- Difficulty Difficult
- Time 9 hours
- Round-Trip 26km
- Elevation Gain 920 meters
- Season July - October
- Camping Yes
- From Vancouver 2 hours 15 minutes
- Public Transit No
- Dog Friendly No
A BC Parks Day-Use Pass is required to hike the Helm Lake Trail.
The hike to Helm Lake begins from the Cheakamus Lake parking lot area and climbs steeply before reaching the Helm Creek campsite and passing through the alpine area of Garibaldi Provincial Park. The route has incredible views of Black Tusk, Cinder Cone, and much more and is popular with campers wanting to stay overnight to explore some of the longer hikes.
Follow the trail at the end of the parking lot towards Cheakamus Lake as you leave the open area and enter the forest. The first 1.5km follows the trail to Cheakamus Lake until you reach the junction to Helm Lake. The route is relatively easy to begin and passes through a scenic forest. From the junction, it's about 7.5km to the Helm Creek campground. Go right and walk down the hill as the trail veers left and then back to the right before reaching a metal bridge that crosses Cheakamus Lake.
After crossing the bridge, the trail climbs very steeply through a series of switchbacks. The trail is well maintained but the climb is relentless as you gain more than 300-meters in elevation quickly. When you reach a clearing on your left where there are benches made out of fallen logs, this rest stop signals the end of the really steep section of the hike.
Continue hiking uphill as the trail is now much more gradual but continues through the forested area. The rushing water of Helm Creek can be heard to the right but there are only a couple of glimpses along the route where you can see the creek. After hiking for more than an hour, you get the first hint that you are approaching the campsite after crossing a small wooden bridge over a creek.
About another 15 - 20 minutes further and the trail reaches a meadow at the Helm Creek campsite where Black Tusk towers high above in the backdrop. Pass through the campsite and continue straight along the trail for the next 4km to Helm Lake. The trail continues to climb gradually and there are fewer trees around with more magnificent views of the area. To the right is the incredible looking Black Tusk and to the right is a mountain known as Cinder Cone.
The trail reaches a lake that is sometimes confused as Helm Lake. Pass the lake with an unknown name and continue along the edges as the trail now follows a rocky route marked by posts with trail markers. When you reach a river, go left and follow the markers along the river a short distance to where there is a bridge crossing. Cross over the raised bridge, then follow the river back down before veering left and heading towards Helm Lake. The lake can be seen across the rocks and appears to be hovering on the rocks just below Black Tusk.
The best view of Helm Lake is along the trail, continuing past the lake and up the rocky hill. Find a place to sit and enjoy the view looking back across the valley where you hiked.
Just a short 10-minute hike beyond Helm Lake brings you to the Panorama Ridge junction, where you can decide to do a much longer hike to either Panorama Ridge, Black Tusk, Garibaldi Lake, or the traverse to the Rubble Creek parking lot. While it's usually common to camp overnight and do these longer hikes the next day, it's possible to hike to Panorama Ridge but makes for a very strenuous and long day of hiking.
After enjoying the views, retrace your steps, walking back towards the river and crossing the bridge upstream, before heading back through the alpine area towards the Helm Creek campsite. Take your time and enjoy the incredible scenery and views as you make your way gradually downhill. After passing through the campsite, begin the long trek through the forest back downhill towards the Cheakamus River. Pace yourself and your legs and prepare yourself for the steep switchbacks after passing the rest area. Cross the Cheakamus River and walk up the trail to the junction that joins with the Cheakamus Lake trail. Go left and walk the final 1.5km back to the parking lot.