Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, Canada
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Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, British Columbia

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 from countless Instagram posts. Determined to see if they were just as blue and magnificent in real life, we set off early on our road trip from Vancouver.

Quick tips for visiting Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

Get this: affordable car hire from Vancouver to reach incredible hikes near the city, including Joffre Lakes Provincial Park.

Don’t miss: a trip on the famous Sea to Sky gondola in Squamish on the way up to Joffre Lakes from Vancouver. Take in incredible views of Howe Sound, the coastal rainforest and mountains. It’s an experience you won’t regret.

Bucket list experience: a breathtaking Whistler glacier helicopter tour and mountain landing. You’ll fly through 12,000 year old glaciers over Garibaldi Provincial Park with commentary from your pilot.

Flights: find the cheapest flights to Vancouver with Skyscanner.

Stay: Find the most affordable hotels near Joffre Lakes Provincial Park on Booking.com.

What is Joffre Lakes Provincial Park?

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is a stunning natural area located in British Columbia, Canada. It’s renowned for its three glacier-fed turquoise lakes, beautiful mountain scenery, and picturesque hiking trails. You’ll find three stunning lakes—Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes—each known for its vibrant turquoise waters, created by glacial silt reflecting sunlight. The lakes are surrounded by the majestic Coast Mountains, providing a dramatic backdrop and breathtaking views of peaks and glaciers, including the Matier Glacier. The park offers a well-marked hiking trail system that takes you through forests, over wooden bridges, and past waterfalls to reach each of the three lakes. The hike becomes progressively more challenging as you ascend to higher lakes, with the Upper Lake requiring more effort and offering rewarding views. It’s well worth the hike.

Where is Joffre Lakes Provincial Park?

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is located in British Columbia, Canada, approximately 35 kilometres east of Pemberton along Highway 99, also known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway (and one of the most magnificent drives you’ll experience!) This beautiful provincial park is renowned for its stunning turquoise lakes, glacier views, and hiking trails amidst the Coast Mountains of British Columbia.

How to get to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

There are a couple of ways to reach Joffre Lakes Provincial Park from Vancouver, although driving is by far the easiest option:

  • By car:
    • Start from Vancouver and head north on Highway 99, also known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway
    • Follow Highway 99 through Squamish and continue north towards Whistler
    • After passing Whistler, continue on Highway 99 for approximately 35 kilometres until you reach the well-marked entrance to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park on your right-hand side.
  • By public transport:
    • There are limited public transportation options to Joffre Lakes. You can take a bus or shuttle from Vancouver to Pemberton, then arranging local transport from Pemberton to the park.
    • Private shuttles or tour companies might offer transportation directly to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park from select locations.

Make sure you check road conditions, parking availability, and any closures or restrictions at the park before your trip, especially during peak seasons. The park can get busy, and parking spaces can fill up quickly during weekends and holidays.

Road to Joffre Lakes, near Vancouver

Can you camp at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park?


Yes, camping is permitted at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. The park provides camping areas near the lakes, offering visitors the opportunity to spend the night amidst the stunning scenery. It’s an incredible place to camp – you can enjoy the serenity of the lakes and surrounding mountains, as well stargazing during your stay. Do note that campsites must be reserved in advance, especially during peak seasons. Here are a few tips for camping at Joffre Lakes:

  • The campsite facilities are fairly basic – you’ll likely find tent pads, picnic tables, and pit toilets. That said, there might not be running water or electricity, so come prepared with necessary supplies.
  • Campfires may not always be allowed, especially during dry seasons or when fire bans are in place. Always check for current fire regulations and adhere to any restrictions.
  • You should practice Leave No Trace principles by minimizing your impact on the environment. Pack out all trash, avoid disturbing wildlife, and follow park regulations to preserve the natural beauty of the area.

What is there to do at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park?

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park has a range of activities for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts:

Hiking

The park has a well-maintained trail system that leads hikers to three stunning turquoise lakes—Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes. Each lake has unique viewpoints and picturesque landscapes along the way. You can immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the park, and enjoy the serenity of the lakes, forests, and surrounding mountain landscapes. Here’s a trail map that you can check out.

  • Lower Joffre Lake: The trail begins from the parking lot and leads to the first lake, offering beautiful views. It’s a relatively easy hike.
  • Middle Joffre Lake: A moderate hike from the Lower Lake, leading to the second, larger turquoise lake. This part of the trail involves more elevation gain.
  • Upper Joffre Lake: The most challenging part of the hike, reaching the third lake. It involves steep sections and can be demanding but you’re rewarded with incredible views of Matier Glacier.

