Wedgemount Lake is the yardstick by which all other mountain lakes should be measured. There's no getting around it, this hike is tough. There is almost no section of it that isn't aggressively uphill, gaining 1160 metres in just 7km. And like some of the best hikes in the area, it ends with a scramble - this time up an old rockslide. Going back down ain't so easy on the knees, either. But if you're willing to suffer a bit (or a lot), the payoff is absolutely worth it for this mountain paradise.
To get there, drive 11km north of Whistler, until you see a blue sign saying Wedgemount (Garibaldi). It appears not long after you lose sight of Green Lake. Turn right here and cross the bridge into Green River campground, then turn immediately left onto Wedge Creek Forest Service Road. At the next fork shortly after, turn right and head up the just-about-drivable-without-4WD gravel road to the parking lot 1.5km ahead. Most cars get up here without issue as long as you drive sensibly.
The trail begins with a deceptively minimal incline as it meanders its way through second-generation growth forest. After about 20 minutes, you come to two bridges that cross Wedge Creek, and the ascent really begins. The switchbacks are steep and unforgiving. When you cross the second rockslide, and the trail briefly mellows out, you are about halfway.
Elevation gain: 1160 metres
Car required: Yes
Season: June to September
Camping available at one of 20 designated tent sites, hut access available by reservation.
Wedge Hut - available for booking on Discovercamping.ca
Keep climbing, and an hour (or two) later you will reach the treeline where the trail opens up to reveal a beautiful view of the valley. At this point you will probably ask yourself what the hell you are doing, especially when you catch sight of the rockslide you now have to scramble up. But when you are at the point shown in this picture, you're almost there! Take a deep breath, have some water, look at the view behind you. It will all be worth it in about 20-30 minutes of scramble. This last section of the trail is certainly the
steepest and can be tricky as you climb your way over the unsteady rocks.
There aren't any obvious trail markers, but you will see where the rocks have eroded from use by other hikers. Follow these marks, using your hands to support you as you carefully climb up this section, watching your footing on the wobbly rocks. At the top, when you think "oh my God how are we not here yet", the trail reappears and mercifully starts to level out as the glacier creeps into view. Just few more
minutes and the Wedge Hut becomes visible as well as the unbelievable cyan-turquoise water comes into view.
There are 20 beautiful tent pitch spots located around the edge of Wedgemount Lake, some are higher and on wooden platforms, others are right down by the lake's shore. These spots all must be reserved on Discovercamping.ca. The same goes if you would like a spot inside the lovely (but basic) Wedge Hut, run by the BCMC (British Columbia Mountaineering Club). This prevents overcrowding or people being stranded when they arrive and discover they have nowhere to sleep. The camping fee of $10/person/night helps maintain the pristine beauty of the area (and keep the outhouse in shape). The hut technically sleeps 6, but I would say more like 3 comfortably, with room to cook etc. As you open the door, you will see two large wooden tables, one on each side of the room, and one small window (which doesn't always close very well). The tables are mostly used for cooking but if need be, could be slept on. You will see a steep ladder going straight up to the loft, where up to 4 can sleep (there are mice up there, so maybe bring earplugs if that idea bothers you). The interior is bare, well-worn wood, but is kept tidy and clean. There is an account in the guest book (well worth a read) of a lady arriving one day to find a bear in the hut, and last time I spent a night there we were seranaded by a cougar screaming as we went to sleep. This place is remote, so be prepared for some interesting noises!
Tip #1: Bring layers! No matter how hot it is on the way up, this glacial lake gets COLD. If you are staying the night, wrap up warm.
Tip #2: Leave early to avoid doing the toughest part of the hike in the heat and pack as light as you can. Obviously don't forget a head torch and water, but leave the dry shampoo at home. Day hikers without a pack can do this hike in a couple of hours (one way), but the serious elevation gain means that carrying a heavy overnight back will slow you down a lot. The first time I did this trail, I turned back after ten minutes, dripping in sweat, and left half my overnight supplies in the car.
Tip #3: If you are doing the Wedge hike in a day, make sure to leave plenty of time to return as the descent takes just as long as the ascent. Heading down can be difficult due to the sheer steepness, especially in spots with loose earth and slippery wet tree roots. It's killer on the joints and you'll likely be very sore the next day.
Tip #4: I'll say it again, 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.
Hikes from Wedgemount Lake
Wedgemount Lake is a popular base camp for those hoping to reach further summits. The most popular and arguably most dangerous is the scramble up to Wedge Mountain itself. It is the highest mountain in all of Garibaldi Park and the Garibaldi Ranges. You climb ANOTHER 1300 metres (even more elevation gain than from the trailhead to Wedgemount Lake) this time across steep boulder fields, a long glacier and the spectacular wedge-shaped spine that gives it its name. If you are going to attempt any of these scrambles, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia by Matt Gunn in order to better inform yourself. You can purchase one from this link or from Armchair Books in Whistler Village. Make sure you are fully prepared as this is another 5-7 hour round trip from Wedge Hut.
The Wedge-Weart Col is possibly the easiest hike from Wedgemount Lake. A col is just the term for a ridge between two higher peaks. This hike is a long scramble through the boulder strewn terrain to the Wedge Glacier, then a tricky ascent up Wedgemount Glacier, so make sure you are fully trained in glacier travel. It is deceptively far, so be sure to allow 5 hours roundtrip, hut to hut.
Mount Cook is a relatively easy hike from Wedgemount Lake, though still long and challenging. There is a visible worn trail leading to a scramble up the top through steep boulder fields, though the trail is still easy to lose. Those who reach the top will be rewarded with tremendous views of Wedgemount Lake, other lakes around it that you didn't know existed, the surrounding mountains and all the way down to Green Lake and Whistler Village.
The best views however can probably be found from Mount Weart. For this reason it is probably the most popular of the branching hikes from Wedgemount Lake. It quite a difficult scramble, with an 800 metre ascent and requiring some route finding skills. it takes 4-7 hours round trip depending on your fitness level.