Some of the most beautiful hiking trails are located in and around Garibaldi Provincial Park. Formed by lava flows from volcanic activity, this area is host to glaciers, meadows of wild flowers, as well as the impressive spire of the Black Tusk, a pinnacle of volcanic rock visible from miles around. If you’ve looked out from the top of 7th Heaven or Peak Chair, you’ll have seen the mighty Black Tusk, known to First Nations Squamish People as the "Landing Place of the Thunderbird".
The Tusk, a dramatic, extinct volcano.
Like the Panorama Ridge hike, the hike to this ancient stratovolcano can be accessed from the Rubble Creek parking lot 25km south of Whistler. You will see the blue sign for Black Tusk (Garibaldi) from the highway, turn left here. Rubble Creek is a large parking lot but it fills up quickly, we recommend arriving before 8am.
As you begin, the dirt trail climbs switchbacks for the first 6km until you reach the first junction. Going right takes you to Garibaldi Lake, left goes up to head up towards Taylor Meadows and eventually on to Black Tusk & Panorama Ridge. 1.5km on from here, you reach Taylor Meadows, a campground that serves as an ideal base camp if you want to do Panorama Ridge & Black Tusk in the same trip. This hike is just about doable in the day, but unless you're a hardcore trail runner and/or hate your calf muscles, camping is recommended. Please note - you can only camp in the designated camp sites in Garibaldi Provincial Park and can book a spot via their online booking system. Wilderness camping (or camping outside of a designated campsite) is strictly prohibited.
Elevation gain: 1740 metres
Car required: Yes
Season: July to September
Camping available at designated campsites by reservation only at Taylor Meadows, Garibaldi Lake or Helm Creek.
At the end of the meadows, you arrive at Black Tusk Junction where you turn left for Black Tusk or right for Panorama Ridge. Here the real ascent begins, the path climbs relentlessly, passing over trickling streams and under ancient rockslides. Watch out for bears in the grass and don’t forget to look back and enjoy the view of Garibaldi Lake below.
As the trail progresses, the trees become sparse until they eventually give way to a bare, rocky terrain where you can really start to appreciate the volcanic environment. Climb and climb until the trail finally ‘ends’ on arrival at a BC Parks sign with a full view of the Tusk behind it. This is technically the end of the trail, but many hikers choose to continue to sit right under the Tusk itself. Read the BC Parks sign carefully and understand that continuing further is at your own risk and it is not safe. Falling rocks from hikers ahead of you and rockslides, are a very real danger. There is no maintained trail from this point, and it becomes a scramble over loose shale towards the base of the Tusk. This is a pretty savage way to end the hike, as with every 2 steps forward you take, you sink down and slide one step back. It is exhausting and at this point most people lose their sense of humour. The trail eventually emerges onto a ridge at the base of the Tusk that offers an incredible 360 degree panoramic view view of Whistler, Cheakamus and the entire area surrounding Garibaldi Lake.
Once you've sat down to bask in your achievement (on some very uncomfortable rocks) - keep a safe distance from the cliffs around you. There are many points where a fall would mean death. Although it is possible to make it onto the peak of the Black Tusk, it is extremely dangerous, it is not recommended and should ONLY be attempted by experienced climbers with proper safety equipment.
Looking back on Garibaldi Lake
Once you reach the meadows you then have a glorious walk through a relatively flat section for a few kilometres, with giant plants and ancient trees that make you feel like you're in Jurassic Park. It is important to walk only along the boardwalk/trail in this ecologically sensitive area as the vegetation can take years to regrow if trodden on.
Drink lots of water and make sure you leave the Tusk with enough time to get back to your campsite/car in daylight. For more tips on how to optimise your camping trip and to stay safe, check out our Hiking 101.