The secret is out on Joffre Lakes—it’s a beautiful hike that is a must-see if you’re in the Vancouver area. Close to Pemberton and about 180 kilometres outside of Vancouver, Joffre Lakes is the backdrop to many Instagram photos because of the unbelievable icy blue water.
This is considered a moderate hike and can be done as a day trip. I would recommend you make a camping reservation for at least a night and get the full experience of everything Joffre has to offer.
Dan and I do an overnight at Joffre Lakes every year. The very first time we went he schlepped his guitar the entire way. For many other folks, I wouldn’t recommend this extra weight in addition to an overnight pack, but Dan is a seasoned hiker and he’s pretty strong, so the extra weight didn’t bother him much.
It was pretty awesome to make friends and have a singsong by the water after the sun went down. A ukulele is probably a better choice if you’re looking to make some music.
Here are my recommendations if you want to check out this stunning location in beautiful British Columbia:
1. Get an early start
As I said, Joffre Lakes isn’t a secret piece of paradise anymore. It gets packed through the summer. The best advice I can give you is to start your hike as early as possible in the morning so you can enjoy the hike with a bit of solitude. If you delay your start time, you may find yourself trudging along elbow-to-elbow with hundreds of strangers.
2. Be prepared for a full parking lot
In peak summer season, parking doesn’t exist at Joffre Lakes. The parking lot and overflow lots fill up super quickly. If you’re going with a group, make sure you carpool. There are also other options for getting from Vancouver to Joffre and back, you can take a bus service to Joffre Lakes that will drop you off and pick you up. I recommend this since everyone can sleep on the ride home.
3. Pack for the weather
Joffre Lakes are glacier-fed, so even if you’re camping in the summertime, you’ll need to pack layers to stay warm through the night. In summer, the days can heat up, so remember to bring sunscreen (and bug repellant for those vicious mosquitos!). If you’re going there in the fall or winter, be sure to wear appropriate footwear for ice or snow.
Additionally, you’re not able to have a campfire at Joffre, so if you were planning on scoring some heat from a fire you’ll be out of luck.
4. Don’t rush the hike to Upper Lake
There are some great places to soak in some jaw-dropping nature along the way. Make sure you stop and check out the waterfall and appreciate all the wood carvings hidden throughout the trail. Linger at Middle Lake for a snack and take it all in.
5. In the summer, jump into either Middle or Upper Lake
When you’re hiking in the heat, feeling tired, or you just want to make some memories, jumping in the water is a rite of passage. At Middle Lake, there is a rope swing into the water, and there is also an overturned tree that stretches out into the lake (this is where many folks get their photo op).
I challenge you to walk to the middle, or to the end if you’re feeling zesty, and jump into the chilly water. Be warned though—you will have to swim back to shore, so only commit to however far you’ll be able to swim back.
6. Hike up to the glacier
It seems that a lot of day-trippers miss out on the delicious vista from the absolute top. You access the glacier behind the camping area and from up there you’ll be able to see all three lakes. The glacier is pretty cool too (pun intended, but I’m married to the pun king, so I’m obligated to put them out there once in a while).
7. Bring proper gear
I can’t tell you the number of people who I’ve seen trying to hike Joffre with no gear, sandals, or using a duffel bag as their overnight pack.
Please plan ahead; it’s for your own safety. Unsuitable footwear can lead to injury or accidents, no water or food for a day trip will not only make you hangry, but you need the energy, and bringing a proper pack that can distribute weight properly will save your muscles and make the hike much more enjoyable. If you don’t hike often enough, you can rent outdoor gear from MEC to ensure you have everything you need.
8. Go with a group
More friends equals more fun. Dan and I love to introduce people to Joffre Lakes when we can. Last year we brought my dad and stepmom for an overnight and it was fantastic. Aside from the additional company, you can redistribute the weight in your packs among more people if you have a novice or young hiker in your party. Going back to number two on this list, you can carpool with your friends to keep an extra car from clogging up the parking lot.
9. Remember your camera
In addition to the natural appeal of the lakes, there are plenty of pictures you’ll want to take of your Joffre Lakes experience. If you stay overnight you’ll be able to score some brilliant photos of the sunrise, you can also grab some photos by the glacier, and many along the trail as you go.
10. Bring a headlamp or flashlight
Since you don’t have the light of a campfire to help you see, make sure you pack a headlamp since there are obstacles everywhere. The washrooms are a bit of a trek from the campsite, the terrain is rocky and you will have to cross a small waterway to be able to get to the outhouse. Do not do this in the dark because you’ll be one sad little camper!
Dan likes to say that Joffre Lakes is the easiest hike with the highest reward. It’s definitely do-able, even for a beginner (just pace yourself and take breaks when needed). You’ll be so happy you made the trek out to this picturesque part of BC.
See you out there!