Photography

The park’s breathtaking scenery, with vibrant turquoise waters, glacier views, and mountain vistas, makes it a paradise for photographers.

Joffre Lakes, Vancouver

Camping

Overnight camping is permitted in designated camping areas near the lakes, meaning you can spend the night and experience the tranquility of Joffre Lakes Provincial Park under the stars.

Picnicking

There are plenty of scenic spots around the lakes that offer ideal settings for picnics. Visitors can relax, enjoy a meal, and take in the stunning views. We took some food and drinks with us and enjoyed them at Middle Joffre Lakes with the perfect panoramas of the lake.

Wildlife Viewing

While exploring the park, keep an eye out for wildlife such as birds, mountain goats, and other animals that inhabit the area. The park provides opportunities for learning about the local ecology, glacial formations, and the unique features of the Coast Mountains.

Log at Joffre Lakes

When is best to visit Joffre Lakes Provincial Park?

The best time to visit Joffre Lakes Provincial Park largely depends on your preferences and the season you’d like to visit. I headed to do the hike in July when I had friends visiting me in Vancouver from the UK and it was perfect – a gorgeous, sunny day. We started early so it wouldn’t get too hot, which I’d recommend you do in the summer months.

  • Late spring to early fall (May to September) – this period is generally the most popular for visitors. The weather is milder, and the hiking trails are more accessible without snow. The turquoise lakes are at their most vibrant during this time, making it ideal for photography.
  • Summer (June to August) – these months offer warmer temperatures, making it more comfortable for camping and enjoying outdoor activities. However, this is also the busiest time, and the trails and camping areas can be crowded.
  • Fall (September to October) – fall foliage adds a beautiful touch to the scenery. The crowds tend to diminish compared to summer, and the weather is still pleasant for hiking.
  • Winter (November to April) – winter transforms the park into a snowy wonderland. However, during this time, the trails can be covered in snow, making hiking more challenging and requiring proper equipment and experience for safe navigation.

To avoid crowds and enjoy a more peaceful hike, visit during the shoulder seasons of late spring or early fall. Be mindful, however, of changing weather conditions and potential closures due to snow or other factors, especially during the winter months.

Do you need a pass to visit Joffre Lakes Provincial Park?


During peak seasons (the summer months), you might require a day-use pass to visit Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. Policies and regulations can change, however, so I recommend you check the latest information on the official BC Parks website or contact the park directly to confirm if any passes or permits are required before planning your visit.

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

What to bring to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

When visiting Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, it’s essential to pack appropriately for a day hike or an overnight stay. Here’s a suggested list of items to bring:

  • Multi device charger – I don’t go hiking without one of these. It’s so handy for charging your iPhone while on the go while you’re away from plugs, especially if you like taking photos and videos on your phone as much as me!
  • Toilet paper – there’s no guarantee you’ll find toilet paper in the toilets at the beginning of the hike, and you indeed won’t find toilets while hiking. These compressed towels are super handy for on the go.
  • Reusable travel water bottle – I don’t hike without one of these any more. It’s super cheap and is easy to just refill and shove into a backpack when you’re out exploring. I always like to have water on me, and don’t like buying single use plastics, so this is perfect.
  • Trail mix – trail mix is perfect for keeping you going when you’re on a long hike, so I recommend grabbing a large bag like this. It’s great for decanting into smaller containers for each time you’re heading out on a hike.
  • A backpack – I’ve used this Trespass backpack for as long as I can remember. It’s lightweight, holds up to 30 litres, is really comfy, and comes in a range of colours. It served me so well for my hikes all over British Columbia, and so I highly recommend it.
  • Medication and first aid – no one wants their hike ruined by injury or sickness, so I usually keep a few key items packed. Paracetamol, suncream, plasters, and mosquito repellant literally come with me everywhere. This basic first aid kit is great for covering the essentials for your hike.
  • A good factor 50 sunscreen – I’d always recommend wearing a SPF 50+ during the summer months in BC – the sun can be surprisingly strong. This is a good, affordable suncream which you can slather on before your hike.
  • A multi-tool – having lived in British Columbia for several years, completing several hikes, and camping, this is an essential I don’t hike without. It’s so handy for everything from cutting cables to opening packets.
  • Bear bell – we are in Canada after all, so make sure you take precautions. I bought this bear bell when I first moved to Vancouver and took it on every single hike with me.

