Joffre Lakes

April 5, 2009

To get to the trailhead, when approaching Pemberton from Whistler (from the South), keep driving towards Mount Currie. In town, turn right towards Lillooet, you will travel along the Lillooet River, crossing to the north side of the river just before Lillooet Lake. The road climbs steeply, follow it and continue to the BC Parks Joffre Lake parking area, where the first picture below was taken.

The parking area at Joffre lakes is cleared of snow periodically by highways maintenance contractor. Bring a shovel and be prepared to clear an area to safely park your car off of the highway and allow for snow clearing equipment to enter the lot if it is not already cleared when you arrive.

The winter route is shorter than the traditional summer route. Lower Joffre Lake is an easy 500-meter walk from the parking lot.

Evidence of the park’s glacial history can be found in the U-shaped valleys, glacial silts and lateral moraines.

Depending of the ice conditions and time of the year, you can save time by crossing the lower lake, otherwise you need follow the traditional route.

Crossing Lower Joffre Lake with Matier Glacier behind

After a short walk through the forest, you will reach the boulder field, a tricky section to cross during summer time but quite easy at this time of the year. Before you go deep into the forest, take a break and enjoy the views of Cayoosh Pass.

Bottom Left: Cayoosh Pass

In winter the route goes very close to the creek, but as its summer counterpart, it is short and steep as well.

During summer, you may need to scramble in places where loose soil conditions make for treacherous footing.

Before the second lake the trail levels off, you will reach the bridge that follows the summer route, in our case we didn't cross the bridge and stayed on the right side.

Middle Joffre Lake

Both Lower and Middle Joffre Lakes are stocked with rainbow trout, owing to the frigid conditions in these two lakes, the size of most fish is smaller than you’ll wish to keep.

Once again, we crossed the middle lake and our last minutes were spend hiking on the right side of the creek before reaching an ice covered wall forcing us to turn right. From there it was only a matter of minutes before reaching the upper lake.

The reward of reaching Upper Joffre Lake cannot be overstated. The ice falls of Matier Glacier, Mount Matier and Mount Joffre tower above the turquoise waters of the lake: an amphitheatre of crevassed, blue-hued ice rises directly above the lake’s south end and embraces most of the mountainside in a sweep from Mount Taylor to Joffre Peak and Mount Chief Pascall.

Upper Joffre Lake and Matier Glacier

The Matier Glacier dates back to the last ice age which occurred during the Pleistocene Epoch some 20,000 years ago.

The cool winds blowing down from the icefield made us look for shelter from the breeze almost as soon as we arrived at Upper Joffre. Camping is permitted year round at Upper Joffre Lake

Today was a special day, I was owing a nice hike to the Xtreme Picnic Team after a wet outing couple of years ago. I am glad everything worked out well because it is very unusual for them to be out of their normal winter area of operations, aka the North Shore.

Expect winter conditions in Joffre lakes from November until the end of May. Persons travelling into Joffre Lake Provincial Park should be properly equipped and experienced in winter travel during this period. No emergency services are available during the winter season.

A highlight of the park is the turquoise blue waters of Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre lakes, their striking, saturated blue colour is caused by “rockflour” - or glacial silt - that is suspended in the water and reflects green and blue wavelengths of sunlight.

Crossing Middle Joffre Lake with Cayoosh Pass on the background

Unfortunately during summer the bugs may give you a hard time to enjoy the blue colours of these lakes.

Crossing boulder area (downhill view)

Regarding wildlife, mule deer and coastal black deer, black bears and mountain goats make their homes in and around the park. Pikas and hoary marmots may also be seen.

Crossing boulder area (uphill view)

I have never seen any of these animals although I have better luck in nearby hikes which do not receive the same amount of visitors.

Crossing Lower Joffre Lake

The Joffre Glacier Group has been visited by novice and expert ice climbers alike for decades, and its popularity continues to grow. Beware exploring the glacier. Only experienced mountaineers should attempt mountain climbing or venture onto glaciers and snow fields, as even knowledgeable climbers run the risk of falling into a crevasse.

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01. 50.3698-122.5001 Elev 1171 m Parking Lot
02. 50.3448-122.4797 Elev 1572 m Around Upper Joffre Lake

Distance One Way: 3.80 km (2.36 mi)
Total Time: 3.5 hours
Elevation gain: 400 m (1312 ft)

Download route in GTM format Free software download at
Download route in plain text

Driving distance from Vancouver: 186 km (115 mi) - About 2 hours 46 mins

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