Diamond Head and the Elfin Lakes Shelter
A day use Shelter is located at the Red Heather Meadows, 5km from the trailhead. This hut has picnic tables and a wood stove. The Elfin Shelter is 6km further, 11km from the trailhead.
The Elfin Lakes shelter is an often visited hut just south of Mt. Garibaldi, in the Diamond Head area of Garibaldi Provincial Park. It is probably the best equipped backcountry hut in the Coast Mountains, owing to considerable investment from BC Parks. The hut is heated by propane, and there are propane lamps and propane burners for cooking on the main floor. Don't rely on the burners for a busy weekend though - there are only 3 and the hut sleeps 30. Also, a few large pots are provided for melting snow or boiling water from the lakes.
A ranger station nearby is usually staffed (at least on weekends).
|The route and terrain described here is capable of producing avalanches. Safe travel requires the skills and equipment to assess and mitigate avalanche hazards. A professionally taught training course is highly recommended.|
The most worthwhile ski tour in the area is the Garibaldi Neve Traverse. If you (or the weather) aren't up for that then there is plenty else to do. BC Parks marks a safe winter route along the top of Paul Ridge with big orange poles from the Red Heather to Elfin Lakes. This route is a popular out and back tour for beginner skiers and snowshoers. The poles lower the risk of getting lost or accidentally wandering into avalanche terrain.
The Diamond Head area of Garibaldi Park is a hotspot for backcountry skiers looking to get in some turns without going too far from Vancouver. The runs are short, but an easy short approach and good easy to moderate skiing terrain draws the crowds. Early season is the busiest because the meadows around Red Heather have very few rocks and can be skied with little snow.
Most people who go yoyoing here only ski the open meadows above the Red Heather Shelter and the bowls on the north side of Round Mountain, but this area has some really great tree skiing. A little exploration will certainly yield some good turns in the spacious old growth forests. Coming off the top of round mountain, point your skis to the skiers right of where you think the Red Heather Shelter is and go explore.
Around the cabin, there are some good north facing runs west of the cabin along Paul ridge. These are okay, but short, and they aren't as good as the terrain around the summit of Round Mountain. There are also a couple of good longer runs off the Gargoyles and Columnar Peak, although these are steeper, south facing and get ruined by too much sun. For bad weather, a nice tree skiing run descends east from the cabin down into Ring Creek. This run goes on a lot farther than it looks, so go down there and check it out.
Beautiful alpine meadows and good views of Mt. Garibaldi are the main attraction around here. Mamquam Lake is another 11km past the cabin.
Mount Garibaldi and Atwell peak are nearby.
The Diamond Head parking lot is reached by driving Mamquam road which leaves highway 99 a few kilometers north of downtown Squamish (there is a Canadian Tire store at the corner). Follow Mamquam Road east past the Squamish Country Club, and through an industrial area. Here the road begins a long climb, passing through the sea to sky university campus. After a few houuses the road forks; take the left fork to Garibaldi Park. It is 14.5km from highway 99 to the upper parking lot at 950m elevation. y part. From Squamish, follow Mamquam road east until it turns to gravel and climbs way up into the mountains. Keep on the main road, and turn left at a junction after passing a few houses. There are 2 main parking areas - one at the end of the road and one about 2km down just short of a steep hill. In winter, don't go beyond the lower parking lot if you don't have chains as snow conditions can change very fast on the road with all the traffic. Use caution, this road is notorious for mishaps. It's only a 30 minute walk up from the lowest parking area to the highest, which is a lot less time than it takes to get your car out of the ditch.
From the parking lot, an old jeep road and a hiking trail head into the alpine, first to the Red Heather Shelter, and then on to the Elfin Lakes shelter. Mountain bikers should stick to the road, hikers should stick to the trail. Skiers and Snowshoers should follow the road to Red Heather, and then the winter route along the top of Paul Ridge to avoid avalanche hazards. The winter route is marked with bright orange poles, usually put up in early December by the rangers. It's about 11km from the upper parking lot to the cabin by any route.
The area has a long history of use for both hiking and ski touring. The Park was created in the 1920s, and the Diamond Head area was one of the first areas to see significant use. The original Diamond Head Chalet dates back to the late 1940s. The building is still there, although it is slowly decaying and is unsafe to enter, with one wall completely collapsed.