Remember to adjust your packing list based on the season, weather forecast, duration of stay, and specific activities you plan to undertake. Always be prepared for changing weather conditions and wilderness safety while respecting the park’s regulations and Leave No Trace principles.

What nature can you expect to find in Joffre Lakes?

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park has a whole host of nature to discover in the wilderness of beautiful British Columbia. Its hallmark is the trio of glacial-fed lakes—Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes—each with mesmerising turquoise waters. Towering peaks and alpine meadows surround the lakes, hosting a diverse array of flora and fauna. Delicate wildflowers like Indian Paintbrush and Lupine add splashes of colour to the landscape, while coniferous trees like Douglas fir dot the lower regions. Wildlife, including black bears, grizzly bears, deer, mountain goats, marmots, and a variety of bird species, inhabit this picturesque terrain. You might even spot pikas along the trail. Make sure when camping you store your food in the metal caches at the campground to avoid attracting bears. The park’s hiking trails wind through forests and rocky paths, offering glimpses of this vibrant nature and opportunities to encounter its diverse inhabitants.

Vancouver to Joffre Lakes

I thought I’d share some photos and my own experiences of reaching Joffre Lakes from Vancouver, and doing the hike. The best way to reach Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is by car. Due to its remote location, it can be difficult to reach via public transport. Head from Vancouver to Whistler along the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway (one of my favourite drives in the world). 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 – we left Vancouver around 6am when we visited in July and it was still busy when we got there.

Lower Joffre Lake

Cruising past warning signs for bears, my friends and I set off on our Joffre Lakes hike in search of the bluest lakes you’ve ever seen. With three main lakes to discover on the hike, you’re treated with Lower Joffre Lake 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, but had no idea what else was in store further on in the hike.

Lower Joffre Lake, British Columbia

Joffre Lakes officially became a Provincial Park back in January 1988. The park features glaciers, mountains, streams, and waterfalls as well as the three beautiful lakes. I generally believe that the harder the hike, the more impressive the views you’re rewarded with. I certainly found this to be the case 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.

Lower Joffre Lake, Vancouver

Despite being deep in rural British Columbian wildlife, it never fails to amaze me quite how close I am to home. By talking among ourselves 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 in search of Middle Joffre Lake.

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 are icy glacial waterfalls that you can guzzle from en route. We filled up our water bottles and trekked on.

Views on the hike near Pemberton, BC

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 deep turquoise blue. You’re treated to the most incredible views of the valley at Middle Joffre Lakes, too.

Views of Middle Joffre Lake, British Columbia

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, and pictures simply don’t do it justice.

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

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.

Girls on a log at Joffre Lakes, Vancouver

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 blue colour to a beautiful turquoise green.

Friends at the blue lake

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.

Girls at the blue lake

Eventually tearing our eyes away from the view, we set off in search of the final treasure, Upper Joffre Lake.

Upper Joffre Lake

Having been promised by fellow hikers that 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.

Waterfall at Joffre Lakes

We passed some glorious scenery and this huge glacial waterfall. On your hike, take some birdseed with you. You’ll likely see some adorable birds that may want to feed from your hand en route. And finally, there we had 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.

Girls at the blue 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 beautiful Joffre 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 magnificent. Joffre, I’ll for sure be back.

Tips for visiting Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

It’s really important to plan and prepare adequately for your trip to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. I thought I’d share some of my top tips for making the most of your hike:

  1. Parking and crowds – arrive to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park early, especially during peak seasons, as parking can fill up quickly. Consider visiting on weekdays or during off-peak times to avoid the crowds.
  2. Be prepared for the hike – you should adapt your preparedness according to your fitness level. Proper hiking shoes and layers of clothing are advisable, as weather conditions in the mountains can change rapidly.
  3. Pack essentials – make sure to bring sufficient water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a first aid kit. Bear spray is recommended, as the area is known for bear sightings.
  4. Weather awareness – check the weather forecast before heading out, and be prepared for changing conditions as mountain weather can be unpredictable.
  5. Leave No Trace – respect the environment by carrying out all trash and waste. Stay on designated trails to preserve fragile vegetation and avoid disturbing wildlife.
  6. Photography – capture the stunning scenery but be mindful of your surroundings and fellow hikers. Remember, drones are not allowed in the park.
  7. Bear safety – be bear aware! Make noise while hiking with a bear bell, carry bear spray, and learn about bear safety protocols before your visit.
  8. Trail closures – occasionally, trails might be closed due to maintenance or wildlife activity. Check for any updates or closures before your visit.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to enjoy the beauty of Joffre Lakes Provincial Park while minimising any potential impact on the environment and ensuring a safe yet fun experience.

