If you’ve ever done a hike near Vancouver or skied at Whistler, the chances are you’ve seen a black tusk (or white tusk in the winter) standing out amongst the mountain peaks. I’ve seen it from multiple vantage points around Vancouver, from the North Shore mountains to Whistler Mountain Peak, and have been meaning to go on a Black Tusk hiking trip for many years! This year, the weather, camping reservation luck, and Thom’s willingness to hike aligned, and I finally ticked the Black Tusk hike off my ‘to hike list!
If you’re looking to do a Black Tusk, BC hiking trip here’s what you need to know from Black Tusk hiking, other hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park such as Panorama Ridge and Garibaldi Lake and more.
A Black Tusk Hiking Trip
Plan your Black Tusk hike with this Vancouver hiking guide!
About the Black Tusk
The Black Tusk is one of the most popular scrambles in the Vancouver area. This doesn’t mean it’s easy! It’s just a very recognizable peak in a very popular location. You should still take a lot of caution climbing it, know your limits and take a helmet!
Black Tusk is within Garibaldi Provincial Park and though there are several ways to reach it, the most popular and easiest way is from Rubble Creek trailhead. Another good option is from the Cheakamus trailhead via Helm Creek (note this access was closed most of the summer due to bear activity)
The Squamish nation knew the Black Tusk as the ‘Landing place of thunderbird” and believe the bird that lived up, the thunderbird here could flap its wings to create thunder and shot lightning from its eyes at any who came too close to the summit.
Luckily, the Black Tusk scramble ends just before the true peak (which is basically inaccessible unless you’re a very, very strong climber) so we didn’t get a lightning bolt shot at us!
How to get to the Black Tusk trail
The easiest way to get to Black Tusk is to park at the Rubble Creek parking lot. This is the same one you’d park at if planning to hike to Garibaldi Park and, in most cases, to Panorama Ridge. It’s well signposted and is just off Highway 99, south of Whistler.
The Black Tusk hike
The Black Tusk hike can be split up into a few sections. There’s the notorious switchbacks on the way to the lake, the beautiful, open Taylor Meadows, the beginning of the climb to the Black Tusk, and then the Chimney and the final scramble to the peak!
We stayed two nights at Garibaldi Provincial Park, heading up after work on Friday and camping at Taylor Meadows, completing Black Tusk on Saturday morning, Panorama Ridge for sunset, and then hiking back down Sunday morning. While you can do Black Tusk as a day trip, it’s a long day and it’s far more enjoyable to camp overnight.
Black Tusk hike stats
Here are the deets you should know before you hike Black Tusk.
- Difficulty: Hard
- Time: 8-11 hours
- Distance: Around 26km
- Elevation gain: 1,661m
- Distance from Vancouver: 1h45
Rubble Creek Trail Head to Taylor Meadows
The trail begins with just under 6 kilometers of hiking through the forest. The forest is beautiful, but the switchbacks, which get closer together towards the end, are a bit tiresome. While they’re not too steep, they’ll definitely get you warmed up for the rest of the hike!
Around 5.6km you’ll come to a junction where you can head left for Taylor Meadows, and right for Garibaldi Lake. If this is your first time hiking in this part of Garibaldi Provincial Park, I’d recommend going right to take in the views of Barrier Lake and The Barrier viewpoint.
The Barrier was formed as a result of huge lava flows from Clinker Peak on the west of Mount Price during the last ice age and it’s an impressive view!
You could carry on from The Barrier up to Garibaldi Lake before heading up through Taylor Meadows to Black Tusk too. This route is slightly longer than if you take the more direct trail but definitely worth doing.
On this trip, we took the trail to the left and headed straight up to Taylor Meadows to pitch up our tent for the night.
Taylor Meadows to Black Tusk turnoff
Taylor Meadows is what makes the hikes in this area of Garibaldi Provincial Park so beautiful! The area is more open and you get great views of the mountains in the park and the Tantalus Mountain range on the other side of Squamish.
Every time I’ve walked through here my head keeps spinning to make sure I don’t miss out on a brilliant view!
This part of the hike is flat and depending on the time of year you pass you may be walking among wildflowers too.
