Nestled in the mountains near the beautiful Canadian ski resort of Whistler, you’ll find Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. A four hour drive from downtown Vancouver, you’ll likely recognise the incredible blue waters of the lakes in this park. Determined to see if they were just as blue in real life, and not just thanks to Instagram filters, we set off early on our road trip from Vancouver.
Vancouver to Joffre Lakes
The best way to reach Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is by driving. Due to its remote location, it’s a little more difficult to reach via public transport. Head from Vancouver to Whistler along the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway. Past Whistler, continue on along Highway 99 to Pemberton. You’ll hit Duffey Lakes Road. Here, you simply follow the signs towards Joffre Lakes Provincial Park to the car park. I highly recommend getting there early to reserve a space as it can get very busy.
In 2019, Parkbus and BC Parks introduced a shuttle bus for Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. This can actually be a more convenient option given the current car parking arrangement. Running every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (and summer stat holidays), the bus leaves Vancouver. You’ll have enough time to do the hike, see the lakes, and arrive back in the city in the evening after an epic day out.
Lower Joffre Lake
Unperturbed by warning signs for bears, my visitors and I set off on our hike in search of the bluest lakes you’ve ever seen. With three main lakes to be explored, you’re treated almost instantly. The first lake is literally a stone’s throw from the car park. You can get there within around 2 minutes. My camera really doesn’t do Lower Joffre Lake justice. We were all overwhelmed by the blue hues of the water, and had no idea what else was in store further on in the hike.
Joffre Lakes officially became a Provincial Park in January 1988. The park compromises glaciers, mountains, streams, and waterfalls as well as the three beautiful lakes. I believe that the harder the hike, the more impressive the hike! At least, that’s what I also thought when we did BC’s epic Panorama Ridge hike.
Ever since Joffre Lakes became a provincial park, it’s been super popular. It’s unsurprising when the lakes are so beautiful. Although the least pretty of the three lakes, Lower Joffre Lake still has some awesome glacier views. The hike is around 10km long and on average takes around four hours depending on your fitness level.
Despite being deep in rural British Columbian wildlife, it never fails to amaze me quite how close I am to home. By mumbling about our hometown, another family let us know that they were visiting from Cheltenham too. Such a small world! After being treated to the first lake almost instantly, the second lake makes you work harder so we set off.
Middle Joffre Lake
Expect a forty five minute uphill hike towards the Middle Joffre Lake – my goodness, you’ll be glad you did it. If you get hot on your way up, there’s always icy glacial waterfalls that you can guzzle from en route.
The views are also spectacular as you slowly ascend on the hike. You’ll encounter some switchbacks as it gets steeper, as well as some steps. Soon, you’ll also disappear into the woods, and then emerge through a clearing to a glimmering of blue. You’re treated to the most incredible views of the valley at Middle Joffre Lakes.
You’re probably wondering what makes Joffre Lake the insane blue hue that it is. This is thanks to rockflour in the water. It’s a type of glacial silt that sits and reflects the green and blue wavelengths of sunlight. The colour really is out of this world – I’ve never seen anything like it and we couldn’t stop staring. The views look just like a Windows screensaver.
Middle Joffre Lakes is the lake with the iconic log that people love to stand on and jump from for photos. We braved tiptoeing in the icy water along the log, but didn’t quite muster the courage to jump in! I warn you now, the water is freezing.
We witnessed first hand how much the colour of the lakes changes in the sunlight. When we arrived at Middle Joffre Lake, the sun was still behind the mountains. As we were leaving, the sun turned the water from a dark, duller colour to a beautiful turquoise green.
Overwhelmed by the beauty of Middle Joffre Lake, we explored and stopped to take photos. Despite such amazing shades of blue, the views of the hike in the winter are meant to be equally as beautiful.
We all sat in the perfect picnic spot and puzzled over how even the glacier itself is so blue.
Barely being able to tear our eyes away from the view, we set off in search of the final treasure, Upper Joffre Lake.
Upper Joffre Lake
Having been promised the final lake, Upper Joffre, isn’t too far away and worth one last push, we hopped to it. It was actually a pretty easy remainder of the hike, and just another 20 minutes uphill.
We passed some glorious scenery and this huge glacial waterfall. On your hike, take some birdseed with you. This is because you’ll see some adorable birds that may want to feed from your hand en route.
There we have it: Upper Joffre Lake. We sat like mermaids across the rocks and watched the snow trickle down from the glacier to form the aquamarine hues of the lake.
Despite being a sunny day up in the interior of British Columbia, I can’t describe how cold the water is as you paddle. After an hour or so of sunbathing, we uncurled like limpets from the rock. We made our way down for one last view of my favourite lake, Middle Joffre Lake. As the day progresses and the sun twinkles more, the lake just gets even more blue.
After the most incredible day at these beautiful lakes, we were happy to hop back in the Jeep in search of our next adventure. We stopped in Whistler for dinner and took one last paddle in Lost Lake, just for good measure. It isn’t quite as beautiful as Joffre Lakes, but is still beautiful. Joffre, I’ll sure be back.
Have you done the Joffre Lakes hike? What are your favourite hikes to do in the area? Let me know in the comments below.