By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 8 July 2015)
Where: Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, near Pemberton, BC
Description: The Joffre Lakes hike provides plenty of incredible scenery after very little actual hiking. The round trip is only about 10 kilometers (6 miles), so by travelling just 5 kilometers (3 miles), you can see all three lakes, though there is the option to climb a little higher for even better views (most sources list this hike as 11 kilometers, but recent improvements to the trail have shortened the overall distance). The scenery is continuously gorgeous, with streams, waterfalls, and open views throughout the hike. The three Joffre Lakes, which are nestled among pretty mountains, are a stunning glacial turquoise colour.
Time: Various sources recommend allowing 3 to 5 hours for this one. The actual hiking time (round trip) should only be a few hours unless you struggle with uphill stretches (the trail includes 400 meters/1,312 feet of elevation gain), but plan to stay longer so that you have time to appreciate the amazing scenery.
Difficulty: There is no rough terrain or scrambling required (the trail has been improved recently, so it is no longer as rustic as many online descriptions indicate). The only challenge is the steady uphill slog along stretches of the trail leading to the second and third lakes. Those with poor cardio fitness may have to stop and rest along the way, but although the trail has primarily open views, there are plenty of trees, so you should be able to find some shade if you need a break.
Required Equipment: Hiking boots, food and water for the day, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and insect repellant; bring your swimsuit and a towel if you want to jump in the lake.
- This hike offers some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever encountered – my photos look like they came from a tourism brochure.
- There is enough uphill hiking to get a decent workout, but the trail is easy enough that most moderately fit people should be able to do it.
- The trail is very well maintained – it would be nearly impossible to get lost on this one, even if you’re good at getting lost.
- You can swim in the lakes.
- Dogs are allowed on the trail (though they must be kept on leash at all times).
- There are maintained outhouses at the start of the trail and at the third lake (they were smelly, but the seats were clean).
- You can camp at the third lake (there is a $5 fee for this), though campfires are prohibited due to wildfire risk.
- Because the trail isn’t too challenging, it can get very crowded on sunny weekends and the parking lot fills up quickly, as does the overflow lot. This isn’t a good hike for anyone who wants to get away from people.
- There are no soft, easy approaches to the lake. Your options for getting in the water are to scramble in over rocks and logs or, at the second lake, walk out on a long, slippery log until you dive in or fall off or jump off a rope swing (of course, having a rope swing available is more of a pro than a con).
- There are lots of biting bugs, and the horseflies and mosquitoes are particularly aggressive.
- There is no cell phone reception (depending on your opinion of cell phones, this could be considered a pro rather than a con).
- Because they’re glacial lakes, the Joffre Lakes are extremely cold, so those who manage to get in don’t tend to stay in for long.
- Arrive early so that you can get parking.
- Plan your trip for a weekday if possible to avoid the crowds.
- Bring hand sanitizer and toilet paper – the outhouses tend to run out on busy days.
- Don’t drink directly from the lakes and streams without boiling the water for a couple of minutes first.
- Don’t leave food lying out in the open. There are animals in the area, including bears.
- BC Parks recommends against bringing dogs if you plan to camp due to the presence of bears and cougars in the area.
- There are no garbage cans anywhere along the hike or at the campgrounds – plan to bring your garbage out with you.
For information about the Joffre Lakes hike, including driving directions, local hotels, paying for camping, and other details, see:
- The WhistlerHiatus.com Joffre Lakes Provincial Park page
- The BC Parks Joffre Lakes Provincial Park page
- The VancouverTrails.com Joffre Lakes trail page
- Outdoor Vancouver’s Joffre Lakes Trail Hike Near Pemberton page
- TrailPeak.com’s Joffre Lakes page
For more great hikes in British Columbia and Washington, see the main Activities page.
*Conditions may have changed since the time of this writing.