Joffre Lakes Hike – The Complete Guide To Hiking & Camping At Joffre Lakes [2024]

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Are you looking to do the Joffre Lakes hike? When it comes to beautiful places in Canada, Joffre Lakes is definitely towards the top of the list. And, this hike has gained so much popularity in recent years that it’s now synonymous with Canadian summers.

But, because it’s so popular, visiting Joffre Lakes is easier said than done. With a strict reservation system, a long drive to get there, and a trail which can be more challenging than expected, it’s good do your research before planning your visit.

Based on my own experiencing hiking and camping at Joffre Lakes, I have put together everything you need to know before visiting. So, read on for the complete guide to Joffre Lakes, and what to expect when you get there.

Joffre Lakes Overview

Joffre Lakes is a trio of lakes located in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park in BC, Canada.

The three lakes – Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre Lake – are known for their bright turquoise coloured water, similar to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in Alberta. They’re also particularly famous due to a fallen tree which many people walk on for the iconic Instagram photo you’ve probably seen.

The most famous log at Joffre Lakes, laying fallen in the turquoise waters of the middle lake, with thick forest and two mountains visible in the background, across the lake.

The vivid blue lakes are the highlight of the park. They get their colour from rock flour, which is created by the Matier Glacier, which feeds the three lakes.

Rock flour is made up of silt-like rock particles, ground up as the glacier erodes, giving the water a cloudy colour which reflects blue and green wavelengths of light, creating the saturated turquoise colour we see.

But Joffre Lakes is more than just the striking blue water. The provincial park is also home to jagged mountain peaks, lush green forest, powerful waterfalls, and impressive glaciers. Plus, it has one of the best sunsets i’ve ever seen.

And you can do a range of activities here, including hiking, mountaineering, camping, spotting wildlife, and even fishing!

➡️ BOOK: Accommodation Near Joffre Lakes

Where is Joffre Lakes?

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is located in southwest British Columbia. The park is 190 km (118 mi) from Vancouver, and 62 km (39 mi) north of Whistler.

How to Get to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

The only way to get to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is by road. It’s about a 3 hour drive from Vancouver along the Highway 99, or 1 hour from Whistler.

Driving To Joffre Lakes from Vancouver

Although the drive to Joffre Lakes is long, it’s an easy and scenic drive. From Vancouver, join Highway 99 heading north, and continue on past Whistler and Pemberton. A lot of hikers will choose to spend the night in Whistler before or after their visit to Joffre Lakes, to break up the drive.

Three cars in-front driving around a bend on a mountain road, with trees and mountain views visible in the background

The Joffre Lakes car park is right off the highway and is easy to spot, so you won’t miss it. Parking is limited in the main car park and it fills up early in the summer, especially on weekends and holidays.

There is overflow parking, so everyone who has a day pass should theoretically be able to find somewhere to park, even if it’s a bit further away from the trailhead.

Although keep in mind, you are not allowed to park on the side of Highway 99. So, if you’re unable to find a parking spot, you will need to wait for one to become available.

And having a park pass does not guarantee you a parking spot! Therefore, if you’re visiting on a summer weekend or holiday, it’s best to arrive early. If possible, I would recommend no later than 9 am.

Tip: Winter tyres are required by law between October 1st and March 31st. So keep this in mind if driving to Joffre Lakes in the fall or winter.

Joffre Lakes Bus Service

If you prefer not to drive, there is a bus service which runs from Vancouver via Whistler to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. The service is operated by Parkbus in partnership with BC parks. A big perk of this service is that it actually includes the Joffre Lakes day pass!

The Parkbus runs daily from May to October. It departs near Burrard Station in downtown Vancouver at 8:30 am, and returns around 8:30 pm. The stop in Whistler picks passengers up near the Creekside parking lot.

The Parkbus allows you 6 hours to explore Joffre Lakes provincial park, which is usually more than enough time to hike all the way to the upper lake and back. The cost of the return bus journey is $108 CAD, with discounted rates available for students, seniors and children. Check out the ParkBus website for more information and to book your ride.

The reflection of the mountains in a bright blue water on the Joffre Lakes hike.

Joffre Lakes Tour

Another alternative to making your own way to Joffre Lakes, is to book a Joffre Lakes Guided Tour. The tour includes transport and will make the logistics of visiting the lakes as easy for you as possible. Plus, it provides peace of mind by hiking with a guide, and an opportunity to learn some photography skills!

When is The Best Time to Go?

Dates of Operation: Vehicle access only from May 1 to November 13
Reservations: Day passes required from May 6 to October 9, 2023
Monitored Hours: Park Rangers check day passes from 7am to 4pm

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is technically open all year, although vehicle access to the park is only from May 1 to November 13. Outside of these times the car park is closed and the road may be difficult to drive, depending on how much snow there is.

