Lake Lovely Water: It Really is That Lovely
Lake Lovely Water; I know what you’re thinking. Really? The name couldn’t be more original? Ah, but do not be be fooled, because this lake truly is that lovely. The name says it all.
Well, the name says it all to an extent, that is. What is not implied in the name is the slightly gruelling hike you have to venture on to get up there, or the knee busting descent that follows upon departure. But in spite of these minor set backs, Lake Lovely Water is 100% worth your money, time, and physical endurance.
I asked to go to Lake Lovely Water for my 22nd birthday. No, I wasn’t interested in a Marc Jacobs watch, or a Tiffany necklace—I wanted a real, wholesome, and memorable adventure that I would look back at and smile. I wanted to have an experience, and oh boy, did I ever.
We started our adventure on a Saturday morning and drove to Squamish (Squamish Valley Road to be exact) to reach Jay’s trailer—the man who would be driving us in his boat across the Squamish River. I have to be honest, based on what everyone said online about his services, I was assuming that we would be crossing the river via power boat. Surprisingly, this was not the case. Because it was only the two of us, we crossed the river in you’re average two-seater canoe. I never felt unsafe, but I was a little taken by back the situation overall.
After we arrived at Jay’s, we loaded up his truck with our bags and his canoe, and drove about ten minutes on reserve land on a dirt road to reach the river. According to Jay, it’s a bit risky to park your car on reserve land when you hike to Lake Lovely Water. Locals have been getting increasingly irritated with all the parked cars on their property, and have taken measures into their own hands to ensure that visitors don’t return. This means that when you park here, you run the risk of having your car smashed, totalled, towed, or blocked. There’s no solid evidence of this, but it is implied. It was even difficult for us to reach the river because the gate to the dirt road was closed and we had to drive through a heavily bushed area instead. Thankfully, because Jay is a local, he knew how to get around and to the river.
When we made it to the river’s edge, we loaded up the canoe and Corbin helped Jay paddle across the river to the other side. And we were off!
It took us four hours in total to reach the lake. It had rained the night before, and the trail was very wet and slippery. This made our progress that much slower on top of the many breaks we took. I’m used to steep hiking, but the elevation of this hike combined with the rugged trail and long length really made it a challenge for both of us.
Looking back, I would have packed many more waterproof layers. Even though it wasn’t raining when we left, the heavy rainfall from the night before meant we had to bushwhack through drenched greenery, and step in numerous mud puddles and creeks. By the time we reached the top, I was just as relieved to give my legs and feet a rest, as I was to take off my water logged hiking boots (note: see my post from last week on what boots I wear and other hiking gear that I took with me on the hike).
In terms of the hike itself, it starts out gradually along the river and then slowly makes its way up until it becomes incredibly steep at the top for the last hour and a half. After meandering along the Squamish river on a flat section for the first 15 minutes or so, you should be making your first turn to head up. Make sure you look for the bright trail markers so you don’t miss the turn like we did. If you do miss it, that’s okay—that just means you will most likely end up walking up along the second creek bed, which is filled with large rocks and boulders.
Mistakes do happen, but at least this hike allows you to make a wrong turn without causing you to become completely lost. Instead of taking the marked trail up at the first turn, we ended up walking up the creek bed for 35 minutes until we saw numerous trail markers on either side of the river. At that point we turned right to go up the correct trail. From then on the trail was very clear, but if we had taken the correct path at the first turn, we would have avoided climbing over all the large boulders that we did.
About an hour from Lake Lovely Water the trail becomes very steep—picture Grouse Grind kind of steep. Without a pack, this isn’t such a challenge, but when you add 25-35 pounds to your back, you have to be careful that you don’t fall backward. The momentum of the bag can easily carry you in the wrong direction if you’re not careful.
Once you reach the the lake, however, the sketchy trail will have been well worth the sweaty grind.
It feels like hidden gems are hard to come by these days, but this is truly one of the last few standing. The towering snow-capped mountains stand as a bold backdrop for the emerald green lake, and everything about the location will leave you in awe. The lake is glacier fed, so yes, this means that it’s ice cold, but that didn’t stop Corbin and I from jumping in in the rain when we arrived (if you had smelt us after the hike you would have agreed that this was not a choice, but a necessity).
