This scenic trail consists of panoramic views of the Coast Mountain range, an incredibly close encounter with a glacier, and three beautiful glacier lakes. I recently discovered via Google that the striking turquoise colour of the lakes is created by glacier silt (or "rock flour") that is suspended in the water and reflects green and blue wavelengths of sunlight. However, you don't care much about the science of it when your breath has been taken away by its beauty, or by how darn cold it is (we swam in the second lake).
The lower lake is located just 0.5 km from the parking lot; however, the other two lakes can only be reached after climbing up several kilometres up into the mountains. In our opinion, the second lake was the most beautiful as it was large, calm, and less chilly. However, the third lake is right beneath the majestic glacier that is responsible for creating those lakes. While the glacier is steadily shrinking due to the global warming phenomenon, it still was a spectacular sight to behold.
From Vancouver, this relatively easy and short hike is a whopping six hour drive there and back. While the hike itself cannot take more than five hours (we took about three hours for the hike and an hour stop for swimming and eating at the lakes), the drive alone is enough to make you want to pass out. So be sure to bring some good company and road trippin' tunes for the ride if you intend on making a day trip!
As we knew that this hike was popular, it was no surprise that we found the main parking lot completely full when we arrived just before noon. Luckily, there was another overflow lot located a few metres down the road. I recommend that you arrive no later than the early afternoon or you will definitely experience issues with parking. As well, if you intend to camp at the third lake, you must arrive before 2 pm or the twenty-six camping spots will certainly be filled up.
The first and lowest lake, which was tranquil and sprinkled with pretty green grasses. It was also wonderful that the air was so clear and breathable as recent forest fires had made Pemberton a hazardous area. Just the week before, I believe the park had been closed for the safety of its visitors.
Stopping for a backpack check.
A glimpse of the amazing mountain hike. It felt like a scene out of The Sound of Music-- we were the Von Trapp family scaling the slopes of the Alps (even though in real life, the actual family had escaped to Italy by train). We might have broken into song every once in a while.
In terms of the hike's difficulty, I would rate the climb as easy-intermediate for fit and experienced hikers. Beginners might find the steep ascent quite difficult; however, after doing much longer and steeper hikes, I found I could probably run up the slopes quite easily (especially after working on my cardio recently with my friend Eva by running up the entire Coquitlam Crunch trail twice).
The second and largest lake. This was the area where many bikini- and swim trunk-clad individuals enjoyed themselves in the icy water by creeping or jumping in (there was also a rope swing). Our group would stop here on the way back down and enter the water very gingerly (I would even get a few strokes in after getting somewhat used to the temperature).
One big regret I have was not being able to hike the entire way with Tia and her boyfriend. Those two hardcore fanatics decided to camp at Joffre Lakes for one night, hike back down, and then hike up the very difficult Wedgemount Lake trail located in Garibaldi Provincial Park. While we were able to stay with them for the first 30 mins or so, we soon realized that their heavy packs were slowing them down quite a bit on the steep trail.
In order to keep the entire group happy, we decided to separate and meet them at the top lake. Sadly, we would not go as far as the campground and the two campers would pass us without our knowledge (and we had taken two bottles of water from them to ease their load). I remember even shouting her and her boyfriend's names randomly out loud just in case they were near. Luckily, they are safe and, from the looks of their photos, had a fantastic time! Hopefully, one day I'll be able join them on a camping trip like that.
Excuse the poor iPhone quality of this picture but I wanted at least one shot of my dear Eva in here!
The third and smallest lake. The windchill here was quite noticeable and therefore discouraged any swimming. However, the close-up view of the glacier was worth the visit.
More shots of the second lake.
Would you visit Joffre Lakes Provincial Park?