Vancouver Hiking: Joffre Lakes


Upper Joffre Lake

Just a couple hours from Vancouver, our group finds the trailhead and sets out into the forest seeking a trio of glacial lakes in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. The lower lake appears just ahead, not far from our starting point — a little amuse bouche of what’s farther up the trail. Reed grass paints a lime green swath through the water while the sun hides behind clouds just above the mountains.

We continue on the trail — easy under foot and blanketed by thick undergrowth on both sides. The park clearly sees a lot of precipitation as the vegetation looks almost like a rainforest. The trail shifts into high gear and we’re soon progressing through a valley on a steep incline. Getting to the middle lake is an uphill haul, but the views entice and encourage and we find ourselves at the shore, out of breath.

A glacial lake is a sight to behold, anywhere in the world. Deep blue-green and opaque, it’s not only hard to describe but hard to believe even when seeing it in person. The blue tones accentuate the yellow in the vegetation surrounding the lake, and it seems today that even my camera is having difficulty interpreting the values of this extraordinary landscape. It just doesn’t look real.

Just up the trail, water cascades down through the trees along a nearly perfect staircase waterfall. The sky tries to clear and we continue on our way to Upper Joffre Lake.

The highest lake offers the greatest reward, with a view into a cirque topped by an old glacier. It’s the perfect place to stop for lunch so we settle on a coarse moraine next to the trail. The sun finally shines and hits the water like a spotlight — blue-green changing to aqua in a brilliant show of colors. The glacier holds a hint of icy blue and with my long lens I see the many layers of winters past fused together in a moving, melting canvas. We explore the campground at the far end of the lake (paradise!) and then begin our descent back to our starting point.

It’s such a thrill to find wilderness so easily reached from Vancouver. It’s just the beginning of my adventure here and Canada’s backcountry is vast. I think there’s plenty to keep me busy for however long I’m here.


To get to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, take Highway 99 from Vancouver through Whistler to Pemberton. The parking area is located on the right side, several kilometers past Lillooet Lake. For more information, visit the park website:



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