By Emily Sayward
Last year my brother (and awesome hiking partner) Steven mentioned that he’d like to hike Black Tusk. Without even hearing any of the stats or seeing the pictures, I knew it was one I wanted to do. With a name as majestic as that, I knew it would be epic. In mid July we climbed it, and it did not disappoint. Located in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Black Tusk is the most spectacular mountains in the area, and I even dare say in this fine province of ours.
With over 1700m in elevation and nearly 30km in length, Black Tusk can be done in a day; however, some people prefer to hike to Garibaldi Lake or Taylor Meadows and camp overnight, and then hike to the Tusk the following day. With other overnights planned this year, we ran out of time and had to do with guy in one day. One lonnnnnng day.
Start your hike from the wooden steps in the upper section of the Rubble Creek parking lot. The manicured, well-marked dirt trail climbs steadily up switchbacks for the first 6km until you reach a junction. Going right takes you directly to Garibaldi Lake, and the trail to the left leads to Taylor Meadows (and eventually splits to go to Panorama Ridge or to Black Tusk).
Taylor Meadows is absolutely gorgeous and was a highlight for me. After the seemingly endless switchbacks, and the impending steep tusk, the flat, beautiful wander through the meadows of wildflowers was a nice reprieve. Looking back over your shoulder grants breathtaking views of Garibaldi Lake and the snowcapped Tantalus Range.
Eventually, you arrive at a junction with a map and wooden bench. Continue going straight along the trail for a short distance and watch for a sign and trail on your left that point the way to Black Tusk (continuing straight will take you to Panorama Ridge. Don’t worry though – this is all well marked on the trail!)
The trail to the Tusk from this point climbs quickly, passing over small runoff streams and evidence of rockslides that have occurred over thousands of years. After soaking in the stunning, lush, vibrant scenery, you virtually round a corner and the terrain changes completely into a treeless, rocky, shale and lava rock barren land that looks prehistoric. In the back of my mind I felt like it wouldn’t be impossible to see a T-Rex pop out from around the Tusk, and I overheard some other hikers say the same thing!
The trail leads you onto a small ridge at a BC Parks sign with a full view of Black Tusk ahead. The sign gives interesting facts about how the Tusk was formed, as well as informs hikers that this is the end of the maintained trail and to proceed with caution. It is easy to see where to continue from here as it’s a popular trail, but it is very tough (but fun!) from here to the top. Until now, though long, the hike has not been overly intense or grueling. This is where you’re going to make up for that!
The next section of trail is a scramble over very loose shale towards the base of the Tusk. The shale slides with each step you take making it seem like you slide back one step for every two steps you move forward. Imagine trying to run up an escalator that’s going down. It’s exhausting work, but there are two small ridges that you can stop at along the way for a break without fear of sliding down while you stop moving.
The trail eventually emerges onto a ridge next to the base of the Tusk that offers a scenic view of the entire area surrounding Garibaldi Lake. As you near the tusk, the trail narrows and each side has serious drop offs. Be careful. This is not for people with a fear of loose footing or heights. Slipping will have serious consequences here.
* Most hikers end their hike to the Tusk at this point before heading back. Although it is possible to make it onto the peak of the Tusk it is not recommended as it is extremely dangerous and discouraged by BC Parks. However, it is sometimes attempted by experienced rock climbers with the proper equipment and training. To reach the chute that you can climb to the top, follow the base of the Tusk, stepping carefully to make sure you don't slide down the hill. The shale is very loose and pulling yourself up through the chute generally pulls off pieces of rock from the Tusk. Even experienced rock climbers must keep in mind that they have to come back down this same route. You will need to bring proper gear including a helmet to do last part. * (copied from www.vancouvertrails.com)
After enjoying the view, it's time to head back down. What I liked about this park in general is that you can really make the day your own. The trails to Garibaldi Lake, Panorama Ridge, and The Black Tusk all cross paths many times, so you can decide what route you’re like to take. We stopped to talk with many hikers throughout the day and everyone seemed to be doing something different. We went to the tusk via Taylor Meadows, then to the Lake and back to the TH from there. Others did the opposite; or skipped the tusk and did the Ridge… you get the point. You could go many times and change it up each time.
If you have questions, feel free to email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow more of her adventures on instagram here: https://instagram.com/the_wandering_willow/