Joffre Lakes as a Day Hike or a Backpacking Trip
Joffre Lakes is an absolute dream! It is a hike that takes you to not only one beautiful blue alpine lake but three! Joffre Lakes can be completed as a day hike or a backpacking trip where you can camp at the designated campground. The hike takes you through the forest and once you climb higher you will be rewarded with insane mountain views!
Joffre Lakes is one of the places that is on the top of many visitor’s British Columbia hiking bucket lists and you can easily see why. The lakes are bright turquoise and extremely photogenic. This has made Joffre Lakes busier and busier over the years so that you now really need to plan ahead if you want to see the stunning lakes and get a spot in the carpark.
Joffre Lakes are located in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park (yes – they have their own Provincial Park) which is about a 2 hours 45 mins drive from Downtown Vancouver. The best way to get to Joffre Lakes from Vancouver is by car along the Sea to Sky Highway. The lakes are located in Pemberton, about an hour past Whistler.
The hike itself is 10km / 6.2miles return with an elevation gain of 370 metres 1,213ft. It will take you about 3.5-5 hours to complete the hike depending on your hiking ability.
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📃 Hike Stats
Distance: 10km / 6.2miles
Elevation: 370metres 1,213ft.
From Vancouver: 2 hours 45 mins
Dog Friendly: No
Toilets: Yes, at the trailhead and at the middle lake however BYO toilet paper
📍 Where are Joffre Lakes Located?
Joffre Lakes are located in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park in Pemberton British Columbia, around a 2 hour 45 min drive from Downtown Vancouver.
How to Get to Joffre Lakes
To get to Joffre Lakes from Vancouver, you can either drive, go on a tour or catch a shuttle bus.
If you plan on driving, it will take around 2.5 hours but this also depends on traffic. It took us almost 5 hours last time to just get home from Joffre Lakes because there was SO much traffic. It was also peak end of weekend hour on a Sunday afternoon.
You will need to take the Sea to Sky Highway through Squamish and Whistler all of the way to Pemberton. Pemberton is the last place to get any last minute food or gas and from there it is around 30 minutes more to Joffre Lakes Trailhead and parking lot.
Where to park for Joffre Lakes Hike
The Joffre Lakes hike has its own designated carpark at the trailhead plus an overflow carpark across the road. There are pit toilets located in both carparks. The carparks are free, but to hike the trail, you need to have reserved either a day pass or a camping permit through the BC Parks website.
There are BC Parks staff at the trailhead who check all passes and permits to ensure that everyone is doing the right thing.
Shuttle Service to Joffre Lakes from Whistler and Vancouver
If you don’t have a car, don’t panic! There is a bus to Joffre Lakes from Vancouver which is a scheduled service offered by Parkbus in partnership with BC Parks. The bus picks up passengers in Downtown Vancouver (near Burrard Station) at 8:30 AM, and costs between $60 and $94 per person for a return trip. The shuttle also includes the day pass to Joffre Lakes which saves you from having to jump on BC Parks at 7am two days before to reserve one.
It then makes a stop in Whistler, so if you are staying in Whistler you can also jump on here. This is also a great option as there is limited space in the carparks at Joffre Lakes.
For more information and to book the shuttle, check out the Park Bus Website here.
Joffre Lakes Tour from Downtown Vancouver
This tour will take you all of the way from Downtown Vancouver to Joffre Lakes and back again. The tour includes photography tips from a professional photographer who will be your guide for the hike.
🕐 How Long is the Joffre Lakes Trail?
Hiking all the way to the upper lake is 10km / 6.2 miles return which will take you about 4-5 hours to complete. The trail climbs steadily uphill for a lot of the hike so some people may find hiking poles helpful. Dave and I have done this hike with Kerry’s parents before who were both happy that they brought their poles, but we were fine without ours. The total elevation gain is 370m / 1,213ft.
🥾 Joffre Lakes Hike Difficulty
We would classify the difficulty of Joffre Lakes as moderate. IF you are someone who is used to hiking in the mountains, this hike will be pretty easy for you. If you haven’t hiked in a while, you may find yourself stopping to catch your breath while climbing up hill.
Other than the steady incline on the trail, the majority of the trail is not too technical and is on a nice maintained path. It does get a little more rooty and rocky from the middle lake to the upper lake and then the rest of the way to the campground if you are camping.
🐶 Can Dogs do the Joffre Lakes Trail
Dogs are not allowed in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park and therefore are not allowed on the Joffre Lakes Trail.
