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Joffre Lakes hike – How to visit the mesmerising turquoise lakes

Joffre Lakes is a collection of three stunning turquoise glacial lakes with an impressive backdrop of mountains and the Matier Glacier. Located in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, the park can be reached within a 2,5 hour drive from Vancouver. While Joffre Lakes hike is only a 9.4-kilometer (5.8 miles) round-trip with an elevation gain of 370 metres (1,213ft), it provides so much stunning scenery along the way! And if you want to stay longer, then make sure to book your Joffre Lakes camping spot to enjoy this special backcountry camping. Hiking Joffre Lakes is a must do in British Columbia, and maybe Joffre Lake Trail is even some of the most beautiful hikes in Canada. Go find out for yourself and start planning your visit to the stunning Joffre Lakes with our complete Joffre Lakes hiking guide. 

Joffre Lakes hike statistics 

Length: 9.4-kilometer (5.8 miles).

Elevation gain: 370 metres (1,213ft).

Duration: 3 – 6 hours.

Difficulty: Moderately easy. The hiking trail is not technical and easy to follow. There are some uneven parts along the hiking trails, but nothing too difficult.  

Facilities: Toilets are at the parking lots, trailhead, Middle Lake and Upper Lake campground.

Where are Joffre Lakes located?

Joffre Lakes are part of the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park which are located in Pemberton British Columbia. The park was only established in 1996 and is still traditional territory of the Lil’wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation. They still use the land for harvest and hunting, so it’s extremely important to respect all rules and practice the Leave no Trace principles. Please be respectful when visiting Joffre Lakes. Pack in what you pack out and keep Joffre Lakes clean so the park can stay open for the next generations to explore. 

The perfect solution for solo travelers, if you don’t have your own transport or if you just prefer to hike with a guide!

This full day tour to Joffre Lakes includes a guide, private transportation, lunch and day full of amazing memories. Limited to 5 people, you will be assured of a personal experience. Secure your spot fast before the tour is sold out!

Check here availability and prices for this guided Joffre Lakes tour including transportation

How long is the hike to Joffre Lakes?

There are a total of three lakes to explore during the hike, Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre Lake. With a little less than 10 kilometres in total, it will take most people between 4 to 6 hours to hike up and back down. 

The first lake you’ll visit is Lower Joffre Lake which is only a 5 minute walk from the parking lot over 200 meters. While this lake is beautiful, it is the least impressive of all lakes. So keep going to Middle Joffre Lakes which will take you about 60 minutes walking over 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the parking lot. This is considered the most beautiful lake because of its photogenic backdrop of the Matier Glacier. 

But don’t turn around yet, because the third and final lake is only 30 minutes from Middle Joffre Lake. If you get to the Upper Joffre Lake, make sure to continue the trail to the opposite side of the lake to the campsite. This is the most beautiful view of Upper Joffre Lake and well worth the visit. 

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Is Joffre Lake hike hard? 

No, Joffre Lakes hike is a family friendly moderate hike and could even be classified as pretty easy by people who hike regularly. 

The 370 metres (1,213ft) incline is gradually along the maintained trail. And although it gets a bit rocky with tree roots after the middle lake, there is nothing too technical about this hike. We saw grandparents and young children along the trail, so Joffre Lakes is definitely a great family friendly adventure. 

Where is the starting point to Joffre Lake? 

Joffre Lakes trailhead is located along the Duffy Lake Road and the Joffre Lakes parking is well organised with three parking lots. The small main parking lot directly at the trailhead, one big overflow parking and the Cayoosh parking lot. The overflow parking is 250 meters away from the trailhead while the Cayoosh Parking lot is 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) away from the trailhead. Luckily there’s a shuttle service that operates every weekend from the end of June until the end of September. Don’t park along the highway if the closest two parking lots are full because this is not allowed and you will be towed away!

If you’re coming with an RV or camper van, note that it is not allowed to park your big vehicle at the trailhead parking. The BC Parks Staff will welcome you at the trailhead and ask for your QR code of your day pass reservation. They are there to help, so if you have any concerns you can ask them for advice. 

Regarding the facilities, at all parking spots are toilets, and talso at Middle and Upper Lake you’ll find a pit toilet.

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Is there overnight RV camping nearby Joffre Lakes?

Yes there is! In fact, we have camped ourselves overnight at Lillooet Lake. There are a few free camp spots along this lake which you can find on this website. We have camped at the free Twin One Creek campground which is only a 25 minute drive away from Joffre Lakes. This is a beautiful, serene camp spot along the lake with stunning views. Because it is a free camp spot, it is on first come first serve base. Other camp spots are Strawberry Point Recreation Area, Lizzy Bay Recreation Site and Driftwood Bay Recreation Site. So there are enough options if one of them is already full. 

Read in our complete guide about RVing in Canada everything you need to know!