The best time to visit Joffre Lakes is during the summer months, from June to September. This is when the lakes are the most vibrant and the weather is at the warmest.

Although the downside to visiting during this time is that it’s also when the park is at its busiest. Particularly if you visit on a weekend of holiday, you may find it more difficult to find parking and the trail can get quite crowded. Plus this is when it is the most difficult to get reservations to visit the park.

Try to visit outside peak times!

If you can plan you can plan your visit mid-week during the summer months, this would be the absolute best time to go. You can also avoid the crowds by hiking out of peak hours, such as early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

The days are long in the summer in BC, so it doesn’t get dark until after 9 pm. Therefore, you can easily start your hike mid to late-afternoon and be back at your car before dark.

Although if doing this, I don’t recommend starting any later than 3 or 4 pm, to ensure you don’t get stuck after dark. And you should also take some safety precautions just in case the hike takes you longer than expected.

At a minimum I recommend packing a warm layer, a headlamp, plenty of water (and/or a water filter), a first aid kit, and some snacks. You should also always let someone know where you’re going and your expected return time.

Visiting Joffre Lakes in Winter

Hiking in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is discouraged in winter due to the risk of avalanches. However, visiting during this time is not prohibited, and it’s actually quite a popular local winter hiking and snowshoeing spot.

Although it’s worth noting that there is also no vehicle access during the winter, as the parking lot is closed. So you have to organize alternative transport or find somewhere nearby to park.

A girl wearing a blue jacket snowshoeing across a frozen lake, with snow covered mountains in the background.

The views in the winter are very different since the lakes freeze over, so you won’t get to see the bright turquoise colours. But the landscape is still very picturesque when covered in a blanket of snow.

You should only hike in the backcountry in winter if you’re familiar with the terrain and are experienced and prepared for snow hiking, or are accompanied by a qualified guide. You will also need a good pair of hiking boots, snowshoes if there’s a lot of snow, and avalanche safety equipment.

Facilities at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is in the backcountry. As such, despite its popularity, there are limited facilities available.

At the trailhead (by the parking lot) you will find washrooms, and the station where the park ranger will be checking permits. There’s also a pit toilet at the Middle Lake, and one at the Upper Lake campground.

Something to note is that Parks Canada no longer provides toilet paper at the washrooms or pit toilets. So you should bring your own.

Leave No Trace!

There are no garbage cans in the park, so whatever you pack in, you need to pack out! It’s really important to leave no trace, to protect the local environment and wildlife.

Even biodegradable and organic waste like banana peels or apple cores should be taken with you. These scraps do not usually get eaten by wildlife, can act as attractants for animals and take months (or longer) to decompose. They are also not native to the local ecosystem, so they don’t belong here.

Unfortunately not everyone who visits Joffre Lakes is respectful, and trash on the trail is a big problem. I even found some rubbish stashed under a rock when I was there! We all need to play our part to protect this beautiful provincial park, so don’t leave anything behind.

Map of Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

The trail at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is well marked and gets very busy during peak times, so you shouldn’t have any issues with navigation. However, it’s always best to familiarize yourself with the park map ahead of time so you know what to expect.

Park map of the Joffre Lakes hike
Park Map at the Joffre Lakes Trailhead

Also keep in mind that you probably won’t get any phone signal in the park. So it’s advisable to download an offline map, which you can follow, just in case you do take a wrong turn.

How To Get Reservations For Joffre Lakes

Due to its popularity, you’re required to have a day-use pass to visit Joffre Lakes between May 6 and October 9.

The only exceptions to needing a day-use pass during this period are if you have an overnight camping reservation, or if you’re aged 18 or younger and are accompanied by a parent or guardian who has a valid pass.

Day- Use Passes can ONLY be booked online through the BC Parks day-use pass website.

Day-use passes are free, but they book up VERY quickly, so you will have to be organized to secure one. New reservations become available each day, two days in advance at 7 am PDT. To secure a reservation you will need to be online when they are released, as they are usually all booked up within a few minutes.

You can only book a maximum of four passes per person, per day. Therefore, if you are planning to visit Joffre Lakes in a larger group, several of you will need to make reservations to secure enough passes. And passes are non-transferable, so you cannot use them on another day or give them to someone else.

Joffre Lakes Hike

Joffre Lakes is one of the most popular hikes in Canada. The trail passes by the three turquoise blue lakes which the park is famous for. But the lakes aren’t the only reason to do this hike.

