Everything you need to know before hiking Joffre Lakes, BC

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is home to 3 of the most beautiful lakes in BC, and this beautiful day-hike to see the brightest blue water in BC should be on the top of your Canadian bucket-list. Before you visit, you need to know some important details to make your trip to Joffre Lakes the best it can be. Since this park is one of the busiest in British Columbia you’ll want to continue reading to learn more about the best time to visit and more!

Since moving to BC, we’ve taken 2 trips to Joffre Lakes in the summer and are excited to visit for a third time in the winter! It truly is one of BC’s best gems and it’s a perfect way to spend a day-trip. Consider hiking to all 3 of the lakes, and make sure you’re prepared for your day-hike with your hiking gear, food/water and your bathing suit! Here’s everything you’ll need to know to make your Joffre Lakes trip-planning go smooth.

Where is Joffre Lakes Provincial Park?

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is located in southwest BC region close to Pemberton, BC and it’s one of the top bucket-list hikes near Vancouver! Many visitors add these beautiful blue lakes to their BC travel plans for an enjoyable day-trip. It’s a beautiful drive down the Sea to Sky Highway 99 from Vancouver, Squamish or Whistler. From Vancouver, it will take you about 2.5 hours to drive to Joffre Lakes. From Whistler, it will take you 1 hour to drive. For those without transportation, there is a Joffre Lakes bus located in both Vancouver and Whistler.

Will I need a reservation or day-pass to visit?

Yes, because Joffre Lakes in one of the most popular parks in the Province there is now a day-pass reservation system in effect during the busier, summer months. These day-passes are available on BC Parks website and can be booked 2-days ahead of your planned visit at 7AM. This means that you will want to reserve your passes early to ensure you get to visit on your preferred day! Passes can sell out quickly and will stop being available once capacity is met. Cancelled passes are put back into the system, so you can always check last-minute as well.

In the busy summer months, there are park rangers at the entrance of the park who will check to make sure you have registered for your day-pass. It is so important to make sure you have your pass before you arrive, especially because you will lose cell-service about 30 minutes away from the park. Have your day-pass loaded and ready before you arrive!

Parking at Joffre Lakes

Your day-pass will guarantee entry into the park, however, it won’t guarantee a parking spot. There are 2 parking lots at Joffre Lakes, with the main parking lot being large and situated in front of the park entrance. The second overflow parking lot is located about 1-2 minutes away from the main parking lot and will be on the left side of the road before you reach the main parking lot entrance. Make sure to arrive early enough to secure a parking spot before they get full, parking on the side of the highway is prohibited.

When is the best time to visit Joffre Lakes?

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park can be enjoyed all year, but the most enjoyable time to visit will be in the Summer! The water will showcasing it’s beautiful blue colour, the mountains will be visible and you can even enjoy a cold swim from mid June-September. We made our visit at the beginning of August and the water was great after hiking in the sun!

During the summer, consider visiting Joffre Lakes in off-peak times such as weekdays. The summer months will be the busiest time of the year at Joffre Lakes and it’s important to arrive early to avoid crowds! From 8-9AM you will have the park to yourself, other people begin to arrive from 10-11AM and it gets busy from 12PM-4PM. Finally, as the sun goes down from 5PM-6PM you’ll notice barely any people.

Another great option is to visit Joffre Lakes in the winter! There’s a special time right before the ice freezes over where you’ll enjoy Joffre Lakes surrounded by snow, and when the ice first starts to melt you’ll capture that beautiful blue colour through the ice. When the ice freezes solid you can even skate on Joffre Lakes! This is a fantastic option to enjoy Joffre Lakes in the off-season as well during Spring & Fall. Make sure to be prepared for winter hiking conditions with proper gear.

Hiking to Joffre Lakes

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park consists of 3 beautiful blue lakes situated in the mountains. Before you go, be prepared to hike! Whether you choose to visit the first, second or all 3 lakes you will be hiking to your destination. By being prepared for your day-hike you will absolutely enjoy your time at Joffre Lakes more, so be sure to read our guide on What to Bring on your Day-Hike for ideas on what to bring. It’s always important to hike in proper shoes or hiking boots, bring extra food & water, and extra layers in case the. weather changes.

Each lake is located at a different distance and elevation than the others, and I absolutely recommend hiking to all 3 lakes to get the full experience! Be prepared to hike uphill if you choose to go past the first lake and know that you’ll reach a beautiful alpine lake at the end of your hike. It’s worth it, trust me.

How far is the hike?

All three lakes can be completed as a day-hike, or you can purchase a permit to camp overnight. This will be a 9.2KM roundtrip hike and can take anywhere from 2-5 hours to complete depending on your fitness level and how many breaks you’re taking. You also don’t have to hike to the third lake to enjoy the beauty of Joffre Lakes! I definitely recommend seeing the second middle lake and seeing how you feel about the last 30 mins to the third lake.

