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13 Lakes in British Columbia That Are Better Than Joffre Lakes

Joffre Lakes is the most Instagrammed hike in British Columbia. If you’ve ever lived or visited BC, you’ve probably heard of this hike. Everyone wants to get a glimpse of these bright turquoise blue lakes and get that famous shot. Joffre Lakes is to British Columbia as Moraine Lake is to Alberta. It’s the number one lake everyone wants to see. The big difference between Moraine Lake and Joffre, is you need to put in much more effort to see Joffre Lakes. There is no parking lot directly at the lake, it’s a bit of climb to the top and every year tourists attempt this hike unprepared. I’ll let you in on a secret, there are many lakes and hikes that are better than Joffre Lakes and just as good.

In recent years, the growth of Instagram and the glamourisation of climbing mountains, Joffre Lakes has had it’s fair share of visitors. The downside of this, is that Joffre has been hit hard with over-tourism and people not following Leave No Trace (LNT) guidelines. This area is home to many species of wildlife including grizzly bears. And every year tons of trash gets left behind which is becoming a major problem in many of our provincial parks. 

With current events and 2020 being a year of social distancing and staying home, Joffre Lakes is getting a much deserved rest from people. It has been closed since April this year and although many other provincial parks have reopened, the decision to open Joffre has not happened. 

Joffre Lakes is one of the most popular and instagrammed hikes near Vancouver in British Columbia, but there are many more lakes that are just as nice!
Joffre Lakes was one of the first hikes I ever did in Canada – and I hiked the whole way in VANS, what a newb!

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Leave No Trace Guidelines

it’s not just Joffre Lakes that has been hit with over-tourism. I have witnessed it myself in smaller provincial parks such as Callaghan Lake. I was so disappointed to see this tiny provincial park overpopulated and people camping in undesignated areas and leaving trash behind. Not to mention the hoards of parties going on long into the night. Please remember if you are exploring the outdoors to pack out what you pack in and stay on designated trails.

I think the outdoors is amazing. It took me 27 years to really get outside and appreciate nature. And there’s nothing wrong with exploring the outdoors for the first time, but if you are going to go explore your own backyard please remember to respect these places because if you don’t they will no longer be there. 

It’s no secret that BC parks are severely underfunded, but that doesn’t mean that we can just go and do whatever we want. It’s out responsibility to keep the outdoors amazing, so we can return again and experience it the way we remember! If you have to energy to pack it in, you have to energy to pack it out! And please remember to stay on the trails where possible, let’s protect all the amazing wildflowers that grow in the backcountry!

While I personally love Joffre Lakes, I think there are many more lakes in the area that are just as pretty and have the same wow-factor! Read on to find out where else you can find glacial lakes in British Columbia! 

Always remember to pack the essentials for any hike!

Garibaldi Lake

Round Trip: 18km

Elevation Gain: 980m

Difficulty: Hard

Garibaldi Lake is another really popular hike near Vancouver, but much less so than Joffre Lakes. Garibaldi Provincial Park is also really big in comparison, so there are several hikes that stem off of Garibaldi Lake, such as Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk. Although it can get busy here, there is much more space for people to spread out. Garibaldi is just as bright, clear and perfectly turquoise as Joffre. 

The nice thing about Garibaldi Provincial Park is there are plenty of camping options too. Garibaldi Lake was my first overnight hike/backpacking trip and we camped at the Garibaldi Lake campground. If you have never backpacked into the backcountry before, I highly suggest trying some easier overnight hikes before attempting this. As I found out myself, I was highly unprepared! 

More Info: Alltrails

Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park is one of many alternative hikes to Joffre Lakes
Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park is another popular hike near Vancouver

Lindeman Lake

Round Trip: 3.5km

Elevation Gain: 230m

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Lindeman Lake is being hailed as the new Joffre Lakes. (Please remember LNT guidelines when visiting as we want to keep these outdoor places in just as good condition as we left them! While this lake has become very popular due to Joffre’s closure we wouldn’t want it to close as well)

The hike into Lindeman is short and sweet. You get an amazing pay off for the effort on this hike. At 3.4km and 223m elevation, this hike is considered easy to moderate, so perfect for beginners! 

Camping is available at Lindeman Lake and if you wish to explore further afield, Greendrop Lake is another 6km from Lindeman with Flora Lake just after. If you wish to continue onto these lakes keep in mind the trail is for more experienced hikers. 

More Info: Alltrails

Cheakamus Lake

High Note Trail

Round Trip (loop): 10km

Elevation Gain: 700 metres

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

More Info: Alltrails

Cheakamus Lake is a local favourite here in Whistler. There are a couple of ways to see Cheakamus Lake. The most famous is on the High Note Trail, this is one of the most popular and well-known hikes in Whistler. The High Note Trail can only be accessed by taking the Whistler Gondola and the Peak Chair to the summit of Whistler Mountain. 

Although you will need a sightseeing pass to access the Gondola and Peak Chair, this hike is more than worth it. If you arrive early at the Gondola, make sure to check out the Sky Bridge! The trailhead for the High Note Trail starts at the end of the Sky Bridge. 

