Backpacking Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Wedgemount Lake Trail Overview
Wedgemount Lake is an out and back hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park rated as difficult. The trail is 7.5 miles round trip with 3800 feet of gain. In order to camp at the lake you need permits, which can be booked here. Permits for all of Garibaldi Provincial Park open up four months before your planned date. We camped in July, so we booked our permits in April. At Wedgemount Lake there are multiple tent pads, a composting toilet, bear hang poles, and a hut for preparing food and hiding out in inclement weather. You can even sleep in the hut (first come first served) but in nice weather the tent pads are much more desirable.
Wedgemount lake is rated as the most difficult hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park. I didn’t think much of that since I climbed Mount Baker two weeks prior, but that may have been a mistake. This trail was grueling with a heavy overnight pack on. If you are familiar with Seattle, it is very comparable to the old Mailbox Peak Trail. If you aren’t familiar with that trail, just don’t expect any switchbacks or easy portions on this hike. It goes straight up the side of the mountain through boulders, tree roots, and even climbing up a stream for a significant portion. Do not let the low mileage fool you, you will not finish this hike quickly.
Doris and I learned about this hike from a fellow hiker when we camped at Garibaldi Lake last August. They described the difficult trail but told us the lake was even prettier shade of turquoise than Garibaldi. If there is one thing I can’t resist, it’s a Gatorade lake at the base of a glacier. After we planned our trip, we watched for weather forecast with concern, as it showed nothing but rain for the length of the weekend. We had an Airbnb booked in Squamish and permits already paid for, so we decided to go for it.
My Trip to Wedgemount Lake
One thing I love about permitted hikes is being able to start later in the day. Doris booked an Airbnb in Squamish for the night before our hike, so we took our time on Saturday morning to make our way to the trail. It was raining fairly hard when we arrived at the trail around 11am and we started the hike with all of our rain gear on.
The rain was fairly awful, so I pulled my usual stunt of rage-hiking ahead of everyone in my group. About a mile in, I realized I was overheating in my shell and rain pants, so I opted to take them off and just get wet on the hike. This was fine until I needed to stop and rest, which would result in constant shivering. I started to worry because my friend Katherine was carrying the rain fly and poles to our shared tent, but I remembered there was a hut I could dry off in at the top. Hiking in the rain can be more dangerous than you think, in fact I recently learned most cases of hypothermia in the PNW happen in wet conditions around 40-50 degrees, and I see how it can easily happen based on my experience on this hike. If there hadn’t been a hut for me to dry off in, I probably would have needed to hike back to my group and then continue hiking with them to camp.
For the most part the hike is forested and lacking in views until you get to the final push to the lake. I arrived at the hut after five hours of hiking and there was a young German woman inside waiting for the rain to stop so she could set up her tent. We chatted a little while I changed into my warm dry clothes. I asked if she planned to sleep in the hut, she didn’t, so I claimed it for our group since the rain didn’t show any signs of stopping. Katherine arrived 45 minutes or so after me and we made hot toddies while waiting for the rest of our group to finish the hike.
Typically, Wedgemount Lake is extremely busy on weekends, but due to the weather we shared this area with only three other campers outside of our group. It was fun to make new friends in the hut as we shared it to prepare food and stay dry from the rain outside. The rain came and went, so whenever we heard it ease on the tin roof, we would run outside to take photos, filter water, or use the composting toilet. The surrounding peaks were covered by clouds for the entirety of the trip, but the cloud cover made the turquoise of the lake even more vibrant.
We went to bed as the light faded inside the hut. Doris and Cody slept on the tables below, while Katherine, Maria, and I slept in the loft above. I fell asleep to the sound of the rain on the tin roof and our collective body heat kept it extremely warm inside the hut. I ended up unzipping my sleeping bag and using it as a glorified quilt due to how warm it was. It was a nice change of pace since I tend to freeze on most of my backpacking trips.
In the morning, we took our time waking up and making breakfast. We hiked around the lake basin hoping the rain and clouds would clear, but unfortunately, they never did. After a few hours we finally called it, packed up and started the hike out. Downhill went much faster than the uphill, but all of the rain made the trail extremely muddy and I fell multiple times. The rain and clouds started to clear on our hike out but came back with a vengeance by the time we all reached the trailhead. We quickly packed up and drove into Whistler for lunch and coffee.
While I wished for better weather, Wedgemount Lake was still extremely beautiful. Having a hut to sleep in at the top and good friends to hang out with made the rain bearable. Doris and I have already planned getting permits for another weekend and trying for a redo in better weather. If you are looking for a beautiful backpacking trip in Canada definitely add this spot to your list!