A few years ago my friend, Sarah and I backpacked into Garibaldi Lake, spent the night and the next day did the Panorama Ridge hike In Garibaldi Provincial Park. That’s the civilized way to hike it though it can be done as a very long day hike. No matter what way you do it, Panorama Ridge is well worth the effort as it offers superlative views of Garibaldi Lake, the Black Tusk, and the Helm Lake area.
Panorama Ridge hike summary
Distance: 30 km (18.6 miles) round trip from the parking lot. From the Garibaldi Lake campsite it’s 13.0 km round-trip and Garibaldi Lake is 9 km up from the parking lot.
Elevation gain: 1,520 m (4,987 feet) if you do it as a long day hike.
Time needed: 11 – 12 hours for the Panorama Ridge hike from the Rubble Creek parking lot. Allow 4 – 5 hours as a day trip from Garibaldi Lake or the Taylor Lake Campground.
Difficulty: Difficult as a day trip; moderate from the backcountry campgrounds.
Best time to hike: July until early October
Dogs allowed: No
You will need a day-use pass to do the Panorama Ridge trail. You can book two days in advance of your visit.
You can do the hike as a very long day hike from the Rubble Creek parking lot. But you can also camp at either Garibaldi Lake (where we started) or Taylor Meadows.
It is also possible to do the Panorama Ridge hike from the Cheakamus Lake trailhead but it’s longer and not as scenic.
Carry a can of bear spray that is quickly accessible – and not buried deep in your pack. I’d recommend that you carry it in a bear spray holster so it doesn’t go off accidentally.
Where is the trailhead for the Panorama Ridge hike?
Turn right off of Highway 99 if you’re heading north towards Whistler. The trail is signed for the Black Tusk Recreation Area. It’s a 3 km drive to the Rubble Creek parking lot on a good road. Get to the parking lot early as it fills fast.
At the parking lot you are warned about thieves. Keep all valuables out of sight.
The hike to Garibaldi Lake is in the trees
It’s a slog for most of the way up to Garibaldi Lake. Fortunately you switchback up the mountain through second growth forest so the route never feels too steep.
At 5.5 km you’ll come to a junction. The left trail heads for Taylor Lake and the campground there and the right trail heads for Barrier Lake and Garibaldi Lake.
The fastest, most direct route to do the Panorama Ridge hike is via Taylor Meadows but if you’ve never been to this part of Garibaldi Provincial Park before, I highly recommend visiting Garibaldi Lake – or even better, camping there.
The reward of including the hike to Garibaldi Lake is the awe-inspiring scenery around the lake. I can only imagine how magical the place would be without another soul in sight. But even when the campground is full, the glaciers and lake are completely spectacular, especially in the evening light.
Garibaldi Lake to Panorama Ridge
The route from Garibaldi Lake (elevation 1,500 m) to Panorama Ridge (elevation 2,130 m) is very straightforward and well-signed. Turn north at the fork at Garibaldi Lake, cross a bridge and head up into the forest on switchbacks. Fortunately that section is short and in no time you’re in the meadows – flower filled if the season is right and you get wonderful views of the Black Tusk.
The hike up Panorama Ridge
When the trail reaches the intersection in the sign noted below turn right and head down through heather filled meadows until it reaches a junction. Take the right trail for the Black Tusk junction, Helm Lake, and Panorama Ridge. Continue, passing the fork to the Black Tusk. Enjoy superb views of Garibaldi Lake, Panorama Ridge and Table Mountain.
Continue through wet meadows past Black Tusk and Mimulus Lakes – named by a botanist John Davidson who visited the area over 100 years ago.
Reach an intersection with the Panorama Ridge trail and go right. It’s 3 km to the summit of Panorama Ridge from this point.
Begin the actual hike up Panorama Ridge. In no time you’re on rocky slopes, following cairns with the odd patch of snow around – well into the summer. Continue on the windswept ridge to the top of the first ridge. The rock is loose as you head for the second ridge but it’s a short distance away.
The views from the Panorama Ridge are exactly that – panoramic in scope. Enjoy incredible views of Black Tusk and the Helm Glacier to the north, Garibaldi Lake to the south and Castle Towers Mountain and the Sphinx Glacier to the east. Enjoy a well deserved break on top, and then retrace your steps to the parking lot. Make sure you have enough daylight hours to finish the hike safely. And just in case, carry a good headlamp.
Consider backcountry camping the night before
The best way to do the Panorama Ridge hike is to camp at either Garibaldi Lake or Taylor Meadows the night before. It will be a whole lot easier on your body.
Reservations are required year-round for Garibaldi Lake. There are 35 tent pads at Garibaldi Lake and 25 tent pads at Taylor Meadows, just over a kilometre away. Reservations for the Garibaldi Lake and Taylor Meadows Campgrounds can be made up to 4 months ahead of the date of your arrival starting at 7 AM PST for the first day you want the campsite.
Fees are $10 per person per night and $5 for children aged 6 – 15 in 2023. There’s also a $6 transaction fee per tent pad per night.
The campsites at the campground are not assigned so the earlier you’re there, the better the choice. Check in is after 1 PM and check ou before noon on your day of departure.