You will also see other stunning scenery on the way, including Holloway Falls, the Matier Glacier, rugged mountain peaks and lush green forest. Plus, there’s a chance you will spot wildlife!

A man standing on the shores of a turquoise blue lake with a mountain pass visible in the background.

The hike takes you from the parking lot past all three lakes. The total length of the trail is 4.7 km (2.9 mi) one-way, if going all the way to the campground at the far end of the upper lake.

However, you don’t have to go quite this far, as you can still see amazing views of the upper lake without having to walk around it. If you choose not to walk all the way to the campground, your hike will be about 1 km (0.6 mi) shorter.

The trail is well marked and easy to identify. For your safety, and to preserve the park, it’s important to follow the signs and stay on the designated trail at all times.

Joffre Lakes Hike Stats

Type of Hike: Out-and-back
Distance: 4.7 km (2.9 mi) each way (9.4 km total)
Elevation Gain: 400 m
Highest Point: 1,600 m
Hike Time: 4-6 hours (round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate

Joffre Lakes Hiking Difficulty

The hike at Joffre Lakes is rated as moderately difficult, so it’s considered suitable for people who are reasonably fit.

This is primarily due to the 400 m elevation gain. Although the incline is gradual, and less than many other hikes in BC, so depending on your experience, you may find the elevation gain quite easy.

A great thing about this hike is that as it’s an out-and-back trail, so if you’re finding it too difficult, you can stop and head back down at any time. Plus, the lower lake is very close to the trailhead and parking lot. So even if you don’t make it to the middle and upper lakes, you will still get to see the vibrant blue water and some stunning views.

In terms of technical difficulty, this hike is relatively easy. The trail is mostly flat, although you should still keep an eye out for some rocks, roots and mud.

The most technical part of the hike is at the top of the trail, when making your way around the third lake. Here you will have to navigate over a lot of rocks, which can be a bit tricky. But you only need to do this section of the trail if you’re staying at the campground.

A woman in the distance hiking up a forest trail covered in roots at a more difficult section of the Joffre Lakes hike.

Section Overview

The Joffre Lakes hike can be broken up into three sections: the lower lake, middle lake and upper lake.

Lower Joffre Lake

Distance: 200 m from the parking lot
Elevation Gain: 0 m
Hike Time: 5 minutes from the parking lot
Difficulty: Easy

Lower Joffre Lake is located almost right next to the parking lot, so you don’t have to hike very far at all. It’s an easy 200 metre walk to the lake from the parking lot, along a wide and flat trail.

If you’re not able to hike up to the middle and upper lakes, you can visit the lower lake and still enjoy the views of the bright turquoise water from here!

Middle Joffre Lake

Distance: 3 km (1.8 mi) from the parking lot
Elevation Gain: 350 m
Hike Time: 1 to 1.5 hours from the parking lot
Difficulty: Moderate

The hike from the lower lake to Middle Joffre Lake is the longest stretch of trail and has the most elevation gain. Therefore, this is the most physically demanding section, although the terrain isn’t very technical. There are a lot of switchbacks on this section, which are easy to navigate, but can get your heart rate up!

This section of trail is also very busy, as the famous Instagram log is located at the middle lake. So most visitors will make the effort of hiking up here for photos. This means that if you’re hiking at a busy time, you may get stuck in a queue of people at some sections and have to slow down or overtake.

Although Middle Joffre Lake gets really busy, it’s still a beautiful spot to enjoy the view and take a dip in the bright blue water (if you’re brave enough!)

The view of the sun setting on the top of some mountains with a bright blue glacial lake at the base.

Upper Joffre Lake Hike

Distance: 3.7 km (2.3mi) from the parking lot (700 m from the Middle Lake)
Elevation Gain: 50 m
Hike Time: 1.5 to 2 hours from the parking lot (15-30 mins from the Middle Lake)
Difficulty: Moderate

The hike to Upper Joffre Lake is around 700 meters from the middle lake, which should only take you an extra 15 to 30 minutes of hiking. Although it’s so close, most people actually turn around at the middle lake.

But, I would recommend carrying on that little bit further, as the views from the Upper Lake are stunning. And on the way up you will pass Holloway Falls, which is another highlight of the park. Although be careful on this section, as it’s the steepest and slipperiest part of the trail.

At Upper Joffre Lake, the jagged mountain peaks surrounding the lake make for much more dramatic scenery than you get at the lower and middle lakes, and you get a closer view of the Matier Glacier, which feeds the lakes.

Plus, this is the biggest of the three lakes and since not many people hike all the way up to see it, it’s also the quietest. Therefore, this is where you will escape the crowds and can enjoy some peace and quiet in the park.

