Updated October 2023 with links to the BC Parks website. Note that you must get a day pass to hike Joffre Lakes, or book a camping spot before arriving.
Guest Post (and photos) by: Roberto Gibbons Gomez/The Expeditioners
We pat the new snow around us down and prepare to pitch the tent at our winter campsite. It’s one of those silent, dark-sky nights with no moon to light our surroundings. Visibility is limited to whatever falls into the sliver of illumination our headlamps cut into the darkness. Short stubby evergreens surround our newly cleared flat spot with the lake just a stone’s throw away. We ponder whether to stay there or keep looking for another campsite but as alpine fog sweeps in the sky begins releasing thick wet snowflakes — the kind that cling and soak. Up goes the tent, this spot will have to do.
It had been a spur-of-the-moment, end-of-day decision. After the success of our hike to Wedgemount Lake, Bella and I ached to see more—and after a day spent sitting at the computers, we longed to get out. So at 6 PM we readied our gear for a trip to Upper Joffre Lake, one of the more popular hiking destinations in the Whistler area. A quick stop in the Village to get some backcountry grub and we were off, marveling at the Coast Mountain scenery on the hour-long drive from Whistler to the trail-head.
Some quick research online had explained Lower Joffre Lake lies just a few hundred metres from the parking lot, with Middle Joffre Lake a 3.5 KM trek beyond that and another 1.5 KM to Upper Joffre lake. We set off in the dark, hoping that the water in Upper Joffre wouldn’t yet be frozen so we could capture that in-between season shot where the lake is surrounded by snow.
The hike was easy— the trail is clearly marked with a mellow elevation gain and doing it at night was serene. Surprisingly, there were no footprints ahead of us, just a light dusting of snow with the occasional fox and rabbit print. The peace and quiet seemed endless. Before we knew it, we were up at 5000 feet circling Upper Joffre and looking for a good winter campsite to make our home for the night as those big coastal flakes began to fall.
Cozy inside our bright orange abode we chat and read as the soundless snowflakes change to pattering rain, then to freezing rain and finally to drumming little ice pellets. It’s a nice sound to fall asleep to.
The snow returns as we sleep, leaving an inch-thick morning blanket of white on our tent. We zip open the front door to discover that the tent site we had chosen was great. Correction, it was perfect.
Our nocturnal arrival had veiled what a superb spot we had pitched on. And yet we had been more than ready to amble on, looking for another. With the light of day we find ourselves on a tiny spit of land jutting out 100 feet into the lake. With water three quarters of the way around it feels like we’ve slept on an island, an island with a grand view of the lake and surrounding glacier and the mountains. The unfrozen waters of Upper Joffre Lake and overnight snowfall give us that in-between season feeling we had come in search of.
Bella and I have camped in many places, by many lakes, in many countries. You could say I’m a bit of a bourgeois when it comes to campsites— I like them to be far away from civilization with no light pollution, preferably near water and with a view of the mountains. Oh, and with open skies for some star-gazing. When a spot has one of these features, we’re delighted. When a place has two or three we’re ecstatic. In the rare occasion that it has all of these requisites, it’s perfect. And this site by Upper Joffre Lake is just that—the perfect place to pitch your tent and watch the winter roll in.
Roberto and Bella, also known as The Expeditioners, are a pair of photographer/adventurers who travel the world doing all the amazing things the rest of us dream about. This year they’ve chosen Whistler as a home base for their winter adventures so expect more Whistler Insider/Expeditioners collaborations as the winter unrolls.