Am I really going to write yet another post about Elfin Lakes? My blog, my rules, so yes I am.
I always say that the Skyline II Trail in Manning Park is my favourite hike, but I might have to eventually cede the number one spot to Elfin Lakes because I never get tired of visiting. I’ve been in Autumn, I’ve been in Winter, I’ve backpacked to Opal Cone, I’ve backpacked to Mamquam Lake. It’s not even my first time going with Guide Girls. The first time I went with girl guides, I accompanied a group from the North Shore as a back-up guider. This time, I took my own troop for a one night trip in late September. But it’s always interesting no matter when you go because the weather makes it a different experience every time!
Both of my trips with girl guides took place on the last weekend in September, but the first trip dumped about 15cm of snow on us, while this trip was sunny and warm enough for shorts! Trex is a special ops unit in Guiding that only does outdoor adventure (as opposed to the full program). I’ve wanted a trex unit for years, so I finally started my own in New West last year and we focused on a backpacking series for our first year. We hiked to Viewpoint Beach in Golden Ears in June, 3 Brothers Mountain in Manning Park in August, and Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park in September to finish the series.
It was the longest distance they had done carrying their backpacks, but they did very well. It was pretty cloudy and chilly when we started, but we made good time going up towards the Red Heather Hut. We’d been warned of bears by the park rangers, so we made sure to be loud on the way up and didn’t see any, but some of the trex were really nervous about it.
We stopped for a nice hot lunch at the hut before continuing on to the lake. From there things got interesting. The trail branches when you leave the hut, with the mountain bike trail on top and the hiking trail below it. We immediately ran into a mama bear with cubs, but you’re probably not surprised to hear that bears are even more afraid of a noisy group of 10 girls than we were of it, so they quickly scampered. They were the only bears we saw on the way up, but we saw a lot more coming back down and I think our final bear count at the end of the weekend was 10 bears! Definitely a record for me. They weren’t interested in people at all though and were only interested in bulking up on the late season berries.
I love the hike from Red Heather Hut to Elfin Lakes. It’s so scenic as you traverse up and over the ridge. Trex enjoyed it too and they made really good time to the hut. The sleeping hut is still closed due to COVID, but there are 50 tent pads you can avail of instead. We set up our tents and had lots of time to relax and soak in the views. We had an earlier supper so that we could watch the sunset over the lake.
I don’t really plan any activities once we’ve arrived because it usually takes most of the day to get there, set up camp, and eat. But I decided to run a little workshop on star photography for anyone who was interested, which was everyone! I love the long days in the summer, but one of my favourite parts of the diminishing light is not having to stay up late to watch the stars. I lugged my tripod up and we went up on the hill overlooking the lake to try our luck. Fortunately it was a clear night and the moon was no where to be seen, so it was a great opportunity.
Very shortly after we started (I hadn’t even set up the tripod yet), trex started freaking out when a series of lights started flashing across the sky! They were even more concerned when I didn’t know what it was. It was super creepy and felt very end-of-days when you’re not expecting it. It was a series of lights that were moving in a perfectly straight line across the sky – they were all spaced equidistant and moving at the same pace. They did this for about 5 minutes before the last one finally disappeared. I made a guess that it was a satellite launch and another camper confirmed for us later that it was indeed Starlink! So our timing was excellent. We didn’t get any photos on the camera, but the girls were able to capture a few cell phone pictures of the phenomenon and it was quite a treat to see.
After that we settled into actual star photography and everyone got really into it for the better part of an hour. We did portraits of everyone with the starscape before turning in for the night. It was a completely clear morning and ended up being a very hot day, so we were driven out of our tents by the sun when it peaked over the mountains and illuminated the campsite. Staying at Elfin is a real treat because it’s definitely one of the most scenic campsites with the 360 degree view of the mountains.
We had a quick breakfast and packed up our campsites to head back the way we came. We made a slower pace as we came up to the hut because the whole area was crawling with bears and there were a lot of people. One cub had been scared up a tree, which made us nervous because we didn’t know where Mama was, but we passed through without any incident and had a hot lunch in Red Heather Hut before hiking back to the parking lot.
Everyone did really well on the trip, so we treated ourselves to ice cream at Alice & Brohm before heading back to town to conclude the trip. I think this trail lends itself well to a girl guide group because it’s a challenge, but not too hard, and it has lots of tent pads and an amazing view. I just have to work on convincing the girls to go back and stay again in the winter!