If you’re camping, or want to see the lake from the other side, then you can continue on for 1 km (0.6 mi) around the lake, to the campground. This section of the trail is more technical, since you will have to navigate over rocks. But the views make it worthwhile!

Several camping pots and bowls sitting on a rock with the view of a turquoise lake and several mountains in the background.

Hiking Safety & Etiquette

When hiking in Canada’s backcountry, there are always some safety considerations to take into account.

Wildlife Safety

Canada is home to a range of majestic animals including moose, elk, bears, cougars and wolves. Although seeing these animals is a thrilling experience, you never want to get too close or startle them, as they are dangerous. The best way to avoid an unfortunate encounter with wild animals is to hike in groups, make lots of noise, and always be aware of your surroundings.

The Joffre Lakes hike is a busy trail, so it’s quite rare to encounter large animals here, as there it usually too much noise. However, you should still remain aware of your surroundings at all times.

You should also always carry bear spray when hiking in bear country. Although you’re unlikely to need it at Joffre Lakes, if you’re hiking to the upper lake where there are fewer people, and particularly if you’re camping overnight, it’s recommended to bring it.

Avoid Injury and Accidents

Wildlife isn’t the only safety concern in the backcountry. You should also always be alert and prepared for accidents on the trail. Tripping over a root, slipping on a rock, or just missing your footing are common mishaps which can result in small or severe injuries.

Staying aware of your surroundings, being realistic about your fitness level, and wearing appropriate footwear, are all things you can do to minimize the risk of injury on the trail. I would also recommend carrying a small first aid kit to treat minor wounds, in case you do have an accident.

It’s also important to stay with your group. Or, if hiking alone, make sure someone knows where you are and what time you’re due back by. That way, if you don’t return from your hike, they can alert the authorities.

In the backcountry, it’s also always advisable to carry a Satellite Communications Device with you, so you can call for help if needed, as there is no phone signal here.

These measures might seem a bit extreme for such a busy trail like Joffre Lakes, where there are usually lots of other people around to help. But if you’re hiking outside of peak times, or are camping overnight, it’s always best to take these precautions.

A woman standing on the trail at the Joffre Lakes hike, next to the bright blue water of the lower lake, with mountains visible in the background.
Stay Hydrated and Sun Safe!

Most people visit Joffre Lakes in the summer. And believe it or not, Canada does get hot in the summer, even in the mountains! Plus the higher up you go, the stronger the sun is.

Therefore it’s important to stay hydrated and protect yourself with sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. There isn’t any potable water at Joffre Lakes so you will need to bring enough with you. Or, if you’re camping overnight, make sure to bring a water filter or purification tablets to treat water from natural water sources before drinking it.

Hiking Etiquette

In addition to staying safe while hiking, there is also some etiquette to abide by.

Leave No Trace

When hiking in the backcountry it’s really important to leave no trace to protect the environment and the wildlife. This means no littering (not even organics), be respectful of the environment, and leave what you find as it is.

The only exception to this is that if you do find any garbage on the trail, pick it up and take it with you! Of course, you can’t always pick up every piece of garbage you find, and it’s sad that you would have to pick up after other people. But by playing this small role and doing the right thing, hopefully we can lead by example to reduce littering, and keep our parks clean.

Don’t Feed The Animals

Although the squirrels and chipmunks might be cute, and it can be tempting to share your lunch with them, don’t! Human food is not good for wild animals and leaving traces of food around can attract more dangerous animals to the trail. Not only can this put yourselves at risk, it can also endanger the animals.

The view of the bright turquoise blue water of Upper Joffre Lake through the trees. In the background you can see the rock face of a mountain with a glacier perched on top, which feeds the lake.
Stay On The Trail

There is a trail for a reason, so stay on it! Going off trail is not only bad for the environment, it can also put you at risk.

It’s easier than you think to wonder off-trail, get lost, and not be able to find your way back. Every year in Canada there are stories of hikers going missing because of this, and they don’t always have a happy ending.

Plus, walking through vegetation actually destroys it, resulting in erosion and ruining potential food sources for local wildlife.

Don’t Blast Music

People go hiking to connect with the environment and enjoy being in nature, not to listen to the top 40. Even if you have the best taste in music, this is not what anyone else wants to hear on the trail. Instead, try enjoying the sounds of nature or use headphones.

Be Courteous to Other Hikers

The trail at Joffre Lakes gets very busy at certain points, so you will need to exercise some patience and be courteous to other hikers.

The general rule for hiking is that you should give way to hikers going uphill. So when you’re coming down, step aside to let those going up past. If hiking in a group, you should always hike in single file when there are other people on the trail, to allow room for them to pass.

