Joffre Lakes Provincial Park
The three Joffre Lakes are some of the most stunning lakes you are likely to ever see. The three lakes get progressively more beautiful and impossibly blue from one to the next. By the third lake the intense blue is breathtaking. The mighty Matier Glacier rises above and beyond the third lake, making the experience even more spectacular. The Joffre Lakes trail is rough and tricky in some parts, but not terribly difficult. The trail is 5.5k to the third lake so give yourself 1.5 - 2 hours(one way). Lots of trail construction work has being done in the past couple years as a new trail replaces much of the old trail. The old boulder section between the lower and middle lakes has now been covered with a new dirt trail. Almost free of snow by late May 2016, the Joffre Lakes trail is ready to hike!
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is centred around the three Joffre Lakes. All of them are beautiful on their own and each more beautiful than the last. The amazing turquoise colours of the lakes are caused by light reflecting off of the particles of glacial silt suspended in the water. On the trail you will immediately catch glimpses of the massive glaciers that feed these gorgeous lakes.
In the winter, with the lakes frozen and the trees weighed down with snow, Joffre Lakes takes on a serene beauty, with the low sun cutting through the trees and the forest brightly reflecting. The third Joffre Lake ends in a U-shaped valley where you will find the far side of the lake towering with glaciers relentlessly crushing down on the lake. The sun fills the valley and the silence is wonderful.
At the upper, or third Joffre Lake, there are several nice, though rugged places to camp. In a hilly, lightly forested section of paradise in between the impossibly turquoise Joffre Lake and the abruptly monstrous Matier Glacier descending from Mount Matier beyond. A waterfall cascades near the camping area. The campsite has one nice and well maintained outhouse.
You will notice several clearings for tents in the gravel and boulder strewn landscape(see the map below). Each one barely enough room for a tent, but the ruggedness adds to the beauty of Joffre Lakes. The park is wonderfully untouched by people. With the exception of the trail, some signs, outhouse and bridges, Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is beautifully wild and picturesque.
There is also a prominent helicopter pad close by as a reminder of how many injuries occur on the trail and the accessible mountains and glaciers around. There are in fact four distinct glaciers close by, Matier, Anniversary, Stonecrop and Tszil. Beyond Mount Matier there are two more, Twin One and Hartzell.
The Joffre Lakes trail is surprisingly busy most of the summer, which is a testament to how extraordinarily beautiful, and relatively easy the hike is. Unlike Wedgemount Lake, Black Tusk or Cirque Lake, which are to difficult for many hikers, Joffre Lakes is comparatively easy and certainly relaxing. Many hikes in the nearby Garibaldi Park are not family friendly and easy, but Joffre Lakes is. Certainly the scenic drive to the trailhead from Whistler is part of the fun.
Parking, Hiking & Camping Details for Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is dog friendly although at least one sign indicates that they must be on a leash. Garibaldi Park does not allow dogs, making Joffre Lakes possibly the most beautiful, dog friendly hiking trail in the Sea to Sky Corridor. The reason for the dog prohibition in Garibaldi Park is out of respect for the resident animals in the park. Dogs often chase, or get chased by bears, harass marmots and deer and inevitably defecate close to drinking water sources for hikers and campers. Fortunately for your dog, this has never been problem enough to warrant prohibiting them at Joffre Lakes. There are other dog friendly hikes around Whistler. Nairn Falls Provincial Park on the drive to Joffre Lakes is also dog friendly as well as many of the hiking trails in the Callaghan Valley in Whistler. For a look at a list of easy dog friendly hiking trails in Whistler try here. And more challenging, dog friendly trails try here.
There are two outhouses at the parking lot/trailhead to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park as well as one at the third lake and camping area. The closest other toilet facilities are in Pemberton, several kilometres south of Joffre Lakes. At the main, highway intersection in Pemberton there are gas stations on either side of the highway as well as a McDonald's, coffee shops and restaurants.
Camping is welcome year-round at Joffre Lakes. In the summer months, 24 camping areas can be found at the far shore of the third lake. These are very rustic camping areas in a tremendous setting but with no facilities other than an outhouse. Beautiful streams cascade down from the glaciers far above, so you will have fresh water everywhere you look. There is a small, $5 charge for camping overnight at Joffre Lakes and you can pay online at the BC Parks site or at the trailhead with an envelope, dropbox system. There is no garbage pick-up in the park and campfires are prohibited year-round due to fire hazard and the inevitable burning of alpine trees which are all too easy to burn, but take forever to grow in such a hostile environment.
The closest hotels and B&B's to Joffre Lakes can be found in Pemberton. The hotel options in Pemberton are not the greatest. The Pemberton Hotel and the Hitching Post Motel are very rugged(dirty and old) and somewhat expensive and lacking in amenities. The Pemberton Valley Lodge is fairly new though a bit pricey as well. If you are picky about your choice of hotels you may want to stay in Whistler as the hotels are generally nicer and the amenities are plenty. Pemberton does have quite a nice array of nice Bed and Breakfast accommodations. Most are nice, big and modern log cabin homes on farms. There seems to be quite a bit of competition here which is shown in the competitive prices.
From Whistler, zero your odometer in Whistler at Village Gate Boulevard and follow highway 99 north toward Pemberton. At 32km you will arrive at Pemberton, an intersection, with a Petro Can gas station on your left and McDonalds to your right. Continue straight, through Pemberton. At 39km turn right at the sign to Lillooet. Follow this winding road, and soon you will pass Lillooet Lake on your right as the highway ascends steeply. You are only 20 minutes from the parking lot now. At 65km, you will see the large Joffre Lakes parking lot on your right.
There are several worthwhile stops on the drive to Joffre Lakes. Just five minutes from Whistler Village and you will drive along the edge of Green Lake. There is an excellent pullout on the right side of the highway at a great viewpoint over the lake. Wedge Mountain, Blackcomb Mountain, and Whistler Mountain lay beyond Green Lake. Another 15 minutes driving and you will see the sign for Nairn Falls Provincial Park. A short and easy 1.2 kilometre trail runs along the wild and crashing Green River to a viewing area on cliffs across from the falls.