📅 When is the best time to visit Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes is accessible year round, however is covered in snow and the lakes are frozen during Winter. Hiking is not recommend outside of the officially opening dates due to avalanche risk. It is officially open to the public from May 1 to November 14. The most popular months to visit Joffre Lakes are the Summer months, from June until September.
The best month to visit Joffre Lakes, is when they are at their most turquoise, which is August. It does get extremely busy during these times so try to plan to start hiking early in the morning (before 7am) and if you can go on a week day instead of a weekend, we highly recommend it!
Alternatively, rather than starting your hike early, you could go later in the afternoon. The peak hiking times for day hikers to begin hiking would be late morning as many of them would be coming from either Whistler or Vancouver. In the Summer, it doesn’t get dark here until around 9:30pm, so you could plan to start your hike at 4pm and still get back to the carpark before dark. If you decide to do this, bring along a headlamp just in case you end up doing some of the hike back in the dark. The headlamps that we use for hiking are from Nitecore and they are awesome! You can check them out here.
There are pit toilets located in both parking lots, at the middle lake, upper lake and campground. The Joffre Lakes trail is well equipped to cater to the thousands of people that visit each Summer.
Bring your own toilet paper as it is not supplied in the toilets along the trail.
There is no running water so bring some hand sanitiser and a Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener nofollow” title=””>water filter to use to top up your water along the trail.
At the campground at the upper lake, there is a bear box to store your food.
There are no trash cans along the trail so if you bring it in pack it out!
🚱 Where to Filter Water
You will probably not need to filter water until you are close to the upper lake, however there are a few different water sources that you can filter from. There is one about 3/4 of the way along the trail from the lower lake to the middle lake.
There are also water sources along the trail from the middle lake to the upper lake and at the campground near the toilet. You will need to cross this stream to reach the campsites so you can’t miss it!
🎟 Joffre Lakes day pass
If you are day hiking Joffre Lakes, you will need to obtain a day pass through BC Parks. Passes are available to book starting at 7am, two days in advance of your planned visit. We cannot stress this more: If you want to visit Joffre Lakes, you need to be online on the website ready to press that booking button at 7am on the dot. As Joffre Lakes is so popular, the passes are becoming more and more competitive. You can book your day pass here.
⛺ Camping at Joffre Lakes
If you haven’t done much backpacking before but really want to do an overnight hike near Vancouver that will take you to an awesome location, Joffre Lakes is a great choice. Joffre Lakes is one of the best beginner backpacking trip in British Columbia!
The campsites are located at the Upper Lake and will need to be reserved in advance through BC Parks. Camping is only allowed in the designated camping area and is only open during the official opening months due to avalanche risk in Winter.
Once you reach the upper lake, you will need to continue walking through the forest around the lake to the right as the sites are on the opposite side of the lake.
There is a pit toilet located near the campground but make sure you bring along your own toilet paper, as the parks no longer supply this. There is also a bear-proof food storage unit at the campground.
❓ Do I need to reserve a campground?
All campsites at Joffre Lakes need to be reserved. You can reserve a campsite through BC Parks backcountry reservation system here. Campsite reservations can be made up to four (4) months in advance of your arrival date and the booking system opens at 7am. These sites are even more competitive than the day passes as there are not many of them. You need to be on the site ready to press reserve at 7am.
A day pass is not required if you have a campsite booking. Make sure you screenshot your reservation to have on you for proof as the parks ambassadors at the trailhead will ask to see it.
🔵 Why are Joffre Lakes so blue?
The gorgeous bright blue colour of all three lakes comes from glacial silt (sediment from ground up rock and gravel particles produced during glacial erosion.) The glacial silt reflects the blue and green wavelengths of sunlight, creating a the gorgeous turquoise colour. The lakes are most turquoise in August, after the snowmelt.
🥾 The Joffre Lakes Trail
Joffre Lakes can be broken up into 3 sections as there are 3 beautiful lakes which you can stop, rest at and enjoy the stunning mountain views. The hike takes you through the forest but as you climb higher, you will emerge out of the forest and be hiking next to absolutely insane mountain views. This is one of the many things that we love about this hike.
As you hike, each lake that you come to becomes more and more blue so don’t be too disappointed if the lower lake is not what you were expecting.
Joffre Lakes – Lower Lake
The Lower Lake is only around 5 minutes and 200 metres into the hike and so is suitable for the whole family to visit!
Joffre Lakes – Middle Lake
The Middle Lake is the most photographed lake and probably the one you have seen hundreds of times on social media. The trail from the lower lake to the middle lake is the longest section of the hike and is around 3km one way.