And if you do get stuck behind someone going at a slower pace than you, just politely ask if you can get past, rather than pressuring them to speed up.

The view of some snow capped mountains in the distance through the trees on a sunny day.

What To Pack & Wear for a Day Hike at Joffre Lakes

When going on any type of hike, it’s always important to wear appropriate clothing and pack a few key items to keep you fuelled and safe.

Essential Items To Pack
  • Backpack – The first item you’ll need is a backpack to carry everything in! A hiking day pack is best, since it distributes the weight better than a regular backpack and takes the pressure off your shoulders. If you don’t have one though, then a regular backpack is fine, just try and keep it as light as possible.

  • Warm Layer – It’s important to pack a warm layer such as a fleece or lightweight down jacket, as it gets cold in the mountains! Especially when you reach the top, you will likely notice a big drop in temperature.

  • Rain Jacket – The weather can change very suddenly in the backcountry, so you should always come prepared for rain by packing a lightweight rain jacket. This can also double up as a windbreaker and an extra warm layer if it’s a cold day.

  • Water – One of the most essential items on any hike is water. I always take a 1.5 L Nalgene water bottle, but if it’s a hot day consider taking more than this. There are water sources along the way, but the water is not safe to drink unless treated. Therefore as an alternative to carrying all your water with you, you could bring a water filter or chemical water purification tablets, to collect more water on the way.

  • Snacks Hiking is hungry business! To stay fuelled on your hike pack some lunch and energy dense snacks like trail mix, protein bars, or even candy. But remember what you pack in, you must pack out, so make sure to take all your trash with you, and don’t share your food with any wildlife!

  • ID & Day-Pass Confirmation – You should always have these on you as during peak season park rangers will be checking reservations.
Health & Safety Items To Pack
  • Sunscreen – Even on a cold day the sun in the mountains is harsh. So make sure to keep yourself protected with a good quality sunscreen and re-apply every couple of hours.

  • Sun hat & Sunglasses – It’s also a good idea to keep your face and eyes protected with a sun hat and sunglasses.

  • Bear Spray & Holster – Although the trail at Joffre Lakes is very busy, it is bear country, so it’s always a good idea to bring bear spray. (And make sure to keep it in a holster within easy reach). Especially if you’re hiking outside of busy times when there may not be other people around!

  • Bug Spray – If hiking in the spring or early summer, there can be lots of bugs on the trail, so it can be a good idea to bring bug spray.

  • Headlamp – It’s always a good idea to have a headlamp with you, especially if hiking later in the day. If your hike takes longer than expected, or something happens which slows you down, you could be at risk of finishing your hike in the dark.

  • Watch and/or Cellphone – To keep track of time you should always have a timekeeping device on you, such as a cellphone or watch.

  • Satellite Communications Device – As Joffre Lakes is such a busy trail, having a satellite communications device isn’t necessary. However, it’s still something I would recommend bringing, if you have one. The one I use and recommend is the Garmin InReach Mini.
Optional Items To Pack
  • Swimsuit & Towel – The water in Joffre Lakes is VERY cold, but you are able to swim in it. If you’re brave enough to give it a go, make sure to bring your swimsuit and a towel. I would recommend taking a microfiber towel since it’s much lighter and more compact than a regular towel.

  • Trekking Poles – These are very much an optional item for Joffre Lakes. Since the trail isn’t technically very difficult, I don’t find trekking poles to be necessary for this hike. But if you have trouble with your knees, or prefer the extra stability of using poles, then definitely bring them!

  • Camera – Although most cell phones take excellent quality photos these days, if you’re big on photography then you won’t want to forget your camera! Joffre Lakes has so many beautiful views that you could easily spend all day here taking pictures.
A woman wearing black and carrying a hiking pack poses on the rocks of the shore of a turquoise lake, with forest and mountain peaks in the background.
What to Wear

The Joffre Lakes trail isn’t very technically difficult, but you should still make sure you’re wearing appropriate footwear.

Hiking boots or trail runners are recommended, since there are some slippery sections. However, at the very least you should wear trainers or running shoes. It’s also a good idea to wear a good pair of socks, such as merino wool hiking socks, to minimize the risk of getting blisters. From my experience, the best are Darn Tough socks, which are so durable they even come with a lifetime warranty!

In terms of what to wear, active wear or hiking clothes are best, since they’re comfortable, you can easily move in them and they are usually quick-dry.

You should also aim to wear layers, which you can take off and put on as you get hot and cold. Even on a hot summer’s day, as you get higher into the mountains the temperatures can drop, so it’s important to be prepared for this.

