Hiking Joffre Lakes

All three Joffre Lakes via Mount Matier.

Last Updated on September 10, 2021

Where Is Joffre Lakes?

Joffre Lakes is located just north of Pemberton in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park.

Why Is Joffre Lakes So Popular?

The Joffre Lakes hike is one of the most sought-after trails near Vancouver.  You can reach the trailhead with any vehicle, and the views are jaw-droppingly beautiful. The Joffre Lakes hike is rated the #1 thing to do in Pemberton (Tripadvisor) and attracts thousands of visitors and campers each year.

There are three lakes you can hike to, all for varying levels of ability. The Lower Lake is a quick walk from the main parking area. The Middle Lake is great for new hikers who want to explore some new terrain. The Upper Lake is great for those who have a little more experience and who can continue the uphill climb. With three lakes, this trail can get everybody and anybody out for some adventure with turquoise waters and breathtaking scenery.

The trail is also popular during the winter months for ice climbers.

Joffre Lakes Trail Stats

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Time: 3.5 -5  hours
  • Round-Trip: 10km
  • Elevation Gain: 370 meters
  • Season: June – September
  • Camping: Must make a reservation
  • Distance From Vancouver: 3 hours

Trail Pass Required

The popularity of Joffre Lakes does come with a bit of work to get a trail pass, however. It is for good reason, as it helps keep the trail from being completely overrun during peak season. If you’re looking to hike Joffre Lakes, all the details you need to know about obtaining a trail pass (one for each person) are on this website. You do not need a vehicle pass for this trail in 2021. If you would like to try any other trails on list at the website linked above, make sure you look at what you need to reserve as each trail varies.

You may find it near impossible to get a pass for hiking Joffre Lakes on a weekend. Passes can “sell out” (they are free, but you must complete a purchase transaction). We always recommend avoiding busy trails on the weekend and heading out during the week instead.

Lower Joffre Lake once the sky began to clear

Joffre Lakes Hike Trail Description

This is a well-worn and well-marked trail. The trail is so obvious, that even if you are a new hiker, you will not get lost. At 10 km, the hike to Joffre Lakes is not very long but is still a bit of a challenge with the uphill climb and a handful of technical areas.

You will swoon over the beauty that features creek crossings, a waterfall, milky turquoise lakes, and the surrounding mountain range.

It is also long enough that you will want to bring a lunch to enjoy at one of the lakes. However, please pack out your garbage with you!

Here is what to expect on the trail:

Lower Joffre Lake covered in cloud

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Parking Lot To Lower Lake

It is literally only a five-minute walk from the parking lot to the Lower Lake. The signage said fifteen minutes, but it was a super quick and easy walk. The trail is a groomed, dirt path with minimal exposed roots and rocks and zero elevation gain. The Lower Lake is a quick diversion off of the main trail. You will have to backtrack a couple of minutes to rejoin the main trail and continue onto the second lake.

This lake will get you excited for what is to come. You will not want to stop here after getting a glimpse of your hiking goal, the Matier Glacier.

Lower Lake To Middle Lake

This is the section of the hike that takes the longest. It is the smallest of the lakes, but that doesn’t detract from its insane beauty. The first glimpse you get of the milky turquoise waters will leave you speechless.

From Lower to Middle Joffre Lake, the trail is still largely a groomed, dirt path with some roots and rocks. There have also been steps added to assist in the climb.

When you have reached Middle Lake, you have already survived most of the elevation gain. The final climb to Upper Joffre lake is fairly short.

There are also outhouses at Middle Lake.

Middle Lake To Upper Lake

Leaving Middle Lake you will cross a little bridge, and then you will see the spectacular Holloway Falls. It was unexpectedly powerful, with the water rushing from the Upper Lake glaciers and making its way to feed the middle and lower lakes.

The last section to Upper Lake is the most difficult of the path with steep stairs, is more technical (roots and rocks), and large boulders to climb over at the viewpoint.

This was our favorite view. The scenery at Upper Lake is beyond impressive, with the glacier-covered mountains. The up-close view of the Matier Glacier will blow your mind.

