Ridiculously Busy & Ridiculously Beautiful
Joffre Lakes is truly one of BC’s most incredible hikes, it’s also one of the easiest! These are the easiest glacial lakes to access in the province and if you’re new to the mountains the three lakes will undoubtedly hold the most breathtaking watercolors you’ve ever witnessed. Three stunning lakes, a waterfall, and the Matier Glacier, this one is truly a 10/10. You will not be disappointed but, these days, easy access come with a cost…. CROWDS.
In the last 5-10 years Joffre lakes has become insanely busy, with the rise of Instagram and other social photo sharing platforms. You have all surely seen the log on middle lake everyone and their dog walks onto in order to get that perfect shot. Crowds aside, if you plan appropriately and don’t go on a summer long weekend, you will not regret making the trip.
Remember the Backcountry Basics
- Carry your Survival Kit & Essentials
- Let someone know where you’re going with a Trip Plan
- Know how to avoid negative wildlife encounters
- Practice Leave No Trace to keep the wilderness pristine
- Carry a Satellite Communicator like SPOT X
|Distance (Round Trip)||10km|
|Time Needed (Scenic Pace)||4 hours|
|Time Needed (Fast Pace)||1.5 hours|
|Camping||Yes (Reservation Required)|
How to Get There
Cruise highway #99 northbound through Pemberton. Continue through Pemberton along the highway towards Mt Currie. Take a right at the intersection towards Lillooet. Keep driving past Lillooet lake until you see the signs for Joffre Lakes. If you are there early enough head to the lower lake dirt parking lot as this is closest to the trailhead.
How to beat the Crowds
I don’t go on hikes to take the perfect Instagram shot. I’m a very below average iPhone photographer who is working on getting better for the sake of this blog. (People like pictures Apparently). I hike to get away into my own world, stop thinking about all the other stresses in life and breathe in that fresh mountain air.
Best strategy for Joffre, like any other common trail, is to start early… Sunrise is best. You will be one of the only ones on the trail. If you live in the lower mainland, I know this would mean driving through the night, but honestly, if you’re going to make a 4 hour drive, bite the bullet and get up there early. When we were up there, we caught the sunrise coming over the glacier and it was absolutely phenomenal.
If you were lucky enough to snag an overnight pass you can hike at any time of the day but I would recommend going early and enjoying the day up there and getting the best possible campsite. People tend to congregate less around the tent sites and towards the base of the glacier in the day hours so you will have lots of room to hangout. You will also only have to share the lake with the other campers as the sun starts to fall and you will be able to enjoy a very quiet morning before the early bird hikers arrive.
If you are the kind of person who hates crowds and you don’t want to get up super early than Joffre is not the option for you. We began the hike around 6:30-7am and on the way down we saw a dude in flipflops hiking up with a full Mcdonalds bag in his right hand…. Guess he was planning a very romantic picnic or something.
Day Use Pass/Reservation System
In light of increasing traffic and popularity of the Joffre Lakes hike, Parks BC has implemented a day use reservation system (June 23- October 15). Hikers are required to book a free day use pass prior to arriving at the park. The Day-use pass can only be reserved online through the BC Parks Website and cannot be reserved over the phone. The passes are free and are available to book starting at 7am, one day in advance of your planned visit. Ensure you are on your computer and logged into your BC Parks account when the clock strikes 7am because the competition to get a day pass is fierce.
NOTE: If you have a camping reservation you do not need a Day Pass.
The Trailhead & Lower Lake
The trail itself is very well marked and easy to follow. You start from the parking lot and will very quickly arrive at the lowest of the three lakes. You can wander around, but I would recommend sticking to the trail and heading for the upper two lakes right off the bat. You can always soak in the lower lake on your way down. The lower lake has great fishing and you will typically see a fisherman out on a pontoon boat or casting from shore. Turn left to begin the ascent to middle and upper Joffre Lakes. The trail is really well maintained and you’ll follow switchbacks uphill until you reach the middle lake.
The middle lake is absolutely stunning and you get a glimpse of the Matier glacier through the trees. This is the spot where everyone takes that renowned log photo. Make sure to take some photos from here in the morning as the area will get busier later in the day. Most importantly, If you like fishing, bring out your rod at the middle lake on the way down. the I’ve the middle lake on a prior trip with my fly rod and caught loads of trout where the small stream connects to the lake on the far side. These were hungry alpine fish and they would bite any color or pattern that I tossed at them.
From middle lake your journey continues. If you take a slight right you will be able to catch a glimpse of the waterfall that connects the two lakes. You won’t miss the waterfall as the crashing water is in earshot of the trail. When you return to the trail and continue u
phill you will cross a few wooden bridges and get your first glimpse of the upper lake. Take a right and follow the narrow trail with roots and rocks. You will end up at a nice open viewing area to take photographs. This is a good spot to have a break and take in the beauty of it all. I would also recommend heading arounds to the campsite area below the glacier and hiking up towards the glacier to get a great birdseye view of the lakes.
The campsites are located on the far side of the lake close to the bottom of the glacier. There is bear proof storage for food and outhouses which can be used. The sites are pretty typical for reserved backcountry sites. You will get a little plot of land to pitch your tent or shelter. I have slept over on Joffre once a number of years ago when the campsites were first come first serve. Instead of camping in one of the designated spots I climbed way up near the bottom of the glacier and set up my tent by the glacial runoff looking over the lake. This was hands down the best camping spot there. I’m not sure if this was allowed then and I’m pretty certain as the rules around overnight camping have tightened this likely isn’t kosher these days. But if it is a designated site, and you have a backcountry camping pass then 100% try and get that spot. The sunset is amazing.
Once you’ve had enough of the views, which may not be until just before dark head back down the way you came. If you’ve left super early as I recommended you will will likely start to see the hoards of people headed up the trail. I always love the feeling of coming down a trail when others are just getting started.
What’s the earliest you have ever woken up to be alone on the trail?
Let me know in the comments.