Cellular reception tends to disappear about 50 kilometres north of Pemberton, which was a shame because we were meant to be 30 kilometres east of Pemberton. But with a bit of luck and some help from a wayfaring stranger, we managed to find our way to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park.
The park was named after a World War I general named Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre. The area was originally developed as a climbing school in the early ’70s and was declared a provincial park in 1988. Since then, the park has been the delight of weekend warriors from across BC. Situated next to Highway 99, access to the park is fairly simple, although winter tires are advised during the colder months.
Upon arriving, we were both relieved and annoyed to find the parking lot filled with cars. We were definitely in the right place and we were definitely not alone. Putting on the last of our winter gear, we made our way out onto the trail.
Pro tip — right at the start of the trail there are bathrooms, the last for a few hours and nobody likes yellow snow. The lower lake — the first of three — appeared within five minutes or so of the start. Continuing higher, the trail wound through a majestic forest filled with towering trees.
The climb to the second lake was steep and — in the middle of winter — navigating the icier sections can be a bit tricky. There tends to be better footholds next to the iced-over steps. But if you have crampons, then there is nothing to worry about. Upon reaching middle lake, you will see a bench and you will go and sit on it. It’s a well-deserved break, but you’ve got to carry on eventually and make it to the pièce de résistance — Upper Joffre Lake!
However, graciously do yourself a favour — trust me, it’s worth it — and continue along the edge of the middle lake, keeping to your right until you encounter this majestic natural wonder. Time for long-exposures and selfies.
We then retraced our steps and found the trail which relentlessly continues higher and higher into the mountain. Just as you think you’re going to lose it, you catch a glimpse of it. No, not that squirrel — I’m talking about the Upper Joffre Lake. Being a glacial lake, the waters of Upper Joffre are almost milky blue. You could sit all day admiring them, but you have to keep going.
In terms of elevation, the trail levels off for the rest of the hike. Trip and fall your way across the snow laden path that will bring you to the other side of the lake and the campgrounds that sit beneath the glacier.
Here you will find a tiny cabin — it’s a toilet really — and it easier access to the water. Now you can rest, take pictures, look out across the lake and eat! Lastly, try to make it down before nightfall so that you don’t have to go down those icy steps in the dark. If the sky happens to be clear, make sure to stop by Porteau Cove, located between Squamish and Lions Bay on Highway 99, on the way back for some sweet stargazing!