Tip: Check out lululemon’s new hiking range! They have excellent hiking apparel for both men and women, which is durable, lightweight and comfortable. The Hiking Jogger is my current go-to hiking pants, and I also love wearing their running gear on the trail.

Camping at Joffre Lakes

Joffre Lakes is not only a great place for day hikes. It’s also a beautiful camping spot and is one of the best easy backpacking destinations in Canada. The campground is located at Upper Joffre Lake. So you have to hike to the end of the trail to get there. But it’s worth it!

The campground is open from June 14 to November 14. Outside of these times it’s closed due to the risk of avalanches.

This is a backcountry campground, so it only has limited facilities available and you have to bring everything you will need with you. The campground has one pit toilet and a food hang. There is also a stream which flows into the lake, where you can collect water.

The sunset from the Upper Joffre Campground, reflecting in the still blue lake. Several tents are dotted around the campground below.

The tent pads are spread out across the hill, nestled between the rocks and overlooking Upper Joffre Lake. There are also a handful of tent pads right on the shore of the lake, which tend to be the most popular. We stayed at a tent pad further up the hill, which was great, since the view of the sunset from higher up was spectacular.

There isn’t a designated cooking area at the Upper Joffre Lake campground. Instead you will need to improvise, using the rocks as a workspace and seating area.

Although normally when camping in the backcountry, you would aim to cook around 100 meters away from your tent, this isn’t really possible at Upper Joffre Lake. Therefore, make sure to keep a really clean cooking area and store all food and scented items at the food hang.

Campsite Reservations at Upper Joffre Lake

You must make a reservation to camp at Upper Joffre Lake. Reservations can be made online using the Parks Canada camping website. Make sure to click ‘backcountry’ and you will then be able to search for Joffre Lakes from the drop down menu.

Alternatively, you can also make reservations by calling 1-800-689-9025 from within Canada and the US, or 1-519-858-6161 from abroad.

There is a $5 fee per person to camp at Upper Joffre Lake, plus a $6 reservation fee.

Backcountry Camping Basics

There are some key camping safety and etiquette basics to follow in the backcountry:

  • Never cook or store food inside your tent! Instead, cook away from your sleeping area and hang your food and scented items from the food hang. This is really important to ensure you don’t attract wildlife, such as bears, to your tent.

  • Always treat your water. Although the water at Upper Joffre Lake comes straight from the glacier, it’s still safest to treat it. You never know if animals (or people) might have contaminated the water. So you should either filter it, treat it with a chemical purification tablet, or boil it for 2 minutes before drinking.

  • Leave no trace. There are no garbage bins at the campground, so you must take all your garbage with you when you leave. And make sure to leave your campsite clean. There shouldn’t be any trace that you were ever there.

  • Use the pit toilet. Or if you can’t make it to the toilet, go away from other tents and at least 30 meters away from water sources. If it’s a number 2, you MUST bury it and never leave toilet paper scattered around. You can throw toilet paper in the pit toilet, but nothing else. (Everything else you must pack out).

  • Be Quiet. Most people camping in the backcountry will go to sleep as soon as it gets dark, so keep the noise down!

  • Only use biodegradable soaps. This is important so you don’t contaminate the environment. You should also avoid washing your dishes in the water sources. Instead, pack food waste out with your garbage and wash dishes away from tents and water sources.
An orange and grey tent at Upper Joffre campground, with a view of the bright blue upper lake in the background, surrounded by forest.

What to Pack for Camping at Upper Joffre Lake

Camping at Upper Joffre Lake is an amazing experience. But you will want to be prepared with a few key items, to ensure your overnight stay is as enjoyable (and safe) as possible.

Camping Essentials

  • Sleeping Pad – A good quality sleeping pad is essential for a good night’s sleep in the backcountry. It can get cold overnight, so you should aim for a sleeping pad with a 3-4 R-value.

  • Clean/warm clothes – You will want clean and dry clothes to change into at camp and sleep in. It can get cold at night at Joffre Lakes. So it’s a good idea to have several layers, such as a fleece or lightweight puffy jacket, a thermal layer, a warm hat and wool socks.

  • Toilet Paper & Hand Sanitizer – There is a pit toilet at the Upper Joffre Lake campground, but toilet paper is not provided. Therefore, you should pack your own, as well as some hand sanitizer.

  • Toothbrush & Toiletries – Don’t forget to pack your toothbrush and toothpaste, and any other toiletries you might need such as face wipes, moisturizer and lip balm.

  • Repair Kit – You should always pack a few items to repair any gear which could break. Even just some duct tape, rope and a small multitool can go a long way.

