Joffre Lakes is a magical paradise to go snowshoeing in winter
Visiting the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park during the summer is a must-do adventure for many. During the winter months, the park - with its three turquoise blue lakes - transforms into a magical snowshoeing and backcountry skiing paradise that includes frozen lakes, snow capped forests and glacier-laden peaks.
Once you leave Vancouver and cross the Lions Gate bridge, the scenery starts to change dramatically. The typical wet and grey surroundings - synonymous with the winter months in Vancouver - transforms into a breathtaking white landscape. The journey to the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park continues for a good three hours, passing Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton in the process. Stopping for a coffee along the way, is of course a good idea. After you have passed Lillooet Lake, about 30km north of Pemberton, the road starts to climb steeply for the remaining 10km of the journey. After a few switchbacks, you will each the trailhead of one of the most popular hikes in British Columbia - the Joffre Lakes Hike Winter tires are a must and a slow speed should be maintained. Make sure that you check the road conditions before you embark on your journey as winter storms often result in closures of the Duffey Lake Highway (Check webcam here). During the winter months, there is no transportation service between Vancouver and Joffre Lakes, however during the summer months (May to October) LIVV Adventures provides a very frequent, convenient and affordable day trip from Vancouver to Joffre Lakes.
The Joffre Lakes hike is located in the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. This hike is extremely popular and attracts thousands of visitors to its crystal clear turquoise-blue lakes and glacier-laden peaks. The park is not as busy during the winter months, however those who do go are rewarded by magical scenery of majestic frozen lakes, snow-capped forests and bragging rights! The Joffre Lakes website is a great place to get more information about Joffre Lakes.
Upon arrival, we were surprised to find the parking lot filled with cars. At least we knew that we were in the right place and not alone! After putting on all of our winter gear - jackets, snow/ski pants, toques, gloves and snowshoes or crampons - we made our way to the trail. Visit BC AdventureSmart for a list of the essentials when going on a trip.
One of the many Whiskey Jack birds eager to get a nut or two.
The first lake - Lower Joffre Lake - is located near the parking lot. We visited on a clear day and the towering glacier-laden peaks were just breathtaking. Even the lower lake was solidly frozen and we were able to walk across it, following in the tracks of adventurers who have crossed before us.
The climb to the second lake was steep and navigating the icier sections requires a bit of effort. Having footgear with enough grip is definitely an advantage and you will have nothing to worry about if you do. The stretch between Lower and Middle Joffre Lakes takes about one and a half hours including many stops for snow fights! Taking a break at Middle Joffre Lake is a good idea. Take lots of photos of this majestic natural wonder. There is a bench to sit and a place to have a snack. Don't sit for too long, as you will have to keep warm and moving to reach the ultimate prize - Upper Joffre Lake!
Photo credit: Philippe Roberge
The last leg of the upward hike does not take too long, but it is technically the most challenging part of the trail. It is a steep climb that takes you past a breathtaking waterfall of glacial water tumbling down from the Upper to the Middle lake. It is an incredible site and sound! Upper Joffre Lake appeared sooner than expected. The glacial silt helps turning the frozen water into a milky blue colour and we spent some time admiring it. In the middle of the lake, a true adventurer has set up tent for a winter camp - admirable indeed! We took pictures of Upper Joffre Lakes and admired the towering Matier Glacier crawling over the peaks. The Upper Lake is exposed and the wind is chilling. We looked for a protected place and made lunch and much needed coffee.
We made our way down with enough daylight left as you don't want to be caught having to hike down the icy path in the dark. The journey back from the Upper Lake to the parking lot took about 2.5 hours and we were happy to get inside our warm car. If you have enough time, visit one of the many pubs/restaurants in Whistler or Pemberton for a beer to reward yourself for a great and unforgettable achievement!
Photo Credit: On Instagram by @shondra_martin (when dogs were still allowed in the park). Since this photo was taken, dogs have unfortunately been banned.