Joffre Lakes – British Columbia’s prettiest hike?
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 campground. 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!
66 thoughts on “Joffre Lakes – British Columbia’s prettiest hike?”
Looks like an amazing place to go for a hike. Happy belated Canada Day!
Thanks Rachel! It really was amazing. Busy, but understandably so!
Oh wow this place looks dreamy!
The mist does make it look like a dream-scape doesn’t it!! Thanks Panda!!
I know right! You are from SUCH a gorgeous country! I hope you have an awesome day off. Happy Canada Day for yesterday!!
Awww thanks! I had a great day! Spent it down by the water front in Toronto with a friend 😉 checked out an art gallery and then just walked around a bit
Nice!! It must be strange to have no kidlets around!?
Well I stayed late on Saturday with them because the parents weren’t home and then I was over there on Sunday for late afternoon “brunch” and stayed for about 3 hours so it’s been great haha! I’ll feel it over the next two weeks when I don’t see them everyday, but I am always welcome to just go over and see them. And I told them I would.
That is sooo sweet! Do you miss them?
I’m sure I will. I love seeing them all the time and getting to spend time with them every day. It will be really weird not to have that this summer. But I will be busy with my new job and the little boy there.
Ahhh it looks beautiful! I’ll definitely have to try and make it there some time. 🙂
I think we need to do some more exploring near Whistler. It was way too pretty! 😀
Oh my goodness! That hike (your photos) was absolutely beautiful. I’d have a hard time leaving that beautiful spot – I can see why it is so busy. And, that photo you have of Middle Joffre Lake is incredible. I bet painters sit there too and paint that particular view. I know I’d want to. Beautiful post, Josy!
We didn’t see any artists, but you’re right that it would be such a perfect place to sit and paint…maybe just not in the rain!!
I just love that color of the lake. Absolutely mesmerizing. Hope you had a lovely long weekend Josy. X
Thanks Lorelle! It’s funny that ground up particles of rock can be so pretty!! I hope you had an awesome weekend too! 🙂
Of you didn’t jump in the air, is it even a walk or a lark?
I guess not! Marc wasn’t there so I didn’t have my amazing jump photographer! 🙁
I’ll have to go back 🙂
I’m glad you got to see the lakes! As you discovered, Joffre Lakes is a beautiful hike even in cloudy weather. On a sunny day those lakes are just an unreal colour. Seeing your pics makes me wish I’d gone there instead, but then I remembered how crowded it gets…! 🙂 It’s deservedly popular, though I think the upgraded trail has reduced its backcountry feel. Still, even when it was a gnarlier trail we met people in flip-flops trying to pick their way across the boulder field…!
As Joan already replied on Facebook, the red flowers are Indian Paintbrush – they’re fairly common though not on the North Shore. (The trail to Goldie Lake has some though.) The other flowers are spotted saxifrage – they’re so delicate and beautiful in their own right. Flower season is only just getting started too so hopefully you’ll see loads more!
I hopw we get to see loads this year! 🙂
I am sorry that I am so cheeky getting you to keep identifying the flowers!! I should probably buy a flower-book!
Ha ha – no problem, I’m happy to be a surrogate guide book 🙂
Just stunning. Your Blog makes me want to revisit that area so much.
Aww, thank you for the sweet message Orla! Maybe you can bring your little ladies here one day!? 😀
Happy Belated Canada Day! I’m reading this on America’s Independence Day. What a beautiful place! The photos remind me a bit of Glacier National Park in Montana. Seeing you all in jackets and pants makes me jealous. It’s 98 degrees Fahrenheit here!
Such a beautiful place! Seeing this makes me miss Canada so much.
Thank yoooou! Are you from Canada originally? Your post about the Plitvice Lakes was gorgeous, so at least you still have access to stunning scenery! 😀
Right. This is now on my bucket list. I can see why it’s so popular. I’m literally open mouthed at how stunning it is! And the colour of that water, man!
Apparently it’ll be even more amazing in the sun! I’ll do my best to go back and take more sunny fake-looking photos!!
One Day Josy, I am goin gto hike with you!!!