  • Camping Reservation – Park rangers will check your camping reservation at the trailhead. But you should also keep a copy on you while camping, in case rangers pass through to check reservations again.
The view of a bright blue lake with mountains in the background from the inside of a tent.
Camp Kitchen

  • Camp Stove & Gas – Unless you plan on eating cold food only, you will need a small camp stove and gas canister to cook your dinner and heat water. You can pick up a gas canister from most outdoor or hardware stores.

  • Bowl/Plate & Mug – You will also need something to eat and drink out of, so you should pack a lightweight bowl and mug. Or, you can eat straight out of the pot, or the packet if eating dehydrated backpacking meals. Collapsible silicone dinnerware is also a great option to save space in your pack.

  • Utensils – You don’t need many utensils for camping in the backcountry. A long handle spork is the best option, especially if you plan on eating backpacking meals straight from the packet. It’s also a good idea to bring a small camping knife if you have any food you will need to cut, like salami or cheese.

  • Food bag & Ziplocs – You should have a food bag (like a dry bag) to store all your food, cooking and scented items in. This will keep your food organized, dry and the scent away from your other belongings. Plus it’s convenient to hang from the bear poles. I also recommend bringing Ziploc bags for your trash and to organize your food.
Food & Drinks
  • Backpacking Food – Food is usually the heaviest item on any backpacking trip. To minimize the weight you have to carry hiking in, you should pack as many dehydrated foods as possible. You can buy special dehydrated backpacking meals which you just need to add hot water to. Or even foods like instant mac and cheese or ramen noodles are a great option!

  • Tea, Coffee & Hot Chocolate – As the nights can get cold, it’s always nice to warm up with a hot drink, like tea or hot chocolate. Plus, if you can’t start your day without a coffee, then you’ll need to bring that too. Instant hot chocolate and coffee sachets are the easiest way to pack your favourite hot drinks in the backcountry. However, if you’re particular about your coffee, you can also bring a backpacking coffee maker and fresh coffee grounds!

  • Sponge & Biodegradable Soap – Pack a small sponge and mini bottle of biodegradable soap to clean the dishes when you’re finished eating. It’s really important that your soap is biodegradable, so it doesn’t harm the environment. Or, the method I usually use to clean up is to boil some extra hot water to rinse my bowl and mug with, as it tends to cut through most of the grease.

  • Condiments – So you don’t get stuck eating bland food, I would always recommend packing basic condiments like a small salt and pepper shaker.
A hand holding up a dark blue mug in front of the view of a blue lake reflecting the mountains in the background.
Luxury Items

  • Camp Shoes It can be nice to change into different shoes once you get to camp, to give your feet a break from your hiking boots.

  • Lightweight Chair – There aren’t any benches or picnic tables at Upper Joffre Lake. So if you want a comfortable chair to relax in, pack a lightweight backpacking chair. Or, if you’re short on space, a sitting pad, such as the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat, is a great option to make sitting on the rocks more comfortable!

  • Earplugs – The tent pads at Upper Joffre Lake are pretty spread out, so it’s not a noisy campground. However, if you’re a light sleeper I recommend packing earplugs as they won’t take up any room in your pack anyway.

  • Campsite Entertainment – It’s always nice to have some form of entertainment at camp, such as a pack of cards, a book, or headphones.

Where to Stay Near Joffre Lakes

The closest town to Joffre Lakes is Pemberton, but there aren’t many accommodation options there. Instead, the best place to stay near Joffre Lakes is Whistler, which is about a one-hour drive away.

Whistler is a beautiful town with tons of fun activities such as hiking, climbing, mountain biking, golf, and kayaking in the summer, and of course skiing and snowboarding in the winter!

The centre of Whistler village, with a restaurant on the left, a small gazebo in the middle and store fronts visible on the right. The view of a mountain can be seen through the buildings in the background.

Whistler also has excellent accommodation options, fantastic bars and restaurants, and stunning mountain scenery. So it’s the perfect place to spend some time to make a weekend or longer trip out of your visit to Joffre Lakes.

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For a luxury stay, it’s hard to beat the Four Seasons Resort Whistler and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Or, for something more budget friendly, the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre or Aava Whistler Hotel are both great options.

We stayed at the Aava on our most recent trip to Whistler. It was a great stay, with big rooms and comfortable beds. Plus there is an outdoor pool and hot tub, and the hotel is really close to all the bars and restaurants in the village.

FAQs – Joffre Lakes Hike

Can you visit Joffre Lakes without a day pass?

During the peak season between May 6 and October 9, day-use passes are required to visit Joffre Lakes. Outside of these dates you don’t need a pass. And you don’t need a day-use pass if you have an overnight camping reservation.