Girls on the log at Joffre Lakes, British Columbia

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park: FAQs

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about visiting Joffre Lakes Provincial Park:

Is it safe to swim in Joffre Lake?

The lakes at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park are incredibly beautiful with their vibrant turquoise waters. However, swimming in these glacier-fed lakes might not be the best idea due to several reasons:

  • The temperature: the lakes are fed by glaciers, so the water tends to be extremely cold, even during the warmer months. Swimming in such cold water can lead to hypothermia or shock. There’s a log that runs across Middle Joffre Lake that you can walk across, so I’d recommend walking on this for photos instead.
  • Safety concerns: glacier-fed lakes can have unpredictable underwater currents, and the depth might vary unexpectedly. The conditions can change rapidly, posing safety risks for swimmers, especially those unaccustomed to cold water or unaware of the lake’s characteristics.
  • Environmental conservation: Joffre Lakes is a protected area, and swimming might disturb the fragile ecosystem and wildlife in and around the lakes.

While the lakes are incredibly inviting due to their stunning appearance, it’s generally recommended to admire the beauty of the lakes from the shore instead of trying to swim.

Is there a shuttle from Whistler to Joffre Lakes?

Unfortunately, there isn’t currently a direct shuttle service specifically from Whistler to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. However, there are public transport options available from Whistler that can take you to Pemberton or nearby areas, from where you can arrange a local taxi to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. The easiest way to reach the park is to drive – I recommend hiring a car from either Whistler or Vancouver via DiscoverCars and enjoying the scenic drive.

How many hours hiking is Joffre Lake?

The hike to Joffre Lakes consists of a series of trails leading to three lakes: Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes. The total hiking time to reach all three lakes can vary based on individual hiking pace, fitness level, and the specific trail conditions. Here’s a general breakdown:

  • Lower Joffre Lake: the trail to Lower Joffre Lake is relatively easy and takes about 5 to 15 minutes from the parking lot, depending on your walking speed. It’s a short and straightforward hike.
  • Middle Joffre Lake: continuing from Lower Joffre Lake to Middle Joffre Lake involves a moderately challenging hike, taking approximately 1 to 1.5 hours from the Lower Lake. This part of the trail includes more of an uphill hike and some rugged terrain.
  • Upper Joffre Lake: the trail from Middle to Upper Joffre Lake is the most challenging section, involving steep and more demanding terrain. It can take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Upper Joffre Lake from the Middle Lake.

If hiking to all three lakes, the round-trip hike can take around 4-6 hours or longer, depending on breaks, conditions, and hiking pace. It’s important to plan accordingly, bring plenty of water and snacks, and to allow plenty of time to explore and enjoy the stunning scenery at each lake.

Is Joffre Lake shutting down?

There are currently no specific plans or announcements to shut down or close Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. However, like many parks and natural areas, there might be occasional closures, restrictions, or changes in access due to various reasons such as maintenance, environmental concerns, wildfire risks, or other factors. Earlier this year, the Líl̓wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation jointly shut down the public access to Pipi7iyekw (Joffre Lakes Provincial Park) until National Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30th, 2023. This meant all camping reservations and day-use passes were cancelled by BC Parks. It’s essential to check the official British Columbia Parks website or local park authorities for any recent updates, closures, or advisories before planning your visit to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. Additionally, during certain seasons or high-traffic times, there might be limitations on parking or restrictions to manage visitor numbers for conservation purposes.

Is Joffre Lake glacier water?

Yes, the beautiful turquoise waters found in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park are fed by glaciers. The lakes’ vibrant blue and turquoise hues are a result of rock flour – fine particles of rock that are created by the grinding of bedrock underneath glaciers. These particles get suspended in the glacial meltwater, giving the lakes their distinct colour. The park’s three main lakes – Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes – all showcase these mesmerising glacial waters, making them a highlight for visitors.


That’s my guide to hiking Joffre Lakes Provincial Park! I hope you found it helpful. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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2 Comments

    1. We were super lucky! Although apparently it gets so busy now tons of cars get towed from along the car park and road 🙁

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