Yaaaay! That would be awesome! 😀
Either near you OR over here. I mean, you are close to the Peaks and I am always happy for an excuse to go there!!
One day, seriously! Not sure how long I’d last, but i take a mean pic! ;P
Thanks for sharing this Josy! I hope we get to hike again together one day :-).
No, thank YOU Melissa! I had soooo much fun hiking with you! I hope Mount Harvey went well too!!
I love this hike so much! My husband and I just visited BC last month, and spent a very rainy day on the trail. Unfortunately, it made picture taking very hard, especially at the upper lake where it was quite windy, but we still really enjoyed the day.
It’s funny that we both visited on rainy days and *still* loved it! Are you tempted to go back on a clear day to see more views? I really am!!
Thank you! It really was a pretty area!
I love hiking! It seems like an excellent place to do that. I love color of water and misty woods. No to forget about Canada’s most picturesque toilet 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Lol I’m glad you like the loo photo…I wasn’t sure if it was too weird to include that! 😉
These colors look surreal! You took stunning pictures.
And thanks you for leaving the tips – always wondering about bathrooms, hahaha.
Saved for when I’ll go! <3
Thanks Jennifer! I guess that is one good thing about this hike being so popular! It’s nice that they have plenty of washrooms! 😉
Beautiful is right. Funny about the three toilets – I guess with that many visitors it’s an eco-solution as well. Pity about the mist hiding the views but I agree that the mists are lovely. I’d love to do this one day. #blogpostsaturday
It’s okay…I’ll have to go back to show my husband the views, so next time we can try to go on a sunny day!
One of my favorite hikes ever! Would love to do it again. Your pictures are lovely.
Yaaay! It took me a whole year of living here to get out to Joffre lakes. Now I just want to go right back!
Do you live near Vancouver too Anisa? 🙂
Happy Belated Canada Day!! This post is great and super timely! I love learning about new hiking spots and plan to travel to Canada soon. The blue hue of the lakes are so dreamy!!
Oooh sweet! Give me a shout if you need other ideas for things to do near Vancouver. I love it here so I have been exploring loads. 🙂
LOVE Canada’s outdoors! Beautiful pictures, and looks like a great hike!
We recently bought a car, and it says “Beautiful British Columbia” on the number plate(!) They have that about right though…the wilderness is amazing here!!
Ooh great 🙂 Now you can really get out and explore! Go car camping in Manning Park!
That is why we started heading a little further afield. Now we just need to get used to driving longer distances!!
WOW this is STUNNING! Look at the colors of those lakes?! And the waterfall! I love waterfalls. Wow. I need to do this hike lol.
Sarah, if you come to Vancouver give me a shout. I would happily do this hike again! 🙂
I’m not sure if the waterfall is always that amazing, or if it is just in spring/early summer. I loved it in any case.
I dream of visiting British Columbia once. These pictures remind me a bit of Durmitor National park in Montenegro and the Black Lake there.
I just googled Durmitor National park it looks stunning! I think I would love to hike there too! <3
Thanks for visiting Ana!!
These views are amazing… I actually really enjoy a moody, misty sky! It makes the water look even more bright! And that’s so interesting about the lichens. Saved this for next time I’m in BC 🙂
Thanks Susan!! Me too. I love the feeling of sun on my skin, but when we’re hiking, moody skies are way more dramatic!!
This is wonderful! I just love Canada and this really gets me in the hiking mood! I moved to NZ so the hiking here I think is really similar just no crazy wildlife! I really love BC though and have a great option to fly through Vancouver. I think maybe i should make a stop next time!
How beautiful! I need to get out West seriously. I love that you showed the picturesque views for the toilet and don’t worry about the blueberries 🙂 Beautiful photos! Thanks so much for joining Fly Away Friday! See you tomorrow 🙂
I’m glad I’m not the only one that appreciates a picturesque place to pee! 😉
Wow the pictures are STUNNING! Haha the views from the toilet! I bet the air was SO fresh! It makes me miss the good ol’ PNW <3 Thanks for joining FAF! See you tomorrow! xo
The Pacific North West is pretty amazing isn’t it! We got a car just over a month ago, so I only just started to explore further away hikes like this. It has been amazing so far!!