Most of my hiking goals have been focused in the US but seeing how close Vancouver was from Seattle I knew I’d have to go. I didn’t think I would get up there so quickly but I have a great hiking partner who’s just as curious as I am!
We were looking for hikes in Bellingham when we realized with just a little more driving we could venture into Canada. So we set our sights on the Elfin Lakes Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park! The plan was to snowshoe to the Elfin Lakes Hut 11km(6.84miles) from the trailhead. To stay in the hut you have to make a reservation which you can do so here: BCparks It holds up to 35 people and it books up quick.
We drove up Friday night in bad weather and stayed in an Airbnb in Squamish, BC so we could get an early start Saturday. It was only a 30 minute drive to the Diamond Head parking lot where we’d start our hike. The last couple miles were uphill on gravel that quickly became covered in snow. At one point there was a Ranger who made sure everyone had tire chains on so we threw on our new chains for the VW Jetta and went for it. We made it to the last turn before the lot and that was good enough. It was only a short walk to the trailhead where we’d run into 2 other rangers who where just returning from a multi day ski tour. They said they witnessed 45 avalanches across the winter route which is extremely unusual. Not having avalanche gear we would have to alter our plans. Luckily there is another hut 5km into the hike. I read you can camp next to the Red Heather Hut in the winter as it’s just a tiny space for warming up and boiling snow. We were smart in bringing our tent so the show went on!
There was a lot of snow!
We expected nasty weather all day but the morning wasn’t too bad until it became a white out.
We were stoked to make it the Red Heather Hut where we could take refuge. It seemed like all 35 people who set out for Elfin Lakes where in there. Most decided to make it a day trip but one well prepared Canadian group decided to go for it. We picked their brain and found out we should each have an avalanche beacon, a probe, a shovel and the knowledge of how to use them. We planned on taking a course asap. We ended up chatting with a few other groups and everyone was incredibly kind. We didn’t mind being trapped in a blizzard with them! We would only venture out to play with the friendly whiskey jacks. The rangers must have thrown down some seeds for them.
Sorry seats taken…
They are fun and majestic little creatures!
We’d go back and forth between playing in the snow and sitting by the stove with our hotty toddies! A few hours later while playing with another whiskey jack the clouds swept away and there was Alpha Mountain saying hello!
Only 4 groups including us were still there and we all went crazy. The clouds just vanished and all that was left was fresh powder, crunchy mountains and a blue bird sky! We quickly geared up and headed up the trail to see how far we could make it without going into avalanche area. Apparently Friday night saw record snowfall so we were in an untouched paradise of snow!
With every step I was blown away. Across the Squamish River and the Sea to Sky Highway the Tantalus Range was out and shinning.
About half way up Round Mountain one of our neighbors from the North asked if we would like a photo with his badass camera. Of course we obliged.
Check out Rob Nelson as he has an incredible eye for photography! @robnelson4 Robnelson.ca
Every time I thought our joy was peaking we found new heights! We stopped where the summer and winter routes separate and made our own tracks to see the view north. There was so much snow and it was beautiful!
After a snack we headed back to the hut. Only one of us brought sunglasses so we shared and one of us was blind at all times. It gave us two different perspectives of one of the best views I’ve ever had! The rest of the day we relaxed with big smiles as our expectations where drastically exceeded. The pro photographer and his friends were celebrating a birthday and were super fun to be around. They ended up heading back but left us with some fruit and chocolate! Since then we have stayed in contact and we are lucky to call them friends!
Those left were us, twins with their father and one father in law and a mother and son. The mother and son kept to themselves but came in the hut to warm up every now and then. The guys were friendly and told us stories while keeping the fire a blaze. We really appreciated that!
Soon it became time to sleep in the snow! Luckily I had collected proper gear with many thanks to my family and stayed warm in my 10° quilt from Enlighted Equipment.
We woke up early and despite no real sunrise it was picturesque.
It stayed dry and weather only got better as we snowshoed our way back. What a wonderful stay at the Red Heather Hut! We definitely want to go back for the Elfin Lakes Hut.
I loved the trees covered in moss and snow!
With clear skies we caught a bunch of views we didn’t even know existed on our way up. One view was like a window looking over Squamish and the Howe Sound. One rock in particular caught my eye and I instantly desired to climb it. It was the 2nd largest granite monolith in the world, Stawamus Chief.
From there it was a quick hike down to the car. Very satisfied we took our sweet time driving back to Seattle.
The views along the Sea to Sky Highway were unbelievable especially since we could only see white fog when we drove in. For food in Vancouver we stopped at Tim Horton’s! When in Rome right? The rest of drive home was also awe inspiring as every big peak was out and shinning! Baker, Glacier Peak, Rainier and the sweet Olympics as we finished up our day at home. We’ll be making a lot more trips to the beautiful British Columbia!
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