Thursday, November 12, 2015

Road Trip to Pemberton: Joffre Lakes

Joffre Lakes is not only an amazing hiking trail that offers stunning views of 3 emerald lakes, but it also makes for a great road trip. In order to get to Joffre Lakes, you have to drive an hour past Whistler, and briefly through the town of Pemberton. This route of course takes you along the Sea to Sky highway from Vancouver, which is an appealing drive all in its own.

Since it is quite a long drive from Vancouver (including the hike up to Joffre Lakes and back home), many people opt to either stay in Whistler for the night, or camp at Upper Joffre Lake. We’re of course are those crazy road trippers that opt to leave our house at 5am and head up to Pemberton for a day trip. This generally gets us to the trailhead around 8am, which is a great time to start a hike.

Road trip tip: this is a very popular trail, so be prepared to arrive early, or have issues finding parking. Both times we’ve done this hike; we’ve come off the trail to a very full parking lot, with a line of cars looking for parking.


Hiking tip: again, this is a very busy trail, of course due to the sheer beauty of the lakes. We like to start our hikes early, and generally end up passing a ton of people on the way down the trail. Check the weather, and dress accordingly for this hike. I found it quite cold at Upper Joffre Lake during the summer time, even with the sun out.

About the hike:

Time: 4.5-5 hours
Distance: 10 kms
Elevation gain: 400 meters
Difficulty: Moderate

Although this hike doesn’t take 5 hours, you want to allot some time for hanging out at the lake while you take in the views. It took us about 1.5 hours to get up to the second lake, then another 20 to the third lake. Once at the third lake, we opted to hike around the boulders to the waterfall area and set up on the rock-face for some lunch. If you hike up high enough towards the glacier above the waterfall, you can capture a picture of all 3 lakes below you.

Trail details:

From the parking lot, it’s a short 10 minute hike to the first lake. This part of the trail serves as a great warmup, and the minor detour off the trail to the first lake is well worth it. The first lake is beautiful, and offers stunning views of the glacial mountain range off in the distance. I personally found the views from the first lake helped pump us up for the rest of the trail, and the other lakes.



From the first lake, you make your way up the trail about an hour before reaching the second lake. This part of the trail has some fairly challenging uphill sections; there are two steep sections of the trail, but once you pass the second steep section, you’re at the second lake.

Middle Joffre Lakes
From the second lake, it’s a fairly easy and short hike to the third lake. You can either end your hike there, or follow the trail around to the camping area.

Upper Joffre Lake

My personal opinion; the second lake was my favourite, and nicest lake of them all.

Once we finished our hike, we headed down to Whistler for a late lunch/early dinner before heading home. This was a fairly long day for us, but the trek up to the lakes was well worth the drive to Pemberton. We`re hoping to camp overnight at Upper Joffre Lake next summer.

Winter conditions: Joffre Lakes is absolutely beautiful during the winter months, but the trails can be quite slippery, and with the amount of snow the region gets, it can get quite cold up there. Make sure to dress for winter weather. 

Have you been to Joffre Lakes before? Leave a comment below and share your hiking experience.  

1 comment:

  1. Yeah there's often a cool breeze coming off the glacier. It really is a beautiful place. I have mixed feelings about the new trail, but there's no doubt it'll handle the traffic now.

    A really good 2-day road trip from Vancouver is to take Hwy 99 all the way up to Lillooet and then return via the Fraser Canyon and Hwy 1.

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