There is a pit toilet located at the middle lake, but please remember to bring your own toilet paper as BC Parks no longer provides this due to the mess it creates in the environment. There are places to stop here and sit on the rocks next to the lake or you could even go for a dip if you are feeling brave.
Joffre Lakes – Upper Lake and Campground
The Upper Lake, in our opinion is extremely underrated. We think it is the most beautiful as it is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The walk from the middle to upper lake is only about 1km and will take you around 15 minutes one way. There is also a pit toilet located at the upper lake near the campsites. There are plenty of places to sit along the sides of the lake on the rocks to enjoy the view and there is also some shade under the trees.
The campground is 700m further around the lake and will take you around 20 mins to reach from when you first reach the Upper Lake.
We were surprised to see this awesome waterfall as all we had heard about was how blue the lakes were! Holloway Falls is halfway between the middle and upper lakes and is definitely worth a stop for a photo!
📸 Where is the Joffre Lakes Instagram Log Photo taken?
If you have Instagram, you have probably seen the famous photo of the dreamy bright turquoise lake with a log that runs into the water, often referred to as the Instagram log!
This shot is taken in the absolutely gorgeous Joffre Lakes Provincial Park at the Middle Lake. If you are dead set on getting this shot, you need to be prepared to line up and wait as there will most definitely be a queue. This is a classic Instagram versus reality moment as the photo makes it look like you are the only one there.
If you love photography, there is an awesome photography hiking tour from Vancouver which takes you to Joffre Lakes. This tour departs from Vancouver and is lead by a professional photographer who will teach you how to take amazing photos at Joffre Lakes that will make all of your family and friends jealous. The guide will also take photos of you with his camera, which will then be sent to you at the end of the tour.
You can book this tour here.
🐻 Are there bears in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park?
There are black bears and cougars that reside in the wider Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. However, the Joffre Lakes hike is extremely popular and therefore you most likely will not see any. This does not mean, that you shouldn’t bring bear spray with you. You should have bear spray on you on all hikes in BC.
You can purchase some here.
For more information on bear safety, check out this website.
👚 What to Wear
Below is everything that we consider taking along with us on our hikes. Depending on what the weather is like, you may want to cut back on the layers. Especially if you are going in the heat of Summer. Instead of a puffer jacket, you may want to bring along some swimmers to cool off in one of the lakes. Beware though, they are freezing as they are alpine lakes which get their water from snow and glacier run off.
- Hiking Boots – Kerry’s loves the Oboz Bridger Mid B-Dry Boots and Dave’s favourite boots are his Scarpa Kailash Plus Gore-Tex Backpacking Boots.
- Hiking Socks – Good hiking socks are important to make your boots as comfortable as possible! Our favourite hiking socks are Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Light Cushion Crew Socks and the Darn Tough Hiker Midweight with Cushion Micro Crew socks.
- Merino Top / Tee – Merino is a great material to hike in so we use Merino tops to hike. Our favourite Merino tops are the Tech Lite II Crewe T-Shirts from Icebreaker! Mens is linked here and Women’s is linked here.
- Kerry’s Leggings – Kerry wears leggings on every hike and her favourites are the Lululemon Align pant.
- Men’s Hiking Pants – A great option for men’s hiking pants are the KUHL Renogade Rock Pants.
- Fleece – Our favourite fleeces are the Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4 Zip (Kerry’s) and a Mac Pac Fleece from Australia (Dave’s).
- Puffer Jacket – Dave’s favourite puffer jacket is the Arcteryx Cerium LT Hoody and Kerry’s favourites are the Eddie Bauer CirrusLite Down Hooded Jacket and Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket.
- Rain Jacket – We bring our raincoats along on all of our hikes, because you know.. just in case!
- Beanie – While the weather is still cold, we still bring along our beanies on our hikes.
- Hat – A hat is so so important when hiking during Summer in BC as the sun is extremely strong. Tilley makes some really great hats for hiking.
- Check prices for Tilley hats on MEC here.
- Day Backpack – Our favourite backpack for day hikes is the Osprey Tempest 20 Backpack.
- Your Camera Gear! We never go anywhere without ours! Check out our camera gear here.
💭 Our Thoughts
Although Joffre Lakes is super busy and almost feels like Disneyland, we still love it there so much that we are thinking of making it an annual backpacking trip!
If you are wanting to hike to a beautiful turquoise alpine lake but are not too keen on doing a super technically challenging trail, then Joffre Lakes is the one for you!
If you have time and are looking for another great Provincial Park to visit, Golden Ears Provincial Park is one of our favourites in Vancouver.
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