Hut Lake Backpacking Trip

Please excuse the late post for this week – I have been having so many great adventures this summer that it’s been a struggle to find the time to write about them all!

As a result, I have a bit of a backlog of trips to write about, the first of which is Hut Lake, which I visited in early July. Vancouver had a really terrible Spring this year – it was very rainy and cold – and as a result, the snowpack in the mountains was extremely slow melting. I was planning to do an alpine hike in Pemberton, but it still had snow AND avalanche risk, so I had to come up with a back-up plan on short notice.

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So many of the hikes I want to do have a short season because of the snow, so we really had to rack our brains to find something that was both low elevation and dog friendly. In search of a trail, I took to my regular hobby of just scrolling around the GaiaGPS app and seeing what I could find. I focused on the Squamish area and discovered a few lakes that I had no idea existed.

The first is Levette Lake, which is very well known by the locals. When the road is freshly graded, anyone can drive all the way up to the lake, though later in the season I’m told the road conditions can become variable for lower clearance. There is a rec site at Levette, so you can pay to camp there, but we were looking for something a bit more remote and I noticed that the trail continues up past Levette to Hut Lake, where there is a free rec site. With no better ideas, we figured it was as good an idea as any.

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We ended up having a great time! It’s not the most scenic trail, but since it was threatening rain, it was totally empty. Unfortunately, when we arrived we noticed that Levette Lake was closed due to a human-habituated bear. This seems to become more and more common lately – Cheakamus Lake, Helm Creek, Golden Ears, and Rainbow Lake have all been having issues with aggressive bears and several of the sites were closed this year and sadly the bears were killed. A good reminder that all of our actions have consequences and that everyone needs to do their absolute best to leave no trace so as not to attract bears.

Fortunately, we weren’t going to Levette Lake, so we opted to park at the bottom of the road and walk past towards Hut Lake. Our party consisted of me and Brandon, and Carolyn and Steve with their dog Jasper. I wanted to bring Sadie, but with Seth not coming and the weather rainy, I decided she was too much to handle on her own. We kept Jasper close the whole trip to avoid any potentially negative bear encounters.

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It’s a steady uphill, but easy 3.5km hike along the road up to Levette Lake – a quick peak up the road revealed an outhouse, a bear cache, and several campsites, but a lot of garbage. Which is ridiculous because there are garbage facilities PROVIDED at the site! We did a quick clean up of the cans to deter the bears and then continued on towards Hut Lake.

If you’re into the 4×4 off-roading community, you might be familiar with this trail as it seems to primarily be used for off-roading. The road is still pretty easy going for the next 2km, but once you reach the 5.5km mark, there’s a very steep dip and it becomes more trail than road. It rained for most of our hike up, but it’s more shaded along this section of the trail, which slowed down the rain and we followed the fairly easy trail another 2.5km to the Hut Lake Rec Site. There’s not much to see on the trail besides the forest, which was prefect on a rainy day.

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We didn’t see anyone on the trail and we were the only people at the lake too. Like the road, it seems to be tailored to off-roading rather than backpackers. There are a few picnic tables, which is lovely, but they are located on most of the limited flat ground, so it was a bit of work to find a good spot to pitch the tents without being on the road. After we set up though, we discovered that there are a few more sites at the back of the lake (where there’s another trail that goes to some smaller lakes).

Fortunately it stopped raining when we got to the campsite, so we had a good time setting up and the sun even started to burn off some of the clouds! I was sweaty from the hike and decided to go for a swim before I cooled off and the whole group joined me, except for Jasper, who was very distraught about this new activity. I guess it’s easy for off-roaders to bring supplies up to the site and someone had constructed a huge floating raft that was tied to the shore. There was one tiny paddle, which was hilarious because the raft was much too large to paddle anywhere, but we left it tied on and pushed it out into the lake so that we could swim off it.

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Alpine lakes are really some of the most scenic lakes in the world, but there’s definitely something to be said for low elevation lakes! In Newfoundland we would definitely call this one a pond (it’s not very large), but it was very warm! Alpine lakes are always freezing because they’re comprised of glacier and snow melt, but Hut Lake was the perfect temperature for swimming and we easily hung out in the water for a half hour.

We had started making supper when we heard the low roar of a vehicle coming up the road. A small, but extremely lifted, jeep pulled in and we were weary about what kind of visitors we were about to get, but it ended up being a dad and his 2 kids out exploring for the day. Because the rec site is on crown land and there was no fire ban, you can have fires and the family asked to join us and got a fire started up! We had a nice chat with them about all the 4×4 roads in the area and learned about some other trails to check out. We had a good laugh though because the family was from Squamish and assumed we were too. The dad started ranting about the backpackers who come up from Vancouver just to party at the site, and then kind of paused as he was talking and noticed us smirking, to say “… you guys are from Vancouver aren’t you?” Fortunately he gave us a pass because “we look like we know what we’re doing and are properly outfitted”. Not sure if it’s a compliment, but I’ll take it because I like to rant about the partiers too.

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After a while they took off and left us a lovely fire to enjoy! Me, Carolyn, and Brandon went exploring around the edge of the lake while Steve and Jasper manned the fire. Our new friends had told us that there’s a great view of the Tantalus Range on the other side of the lake. We tried to find the trail he described and ended up bushwacking our way into the lake from the other side – but he was correct and even though we didn’t find the trail, we did find a gorgeous view of the Tantalus mountains!

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I was trying out my new bearproof sack on this trip, but everyone else needed to do a bear hang, so I watched Carolyn and Brandon struggle at that for the better part of 30 minutes. Their aim is not great and Carolyn hucked a doozy of a rock up at the tree only to have it fall down and land directly on my bear bag and break my stove, so I left them to it. The effort was worth it though and they produced one of the best bear hangs I think I’ve ever seen, so well done.

After that misadventure it started to rain again, so we decided it was time to hit the sack! It rained most of the night, but it was only drizzling when we woke up and we were able to make breakfast and take down camp without getting wet. We had a totally dry hike out and did the whole 8km return in 2 hours. It’s not a hike I’d recommend in the dead of summer because it’s not the most scenic, but I would definitely recommend it in the off season. The lack of crowds made for a very enjoyable experience, as did the swim in hut lake. There’s no outhouse or bear cache, so be prepared for that, otherwise we had a great time and I’m keen to return again sometime in the future!

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