Hiking Trail Review: Joffre Lakes and Matier Glacier, Pemberton, BC

Location: Joffre Lakes Provincial Park
Public Transport: Return tickets available through Parkbus
Park Here: Parking is located just off Duffey Lake Road. Overflow is across the road; be careful when crossing.

Hike Distance: 10 km roundtrip
Hike Duration: 3-4 hours to Upper Lake; an extra 1.5 hours to Matier glacier
Elevation Gain/Loss: 400 m to upper lake; an extra 380 m to glacier
Difficulty: Moderate
What makes it moderate? Though the trail is easy to follow, the steepness of the trail from lower lake may take some by surprise; the hike up to the glacier is more of a scramble across fairly easy terrain.
Park website: Click here

beautiful lake trail hiking WhistlerBen Gregory

Despite the increasing popularity and Instagram fame of this trail, this is still a must-do for anyone living in or visiting the Vancouver area. For those with time to spare, the opportunity to camp at the edge of one of British Columbia’s most stunning aqua lakes beneath the imposing Matier Glacier is too good to miss.

Stunning hiking trailBen Gregory

Finding the Trailhead:

Located along Highway 99 past Whistler, the Joffre Lakes trail has a clear trailhead that currently requires a day pass to access. We took Parkbus, a coach service providing return transfers to the overflow carpark. From there it’s a short walk to the main trailhead, across the road. If you are driving, plan for a three-hour one-way trip from Vancouver.

Glacier pictureBen Gregory

The Hike Itself

Lower Lake:

The first of the lakes is located just a couple of minutes from the trailhead. Forest, mountains and a glacier offer a stunning backdrop to the first of these gorgeous lakes.  

From here, follow the trail up through the forest, emerging briefly into a stunning valley above the trees before tackling the steep ascent.

Lower Joffre LakeBen Gregory

Middle Lake:

Offering plenty of photo opportunities, Middle Lake is an incredible blue colour. It features a floating log that people often walk out on to strike a pose. Follow the trail along the lake’s edge, taking a small detour to view a thundering waterfall. While there’s still some elevation to gain, the distance between the last two lakes isn’t great, so push through to the end.

Middle LakeBen Gregory

Upper Lake:

As you reach the upper lake, follow the trail as it branches to the left to get out to a rocky outcrop on the water’s edge.

Upper Joffre LakeBen Gregory

The Campground:

The main trail leads you around the right-hand side of the upper lake all the way to an outhouse. From here, it’s a short scramble over rocks and boulders to the main campsite, just over the lip of a small hill. Grab a spot of bare ground right at the lake’s edge, or one located slightly higher alongside the trail heading up towards the glacier, to get the best view across the lakes.

Joffre Lakes overnight hikeBen Gregory

The Glacier:

The trail leads directly up from the campsite, along the ridgeline. It’s a straight line and easy to follow. Once you reach the top, branch to the left and simply make your way across the small stream and up towards the glacier for breathtaking access to this monumental glacier.

The GlacierBen Gregory

Before You Go:

  • Book your camping spot months in advance through bcparks.ca.
  • If hiking for the day, you will also need to secure a permit for a day trip online.
  • Pack extra layers! The campsite is at 1,500 metres, which even in the summer can get chilly at night. It can hail and snow at the Upper Lake in summer.
  • Bring bug spray.