On average, it takes about 5 minutes to reach the first lake from the parking lot. It takes about 1.5-2 hours to reach the second lake, and 2.5 hours to reach the third lake (one way). Of course you’ll be taking breaks to enjoy each lake, so know that this day-hike can end up taking more than 5 hours at the park! I’ll go into more detail in the next sections.

First Lake

Difficulty: Easy, Distance: 0.2KM roundtrip, Elevation: 0.

Joffre Lakes Lower Lake is the easiest and most accessible out of the 3. Plenty of people visit Joffre Lakes provincial park and opt to only visit the first lake. It’s beautiful and large enough for crowds of people! This is a family friendly option since it is only less than 5 minutes from the parking lot with no uphill hiking, so know that you’ll encounter families with young children or elders.

The views from here definitely prepare you for what’s to come at the other lakes! After you visit the first lake, you’ll rejoin the trail and hike past an impressive clearing with a view of lower Joffre Lakes on your way to the middle lake.

Second Lake

Difficulty: Intermediate, Distance: 5.5KM, Elevation: 410M.

The hike up to the second lake is the most difficult part of the trail and it’s also the longest part of the entire hike. With that said, this is also the most scenic and photogenic lake out of the 3! This is where you’ll find the famous floating log that you often see in photos. It’s a famous photo spot and you’ll often see lines of people waiting to take a photo on the log. It’s a beautiful sight to see the bright blue water situated against the mountains in the background and there’s plenty of room for everybody to hangout and swim!

You’ll climb most of the elevation during this section between first and second lake, so be prepared for a steep hike! There will be plenty of stairs to help with the elevation gain and plenty of spots to stop for a rest. You’ll know you’re getting close when the hike starts to flatten out as you reach the lake area. There are outhouses at second lake and a couple of spots to sit and enjoy the scenery, with plenty of room for people to swim.

Third Lake

Difficulty: Moderate, Distance: 9.2KM, Elevation: 673M.

The trail between the middle and upper Joffre Lakes is the most beautiful part of the trail! You’ll pass a very scenic waterfall, make sure to stop for a photo and know that you’re close to the end of your hike. You’ll also pass by a small path off the trail that leads to a small platform (not big enough for a tent) that is a great spot to stop for a bit of privacy for lunch. There is a bit more elevation to reach the upper lake, but not as steep as the climb from lower to middle lake. It should take you 20-30 minutes to get here!

The third lake is beautiful as well with less room for swimming, but if you do make it up here you’ll notice less crowds than the second lake. This is also where you’ll find Joffre Lakes backcountry campground if you continue to hike around the upper lake over the boulder field. There is outhouses near the campground area and room to relax after your hike before climbing back down.

Camping at Joffre Lakes

There are 24 campsites located at Joffre Lakes on a first-come first-serve basis. During the peak months of June 1st – September 30th you’ll need to purchase a backcountry camping permit that can be found on the BC Parks website. You can book your reservation 2 months in advanced and have your permit with you when you arrive. The park rangers will be checking! It costs $5 per adult per night and it’s important to be aware of the rules before you go.

There is no campfires permitted so you’ll need a camping stove, you cannot hang a hammock on the trees, there is no potable water so you’ll need to bring enough water or bring a water filter, there are no garbages so you must pack out what you pack in, and you can store your food/scented items in a bear cache provided on-site.

Additional Information you need to know about Joffre Lakes

It should be mentioned again that Joffre Lakes is one of the most busy parks in BC and you can expect to see lineups if you’re visiting during peak times. I always advise to arrive early to beat the crowds and avoid 12PM-3PM. It’s also very important to know ahead of time that dogs are no longer permitted at Joffre Lakes and park rangers will turn away anyone with a dog.

The lakes are very cold, even in the summer, so if you’re planning on swimming please be aware and careful! It can be super fun to dive off of the famous log at middle lake but be prepared to jump into -4 degree water. You should also know that there are no fires permitted, no feeding the animals (the birds will dive at your food, beware), and you must pack out what you pack in as there are no garbages.

Conclusion

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is a must when visiting BC, and this not-so-hidden gem showcases BC’s most famous alpine lakes. It makes for a perfect day-trip down the Sea to Sky highway driving through the mountains to an enjoyable climb of a hike to 3 beautiful blue lakes. Between the mountains, the lakes and the scenic drive we think it’s a perfect trip to add to your Vancouver, BC itinerary!

As always, please respect the locals in the area along with the wildlife who call Joffre Lakes Provincial Park home. Make sure to always leave no trace in BC’s parks and pack out what you pack in. Don’t forget to book your day pass or camping reservations, and enjoy one of BC’s finest outdoor adventures!

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