joffre lakes

Ultimate Guide to Hiking and Backpacking to Joffre Lakes

The Joffre Lakes hike is an insanely popular destination in the Pemberton region of British Columbia. The hike features three stunning turquoise lakes, each more beautiful than the last, surrounded by towering peaks and old-growth forests. The trail is moderate in difficulty and suitable for most fitness levels.

At only 5 miles round trip, the Upper Joffre Lakes hike is a quick jaunt from the trailhead and provides epic views of a blue-green alpine lake and towering mountains behind it.

However, this place fills up fast because of how short the hike is. A sunrise or sunset hike outside regular hiking hours may be the best bet, especially if you enjoy solitude in the mountains.

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Complete Guide to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

Quick Joffre Lakes Hike Details:

  • Distance: 5.2 miles round trip to the front of the lake, if backpacking closer to 6
  • Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate (most of the gain is between lakes 1 and 2)
  • Beauty: Awesome
  • Travel: One hour north of Whistler
  • Animals not allowed

Planning your trip to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

How to get to the Joffre Lakes Hike

Joffre Lakes is about 30 minutes north of Pemberton, an hour north of Whistler, and about 2.5 hours north of Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway. The roads are generic, and the parking lot is off the main road.

So while it would be hard to miss, I’d still download your maps offline and plug in the trailhead details.

Joffre Lakes Day and Overnight Permits

Day Permits

Day Use passes are required from May 6 to October 9, 2023. If you do not have a permit, you cannot hike here. This limits the number of people on the trails to keep them from being overrun. Rangers are there during business hours to enforce these permits.

Backpacking Joffre Lakes – Overnight Permits

Those looking to do an overnight at the upper lake also need a permit – but this is a different type. Additionally, camping is not allowed from November 15 to April 15 due to avalanche possibilities.

For those wishing to overnight camp, there are 26 sites, and the Reservable Dates are June 14-Nov 12. These are not easy to get, and planning ahead would be smart. While you need to secure the permits in advance, the individual sites are not reservable but first come, first serve. They’re relatively easy to find, and we landed a spot near the water for a perfect setup!

Let’s hit the trail: What it’s like to Hike and Backpack Joffre Lakes

Lower Joffre Lake

You’ll reach the first lake about a quarter mile at most from the parking lot. You’ll wind your way right from here, hugging the shoreline as you make your way to the back of Lower Joffre Lake.

This is where the uphill climb begins. Most of it is steps, and you’ll soon find yourself looking down on the tops of the trees that were once amongst.

The Joffre Lakes hike isn’t too challenging of an uphill. However, it will get your heart pumping and probably force you to lose a layer.

Joffre Lakes hike
Lower Joffre Lakes hike

Middle Joffre Lakes

Out of nowhere, middle Joffre Lake will appear, and if you catch it just right, the water will be a beautiful turquoise color. This lake appears at about the 1.6-mile mark.

This offers one of the most magical views in all of Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. You’ll find many people taking their photos on the half-submerged log with the Matier Glacier behind them.

Now, the hardest part of the Joffre Lakes hike is behind you. You’ll have less than a mile to the third and final lake.

As you head around the middle of Joffre Lake, you’ll see a lovely cascading waterfall. This is Holloway Falls. Again, this is an excellent place for a quick photo or break.

joffre lakes hike

Upper Joffre Lakes

Another 15 minutes on the Joffre Lakes hike, and you’ll have reached the highest lake. You can stay on the near side with the view of the mountains in front of you, or you can keep going towards the back of the lake.

If you’re backpacking, this is where you’ll camp. Regardless, the views of Upper Joffre Lake will floor you.

joffre lakes hike

What to know if you’re backpacking Joffre Lakes

If you’re backpacking Joffre Lakes, the campground is on the backside of the lake. From the popular viewing spot to the campground is about a half-mile walk. While it’s not flat, it’s nothing difficult – though it is rocky and has some roots to maneuver over. My GPS watch showed about 3.5 miles from the start to the campsite.

Once at the campground, it’s a free-for-all. I’d estimate there are 20-odd spots available. Some are right off the trail, others are scattered throughout the lakeside. A few spots are right next to the water. (Don’t worry, there’s no 100-foot rule here.)

Additionally, there is a bathroom in the area. Please use this instead of digging a cat hole, as it will help preserve the area for future use.

Lastly, remember to bring a water filter for water. While you can scoop it out of the lake, walking a few hundred yards to the waterfall will give you cleaner water with fewer particles in it. We did this and it also allowed us the chance to explore some!

Backpacking Gear Recommendations

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What to bring on your Joffre Lakes hike

Lodging near the Joffre Lakes Hike

The best places to stay would be Whistler or Pemberton.

Budget Lodging: Pan Pacific Whistler
Mid-Tier: Listel Hotel Whistler (I stayed here over Labor Day and loved how walker-friendly it was. We didn’t drive all weekend!
Luxury: Westin Whistler

What fun activities are there to do near Whistler?

What else is there to do in the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park area?

  • Narin Falls Provincial Park
  • Duffey Lake Provincial Park
  • Seton Lake Lookout

FAQ: Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

How long is the Joffre Lakes hike?

The Joffre Lakes hike is about 5-6 miles depending on how far you hike around the upper lake. In all, it should take you about 90 minutes to get up to the top lake. But that would be if you keep pushing on. However, the stunning views will likely slow you down as you’ll want to photograph and soak in these mesmerizing sights.

Is Joffre Lakes open?

As of 9/8/2023, Joffre Lakes is closed for the month of September due to the cultural activities of the local tribes who have land ownership.

Joffre Lakes Park will remain inaccessible until further notice, as BC Parks and the Province continue discussions with the Lil’wat and N’quatqua to chart out a plan that will provide space and privacy for cultural activities of the Nations while ensuring public access to the park in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Impacted reservation holders have been contacted and fully refunded, and day-use passes will not be available until the park is accessible again. Any further updates will be communicated in advance on this page.

Rainbow Falls near Whistler, BC

Where is Joffre Lakes located?

Joffre Lakes is about one hour north of Whistler and 30 minutes from Pemberton. The final bit of the drive is on a winding mountain road, which forces you to go slow and be alert.

Can I have a campfire while hiking or backpacking Joffre Lakes?

Due to wildfire risks attributed to a changing climate, campfires are banned in most of British Columbia. This includes Joffre Lakes Provincial Park.

Can you swim in Joffre lakes?

Most definitely, but it is cold. Thanks to constant glacial melt, the lakes are always fed, but this keeps them cold. Be ready for a wake-up when you get in. That said, it’s amazingly refreshing and a must-do!

Wrapping Up the Joffre Lakes Hike

The Joffre Lakes hike will genuinely blow your mind, and I hope you get out and experience the beauty! I first went in 2018 before the crowds and again in September 2023. It’s wildly more crowded but just as beautiful as ever.

Even with crowds, it’s still totally worth it, and you’ll love the time spent in nature.

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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