Joffre Lakes is simply a quintessential BC hiking experienced, located roughly an hour north of Pemberton. The Joffre Lakes hike gets less congested and is less visited than some of the other more well know trails in and around the Sea-to Sky Corridor.
Some of the links within this post are affiliate links. At no additional cost or inconvenience to you, I will make a commission if you chose to make a purchase.
-Joffre Lakes, Pemberton BC
-Duration 6.5 hours
-Pain level: Moderate
The Joffre Lakes themselves are situated along a ridge in the coastal mountain range and offer climbers an unique experience as each lake ascends up into the mountain range. The top of the plateau expands and offers climbers the chance to hike up to the glacier and witness some of the most panoramic views anywhere. Truly unique and awe inspiring; Joffre Lakes is a must see on any hikers list.
Starting in Whistler, make your way further north along highway 99 until you reach the town of Pemberton. Located in a valley, Pemberton’s claim to fame is the short-lived Pemberton music festival, which attracted huge crows in the summer of 2014. Once you leave Pemberton, continue along highway 99. You will drive through a series of very steep and very sharp switchbacks. While I recommend that you complete this hike during the summer months, if you choose to make it a winter expedition, ensure you are properly prepared, as the highway can get very icy and dangerous in this section. The entry to the start of the hike is Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. Make your way from the parking lot to the right of the first lake, which in itself is stunning, the blue turquoise color, and is glacier fed is amazing and offers many easy to access photo opportunities.
The hike consists of 3 steps, each lake is roughly 45 minutes apart and you make a steady ascent towards the top of the plateau and eventually the glacier.
Once you have left the first lake, aptly named lower Joffre, you make you way along a wide ridge. The trail for the most part is well marked and offers a steady incline with a well-groomed path to follow. The trail begins to take a sharper ascent once you depart from the middle of the 3 lakes. You will get into a couple of sections that require you to pull yourself up a ledge. For the most part though, the trail remains in a thickly forested area, with no steep drops of hazards.
The lead into lake 3, or the Upper Lake, flattens out and you will start to notice the end of the tree line. At this point the glacier will come into view, literally taking up 2/3rds of your view to the northeast.
Make you way around the lake and to the north. You will see a small camping area and gravel helipad for medical evacuations, and heli-skiing in the winter months. From here its time for a leg burn! You will see a narrow gravel path roughly 100 meters to the right of the camping area, which takes you straight up the side of the mountain. You will have to hand-over-hand a section of this climb, as the trail consists of a section of loose gravel and will require some effort to navigate.
Once you have reach the trail head, you will need to make your way to the left and towards the final ascent up to the glacier. The full extent of your climb can be seen from here. All 3 lakes feeding into each other lay in the valley beneath you, and is truly inspiring. You will notice the change in terrain again. You are above the tree line at this point, the gravel slope to your left. Looking at the valley, will now change to a rock face, and steep, smooth ice walls around you. As you make your way to the glacier, watch for streams under the ice. They may seem harmless, but are to be traversed slowly, since footing can be a real issue here.
When you reach the glacier, enjoy!
There are numerous ice caves to be explored. As always, take care and bring the appropriate equipment (such as this axe, and this glacier medical kit) if you plan to explore further. But even on a simple summer Saturday excursion, you can walk 15-20 feet into some of these caves with no trouble. The return trip is really only challenging as you make your way down the loose gravel section next to the glacier. The majority of the trail when you reach the tree line is actually quite soft and offers a nice reprieve when compared to other, steeper climbs.
Joffre Lakes is definitely a hike in my top 5 on the south coast. With panoramic mountain views, and a challenging but not deadly climb. You get yet another component to the hike at the end, with a glacier to explore. Definitely worth the trek from Vancouver to experience this hidden gem on the Sea-to Sky hiking ladder.