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Our rental RV and camp spot at Twin One Creek camp ground at Lillooet Lake

How to get a Joffre Lakes day pass?

To hike Joffre Lakes, you need to have reserved your free Joffre Lakes day pass through the BC Parks reservation website. You can book your day pass two days in advance of your planned visit starting at 7 AM in the morning. Make sure to be on time in high season because there is a limited amount of Joffre Lake day passes per day. At the trailhead is BC Parks staff who will check all passes and camping permits.

Best time to hike Joffre Lakes 

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is officially open year-round. But the best months to see the stunning turquoise-blue lakes is roughly in between May and November when the lakes aren’t frozen or covered in snow. The most popular season to visit Joffre Lakes is during the summer months from June to September. In those months you can expect the day passes to sell out quickly and a more busy feeling. If you can’t avoid visiting during the summer months, the best time of the day to hike is either early morning, right after sunrise, or in the late afternoon before sunset. Summer days are long, so you’ll have plenty of time getting back to the car park. 

If you ask yourself, ‘Can I hike Joffre Lake in winter?’, the answer is yes! However, it is not recommended due to avalanche risk. The lakes also might be frozen and covered in snow, so it will be a completely different experience. 

Joffre Lakes trail description 

The hike to the three Joffre Lakes is a beautiful, scenic trail. Not only the striking turquoise-blue lakes are a highlight, but also the jagged glacier peaks, cold rushing streams, a beautiful waterfall and of course the sub-alpine forest. 

Lower Joffre Lake

The trailhead enters directly the forest and after a short 5 minute walk over 200 meter walk you will get to Lower Joffre Lake. On a clear day you’ll have a breathtaking view of the three glaciers Matier Glacier, Stonecrop Glacier and Tazil Glacier pocking out behind the pine forest. Nevertheless, this is not even the most beautiful lake of the three Joffre Lakes. So after a short look around it’s time to head to the most beautiful Joffre Lakes!

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Middle Joffre Lake

The part from Lower Joffre lake to Middle Joffre Lake is the longest section of the hike with around 3km one way. This part of the trail takes you through the forest with some section opening up to stunning valley views. The trail then opens up to the Middle Lake with a fantastic backdrop of the Matier Mountain and Glacier. 

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There are enough spots along the lake to relax, and there is a pit toilet but you have to bring your own toilet paper. 

You might have seen pictures from Joffre Lake on Instagram with a person standing on the log. This is the famous photo spot at the Middle Lake, and if you walk a little bit further along the lakeshore you will see the log.

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When we visited Joffre Middle lake in October, the famous Instagram log was far underwater and impossible to walk on. So we had to be creative and find another photo spot. Which is something I personally would always recommend, because otherwise you have a picture that everyone else has as well. Below our picture on another, not often photographed log.

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Holloway Falls 

Halfway between the Middle Lake towards Upper Lake you will pass the stunning Holloway Falls. This so called fan-like shape waterfall cascades 70 metre (230 feet) down over bedrock and is an impressive sight. Definitely worth a photo stop as it makes the Joffre Lakes hike even more interesting and varied!

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Upper Joffre Lakes

After Holloway waterfall you continue the climb along a short set of wooden stairs. After this, the trail starts to flatten out when you approach Upper Joffre Lake. This stunning lake is surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains with glaciers seeping down. It only is another 1 km to go from Middle Lake to Upper Lake and will take you about 15 minutes to get to the lakeshore.

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The best viewpoint of Upper Lake is 700 meters further though. So when you follow the lakeshore for another 20 minutes after you’ve first reached Upper Lake, you’ll get to the camp spot. Here you’ll have an incredible view of the lake and impressive backdrop of mountains.

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You could even continue further up the trail for a more elevated view of Joffre Lakes. However, this part is only recommended for the more experienced hikers and mountaineers as you need to scramble at some parts. This is not an official trail as rocks and chunks of ice can fall off the glacier. Only attempt this off trail route if you’re experienced with scrambling and off-trail navigation.

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Tours to Joffre Lakes 

If you don’t have a rental car, camper van or RV to travel around Canada, you can also get to Joffre Lakes with a tour! There are two options available. 

This Joffre Lakes photography tour is a 12 hour hiking and photography tour that departs from Vancouver. You can be picked up from downtown Vancouver, east Vancouver or Burnaby or meet your guide at a central location. With a small group you will go to Joffre Lakes where you’ll learn about landscape photography and how to capture waterfalls, lakes, glaciers and forests. You will get one-on-one instruction time and also learn about the indigenous people of the area. Details on what to wear and bring along for the tour will be provided after booking. 

This Joffre Lakes guided hike tour from Vancouver includes transport, a private guide and lunch. A small group of maximum 5 people keeps the experience intimate with enough space for questions and one on one support.  