Why is Joffre Lakes so popular?

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park has become really popular with locals and visitors due to its three bright turquoise-blue lakes. The colour of the lakes is similar to other iconic lakes in Canada, such as Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

The Joffre Lakes hike is also much easier than many other hikes in Canada. And you can see the first lake just a couple of hundred meters away from the parking lot. So it’s really accessible to people of different abilities and fitness levels.

Are the lakes really that blue?

Yes, the lakes really are that blue! Especially when the sun is shining, the colour is so vibrant and saturated. Here is an unedited photo of Upper Joffre Lake in the sun, showing how blue the lakes really are:

How long is the Joffre Lakes hike?

The Joffre Lakes hike is 4.7 km (2.9 mi) each way. So the total round trip is 9.4 km total (5.8 mi). This takes you from the parking lot all the way to the campground at Upper Joffre lake and back. The round trip hike can be completed by most hikers in 4 to 6 hours.

Can you swim in Joffre Lakes?

Yes, you are allowed to swim at Joffre Lakes! However the water is VERY cold, since these are glacier fed lakes. Parks Canada actually warns against swimming here due to how cold the lakes are.

But if you’ve done cold plunges before, or are familiar with glacial lake swimming, then you can definitely swim. However you should be careful not to stay in the water for more than a few minutes, or you could be at risk of hypothermia.

Can you paddle on Joffre Lakes?

Technically you could paddle at Joffre Lakes, but you would need to bring your own stand up paddle board or kayak. This would likely be far too heavy to carry all the way to the middle or upper lakes. So your best bet would be to paddle on the lower lake. Although the lake isn’t very large, so you won’t be able to paddle too far.

Which of the three lakes has the famous Instagram log?

The famous Instagram log floating in the water is at Middle Joffre Lake. As a result, the middle lake tends to be the busiest with lots of people stopping there for photos.

A lot of hikers also choose to end their hike here, rather than continuing on to the upper lake. However, the views at the upper lake are spectacular, so I would encourage you to continue on!

How hard is it to hike at Joffre Lakes?

The Joffre Lakes hike is considered moderate, mostly because there is about 400 meters of elevation gain.

The isn’t very technically difficult, since it’s well-maintained and there aren’t many obstacles. Although there are some slippery sections towards the top. And at Upper Joffre Lake you will have to climb over some rocks to make it to the campground.

Is Joffre Lakes crowded?

Joffre Lakes does get crowded in the summer months. In particular on weekends and holidays. To control the number of visitors and minimize the impact this has on the park, day-use passes are required during the peak season from May 6 to October 9.

To avoid the crowds, plan your visit during a weekday, or outside of the busy summer season.

How far is Joffre Lakes from Whistler?

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is located 62 km (39 mi) north of Whistler, which is about a one hour drive.

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How far is Joffre Lakes from Vancouver?

Vancouver is 190 km (118 mi) south of Joffre Lakes, along Highway 99. The drive takes around 3 hours, but it can take longer, depending on traffic.

Are there bears at Joffre Lakes?

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is in bear country, so yes, there are bears at Joffre Lakes! Both black bears and grizzly bears inhabit the area.

When the trail is busy there is a lower risk of bear encounters since the noise scares them away. But you should still always practice bear safety and stay aware of your surroundings when hiking and camping here.

Is Joffre Lakes dog friendly?

No, dogs are not allowed in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park.

Do you need hiking boots to do the Joffre Lakes hike?

The Joffre Lakes hike isn’t very technically difficult, so as long as the trail is dry, you don’t need hiking boots. Instead, you can hike in trainers or running shoes.

However, if you have hiking boots or trail runners, I recommend you wear them. They offer more support and will provide better grip in the slippery sections. And if there is rain or snow, you should wear hiking boots for extra stability and to keep your feet warm and dry.

Do the Joffre Lakes freeze?

Yes! In winter all three Joffre Lakes freeze over and are covered in a blanket of snow. Usually the lakes will thaw out by May. But the vibrant blue colour is best seen between June and October.

Is there cell service at Joffre Lakes?

No, there is no cell service at Joffre Lakes.

Therefore, you should plan ahead by ensuring you have a printed or offline map and copy of your day-pass or camping reservation. If you will be hiking out of peak times, it’s also advisable to take a satellite communications device with you, in case of an emergency.

Final Thoughts – Joffre Lakes Hike

Joffre Lakes is one of Canada’s most beautiful hikes and camping destinations. And although it can get very busy during the peak season, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Hopefully this guide has provided you with all the information you need to plan your Joffre Lakes hike or camping trip, so you can see the vibrant blue colour for yourself.


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