You have two options for sleeping arrangements at the lake: you can pay $25 in advance per person per night to stay at the Tantalus Hut, which is equipped with everything you might need, or alternatively, you can choose to camp for free at the beach campground, which is located halfway along the lake on the left side. I highly recommend paying the $25 and staying in the hut, simply because it’s an amazing way to meet new people. There’s also lots of board and card games in the hut, making for an eventful evening with strangers, who will become your friends in no time.
While staying in the hut, you will have full access to two row boats and two canoes that you can take for part of the day to explore the perimeter of the lake. There are a handful of hikes that start from the side of Lake Lovely Water and take you to beautiful spots and other smaller lakes.
During the day, you can relax by the lake, read, set up a hammock, play board games, venture on smaller day-hikes, canoe, or explore the waterfalls and beaches on the Lake. This is a chance for you to not only unplug (literally, since there is no electricity or cell service at the hut), but also spend some quality time in the serenity of nature. This is something many people miss out on in their busy lives, and I believe that this kind of undisturbed peace and quiet is so critical for our mental health.
The descent back to Squamish is a long and steep one—mentally prepare yourself for a bit of a scramble down the mountain for the first hour and a bit. Poles may help you, but in many instances, you will simply need to use both your hands to support the weight of your body down certain sections. It took us three and a half hours to reach the Squamish river, where we waited for a ride from Jay.
I hate to leave this post on a negative note, but the remainder of our trip was partially ruined by what came next. Jay was suppose to pick us up that afternoon, but when we called to say that we were earlier than the agreed time, he informed us that he had decided to go paragliding instead, and would send over some locals/friends to pick us up instead.
Fair enough, I thought; might as well take advantage of the weather. Unfortunately, however, the “service” that we received from his friends was far from acceptable. We arrived at the river’s edge an hour and a half early, and I was fully prepared to wait there until our original pick up time: 4pm. As it turned out, our ride didn’t come for another two hours on top of this. Side note: We had seen cougar tracks on the beach shortly before sitting down to wait for our pick up from Jay, which left both of us feeling incredibly unsafe and vulnerable with nowhere to run to.
When Jay’s friends finally did arrive, we were shocked to say the least. They were four locals—two of them with open shirts, or in other words, not fully clothed—and all of them were either drinking beer or smoking weed, and more than once, I was complimented on how “beautiful” I am.
They picked us up in a boat with a small motor, but we were not given life jackets and the motor was close to kicking the bucket at any moment. Upon arrival on the other side of the river, I felt both fearful for my safety and relieved to be that much closer to home.
I was offered both weed and beer while we waited for three of the men to load the boat back on to the trailer, and I tried my best not to appear too nervous or skeptical. Eventually, we set off in the car, with one of the men standing up in the bed of the truck, howling like a wolf and spilling his open beverage near our bags. Meanwhile, the other three men continued to drink in the truck as they drove us ten minutes along the dirt road to our car, which was parked at Jay’s house. Despite my escalating doubts, we made it back safely to our car and drove back to Vancouver before dark.
In all honesty, this last experience tainted the weekend a bit, but served as a reminder that you can never be too trustworthy of anyone, regardless if you pay them $100 for their services or not. Overall, this was a weekend I will never forget, and looking back, I walked away from Lake Lovely Water with mixed emotions: delight and peace mixed with a bit of fear and anxiety as well.
I hope you’ll consider Lake Lovely Water when making your next bucket list, while also taking into account the best way to get there for your physical ability and comfort zone.
Things to note:
Bring bug spray if you don’t want to be eaten alive in the evenings.
If you stay at the Tantalus Hut (which I highly recommend instead of camping at the beach) you can use the canoes for free.
There are many small streams and creeks where you can fill up your water bottle during the hike. Just ensure you bring a water purifier with you. I highly recommend the Pristine water bottle, which I took with me on the trip; it worked like a charm. No pump filtering is necessary, you just fill up the water bottle and drink from the spout.
If you are not physically able to hike up to the lake (very understandable considering the incline of the trail), you can either take a helicopter or float plane up, which each cost roughly $200 a person round trip. You can also hike up and helicopter down as well.
It is well worth it to haul alcohol up to the hut! Everyone who stays in the hut gets very comfortable with one another because you’re living in such close quarters, and having a few beverages (I recommend bagged wine for ease of transport and waste) is a fun addition to your evening(s) up there.
The hut is fully equipped with anything you might need—sleeping pads, pots, pans, cutting boards, cutlery, knives, bowls, plates, cups, 4 element propane stove, lanterns, toilet paper, decks of cards, etc.