Hiking Joffre Lakes | British Columbia
Written by Brian Callender | Photography by Julie Boyd
One of the central appeals to staying in Vancouver, when planning our trip, was its close proximity to outdoor activities. As much as we enjoy visiting a new city, we find ourselves eager to get outside and into the mountains.
With just two full days planned in Vancouver, it might seem crazy to commit an entire day to being away from the city, but not for us. Researching our available options, it became readily apparent that we wanted to drive north to check out the Whistler area.
I had read that the drive along BC 99, the highway that leads to Whistler and beyond was beautiful. As I looked for hiking options that we could do as a a day trip, I stumbled upon Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. Just two and a half hours north of Vancouver, a visit to Joffre Lakes would satisfy our itch to get out and hike, while we could stop at a waterfall or two on the way back. It was quickly decided that this would be our out of the city adventure, and on Friday morning, we set off on our way to Joffre Lakes.
Hiking Joffre Lakes: Getting there
British Columbia 99, also known as the Sea to Sky Highway, travels north passing the popular towns of Squamish, and eventually Whistler. Those familiar with the Olympics will recall Whistler as the host resort town of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
With a full day of hiking ahead of us, Julie and I planned to visit Whistler on our way back to Vancouver. After breakfast, we loaded up our rental car and made the two-and-a-half hour drive north to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park.
Although we visited in early June, the weather was quite rainy on this particular Friday. Clouds hugged the mountains to our left, but every so often we would catch a glimpse of the beauty that lay beyond. As we passed by the town of Squamish, we both agreed that on our next visit to the area, we would home base there and explore much more of the area.
Just past noon, we arrived at the parking lot for Joffre Lakes. There were several other cars parked at the trailhead, but overall, the hike did not look like it would be a crowded one. With lightly falling rain, we hoped it would be enough to keep the bugs at bay as we grabbed our gear and hit the trail.
Hiking Joffre Lakes: The Trail
Hiking to Joffre Lakes takes you to three beautiful lakes over the course of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). When the conditions are right, the lakes can be turquoise in color, or as I like to call them, “that Canadian Blue.”
With the falling rain and cloudy skies, the lakes ended up being more green than blue, but no less stunning. As an avid trail sign lover, I was happy to see the distances and expected time to reach each of the three lakes.
Lower Joffre Lake
Of the three lakes that can visited on this hike, Lower Lake is by far the easiest to access. Just 0.12 miles (200 meters) from the parking lot, a quick stroll will have you at the lakeside in no time. It was a lovely shade of green and clouds hung all around the edges when we visited. We stopped here only for a moment as we knew we could linger here a bit longer when we returned from our hike.
Middle Joffre Lake
Leaving Lower Lake behind, the trail winds its way upward through the trees before opening to a meadow. Here, we took a moment to enjoy the scenery around us, and of course, more of the moody weather. With rushing water to our left, we continued our climb uphill and over some wet steps. At 1.85 miles (3 kilometers) we had reached Middle Lake.
Here we were greeted once again, by green waters and cloud covered snowy peaks. A log here, is partially submerged in the lake, and sure to be a popular Instagram photo, but we passed and just enjoyed the lakeshore views.
Upper Joffre Lake
From Middle Lake, it’s just 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) to Upper Lake, and with our end goal in sight, we were eager to keep moving. As a nice, unexpected bonus, we were treated to a cascading waterfall halfway to Upper Lake. We stopped to enjoy this little treat before climbing up the wooden stairs to continue to our destination.
At the top, we began catching glimpses of the lake, passing over a short, wood footbridge, eventually arriving at Upper Lake. While all three lakes are beautiful, Upper Lake quickly became our favorite thanks to the views of glaciated mountains against the lakeshore. We hopped over some boulders to get closer to the lake and spent a few rainy minutes enjoying the solitude before some other hikers made their way down. Unfortunately, this lake was also very windy, so when combined with the rail, picture-taking was very difficult. Nonetheless, it’s easy to imagine how incredible this place is on clear day, something we hope to experience the next time we visit.
Hiking Joffre Lakes: Lasting Memories
With a light rain falling steadily, we said goodbye to Upper Lake and began our descent to the car. Though the trail was wet and steep in places, we kept a good pace, taking numerous opportunities to soak in our surroundings. Back at Lower Lake, Julie spent a few minutes getting some additional shots, while I worked to keep a rogue mosquito at bay. This was definitely a hike Julie and I really enjoyed, and for the amount of effort put in, the scenery was incredible. We can’t wait to come back to this region of British Columbia again and spend some more time exploring these beautiful mountains.
Total distance hiked: 6.30 miles – a bit higher than the trailhead listed mileage
Elevation gained: 1,339 feet
Time: 3 hours and 57 minutes – as always we spend a bit more time taking photos and enjoying the views!
On our drive back to Vancouver we made two quick stops, taking advantage of the late sunset, to visit a couple of waterfalls!
An hour and ten minutes south of Joffre Lakes, Brandywine Falls is located within its own Provincial Park, just off BC 99. We arrived just past 8:00 p.m. and had the place all to ourselves. A short walk along the Falls Lookout Trail leads to an overlook of the 230 foot (70 meter) falls.
With the last light of the day, we made it to Shannon Falls, 30 minutes further south. The falls cascade over a rocky hillside, 1,099 feet (335 meters) and are the third tallest falls in British Columbia. Once again, we enjoyed having the solitude of the falls to ourselves as it was now just past 9:00 p.m.
Have you been to British Columbia or plan to visit in the future? We would love to hear from you!