Dream Destinations: Hiking the picture perfect Joffre Lakes in British Columbia, Canada

You’d be forgiven for thinking the photo above is taken in the famed blue waters of Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta. It is, after all, one of Canada’s most photographed destinations. Alas, it is not alone in its regal beauty.

Sitting three hours or so north of Vancouver, just past Whistler and Pemberton, the Joffre Lakes Provincial Parks joins the famed lake to its east, setting itself up as one of the most rewarding and picture perfect hikes you ever go on.

The complete hike is 10 kilometers round trip, with an elevation gain of 370 meters, and no less than three lakes along the way, each seemingly bluer than the next. Which makes sense, as each lake takes you higher in elevation and closer to the Matier Glacier, which feeds the lakes.

It’s a well travelled, well kept path, though is not without its challenging moments – both in its steepness and questionable terrain. Thankfully, with a Day Pass system introduced through the pandemic, numbers of visitors were limited, which means I wasn’t greeted with quite as crowded a journey as has been reported in past Summers.

So, thankfully it wasn’t too hard to rest en route. And if you run out of water, you’ll have more than a few fresh glacial streams to refill your water bottles from (though the official stance of BC Parks is to filter or boil the water before you drink it, so perhaps consider bringing a Brita water bottle on the journey).

If you’re not someone who feels they’re fit enough to make it to the top, you’ll be relieved to hear that the Lower Lake is a short, very easy walk from the parking area – and you won’t regret making the trip even if that’s all you’re physically able to see. However, for the rest of us, it’s then a lengthy hike to the Middle Lake – it took us a couple of hours – and then the upper lake is not too far from there.

It’s a slow climb, and even with this new COVID-era reservation system, it was still a busy hike. But if you’ve got it in you, making your way to the Upper Joffre Lake is a must, as that view is one of the best you’ll ever see, looking straight at the Matier Glacier and snow covered mountain tops, alongside as blue a lake as they come.

If you’re camping overnight, you’ll do so up against the Upper Lake – but for day visitors, this is also the lake where you’ll get to sit on the rocks, stare at the stunning surrounds and listen to the glacial waterfalls in the distance.

Behold the absolute perfection of the Upper Joffre Lake, and the Matier Glacier. 

Reservations are currently required whether you were camping overnight or just day hiking. You can read the latest reservation guidelines on the BC Parks Day Use Pass HERE, and for camping in the park, on the grounds near the upper lake, head HERE. Due to the nature of the hike, and the wildlife in the area, dogs are not permitted.

Hot Tip: On your way back to Vancouver from Joffre Lakes, stop by The Beer Farmers (8324 Pemberton Meadows Rd), located 15 minutes off the main road in Pemberton, and about 40 minutes from the lakes. Here, you’ll find an active small family brewery, where you can enjoy some delicious beers, and a food truck that serves outstanding smash burger and fries (with some perfect poutine).

Getting To Canada from Australia

Tourism is finally re-opening between our two countries, with Air Canada once again offering direct flights between Vancouver and Sydney. Indirect flights are also possible via Auckland with Air New Zealand or via Los Angeles with a number of airlines including Qantas, Delta, United and American Airlines.

Australians travelling to Canada are currently required to fill out forms before arrival to confirm their Vaccination status, amongst other Covid-era border requirements, via the ArriveCAN app.

The author travelled to Vancouver and to Joffre Lakes at his own expense. 

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.