After you have enjoyed the scenery, follow the path the way you came. Luckily, most of the hike back to your vehicle will be downhill.

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Additional Trails

From Upper Lake you can also follow routes to a viewpoint that shows all three lakes via Mount Matier, or continue onto Mount Tszil. However, do not attempt either climb without mountaineering experience.

Best Time To Hike Joffre Lakes

Joffre Lakes is hike-able year-round. However, the most popular time to hike the trail is during the summer months of mid-June to September, when the water has turned into its breathtaking and signature glacier turquoise-blue.

Joffre Lakes Hike Time

Allow for 3.5-5 hours. How long to take depends on your pace and how many stops you make for a rest or to take photos. Assume that it will take you five hours from the parking lot to Upper Joffre Lake and back when planning your visit. You will want to take a ton of photos, so allow for the longest scenario.

How Difficult Is The Joffre Lakes Trail?

Our personal rating for this trail is Moderate. If you are an active person, you really should have no difficulty with this trail.

The Highlights Of Joffre Lakes

  • One of the best highlights of Joffre Lakes is the turquoise-blue waters of the glacier-fed Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre Lakes, with each lake getting more beautiful than the last. The turquoise-blue water is caused by “rockflour” (glacial silt) that is suspended in the water, reflecting green and blue wavelengths of sunlight.
  • Holloway Falls was impressively powerful. It is a mesmerizing waterfall.
  • The first views of the Middle and Upper Lakes will take your breath away.
  • Several viewpoints of the surrounding mountain range.
  • The close-up view of Matier Glacier.
Making our way up to Upper Lake — we love these rugged parts of the trail!

Essential Information For Visiting Joffre Lakes Provincial Park


Camping is available at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park.

You are only allowed to camp in the designated area at the Upper Lake. You must make a reservation for an overnight stay in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. Campers without a reservation will not be permitted to stay overnight.

Use the BC Parks Discover Camping Reservation System to purchase a backcountry camping reservation and have a tent pad guaranteed for you before leaving home. There is no cellular coverage in Joffre Lakes Park, so your reservations must be made prior to arriving at the park.

Please note that camping is not available from November 1 to April 15 due to avalanche risk.

You must follow leave no trace principles and follow bear safety rules.

Campfires are banned year-round.

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During the summer heat, the water is suitable for a swim. However, remember that you are swimming in a glacier-fed lake, so the water is very COLD. Know your limits in the cold water to ensure your safety.

No Dogs Allowed

Dogs are not allowed at Joffre Lakes. Park Rangers will not allow dogs on the trail and those that bring a dog will be asked to go back the way they came.


You could possibly come across deer, black bears, grizzly bears, and pikas mountain goats. Since Joffre Lakes is so incredibly busy, wildlife sightings could be unlikely unless you are camping overnight. However, never become complacent about safety and always arrive prepared.

No Emergency Services

Visitors must be prepared for self-rescue.

Driving Directions

Continue along the Sea to Sky Highway North past Whistler into Pemberton. Once you reach Pemberton, it takes about 30 minutes to reach Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. At the Pemberton Junction, follow the signs that take you bearing right, towards Mount Currie. Around 7 km down the road, you will turn right on Duffey Lake Road. You will ride a series of switchbacks for 21 km until you see the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park signage and parking lot on your right-hand side. The trail starts right from the main parking lot.

Visiting Joffre Lakes is an easy day trip from Whistler. It is about an hour’s drive up Highway 99 North.

You can also visit on a day trip from Vancouver. However, the long drive each way will make for an extra-long day, with a 2 1/2 hour drive between Vancouver and the Joffre Lake Trailhead. It is, however, worth that extra effort on a gorgeous day.

Here is the journey on Google Maps.

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You will want to arrive early for the Joffre Lakes trail if you want to park in the main lot. There is also overflow parking available several hundred yards before the trail entrance. With so many people hitting the trail, the parking lot does seem to have spots opening regularly.

Do NOT park along the highway. You will be towed. Unsafe parking practices have caused this bylaw to be strictly enforced.


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