While quite challenging, this is one of my favorite fall/winter hikes in the Whistler region. This trail features a blue lake (covered in snow in winter), a glacier, and incredible views over the valley. In winter, I would rate the hike to Wedgemount Lake as difficult, only go if you are well prepared for winter backcountry hikes.
In summer, the turquoise waters of Wedgemount Lake make it one of the most popular day hikes around. That’s why I prefer winter: the quiet up there makes this hike so special.
Be aware of the avalanche forecast, always check the conditions before you go.
Photos in this post were taken on November 24th, 2019
🇫🇷 see French version here 🇫🇷
Who is it for?
– Glaciers lovers
– People in good physical condition, the terrain can be challenging (steep, icy)
– People who have already hiked in winter and tried their gear
– No need for climbing experience
Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC
Distance: 14 km out & back
Elevation gain: 1300m
Time (winter): 6 – 9 hours depending on trail conditions and your pace
Features glaciers and a turquoise lake
Camping: Camping is permitted at designated campsites – book on BC Parks website. There are pit toilets as well as an emergency shelter at the lake.
Dogs are not allowed in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
The first part of the trail is in the forest. We walked along Wedgemount Creek for a while. There was also an impressive waterfall on the right of the trail. After about 2 hours of walking, we arrived in open, rocky terrain. A layer of snow has formed on the trail, we had to make our way through the rocks, we could barely see the ground. The trail was however well marked. The snow-capped cliffs in front of us were impressive, it was the first snow of the year that settled on the forest, and we were already in a magical landscape.
The last kilometers before reaching the lake were quite difficult. Some portions were icy, we had to use the microspikes to avoid slipping and injuring ourselves. The trail is not popular at this time of year, we just saw a few hikers during the day. After 4 hours going up, we finally arrived at the lake. The snow and the lack of adequate equipment – the poor quality microspikes did not hold up – had slowed us down well.
At the top
The lake was frozen, covered by a thin layer of snow. It was windy, and it started to snow again. We took refuge in the cabin to try to warm up and have a bite to eat. We shared this shelter with four Canadian hikers, visibly better equipped for the extreme cold than us. After a good break, we decided to walk along Wedgemount Lake to reach the glacier. We moved forward in the fog, which reinforced the mystical atmosphere of the place.
The glacier was a brilliant blue. Two hikers were perched on one side of the glacier. We preferred to stay down and admired it from a little further. After a few pictures, it was time to go back down if we wanted to reach the car before dark.
The way down was much more complicated than the ascent. With only one crampon – of inferior quality moreover – I could hardly not fall. I must admit that I spent a few sections on the buttocks, in human sledding mode.
It took us about 9 hours round trip, including the breaks. Exhausted, we headed back to Vancouver, in a snowstorm. Always fun to drive 2 hours in the middle of a snowstorm after a day of hiking.
I loved this hike, it was mystic and challenging, and it was well worth the strenuous climb. The glacier was the highlight of this trail, the lake being covered in snow at that time.
It was also an opportunity to realize how vital quality gear is, even for microspikes or simple trekking poles. Although we were well prepared physically and checked the weather conditions carefully, we had not invested enough in quality gear, which quickly makes the difference in the mountains. It is essential to learn from your mistakes and continuously improve yourself to stay as safe as possible.
Also, I did this hike in winter conditions, but it was early in the season, the first snow was falling that week. The trail was icy, with no deep snow, and the avalanche risk was low. Before considering that hike, you have to find out about the conditions and go with someone experienced. I strongly advise following an avalanche skills course before planning backcountry hikes.
What to bring?
The 10 essentials ~ to bring for every single hike you do :
- extra layers + waterproof jacket
- water + water filter system
- extra food
- headlamp + spare batteries
- navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger
- first aid kit
- light emergency bivy
- matches, or lighter
- sun protection: sunscreen, sunglasses
Specific gear for this trail – and in general for any winter hike:
- microspikes: always carry microspikes with you even for a snowshoe trip; they are beneficial on well-packed snow or icy parts.
- waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, or at least gaiters.
- gloves, toque, extra socks
- hiking poles – in winter, you can add snow baskets. I rarely use hiking poles, but in challenging terrain, they are quite helpful.
- Insulated water bottle with warm tea or coffee ☕️
How to get there?
Turn right off Hwy 99, 13 km north of Whistler. The parking lot is located 2 km from Hwy 99 along a Forest Service road. No need 4W4 vehicle.
In winter, the parking lot is not plowed (as of January 2021)
All Trails map and reviews from hikers
BC parks general information about Garibaldi Park and camping reservation system
Avalanche Canada to check the conditions
Friends of Garibaldi Park information about the trails and access to trailheads