. Now take the time to absorb the views of Garibaldi Lake to the south, Helm Lake and Cinder Flats to the east and the Tantalus Range to the southwest.

Looking out from the saddle en route to the tusk
Looking out from the saddle en route to the Black Tusk
The scree slope up to the Black Tusk
The scree slope up to the Black Tusk

Useful information for the Black Tusk Hike

Highlights: High alpine meadows, wildflowers, spectacular mountain views, Garibaldi Lake

Grade: Difficult

Distance: 29 km return from the Rubble Creek parking lot; 14 km return from Garibaldi Lake Campground

Vertical gain: 1,735 metres or 5693 feet

Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park, about 100 km north of Vancouver, 20 km south of Whistler

Time needed: 8-10 hours as a day hike, 5 hours as a day hike from Garibaldi Lake, Taylor Meadows or Helm Creek campgrounds.

When: July through to early October

Campsites: You must reserve a campsite before you go. Reservation fees are $6. Visit the Garibaldi Provincial Park website for more information.

Don’t forget: Dogs are not allowed. Bring bug spray in the summer months. Your cellphone will probably work.

Before you go: Consider purchasing a map of Garibaldi Provincial Park showing summer hikes, campsites and the Spearhead Traverse.

View from Whistler of the Black Tusk
View from Whistler of the Black Tusk

Getting to the Black Tusk Trailhead  

From Vancouver take Highway 99 and turn right (east) onto a road signed for the Black Tusk. Drive 2.5 km to the parking lot. If you’re coming from Whistler drive south 19 km and turn east. If you choose to hike via the Cheakamus Lake trailhead then drive to Function Junction, go east for 500 m until you see a sign on your left for Cheakamus Lake. Take the dirt road for 8 km to the Cheakamus Lake trailhead.

Options: Camp at Taylor Meadows (40 tent sites), Garibaldi Lake (50 tent sites ) or Helm Creek (30 tent sites) and do the Black Tusk as a day hike. Nearby Panorama Ridge is also worthwhile. Reservations are required year round for all campsites in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Did you know that Garibaldi Lake is a ticking time bomb?

I lived in Vancouver for many years before I learned that Garibaldi Lake is a ticking time bomb. The area below the lake has been deemed unsafe since 1981 – and hence the reason there is no camping. If there was ever a big earthquake or even exceedingly heavy rainfall, the lava flow that forms a barrier to the valley could burst – sending a massive cascade of water down the valley.

There’s obviously nothing you can do about it, but you should still be aware of it – so you don’t wild camp on the way up to the Black Tusk. 

More Whistler area reading

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A hike to the Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park

 

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