Garibaldi Provincial Park is one of my favourite places in the world, and Elfin Lakes is one of the great day hikes lying within its boundaries. It can take six or seven hours to complete this 22-kilometre round trip, which runs along Paul Ridge.
Round Mountain, the summit of the ridge, is a suitable destination for a shorter day. A hike to this modest, 1,644-metre-high mountaintop takes 4.5 hours return.
The Elfin Lakes trailhead is reached by turning east onto Mamquam Road from the Sea to Sky Highway in Squamish. While most two-wheel-drive vehicles can handle the gravel road that climbs to the parking lot, the surface is rough enough to stress out any driver.
The Elfin Lakes trail follows a road through the forest and past a waterfall to the shelter at Red Heather Meadows, five kilometres in. There the trail splits into separate paths for hikers and mountain bikers as it ascends Paul Ridge.
Soon after the paths rejoin, it’s possible to walk up snow to find a faint path on the ridge crest to the top of Round Mountain. (Please avoid trampling the slow-growing subalpine plant life.) Less-experienced hikers, however, should probably just use the high point of the Elfin Lakes trail as a turnaround point.
The summit of Round Mountain offers satisfying views of Mount Garibaldi (when not obscured by clouds), Opal Cone, Mamquam Mountain, Sky Pilot Mountain, and the Tantalus Range. You can even get a glimpse of Howe Sound. Not bad at all for a short hike.