Switzerland too far away? Here’s some alpine close to home

The forecast was for another warm, sunny weekend in mid-September so we said screw the housework and headed for the mountains. In keeping with our high elevation riding theme from a recent road trip, we chose the Elfin Lakes trail located east of Squamish.

The Elfin Lakes trail is well-known amongst the hiking and skiing crowds for its access to the backcountry within Garibaldi Provincial Park. Although mountain bikers are allowed, it’s definitely most popular with hikers – we estimated about 100 people walking versus about a dozen bikers on a sunny Sunday.

The 11 km trail is really an old road that is still used by BC Parks to bring supplies to the ranger station at Elfin Lakes. Although the “trail” is not singletrack, the alpine views are worth the climb up (total elevation gain is 620 m/2033 ft).

The first 5 kms winds its way through bug-infested forest to the sub-alpine at Red Heather Meadows where you’ll find a day shelter and pit toilet. Apparantly black bears abound in this area so keep your eyes and ears open.

From the Red Heather Meadows the trail levels out occasionally to give your legs a breather before the next steeper pitch. In general, the climb is comparable to Fromme and the road up to the top of Grouse Mountain but is more technical due to lots of rocks and chunder throughout.

Once you hit the sub alpine and alpine, you’ll be surrounded by stunning mountain views. Diamond Head becomes your constant companion.

Remember that big snowfall we had this past winter? We had to cross large remnants of it in several places. Don’t think this is going to melt before the first snow this year.

Mountain bikes are only allowed as far as the Elfin Lakes cabin and campground.

We were surprised to find bike stands at the cabin – how posh! There is a $10 fee to camp or $15 to stay the night in the cabin (which can house 33 people).

Bring a lunch and get a table with a view.

On your way back, ride the singletrack around the lake…

…be prepared to do a bit of climbing to get back to the highest point on the trail…

…then enjoy the 8km downhill back to your vehicle at the parking lot!
If you have the alpine bug but Switzerland is just a dream, take a sunny day off and head to Elfin Lakes.

Useful Bits
The road to the Diamond Head parking area is rough (lots of potholes and washboard). Drive your 4×4 or invite a friend who has one to ride with you.

How to get to the trailhead: http://www.clubtread.com/routes/Route.aspx?Route=157

Garibaldi Provincial Park: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/garibaldi/

The Shady Tree Pub is a good place to finish the day with a burger and beer plus if you forgot your bike lock, you can park below the deck so you can keep an eye on your ride: http://shadytreepub.com/

I’ve been road-tripping to mountain-biking destinations since 1998 and enjoy sharing my adventures. I don’t proclaim to know everything or have the perfect answer but hope this may inspire you to explore beyond your backyard. Enjoy the ride!

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