Elfin Lakes is one of Vancouver's most popular hikes, for good reason. It's a beautiful, accessible, hard-enough but not-too-hard hike with big mountain views, a picturesque hut and camp sites.
But here's a secret - it's even better in the 'off' season. When the alpine is blanketed with snow in late spring, the views remain but fewer people make the trek. It's still popular with snowshoers up for the day but if you pack up a tent in May or June you'll get the best of the hike without the crowds.
To get to the trailhead, head to the south end of Garibaldi Provincial Park, near Squamish. Take the turnoff to Valley Golf Country Club, follow the gravel road uphill, and take the left at the fork.
From the parking lot, head uphill for about an hour (through forest and past a waterfall along the way) to hit Red Heather Meadows. Keep going past the hut to enter the alpine - this is where the views start paying off. There are a number of beautiful spots to stop for lunch along the way, with views continuing all the way to the lakes.
Once in the alpine, the trail flattens out and winds its way to the huts. This trail is longer than expected, especially when you skip the snowshoes. Take it from us, don't skip the snowshoes! If you do skip them, wear waterproof boots and gaiters for the hike. Bring extra socks and camp booties for the camp.
Pretty soon you'll spot the lakes. The ranger hut is just before them, and the campers' hut just after. Skip the hut and set up your tent on the far side of the lakes to get the best views. When you make your coffee in the morning and stare out over the snowy peaks, you'll know you've made the right choice.
Time: 3 hours up (in snow, less in summer)
Distance: 22 KM round-trip
Elevation Gain: 600 M
Driving time from Vancouver: 1.45 hours
Worth-it Factor: 10/10