Happy Canada Day everyone! I celebrated the holiday weekend by going on one of the most amazing hikes! The Joffre Lakes trail goes through old growth forest past three glacier-fed, turquoise lakes. It normally takes me a while to get around to writing about my adventures, but this walk was too amazing not to share straight away!
The first lake appears about three minutes into the walk. From there, things only get better and better! Each lake is more impressive than the previous one. We did this hike on a grim, rainy day and if anything the mist made it even more beautiful and fun.
Joffre Lakes Day Hike Map
Joffre Lakes Day Hike – the basics
Distance: 9.5 km
Elevation Gain: 490m
Highest Point: 1570m
Time: 4 hours (the map in the car park said 3.5 hours each way, but it shouldn’t take that long!)
What to bring: Walking boots. Bug spray (and cream for the bites after you’ve been eaten alive.) Plenty of water and food.
The 10 essentials.
Facilities: This is a great walk for people with weak bladders! There are three(!) toilets. One at the trailhead, one at the middle lake and one at the campground.
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!
Extra tips: Arrive early. We left Vancouver at 7am-ish, and there were not many spaces left in the car park by the time we made it to the trailhead. On sunny days it is likely that we would not have been able to park and explore here.
Lastly, no dogs are allowed on this trail. Leave your doggos at home for this one *sob*
A note for grumpy hikers:
This is an incredibly popular hike (you can see why!) so don’t choose this walk when you fancy serenity or a quiet afternoon in the woods. Get ready for the hoards of happy instagrammers, and appreciate how everyone can enjoy getting outdoors and seeing such stunning views!
Wanderung hiking group
I’ve written about the awesomeness of Wanderung before. It is a hiking group that is open to anyone here in Vancouver. When you fancy going on a hike, you can send a hike call-out to get other people to join you. Or, you can read the hike call-outs and join other people. Marc was working yesterday, so I joined this hike rather than go out exploring on my own. If you’d like to read about the previous wanderung hikes; They are Evan’s Peak, Diez Vistas trail around Bunzen Lake, Black Mountain and Whyte Lake. I even organised one myself around Pacific Spirit Park.
For this walk, we all met up at 7:00am in Safeways car park, and then carpooled over to the trailhead. Joffre Lakes is over 2.5 hours drive away, north of Pemberton. I was very glad that they didn’t need me to drive for this one! Chris, who drove us is a driving/hiking superstar!
Lower Joffre Lake
You do not have to wait long for the first beautiful view of Joffre Lakes! Lower Joffre Lake is only a couple of minutes into the walk! Considering this stunning mirror-like view takes no walking effort at all, I can see why it is popular!
Into a misty forest
Once you’ve circled around the lower lake, the path takes you straight up the nearest hill into the forest. The path is actually not too steep compared to the start of most walks on Vancouver’s North Shore. It will get your heart going though!
We walked into a cloud pretty quickly. We were all a little soggy, but I thought the misty views were lovely.
Lichen test for pollution
The trees in the forest around Joffre Lakes are covered in hanging lichen. One of my new walking friends told me that this means that there no air pollution in this area, as these lichen cannot survive when there is any atmospheric pollution. No wonder my lungs feel happy here!!
Middle Joffre Lake
This lake has to be one of the most instagrammed areas near Whistler! It is soooo pretty! This was our first peek at the lake in the mist…
I love the way the trees seemed to be preserved in the cold, mineral-filled lake water. It started to rain lightly, but even that looked nice as each raindrop leaves a tiny ripple in the water.
Just as we left to continue on our hike, the mist came down and hid the surrounding mountains. I’ll have to come back with Marc and see these views on a clearer day!
As if three beautiful lakes were not enough to make this a good hike, there is a disney-like waterfall! The water flows over perfectly sculptured steps down the mountain.
After the waterfall, you keep climbing over bounders to gain some more elevation and reach the third and final lake of the day.
Upper Joffre Lake
I thought the third of the Joffre Lakes was the most impressive. It is surrounded by steep-sided mountains in all directions. You are also treated to views of the large glaciers that are feeding that turquoise water in to the lake. A few minutes after you reach the Upper lake, turn left to reach this lookout:
After that, you get to hike for about a kilometer around the edge of the lake, looking through the trees to glimpse more of that lovely blue water.
You have to watch your step on the hike around the lake. There are lots of tree roots to step over, as well as boulders to clamber around. The views at the southern end of Joffre Lakes are totally worth the effort though!
We stopped and had lunch at the camping ground. There are only limited spots for camping, and you need a permit to stay for the night. You can find out more about camping on the BC parks website. At the moment, camping permits are already sold out for weekends this summer.
After lunch, we explored the cliff above the lake (you can see the cliff in the photo above, just to the left of the waterfall.) Once we’d climbed up there, the views were even more impressive.
Up the Moraine
The surrounding glaciers have formed a huge moraine at this end of the lake. It is only an extra 15 minutes to hike up these boulders for aerial views of Upper Joffre Lake.
Although we were rained on a couple of times at this end of the lake, we also had a few moments with really good light, when the lake almost glowed bright blue. I imagine this looks fake on a bright sunny day!
Interesting alpine flowers
There were some really cool flowers growing on the rocks around the lake. I am hoping my blogging friend Andy will visit and tell me what these amazing red spiky flowers are!
Happy Canada Day
As it is a holiday weekend, there were plenty of other people around. We found a friendly hiker with a Canadian flag. He was kind enough to let us borrow it to pose(!) I hope everyone reading this in Canada had an awesome Canada Day holiday!!
While I was eating my lunch, I dropped a couple of blueberries onto the ground. About a hour later, just before we were leaving, I noticed that somebody had found those blueberries. I didn’t mean to feed the local wildlife, but this little fella did look pretty chuffed to find them.
Canada’s most picturesque toilet?
This is the loo at the campsite, and the view you get when you use the facilities! This is definitely one of the prettiest possible locations for a toilet!
We stopped off at the first viewpoint on the way back, so I had a chance to use my zoom lens to look up at the Matier glacier. You can see why this area can be so dangerous in winter and spring as those steep cliffs must be a huge avalanche risk!
This was my final view of the last of the Joffre Lakes. It was raining again, but still a fake-looking shade of blue.
Cute wooden carvings
On the return journey I spotted the cute carvings. We found a bear, a hawk, and owl and a half-finished, unidentified sculpture(!) Later, I read on the Vancouver trails website that anyone who pays their respects to the bear will have good weather for their next 10 hikes.
The return journey was basically the same as the way up, just a little wetter and muddier!
So, I’ll finish the walk with panoramas of the Middle and Upper Joffre Lakes.
This was an easy, but epic walk. I can see why it is so popular. I even came back here a few months later to wander along the same trail in the sun, with Marc. Click here if you’d like to see the Joffre Lakes scenery in the sun!
I hope you liked the look of all this too!