Joffre Lakes: a not so hidden gem

Length: 8km | Elevation gain: ~400m | Route Type: Out and back

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is home to three spectacular lakes — Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre Lakes. Joffre is a popular hiking destination located about 65km north of Whistler, on the Duffey Lake section of Highway 99. The vibrant lakes are cradled by towering glaciers and mountain peaks – prepare to be mind-blown. The colour of the water is due to glacial silt that comes from the surrounding glaciers as they feed the lakes during summer. 

Joffre Lakes Hike Whistler
Lower Joffre Lake

This trail is a classic, but unfortunately has a reputation for overcrowding. This spot has exploded with popularity within the last few years, making it hard to get a parking spot after 9am. Part of this popularity can be attributed to the trail beginning at a very high elevation (over 1100 metres), so it takes much less time and effort to get into stunning alpine terrain compared to other regional hikes. It’s true, you’ll probably never hike this trail and not see another human – if you’re looking for remote wilderness, this isn’t the spot. However, Joffre is gorgeous in its own right – crowds and all – and more and more folks are now wanting to experience the gorgeous turquoise waters for themselves. 

With this in mind, I haven’t been to Joffre in a while, but after a 2 year hiatus, I went back to Joffre Lakes this week and was awestruck by just how beautiful it is. We got to the parking lot at 7.30am and enjoyed the middle lake to ourselves for 20 minutes or so and enjoyed a swim. We saw maybe 10 other people during the next hour, but on our descent the trail was definitely busy. We had to step aside to let multiple groups pass us, and there were a lot of people stopping for a rest halfway up – which is a little tricky as the trail isn’t very spacious. I also noticed a lot of people in sandals and other non-hiking footwear having some issues – this trail is steep and loose in sections, so I strongly recommend appropriate hiking footwear. It took us 40 minutes to reach the second lake, and another 10 to reach the third. The stretch between the first and second lake is definitely the hardest and the steepest, but don’t give up. The views at the third lake of Matier Glacier are stunning, and it is also the largest of the three lakes. We enjoyed our lunch and hiked around and above the campground area for some more aerial views of the lake.

Joffre Lakes Hike Whistler
Taking a cool plunge into Middle Joffre Lake

The trail is open all-year around which makes park accessible both in summer and winter, although in winter you’ll be wanting skins or snowshoes. If you’re into the Wim Hof method or just enjoy cold plunges, I strongly recommend going for a dip in one of the lakes (but if you’re a fair-weather swimmer, beware, the water is very, very cold). This year, you’ll need a day pass to hike Joffre whether you’re camping or just day tripping. Once you have your pass – be sure to take a screenshot to show the park ambassadors, as there is no service once you’re up there, and you don’t wan to have to drive halfway back to Pemberton to get data to download your pass! You can get a day pass and also make camping reservations on the ‘Reservations’ section of the BC Parks’ website. The campsites are located at Upper Joffre Lake and are pretty epic.

If you crave solitude and want to avoid the crowds, I suggest getting to the Joffre Lakes trailhead at sunrise on a weekday so that you can enjoy the lakes with minimal others around. The weekends are extremely busy, with some bus tours even operating from Vancouver. When enjoyed at dusk or dawn, Joffre truly is a sight to behold, and everyone living or visiting the area should check it out! Let me know how you get on and what you think of Joffre!

Remember: pack out what you pack in, and leave no trace!

Great views. Turquoise lakes. Easy hike. Highway accessible. Has two waterfalls!

Can be very, very busy, particularly at the first lake.

Joffre Lakes Hike Whistler
The edge of the campground
Joffre Lakes Hike Whistler
Above Upper Joffre Lake
Joffre Lakes Hike Whistler
One of two waterfalls in the area
Joffre Lakes Hike Whistler
Glaciers for days!

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