Why are the Joffre Lakes so blue? 

The beautiful turquoise color of Joffre Lakes is caused by a combination of glacial flour and the reflection of sunlight. You might ask yourself ‘Okay, but how does this work then?’. Well, a glacier moves slowly downhill which creates a fine powder produced by glacial erosion, also known as glacier silt or rock flour. This fine sediment of rock particles contains a lot of minerals and the interesting thing is that it doesn’t sink! Therefore the particles remain suspended in the water and reflect certain wavelengths of light when the sunlight hits the lake. The scattered sunlight gives the lakes their distinctive turquoise hue which makes Joffre Lakes such a visually mesmerizing destination in British Columbia, Canada.

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Can you swim in Joffre Lake? 

If you’re asking yourself ‘is Joffre Lake swimmable?’, you’re not the only one. The crystal clear turquoise water looks so inviting to take a dip in! But be aware that the glacier lakes are super cold because their water source comes from melting snow. However, on a warm summer day you might want to go for a swim to cool off. Luckily it is allowed to swim in Joffre lake, so bring your swimsuit if you’re planning on a plunge. Just make sure to leave your chemical based sunscreen at home. Instead bring biodegradable sunscreen so you won’t harm the fragile environment.

Best time to take photos at Joffre Lakes

The best time to take photos at Joffre Lake is when the sun is at its highest position of the day to reflect the blue color of the lake. Depending on the season this is between 11 AM and 2 PM. Anywhere before and after might work as well on a sunny day, however, shadows can play a roll then. On an overcast day you can still see the intense blue color, but it is less vibrant than on a sunny day. Also, the surrounding snow capped mountains are best captured on a bright, clear day. 

If you want to capture the perfect Joffre Lakes image, you also want the lake to be calm. So no wind, blue skies and a sunny day. This is hard to time and during your visit the weather can change quickly as well. A solution can be to take a long exposure photo to smooth out the water as you can see in the picture below.

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Wildlife in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is home to a variety of wildlife such as black bears, mountain goats, marmots, and various bird species. Because the park is so popular, the chances of encountering a black bear is very little. Nevertheless, you should always carry bear spray with you on hikes in BC and Alberta. 

Joffre Lakes weather 

The weather at Joffre Lakes can change very quickly so dress in layers. Make sure to check the weather forecast and try to plan your visit on a clear day. This will make your visit the most enjoyable and the color of the lakes are at its best with sunshine. 

Unfortunately we only had a window of two days to visit Joffre Lakes during our RV trip through BC and Alberta. We choose the least rainy day but still had a lot of clouds. It created a mysterious and moody atmosphere, but I would love to see Joffre Lakes on a sunny day next time. 

Joffre Lakes camping 

Joffre Lakes has its own designated backcountry camping and is some of the best overnight hikes near Vancouver. Due to the short hike, it is a great beginner camping adventure. 

The Joffre Lakes campsite is located at the Upper Lake and has a total of 26 tent pads. Due to the popularity of the hike, you need to make your reservation far in advance through the BC Parks website. Luckily, you can book your spot at Upper Joffre Lake Campground up to four months before your desired arrival date. The official opening months for camping at Joffre Lakes is usually from May to November. During the winter months the camp ground is closed due to avalanche risk. 

There is a pit toilet near the campground but BC Parks doesn’t provide toilet paper, so bring your own. There is also a bear proof food storage at the campground so you can safely store your food.

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Getting to Joffre Lakes without car 

If you don’t have a rental car, camper van or RV to travel around Canada, you can also get to Joffre Lakes by bus. You can book this shuttle service from Vancouver and Whistler. The great thing is that your Joffre Lakes BC Parks day pass is included for your booking as well, so you don’t have to worry about that anymore!  

The Vancouver to Joffre Lakes bus service operates from June to September during the weekends and public holidays. You will be picked up in downtown Vancouver near Burrard Station at approximately 8:30 AM and returned to the same spot at 8:30 PM that evening. So prepare for a long day on the road and out in nature. There are no places where you can buy food in Joffre Lakes, so prepare enough water, food and snacks. 

The Whistler to Joffre Lakes bus service also operates from June to September during the weekends and public holidays. The bus departs from the Whistler Creekside parking lot at approximately 9:20 AM and picks you up again around 5:30 PM from Joffre Lake. You will be dropped off at Whistler Creekside parking. 

The exact pricing and time schedule will be available on parkbus.ca website at the beginning of the season. 

Where to stay near Joffre Lakes

The closest city to Joffre Lakes is Whistler and the closest town to Joffre Lakes is Pemberton. You can find some great accommodations in this area. Check the availability below and book your stay in advance because they book out quickly! 

More Canada travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Joffre Lakes hike. For more travel inspiration of British Columbia and Alberta, head over to our other Canada travel guides.

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