Distance from Vancouver: Approximately 2.5 hours via Highway 1
West and then Highway 99
(Sea-to-sky) past Squamish and Whistler. Drive for about half an hour
after Pemberton, and you will see the parking lot on the right side.
Beautiful lakes and glacier. Two waterfalls. Several fine forest scenes.
Incredible number of people on the trail even on a working day in
off-season. Parking could be a major issue. Hiking poles and boots are
recommended to the Middle Lake, highly recommended to the Upper Lake,
and are essential beyond the Upper Lake. Much of Highway 99 past
Pemberton is narrow and winding, with a very steep hill prior to the
2017 Trail Parking Update: there is now an information
board with a message stating that parking on the highway shoulder is
prohibited and will be strictly enforced. Which means that, if the main
and a nearby overflow lots are full (which is very likely on a busy
weekend), you would have to find parking at a pullout further down the highway, which
might add several kilometers to your hike.
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park features three lakes, which are connected
by one moderately difficult trail. The first (Lower) lake is only a five
minute walk from the parking lot, and can be accessed by just about
anyone. The Middle and Upper lakes require some hiking to be done. We
wanted to hike this trail for a long time, and intentionally chose an
off-season work day to enjoy a quiet and peaceful outing. It turned out
a hundred (literally) other hikers had the same idea. And this is a
fairly remote area too, though easily accessible via a major highway.
What happens on this trail on a busy weekend in the Summer? Four hundred
people? Five hundred? Then, we turned on the radio while driving from the
hike, and there was a story on how Instagram ruins hiking (since many
people apparently hike just for the sake of having their photo with an
impressive backdrop posted on that social website), with Joffre Lakes
trail being used as an example in that radio story! Anyway, the hike is
amazing, and, if you don't mind the crowds, certainly give it a shot.
1. We are on Highway 99 Southbound, with Joffre Lakes Provincial Park
parking lot turnoff seen on the left (it would be on the right side, if
driving from Vancouver/Squamish/Whistler).
BC Highway 99 Near Joffre Lakes Provincial Park Entrance
2. Having turned to the left, here is the parking lot. It's around 9:30
AM. The lot would be packed by the time we came back. There is also a
much smaller parking lot a few hundred meters further South by Highway
99, but prepare for a parking mayhem, should you come here on a Summer
Coordinates for this parking lot: N 50'22'184 W 122'29'959.
Elevation: 1,239 meters.
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park parking lot
3. At the far end of the parking lot, there is an information stand, two
toilets, two frequently overflowing garbage containers, and the
trailhead to the right of the stand.
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park trailhead
4. Here is the map of the hiking trail. Ignore the "you are here" sign,
as we took the photo of this map further up the trail near the large
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park Map
5. Within several minutes after starting the hike, there is a split.
Turning left would lead to the Lower Lake very shortly.
Joffre Lakes Trail Near Pemberton British Columbia Canada
6. Lower Joffre Lake. For the best views on a sunny day, it's better to
come in the afternoon to avoid having the sun shine directly into your
eyes, while you are looking at the glacier.
Lower Joffre Lake British Columbia Canada
7. Moving on towards the Middle Lake.
Joffre Lakes Trail
8. As mentioned above, we were hoping for a serene hiking experience.
What happened, however, was as follows: we were hiking alone when a
faster couple behind us started getting closer. We decided to take a
break, let them pass, then wait for a few minutes and continue. But,
wait, what's this? Another group of hikers? Ok, let them pass. Another?
We'll wait a bit more. Another??? And another, and another, and another.
In fifteen minutes or so, nine groups of hikers totalling about thirty
people passed us by. It was quite something. Finally, with the idea of a
serene hike long abandoned, we resumed hiking towards the Middle Lake.
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park British Columbia Canada
9. About an hour into the hike, we have reached the Middle Lake
viewpoint, with close to twenty people admiring the view. There are
twelve hikers in this photo.