Well I just finished visiting a friend in the Pemberton/Darcy area near Whistler. On my last day, he had to work, but I went on my planned hike to Joffre Lakes PP. So here is my tale.
The Park is about a 15 minute drive north of the turnoff to Lillooet from Mt Currie. The parking lot is right beside the highway. Joffre Lakes are 3 beautiful coloured glacial fed lakes that are higher in elevation with each lake. From the first to the last lake it is a 400 metre climb. And the distance is about 5.5 km each way.
FIRST LAKE. The first lake is only a 100 m from the parking lot and here you see the beautiful turqoise colour of the water. Many people come and stop just to see this lake.
2ND LAKE..Now for the more adventurous souls, there are 2 more lakes and a glacier to see. Just before the first lake there is the signpost showing you the way to the next lake. It is a well marked trail on nice crush chips for the first 10 minutes..Well that’s the end of the nice stuff. Forever til the end you are hiking on and over roots and rocks while going uphill.. From the start it is 20 minutes til you approach the boulder field. Here you “scramble” over the boulders. Watch for the dirty and worn spots on the boulders to keep you on the right path. It is another 35-40 minutes over those roots and rocks. the trail goes beside the creek and then up and away from it. And just before the 2nd lake you cross Joffre creek on a nice log bridge. Again you are treated to a beautiful lake, slightly bigger than the first one. So it is a good hour hike from the first lake to the 2nd one.
3RD LAKE..from the 2nd to the 3rd lake, the sign says 1.5 km.. Well it seems longer than that, with all the up and down it seems like another 1.5km, not really..The trail contunues along the left side of the 2nd lake at the end you go across 3 log bridges then climb up. It is about 20 minutes to bottom end of the 3rd lake and another 25 minutes to the very end. Hooray!!! The 3rd lake is largest one.
CAMPSITE. A strictly backcountry setup.Level small sites on crush rock. BC Parks says 24 sites. Pack out what you pack in. NO garbage pickup. NO campfires, ever.There is one pit toilet. A small metal box for food storage (black and grizzly bear area). ER helipad. The roar of the glacial creek may keep you up at night.. Also some wind and bugs. Both of these were mild when I was there. (Aug 24/09)
GLACIER. Okay now you’ve done the easy part, hiking 5.5 km on a root and rock infested trail. After a recovery break, it’s time to see the real attraction, Matier Glacier. NOTE: care and precautions must be observed when at the glacier. Only experienced people with proper gear and equipment should attempt to go onto the glacier. But it seems safe walking around that area….Anyway, prepare yourself for the hike up. The trail looks invisible from the campsites. But if you head toward the rocky ridge that leads to the right side of the glacier, you will find an established trail. It is a good 20-25 minutes to the cliff face and then another 15-20 minutes boulder scrambling to the glacier edge. And boy is it worth the extra time to get there.. You can see all 3 lakes below and distance peaks (with good clear weather).Matier Glacier has some impressive glacial features too. I saw a ice crevace that has several shades of blue, a little ice walk through and lots of melting details. I spent an hour taking photos and wandering around. Since I entered on the right side, I wanted to see the left side. Well you can only go so far before a deep chiselled creek stops you. But you can see the left side, which at this time has a giant ice cave appearance. Very impressive!! Also up there, you will find water pools with very black soil on the bottom. As well several cairns have been left at different points. I built one too with 2009 formed by rocks..Maybe they still might be there if/when I return in a few years. I also heard ice cracking and occasional rock falling…Okay for the way down, it is slippery on the loose gravel. And tough on your (my) knees. They felt like rubber afterwards.
RECOMMENDATIONS.. get your legs and knees in shape!! Moderate fitness level at least to make the hike more enjoyable. I saw little kids with their parents going up to the 2nd lake, but maybe they were carried on the way down?
Start in the am and a weekday if possible. On a Saturday I saw 2 dozen cars in the a’noon. I did the hike on a Monday with only 4 cars, but there were about 15 in the a’noon.
Wear sturdy hiking boots/shoes and have a good hiking pole.
Bring own water and food, creek water probably safe to drink. Own toilet paper too, all the pit toilets were empty of TP.
Lakes not recommended for swimming, too damn cold.
Time: 1 hour to 2nd lake, 45 minutes to 3rd lake, another 45-60 minutes to glacier.
I hope everyone enjoys my review and makes time to go to Joffre Lakes and Matier Glacier the next time they are going that way…From Kelowna to the Park via Merritt, Spences Bridge, Lytton and Lillooet is about 5 1/2 hours – 6 hours (depending on breaks and road construction).. pictures to be added…grant
- several shades of blue ice on glacier
- that’s me up at Matier Glacier