Late spring and early fall are some of the best times to hike in and around the Lower Mainland. Due to an abundance of commitments, we did not get any hiking in this spring.
I was bound and determined to change that this fall. For some years now, we have wanted to venture up to Joffre Lakes, a provincial park east of Pemberton. For us, there has never been a good time to go. Since our plan involved camping overnight, we didn't want to go up on a weekend and face hordes of people. Luckily, we had an opportunity to make a mid-week trip.
Joffre Lakes is a very popular day hike. The trailhead is about an hour from Whistler on the Duffey Lake Road. It is also a recommended stop on the Coast Mountain Circle driving route. We arrived to find the parking lot filled with Canadream and Cruise Canada motor homes. There is a real international flavour on this trail.
We hoisted on our backpacks and began hiking at about 10:30 a.m. The pleasurable aspects of this hike are its short duration (2.5 to 3 hours) and the option of going to the lower, middle or upper lake. As it turns out, the majority of the motor home set doesn't make it past the lower lake, which is a five-minute walk from the parking lot.
Nevertheless, they are still treated to the sight of the stunning, turquoise blue water, characteristic of glacier fed lakes. According to the BC Parks website, "The striking, saturated blue colour is caused by "rock flour" - or glacial silt - that is suspended in the water and reflects green and blue wavelengths of sunlight."
Middle Joffre Lake is four km from the lower lake. I would characterize this part of the trail, as a long steep hill that seems like it is never going to end. I don't actually remember the uphill because it happens to be my favourite part of hiking. I do, however, feel it on the way down. After 20 years of wearing the same Meindl hiking boots, I think I am ready for a new pair; ones that are longer and will accommodate my spreading feet. At this point in my life, walking downhill is torture for my toes.
Don't be discouraged by the hills. With a daypack, slow and steady is the way to go.
We encountered a wide variety of ages over the two days and were pleasantly surprised by the number of families with children under ten. As you progress along the trail, you will see that substantial improvements are being made. Primarily, there is a diversion that allows you to avoid the dreaded boulder field. No doubt about it, Middle Joffre Lake is worth the effort. There are a few spots to sit and enjoy the sun and the view of the glacier, as well as a newly constructed outhouse.
From the middle lake, it is a short, scenic 1.5 km hike to Upper Joffre Lake. You will pass a raging waterfall, cross over Joffre Creek and when you finally exit the trees, you will be treated to a stunning view of the glacier, and massive rockslides on the far side of the lake. Once there, we slowly picked our way through the roots and stones, along the trail skirting the lake, to the campsites.