360 Views and Glacial Lakes: Panorama Ridge
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s the case, then seeing Panorama Ridge in person is worth an entire novel.
The trail to this magical view may be well worn in recent years, but the sheer volume of people should never prevent you from visiting both the lake and the ridge. If you’ve never hiked either and think that it might be too crowded, or over Instagrammed, well, you’re right. But those aren’t reason enough to keep it off your list.
In the last year or so, this hike has absolutely exploded in popularity. On any given weekend (rain or shine), expect to see over 200+ other people along the trail and at the lake. If you want to park in the actual parking lot close to the trailhead and not 700 meters away, then anticipate to start your hike around or before 8am.
I know what you’re thinking, how does this sound appealing at all? And you’re right. It doesn’t. But once you get past all of this, Garibaldi Lake/Panorama Ridge really are all that they’re cracked up to be.
My advice for handling the masses and surviving this 32km trek? Camp overnight at the lake. Not only will this extend your time in the area, but it will break up the 32km hike and allow for some much needed quiet time once all the day hikers have left for the evening. Camping always sounds like a solid plan, but this does mean, however, that you must be proactive and organized, because Garibaldi Provincial Park now requires all campers to make and pay for a reservation online prior to arrival.
This year, registration opened up on June 22, 2016, and by chance, I happened to stumble on the BC Parks website the day before without having any prior knowledge of this new protocol. Rather than trying to book a week before your desired weekend and become disappointed when the campground is full, I highly advise that you book extra early and take a gamble with the weather.
Overall, I’d say that the trail up to Garibaldi Lake is fairly easy. There are definitely some steeper parts and the length is relatively long (9km), but what makes this hike easy is the condition of the trail. The entire 9km is wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side, and it is covered in loose gravel. This means that there are very few roots or rocks to deal with, and you can pass people without worrying about knocking them off the path (which may become incredibly tempting once you pass 100 people).
When you reach the lake, you will want to go for a swim. There’s no such thing as water too cold when you’ve just hiked 9km with a 30-pound pack and are drenched in sweat. Trust me on this one. Don’t think about it too much, just go.
If you want to do Panorama Ridge after you reach Garibaldi Lake and you are only camping for one night, my suggestion is to do it all in one day, and take a two hour break in between. If you leave the parking lot that morning around 8/9am, you will reach the lake before lunch. Drop your bags at an open campsite, set up your tent, and pack yourself a day bag. Enjoy your lunch lakeside and take a quick swim before you head back out to complete Panorama Ridge. You’ll also want to rehydrate, especially if it’s a hot day.
There will be streams along the way to Panorama Ridge where you can fill up your water bottle, so don’t forget to bring a water purifier with you on the hike.
The trail to Panorama Ridge is 14km round trip, so I wouldn’t call it a walk in the park, per se. The first 2/3 of the hike is very scenic, with minimal elevation gain. The trail meanders past mountains, fields with wildflowers, and small lakes, until you reach a sign telling you that you have 3km to go. It’s here that the real climb begins until you reach the summit. Due to the high elevation, there will still be snow patches along the way, but the trail is bare for the most part if you wait until August to go. The last part of the hike is a bit of a scramble, but it’s definitely do-able for an intermediate hiker.
Make sure you catch your breath at the top, because the views and elevation are guaranteed to take it away.
Snap a few Instagram worthy pictures, take in the views, then make your way down the hill either one of two ways: go back down the way you came up, or, slide down the snow patch 100m from the top of the summit. My friends and I reluctantly opted for the latter after much deliberation, but I have to say, sliding on your bum for 500 m instead of hiking down a steep, rocky, slope seemed much more fun after we made it down safely. Side note: There is a large/wide ice sheet roughly halfway down the slide. You do not want to slide on this part. To avoid this ice, before the second hump, walk far to the left of the snow patch and slide there. It’s ideal if there is another group at the bottom to guide you as to how far left you need to go, because it is really difficult to see the ice until you’re on top of it. Side side note: If you choose to slide, keep in mind that short shorts may not be the best outfit choice (discovered based on my own trial and error).
Things to Bring:
- Bathing suit and travel towel
- Inflatable tube (no it’s not as stupid as it sounds. Floating on the water is much more bearable than swimming in it for extended periods)
- Carabiners (for hanging up your food and smelly items in the bear proof hut)
- Water purifier or water bottle with built in purifier
- Deck of cards (and a lantern too if you want to be able to see the cards in the evening)
- Hat and sunglasses
- Pants and jacket for the evening (even if it’s 30 degrees during the day)
- Bug repellant (you’ll thank me later)
- Camp stove, matches, pot, and dehydrated meals (oatmeal for breakfast is your best bet)
- Lots of snacks (i.e. trail mix, apples, Clif Bars, banana chips, dried mango
- Blister bandaids (this is not your average day hike!)
- Change of shoes for the top (runners or flip flops)
- Sunscreen (you’d be surprised how easily you can burn when you’re that high up)
- Bear bell and spray
Despite what you may have been told, Garibaldi Provincial Park is bear territory, and it is actually quite likely that you will run into one. As of late, due to the high volumes of visitors, the park rangers have had to kill two bears. In fact, on the morning of my departure from the lake, I heard a loud gun shot, and it echoed loudly across the lake as everyone in the surrounding area went dead silent. This was a morbid reminder that yes, we’re just visitors to these bears’ home and that it is our responsibility to be bear safe. This means that you must hang up and store ALL items that produce an odour in the bear proof huts including (but not limited to):
- All food and drinks (no matter how sealed you believe they are)
- Deodorant, toothpaste, and mouthwash
- Sunscreen and bug spray
- Shampoo etc.
- Perfume and cologne (even though you shouldn’t be bringing this items camping anyway)
- Lotions and creams
- In addition to this, pack out what you pack in (and more if you see litter), avoid dropping crumbs and food on the ground, and do not cook at your campsite.
- Also, out of common courtesy, please do not wash your dishes in the lake; there are sinks for that purpose, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of swimming in a crystal clear lake next to your leftover rice or oatmeal.
I am not bitter about my experience at Garibaldi, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed by some of the irresponsible things I saw people do while hiking and camping.
We no longer live in a world where we can ignore our impact on nature, and we’re certainly not living in a time when you only see one or two other groups on a hike. The sooner we come realize that we have a greater impact than we think, the closer we will be to taking responsibility for even the smallest of our actions.
Get out in nature and EXPLORE, but do it with love and respect! Ask yourself, is my own convenience worth the life of an animal?
Till next time,