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.

Complete Guide to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

Joffre Lakes Whistler hikes british columbia canada
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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 standard, and the parking lot is off the main road.

However, it is a steep and winding road for the last 15 minutes before you read the trailhead. This is not a great place to be in the winter with freezing conditions, but in the summer months, you’ll be golden.

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

Lastly, there is no cell service at the trailhead, so make sure you have everything you need beforehand.


There is a shuttle service from Vancouver that you can take if you don’t want to drive to the Joffre Lakes trailhead. The standard rate is $108 per person for a round-trip ticket. Discounted rates for seniors ($97) and children ($54) are available.

The bus aims to arrive at the trailhead at 11:30am and depart back to Vancouver at 5:30pm.

The bus does make one stop on its way up – almost guaranteed to be Whistler – where you can make a quick bathroom stop. Additionally, if you want to ride up from Whistler, this is how you’d do it. (They pick up at Creekside Parking Lot.)

A hike poses in front of the massive mountain that towers above the Middle Joffre Lakes.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Parking Lot Size at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

The parking lot is medium-sized, but for how popular this trail is, it will be full on weekends and holidays. (Honestly, it’s probably full on weekdays in the summer too.) The parking lot also has some huge potholes, so keep that in mind.

There is an overflow lot for Joffre Lakes that is before the main parking area. Just be careful pulling onto this road. It’s narrow and has some blind spots.

Joffre Lakes Day and Overnight Permits

Hiking Joffre Lakes – Day Permits

Day Use passes are required from May 6 to October 9, 2024. 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.

As I mentioned above, there is no cell service here. Make sure you screenshot your Joffre Lakes day permits before visiting so your hike isn’t delayed.

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. Make sure you save your permit to your phone in case you run into a ranger who asks you about it.

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!

The view looking across upper Joffre Lakes from our campsite.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What it’s Like to Hike and Backpack Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

Lower Joffre Lake

You’ll reach the first lake about a quarter mile at most from the parking lot. You’ll wind your way to the 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.

Most of the elevation gain for the Joffre Lakes hike happens between the first and second lakes. Take it slow, and with how many people are on the trail, be courteous to all hikers.

I believe you gain about 1,000 feet in this span.

The view from the trail on the Joffre Lakes hike.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Early morning at lower Joffre Lakes. This was when I hike it in the morning back in 2018.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Middle Joffre Lakes

Middle Joffre Lake will appear out of nowhere, 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. There are a couple benches that people can sit on to eat lunch. For some reason, a lot of people make this their final spot. Don’t do that.

Keep pressing on.

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.

A hiker raises her hands looking out at the view from Middle Joffre Lakes.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
The towering mountain and glacier that rises above Upper Joffre Lake in Canada.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
A hiker stands on a log on the Joffre Lakes trail looking at the camera.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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.

A hiker poses in front of a waterfall on the hike.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Upper Joffre Lakes

Another 15 minutes on the Joffre Lakes hike, and you’ll have reached the highest lake. Most hikers will stay on this side with the view of the mountains in front of you. If you want to keep hiking, you can head towards the back of the lake. However, the views are not as grand.

For those backpacking, wrap around the lake counterclockwise. This is where you’ll find campsites. Regardless of where you end up, the views of Upper Joffre Lake will floor you.

A view of upper joffre lakes from the trail. You can see the big glacier on top of the mountain.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Final light on the top of the glacier and mountain which rises above Upper Joffre Lakes.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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.

Upper Joffre Lakes Campground

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

Views of middle Joffre Lakes in the early morning.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What to bring on your Joffre Lakes hike

When is the best time to hike Joffre Lakes?

This is a wonderful summer hike and one you’ll never forget. With extremely long days, you can tackle this at odd hours of the day, trying to beat the crowds, and still get back to Whistler for some fun!

I’ve hiked this in early July and early September and found both to be stunning times. I’m sure August is also an excellent month to visit Joffre Lakes.

As for the time of the day, I would recommend not hiking in the middle of the day, though that is also when the lakes will be their brightest, thanks to the sun shining. But this is also when the crowds will be most fierce.

My first time hiking was a sunrise, and I found the colors to be less vibrant than when I went up on my backpacking trip to Joffre Lakes. I would say that if you started hiking in the mid-afternoon, most people would be trickling down, and you’d get stunning light with fewer people.

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

A hiker smiles at the camera in front of Joffre Lakes in Canada.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What fun activities are there to do near Whistler?

A view of the Whistler Peak to Peak Gondala. This is one of the nearby things to do if you hike Joffre Lakes.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
A view of a huge glacier from the Peak to Peak Gondola in Whistler.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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

Where can you filter water?

For a hike of this length, you likely will be fine with what you carry. That being said, there is a nice spot to get water right on the side of the trail. (Not sure the mileage.) Additionally, Hollaway Falls is a great area as the running water will help remove sediment from the water.

When we were backpacking Joffre Lakes, we did it in the upper lake near our campsite. My girlfriend and I had zero issues with water quality!

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?

Yes, it is currently open. But during the months of September and October, Joffre Lakes might be closed due to the cultural activities of 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.

A photo of Rainbow Falls which is a short 2 mile hike near Whistler, BC.
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch 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. Also, be alert for any wildlife which may dart onto the road.

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, I went in, and it’s amazingly refreshing and a must-do!

Should I be worried about bears?

There is always a bear risk at Joffre Lakes and any natural area in British Columbia. That said, this is a very popular area that bears should not want to visit. That being said, if you leave out trash and do not pick up after yourself, the food and scents can lead bears to visit.

Do your part to keep the area safe and minimize bear activity by packing out what you pack in.

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.

Subscribe to my blog!

New to hiking? My guide will get you up to speed!

Follow my adventures on TikTokFacebook, and Instagram.

Are you an outdoors brand or tourism board and would like to work together? Please take a look at my photography portfolio here.

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside