Joffre Lakes Hike

Quick Facts:

  • AllTrails link: Joffre Lakes, 7.7km out-and-back trail with 497m elevation gain
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Traffic: very heavy even during the week
  • Facilities: pit toilets at trail head, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes
  • View: 3 gorgeous glacial lakes that can rival those in the Rocky Mountains
  • Overall score: 9/10

If there is one hike near Vancouver that is hyped beyond all other hikes, it would be Joffre Lakes.

It’s easy to see why. With a paved highway all the way to the parking lot and a well maintained trail, Joffre Lakes are the most beautiful and easily accessible glacial lakes within 2.5 hours of Vancouver by car. Garibaldi Lake is a worthy contender, but it’s a hefty 11km hike to the lake vs. less than 4km to all 3 Joffre Lakes.

Due to its overwhelming popularity, BC Parks introduced a day pass program. Users need to register for a free day pass (for the hikers, not their cars) at 7am the day before their planned hike. There are “Park Ambassadors” at the trail entrance who check for passes. The short window for registration makes it tricky for guests who need to plan their trip more than 1 day in advance, but during the week the passes don’t seem to run out. Weekends are a different story.

Park Ambassador checking our passes.

Having a pass doesn’t guarantee you parking. The parking lot gets busy near noon, as crowds arrive from Vancouver. Thankfully there is an overflow parking lot not too far from the trail head.

We visited this bucket list destination in mid July during a trip to Whistler with the grandparents. We arrived at the parking lot after 11am on a very sunny day.

After organizing our packs, we set off for the hike around noon.

The Lower Joffre Lake is only 200m from the trail head, and already it’s a gorgeous lake worthy of a visit by itself.

Lower Joffre Lake

The trek to Middle Joffre Lake was the bulk of the effort of this whole hike. The trail was very well maintained, and some boulder fields were packed with gravel for safer hiking.

Junior decided to sleep through the grinding section all together.

There were a few flights of stairs that knocked the wind out of us.

We needed a snack break after the big climb.

Then we finally got to Middle Joffre Lake around 1:30pm.

Middle Joffre Lake

After a lunch break, the grandparents and Little Bro stayed at Middle Joffre Lake to enjoy the view, and Junior carried on the hike to the Upper Joffre Lake around 2:30.

Looking back at Middle Joffre Lake

We arrived at the Upper Joffre Lake around 3:40pm.

Upper Joffre Lake

A crowd was gathering at a rock field upon the first sight of the majestic lake. I wanted to check out the campsite but it was tricky navigating through the crowd and loose rocks, so we also took a break here to enjoy the view instead.

The water was so cold that I could only put my feet in for 10 seconds at a time.

There were a lot of signs at the trail head about how the outhouses don’t have toilet paper, but we found plenty of TP at the outhouse at Upper Joffre Lake. It’s situated on a big structure, so it’s a pretty unique experience to walk up to use an outhouse on the 2nd floor.

Overall, the sheer beauty of the lakes definitely makes it worthwhile to deal with the inconvenience of getting a day pass. We appreciated the fact that the parking lots and trails weren’t jam packed, which would have been the case had they not implemented the day pass program.

The Joffre Lakes are no less beautiful than some of the best lakes in the Rockies. The hike is moderately intense but very doable for the average day hiker.

We were happy to cross this hike off our bucket list, but even before we headed down the mountain, we added another item to the list: backpacking to camp here. What a sight it must be to see the stars reflect off of the lake or watch the sunset and sunrise!

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