Vancouver has been having some truly gorgeous weather this autumn. We had planned to do a hike on a particularly sunny Monday, so I thought it would be good moment to take Marc on the Joffre Lakes Hike. I’d previously done this hike in the mist with some Wanderung hikers, but it was fantastic to see the same views in the sun! Especially as this meant we could see more of the surrounding scenery and mountains! This walk is reeeeally busy at the weekend, so I am glad we got to visit during the week.
This time, the best thing about the Joffre Lakes Hike was meeting so many pikas! We have heard the high pitched pika “meep” quite a few times from the trail, and I *think* I caught a quick glimpse of one at Lake Louise, but this time we met several! They are ridiculously cute little fellas.
Joffre Lakes Hike Map
Joffre Lakes Hike – the basics
Distance: 9.5 km
Elevation Gain: 490m
Highest Point: 1570m
Time: 4 hours
What to bring: Walking boots. Plenty of water and food. The ten essentials.
Facilities: There are 4(!) toilets. One at the trailhead, one at the middle lake and one at either end of the upper lake.
How hard is it? The steep sections will get your heart pumping, but anyone that is vaguely healthy will be able to manage this walk. The trail is really easy to follow and the views will feed your keenness to keep going!
Dogs: Lastly, no dogs are allowed on this trail. Leave your doggos at home for this one *sob*
Joffre Lakes Hike – getting started
It takes less than three minutes to reach the first viewpoint for Joffre Lakes! I don’t know of any other walk that can provide SUCH a gorgeous view, almost as soon as you leave the car park! We saw a few people that just came to this view, and then went straight back to their cars.
Joffre Lakes Hike – best in Autumn!
I think the Joffre Lake hike would be nice at any time of year, but I actually liked it even more in October, than I had in the spring. There is something a little magical about the golden light at this time of year; the scenery seemed to glow! It was a little colder, so that made me less sweaty on all the stairs. But more importantly, there were no bugs! It was sooo nice not to have to lather ourselves in bug spray!
As an English hiker, I was never quite sure what the high pitched “meep” sound is when we’re walking in alpine areas. I’ve read about pikas, so I knew that I’d love to see one, especially when I found out they are dying out on Vancouver’s North Shore; They cannot cope with the recent hot temperatures in the summer. These fluffy little dudes die if they are exposed to temperatures above 26°C for more than a few hours.
Anyway, this early in the morning, the path was frosty, and there weren’t many other hikers, so we saw a couple of pikas running away from us down the paths. My squeee of excitement was almost as squeaky as the sound the of pikas themselves! They are *really* fast, so I couldn’t get a photo, but I was instantly in love with them!
The colours of Joffre Lakes
The hike between the first and second lakes is where you’ll get your heart pumping. If you remember, you can look back to see a view of the first lake (photo above, left). I thought it was a pretty impressively fake-looking shade of blue, until I saw the next lake! The middle lake is simply stunning.
Middle Joffre Lake
The middle lake seems to have retained it’s crazy colour a little longer than the upper and lower lakes. There are ropes blocking off some of the places where I took photos on my last visit…but even if you can’t get to all the viewpoints, it is gorgeous!
I took this photo later, on the way back. Early in the morning the sun was so bright in this direction that I couldn’t take photos of that mountain or glacier.
We stopped here to relax for a while. There are lots of naughty humans that feed the Whiskey Jacks along the Joffre Lakes trail, so as soon as we stopped for a break, a few of them came really close to say hello and beg for food. I do really like their cheeky faces, but it’s a bit worrying how acclimatized they are to humans.
Pika Posers (and Whiskey Jacks)
As I mentioned, I was pretty excited to see a pika…so can you imagine how much more excited I was when one popped out to say hello, and then stayed around to pose for a while!? I started taking photos with my teeny lens expecting her to rush off straight away! Most of my photos were blurry as she moved really quickly!
Marc (bless him) saw my excitement, and went into my backpack to grab by big lens without me asking. I was sure the pika would scarper before I could get a decent photo. Eventually she did rush off and hide between the rocks; But then a second really handsome fella came out and watched me while he nibbled on a blade of straw. Aren’t they lovely little fluffballs!?
After the middle lake, you continue to climb through the forest up to Holloway Falls. On any other trail, this gorgeous waterfall would be the reason for the hike! It is so, sooo pretty! Water gushes down the step-like waterfall with a huge roar. Still, on this amazing hike, there is plenty more to see, so we only stopped for a little while to admire it.
Upper Joffre Lake – first viewpoint
This is where most hikers stop to admire the view of the Upper Joffre Lake. When I visited at the weekend previously, this beach area was totally full of hikers having picnics and taking their best instagram photos. This time, it was just us, and one other couple that were leaving as we arrived.
However, don’t stop there! The Joffre Lakes trail continues for an extra kilometer, and I think the view from the far side of the lake is even better!
It was pretty cool to look up at the Matier Glacier. It looks a lot more jagged and impressive at the end of the summer. I suppose big chunks of ice must have melted and fallen down the mountain since the spring.
Climb up the Moraine
As always, once we’d reached our destination, I was keen to go just a teeny bit further! There is an easy (but steep) path just beyond the campsite at the end of the lake. This will let you climb up the glacial moraine, to get an even more impressive view of the Upper Joffre Lake from above.
The lake was quite a bit lower in autumn, so you can see the shallow areas with all the different colours. It is also much darker than in the spring, when it is almost completely composed of glacial melt water. (You can see my photos from the springtime here)
Marc and I also climbed up to the cliff above the lake. It was much easier to jump over the stream this late in the year!
This was one of the best days of the year, so I am sooo glad I had the day off with Marc, rather than sitting at my desk at work! I’d already taken a zillion photos by this point, but here are a last couple on our walk back around the Upper Joffre lake.
Rushing down the Joffre Lakes trail
On the way back to the car, we decided that we couldn’t bare to finish our day, so we started to make a plan for a second walk… But as it was October, we knew we’d run out of daylight quite quickly. So we zoomed back down the trail, overtaking lots of hikers. I did still stop for photos, but then I’d have to run to catch up with Marc! This was my final photo from the first lake, looking up at the mountains. *sigh* It is such a good view to finish the walk.
So, we made it down and then drove straight to another walk at Cool Creek Canyon near Pemberton. I’ll save that story for another post, as although there were no pikas, it was also a stunning hike.