The route is an old road once used to access the old Diamond Head Lodge -- now a part of history. What remains is a jeep road that is still used by B.C. Parks to supply the ranger station at Elfin Lakes. It's generally a good double-track except for some loose rock and a few muddy areas after a rain.
The hiking trail-head is 16 kilometers from the Sea-to-Sky highway (99) at an elevation of 1000 metres. If you park at the trail-head the area has seen a bit of criminal activity by local dysfunctionals so be sure to take valuables with you or keep them out of site.
The first 3.5-4 kilometres from the trail-head are the steepest until you get to Red Heather Meadows (1450metres). A great waterfall on the way provides a fresh cold drink. The meadows in winter provide perfect terrain to practice your tele-turns. In another 2.5 kilometres the high point of Paul Ridge (1660metres) is reached. The vistas open up and you can see your destination another 5 kilometres in the distance. Mt. Atwell can be seen as the diamond shaped peak to the north, the areas namesake. On the north the spire in behind is the actual summit of Mt.Garibaldi (2678metres). The route is completely surrounded by mountains: the Tantalus Range to thewest, Mt. Garibaldi and Diamond Head to the north, Mt. Mamquamto the east. All have glaciers which cascade to tree line.
Before and during the last ice age about 15-20,000 years ago Garibaldi Provincial Park was one of the premier volcanic areas of the Cascades. The Garibaldi Massif is in fact an old volcano. The sides have eroded away leaving a lava plug that still stands today. Mt. Atwell (Diamond Head) is mostly composed of compressed unstable muds. Black Tusk in Northern Garibaldi Park is another example of this volcanic geology.
A gentle descent to Elfin provides superb riding around granite outcrops, past stunted alpine fir and through meadows of flowering heather. Eventually, the 11-kilometre track ends atthe shelter and ranger outpost at the lakes. Campsites in the area make the trip suitable as an overnighter. Deeper in the park, many hiking options exist. Don't forget the sunscreen.
One final note, if hiking up in late July or August, the hot hike up (or ride, this is one of the few areas that allow bikes up to the Elfin Lakes shelter area), is compensated for by an incredible swim in the larger of the lakes. On a hot end of July day, our trio made straight for the lake, and while some find it still cold, others swim. It's clear cold water. The adjacent lake near the Ranger station is for drinking water.
Other adjacent hikes in this Trail Network:
Elfin Lakes to Little Diamond Head: Length, 7 km; suggested time, 2 to 3 hours one way; elevation change, 625 metres. This is a fairly arduous hike past the Gargoyles (strange visages sculptured by nature in lava) to 2,100 metre Little Diamond Head.
Elfin Lakes to the Opal Cone: Length, 6.5 km; suggested time, 2 to 3 hours one way; elevation change, 250 metres. Trail leads down to Ring Creek then climbs the Opal Cone, an extinct volcano with a crater. Garibaldi Neve and Mamquam Lake can be seen from the top.
Elfin Lakes to Mamquam Lake: Length, 11 km; suggested time, 4 to 5 hrs one way; elevation change, 570 metres. A strenuous hike that follows the route to the Opal Cone and then continues eastward past the Rampart Ponds. The trail descends to the lake from here. Overnight camping is NOT permitted.
Items of Importance:
Mountain bikes are permitted on the trail from the parking lot to Elfin Lakes only. Please obey the signs.
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