One of the most beautiful lakes near Vancouver is the glacier fed, turquoise Wedgemount Lake, located in the northern region of Garibaldi Provincial Park, northeast of Whistler and south of Pemberton. The Wedgemount Lake hike is one of the lesser known ones in Garibaldi Provincial Park, but also one of the most difficult trails.
But the reward will take your breath away: magically turquoise Wedgemount Lake, surrounded by Wedgemount and Armchair glaciers, and giant mountain peaks, including Wedge Mountain, the highest in Garibaldi Park (2891 meters). In addition to the fabulous lake views, you can also get really close to Wedgemount Glacier, which makes this hike unique.
Wedgemount Lake is not nearly as famous as Garibaldi Lake, but it’s a great alternative if you’re looking for a similarly beautiful glacial lake setting. Neither of the trails are very scenic until the very end though, the majority of the routes are grueling forest grinds, with barely any views.
Also, you need to be fit to conquer this challenging trail up to Wedgemount Lake. While it’s not technical, I recommend this not to be the first hike you ever do in the mountains.
Hiking Wedgemount Lake Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park
The Wedgemount Lake hike can be done both as a day hike and an overnight hike. I understand why lots of people like spending the night on the shore of this stunning lake, but Csaba and I felt that carrying 3-year-old Tomi up the trail would be enough of a challenge for us. We did it as a day hike on a sunny September day.
Wedgemount Lake hiking essentials:
Wedgemount Lake Trailhead
To get to the Wedgemount Lake trail parking, follow Highway 99, the Sea to Sky Highway, from Vancouver to Whistler, then continue for about 13 km from Whistler. You’ll see a sign for “Garibaldi (Wedgemount)” after you pass Green Lake, that’s where you need to turn off the highway.
Cross the train tracks (with care as it’s an uncontrolled crossing), then cross the bridge over Green River, and turn left onto the Wedge Creek Forest Service Road. We were rarely happy to take any forest service roads with our sedan, but this 2 km until the Wedgemount Lake parking is fine. The logging road is bumpy, but take it slow, it’s accessible for all vehicles.
The parking lot is clearly signed and quite large. There’s also an outhouse. As you start the trail, it immediately crosses a bridge over Wedgemount Creek, then turns right into the forest.
The forest grind
And you remain in the forest for the majority of the hike. But this is not a casual stroll through the forest, as it turned out to be the case most of the time on our hikes in the forests of British Columbia. It’s your typical BC forest trail with dirt, large tree roots and rocks, where you occasionally need your hand to help pull yourself up some old roots. It’s a steep forest grind, with no views on the way.
At around 1450 meters, you’ll reach a huge boulder field, crossing some rocks and creeks. Then you’ll be back in the forest, gaining more elevation with each step.
You’ll hear a roaring waterfall, and soon you’ll catch a glimpse of it, too. Wedgemount Waterfall drops over 300 meters, and it must be a spectacular sight, but you can’t get a good view of it, just a few peeks among the trees in the distance.
At around 1750 meters, you’ll leave the forest behind and get your first view. You’ll be in an opening below Rethel Mountain, and you better watch your steps as the trail climbs up a steep embankment. This is very slippery, be careful not to lose your footing on the sandy-rocky terrain, and use your hands if needed.
Reaching Wedgemount Hut and Wedgemount Lake
Once you conquer that short, but very steep section, you’ll find yourself looking at Wedgemount Hut and looking down fabulous Wedgemount Lake, surrounded by the giant granite peaks. (There’s an outhouse next to the hut, as well.)
Now comes the only downhill section of the Wedgemount Lake trail, as you hike down from the hut to the lakeshore. The hiking trail runs around the northern perimeter of the lake, crosses a few creeks flowing out from the Armchair glacier. You can continue all the way down to the lakeshore, take a dip (if you dare!) or have a picnic. We chose the latter as the lake is fed by glaciers, and it’s freezing. I put my feet in for a few seconds, and it was enough.
