The hike up Joffre Lakes is actually fairly short in distance. It’s only about 4km each way and a 400 elevation climb. However, I found myself stopping every little while for the stunning scenery. Combined with a trip to Nairn Falls afterwards, I took 200 pictures in 2 days….
We went up on a Friday in late June for an overnight stay at the third lake before hiking back down on Saturday. It was really busy on the Saturday (think weekend on the Grouse Grind busy) but the hike is understandably popular…it is just so damn beautiful!
Taking advantage of the long summer days, I got off work a little early on Friday and we headed up. On the Friday evening, we had the hike virtually to ourselves.
First lake is right by the parking lot and I thought it was pretty beautiful though the mosquitoes kept me motivated to keep hiking up to the next lake.
Most of the elevation gain is between first and second lake. When I got to the second lake, I couldn’t believe it. It was even more beautiful than the last! The sunlight made the waters a brilliant turquoise blue surrounded by trees.
We continued up to the third lake. I didn’t think that it could get more beautiful but it did with glaciers hanging above third lake. We had ascended into the alpine as well so the whole environment had changed from the dense forest below to hardier, shrubbier trees and boulder expanses where glaciers once reached.
The campsite is in a stunning location right under the glaciers and mountains overlooking the lake.
I love to travel and have been lucky enough to have been to some pretty incredible places on this earth. However, Joffre Lakes ranks as one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.
It is amazing because it is fairly accessible – not a long hike, easy road access, cheap camping…. read more below on the hiking and camping details.
In less than 200 metres from the parking, the trail branches to go to the first lake. Ringed by forest, it is quite lovely and I imagine lovely to swim in. However, most hikers (including ourselves) quickly by pass this first lake with goals of reaching the second or third. The trail is easy, flat and wide from the parking lot to the first lake and around the lake.
As the trail leaves the lake at around 700m into the hike, the trail begins the steady, unrelenting uphill towards second lake. This uphill section is about 1.7km until the trail goes over the ridgeline. The middle portion of this ascent has stair cases and reminded me a little of the Grouse Grind. After the ridgeline, there is a slight decent into the turquoise waters of second lake at around the 2.4km mark.
There is about 100 metres around the lake, with lots of swimming possibilities in the cold waters, and then the trail begins to climb again, but it is short. From second lake to third lake is only about 500m and there is a fantastic waterfall on route!
Third lake is a gem. It is surrounded by the awe-inspiring glaciers that feed into its surreal turquoise waters. From third lake to the campsite on the other side of the lake under the glaciers themselves, it is the most challenging portion of trail. It is not that it is steep but rather that the trail becomes less groomed. There are roots and slippery steps on rocks and sometimes it seems to follow an active stream, especially with the spring melt when we were there.
Campsites are by the lake or there are cleared out tent pad areas nestled in the rocks. Camping is $5 per person, payable either through the parks website or at the drop box at the beginning of the trail. The hike gets busy on beautiful sunny weekends so head up early for a good campsite….or any campsite on Saturday at the height of summer! It is all first come, first served – no reservations.