This is also the area where I always see a bear – we saw two on this trip! – so make sure you are making some noise, staying aware, and always hike with bear spray!
As you come to the end of the meadows, there’ll be a small trail sign pointing you to the left and uphill. Take this path to begin the final stretch to Black Tusk
Black Tusk turnoff to the shoulder
The climbing starts up again at this point as you’ll hike among streams, grasses and get some beautiful views of Garibaldi Lake to your right. As you follow the trail uphill you’ll come to a large information board and a sign marking the end of the maintained trail.
The information board has some interesting information about how Black Tusk was formed and the geology of the area. It’s also a great place to take a break before you climb up!
From this point forward the trail is more rubbly/scree and not as easy to walk on. There’s no exposure at this point.
After climbing up this part of the trail, you’ll come to the top of a ridge. This area has such amazing 360-degree views of Garibaldi Park and the surrounding area. You can see Whistler Peak and the ski area and Mt Garibaldi itself. If you’re not sure about doing the final scramble, it’s still worth coming up to this point for the views and the close-up of Black Tusk itself!
The shoulder to the Black Tusk chimney and the summit!
If you are planning on hiking to the summit of Black Tusk, you’ll make a left at this ridge and walk along with the tusk to your right. Soon you’ll come to a point where you can see what’s referred to as the Black Tusk Chimney. At this point, your helmet should be put on, it’s not already!
The chimney involves some climbing up the sharp rocks. The climbing itself isn’t too tricky, but if you’re someone who has a fear of heights then I wouldn’t recommend it. You’ll be enclosed on three sides by the rock and there are a few tight sections where you’ll have to squeeze your way through a little bit. At the top of the chimney, there’s a dead-end in front of you. You’ll want to climb up to your right and then follow the faint path through the scree to the summit.
Follow this path on your way down too, just be aware that you’ll likely have to wait for others who are coming up – be patient as there’s not enough room for two to pass!
The summit views are stunning and arguably better than Panorama Ridge. I think Panorama Ridge is better for views of Garibaldi Lake, but for views of the whole area, the award definitely goes to Black Tusk.
While we were navigating the chimney we had seaplanes overhead which was cool but also a little scary as they seemed SO close!
To return, follow the trails you took up here.
Black Tusk Camping
If you’re planning on doing some Black Tusk camping, you’ll need to reserve a camp spot through DiscoverCamping.ca in advance. These campsites book up very fast and can be booked up to two months in advance.
Taylor Meadows campground is where we stayed and it’s a great campground with quite a lot of spots and a fairly large shelter for cooking in. There’s also Helm Creek campground and Garibaldi Lake campground. I’ve heard the campground at the lake tends to be the noisier of the three, it’s also slightly further away from Black Tusk than Taylor Meadows is.
What to pack for hiking the Black Tusk, BC
- What to pack for a multi-day backpacking trip. This was our packing list for Berg Lake, but you simply pack fewer clothes for an overnight trip.
- A helmet: we used our climbing helmets, but a ski helmet or similar would do the trick. It’s important since the trail is busy and if someone accidentally knocks a rock off and it hits you on the head as you’re climbing up, that’s not good news.
- Bear spray: I usually see a bear (or two) when hiking in this area of Garibaldi lake. Bear spray is vital!
What to know about hiking Black Tusk, Whistler
- Before hiking the Black Tusk trail make sure to check the conditions. You can find the trail conditions by checking recent reviews on AllTrails or Vancouver Trails, looking at recent Instagram photos, or asking in Vancouver hiking Facebook groups.
- Always check the Black Tusk weather and Garibaldi weather too! Just because it’s forecast to be sunny downtown that doesn’t mean it’ll be the same up there.
- Bears are in the area, know how to avoid bear interactions and what to do if you see one. Check out this bear safety post for more information.
- LEAVE NO TRACE This is not only just ruining the natural surroundings but it puts both other hikers and bears in danger. If bears get used to human food they become more of a risk to us and put themselves at risk of being killed.
- This is a HARD hike with a scramble Just because you’ve seen a lot of photos on Instagram that doesn’t mean it’s an easy hike. You need appropriate footwear and a good level of fitness to really enjoy this hike.