You might as well turn back from here, but we have a better suggestion. A short, albeit steep, addition is the hike to Tupper Lake, and it takes you really close to Wedgemount Glacier. Continue around to the eastern perimeter of the lake, then start hiking up the boulder field.
Getting closer to Wedgemount Glacier
The trail up to Tupper Lake is obvious and easy to follow, though it’s steep uphill (again) through a boulder field. But it’s short enough so that you’ll soon find yourself on the shore of Tupper Lake. Its color is similar to Wedgemount Lake, but it’s much smaller. What makes it truly special is that it sits directly below the impressive Wedgemount Glacier. The glacier has been rapidly receding, its terminus is now around 300 meters from the lakeshore.
Soak in the views. Then it’s really time to turn back, and return the same way.
How difficult is the Wedgemount Lake hike?
It’s one of the most difficult hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park, with an elevation gain of more than 1300 meters in just 6 km. The hike is not technical, there’s no exposed sections and very minimal scrambling. It’s mostly a forest grind, but you need to be reasonably fit to complete it.
Experienced mountain hikers will likely not find anything particularly challenging about it, but hikers with less experience might find it extremely challenging both on the way up and down, especially if you carry a heavy backpack for an overnight stay at the lake.
If you think the descent is surely easier, well, it’s not. Due to the steepness of the trail and the rugged terrain, we didn’t find it easier at all, and it’s definitely hard on your knees.
While Csaba carried our 3-year-old son on the trail, it’s definitely not a family-friendly one. Tomi is an energetic boy and an eager hiker, but the terrain is so rough and steep that he wouldn’t have been able to cope with it with his little legs even if he hadn’t refused to walk in the first place. The only section which was suitable for him was the lakeshore trail along Wedgemount Lake – where he happily walked.
What is the best time to hike Wedgemount Lake?
The trail is open all year, but the hike to Wedgemount Lake is a summer objective for most people. First of all, Wedgemount Lake is covered with ice and snow between October and early July, so to enjoy its beautiful turquoise lake views, you need to hike there somewhen between early July and early October.
On the other hand, due to the steepness of the trail, it’s not an easy one to do in the snow, and you have to be prepared and geared up for a winter hike there. Avalanche paths cross the trail, as well, which are yet another reason not to attempt the hike without proper training and winter hiking experience.
Are day passes required at the Wedgemount Lake Trailhead?
No, for the 2023 season a Wedgemount Lake day pass is not required for access, which makes it a great alternative for other, busier Garibaldi hikes. But it might change in the future, and also, keep in mind that it is more challenging than other Garibaldi hikes.
Day use passes in the 2023 summer season are required for Diamond Head, Rubble Creek and Cheakamus Lake trailheads.
What to bring on the hike to Wedgemount Lake?
Be prepared to be outside all day, because this hike will take the full day. Have extra layers as weather can change suddenly, and have enough snacks and drinking water for the day.
You don’t necessarily need to carry huge amounts of water to Wedgemount Lake though. About 2 liters on the way up should be sufficient, then you can refill from the lake. It might be possible to refill at the creek crossings, too. Do use a water filter in every case though, water needs to be treated before you drink it.
As always when hiking near Vancouver, have bear spray, and wear it at an accessible place.
Hiking poles are very helpful on this trail. They will take the load off your legs on the way up, and save your knees on the way down.
If you hike from early to mid-summer, bring bug spray, because mosquitoes and flies can be really bad at the lake. They are mostly dead by late summer though, and the beauty of September hikes include the absolute lack of mosquitoes and flies.
A down jacket will keep you warm in the morning or evening hours, or on a cloudy day. The lake is at a high enough elevation that it gets quite chilly even in the summer if the sun disappears.
Wedgemount Lake camping
The Wedgemount Lake campground is a backcountry campground with 20 campsites, ten up near the cabin and the other ten down by the lake. It’s open year-round, but reservation in advance is required. It guarantees your spot but not a specific tent pad, that’s on a first-come first-serve basis.
The Wedgemount Lake hut is meant to be used for emergency situations only, as posted on the front.