There are amazing views all the way along this trail with beautiful wildflowers that grow in the summer. The main attraction is the view of Cheakamus Lake from above. After stopping at the Lake you can choose to carry on through the High Note Trail or take the Half Note Trail to Pika’s Traverse and check out Whistlers giant snow walls. This hike is 9.5km one way with an Elevation gain of 300 metres and takes on average 4 hours. 

Cheakamus Lake Trail

Round Trip: 15km

Elevation: 400m

More Info: Alltrails

If you want to access the lake directly rather than from a viewpoint, the hike into Cheakamus Lake itself is relatively easy. To reach the trailhead you’ll need a 4×4 as the trailhead is located at the end of Cheamaus lake road. The total hike is 15km with an elevation gain of 400m.

The High Note Trails gives you spectacular views of Cheakamus Lake from above

Landslide Lake

Round trip: 26km

Elevation: 600m

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

Located on Vancouver Island, Landslide Lake is part of Strathcona Provincial Park. Just because you aren’t on the mainland doesn’t mean you can’t find beautiful lakes on the island too! Sitting just behind Landslide Lake you’ll see the magnificent Mt. Colonel Foster. Just a ways from Landslide Lake you’ll also find Berg Lake.

This beautiful lake is part of the Elk River trail and is a total of 26km return. It’s possible to do this hike as a day hike but if you choose to split it up into several days there are two backcountry campgrounds along the trail. Spaces for these campsites are first come first served however you will need to purchase a backcountry permit through the BC Parks Discover Camping website.

More Info: Alltrails

Cirque Lake

Round Trip: 4.1km

Elevation Gain: 300m

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

The hike to Cirque Lake has been one of my favourite hikes to date. This lake is hidden way back in the Callaghan Valley in Callaghan Lake Provincial Park. It’s a bit of hidden gem here in Whistler but has grown in popularity. It’s possible that you could have this lake entirely to yourself if you come on the right day. 

The unique thing about this hike is that you need some form of water transportation in order to reach the trailhead. You can only access the trailhead by rowing across Callaghan Lake. We took out an inflatable boat, others have kayaks or canoes. I personally would recommend something inflatable a there isn’t much room to store boats on the shoreline to the trailhead. 

This hike also takes you up a boulder field which boasts some of the most incredible views of Callaghan Lake and the mountains in the distance. 

There are only 8 official camping spots in this Provincial Park. There is no fancy paved road or parking lot like there is at Rubble Creek (Garibaldi) so please respect this. I was so shocked to see so many people visit this wonderful park and disrespect it by leaving trash and camping in undesignated spots (that were clearly signposted as such)

More Info: Hike in Whistler

Crique Lake in the Callaghan Valley is one of many lakes in British Columbia that are better than Joffre Lakes
Crique Lake is a little hidden Gem in the Callaghan Valley

Iceberg Lake

Round Trip: 15km

Elevation Gain: 900m

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

Iceberg Lake is another hike located in Whistler. This hike can be done on its own or as part of the longer skywalk loop trail.

This lake gets it’s name from the icebergs that float in it early in the summer season – if you want to witness the icebergs make sure you come before late August! This is considered a moderate to hard hike and is not for beginner hikers. Remember to bring bear spray as this area is known to have grizzlies. 

More Info: Alltrails

Rohr Lake

Round Trip: 8.5km

Elevation Gain: 540m

Difficulty: Moderate

Rohr Lake is another hidden Gem in British Columbia. The trailhead can be a little hard to find but is just 20 minutes or so from Joffre Lakes. You will need a 4×4 with high clearance for this, if not you’ll need to park at the start of the road and walk in. This adds approximately 1k extra to your journey but is flat the whole way. 

The trail to Rohr Lake is relatively covered, which is great for when it’s hot as it’s shaded. The downside to this is that since no sunlight gets through it can get pretty muddy after a rainfall. The mud got worse the further in we went and it was really slippery. While the trail itself isn’t overly technical, trying to step around the mud is what adds time onto your hike. 

This hike also ends in a giant boulder field. This field was different from Cirque as it was harder to navigate and there were huge gaps between the boulders. After this climb you’ll be rewarded with a pristine bright blue lake. There was only one other group of people when we arrived at the lake. If you have time and want to explore further, the trail around the lake leads you to the summit of Mount Rohr. 

More Info: Alltrails

Rohr Lake is a hidden gem and a stones throw away from Joffre Lakes

Watersprite Lake

Round Trip: 17km

Elevation Gain: 730m

Difficulty: Moderate

The trailhead to watersprite lake is one of the hardest to get to. This beautiful lake is only accessible if you have 4×4 and especially high clearance. We attempted this hike one late September and even our truck was having trouble so we ended up turning back. The logging road up to watersprite is no joke, it is by far the worst road I have ever been on. You can access the trailhead via the Mamquam Forest Service Road.

If you do happen to drive this road and reach the trailhead safely – the payoff is very worth it. This hike is 17km with an elevation gain of 660 metres. Along the trail are several amazing lookout points. 

More Info: Alltrails

Wedgemount Lake

Round Trip: 12km

Elevation Gain: 1300m

Difficulty: Hard

Wedgemount Lake is one of the top hikes in Whistler. This is a bucket list hike for sure and not for beginners. When I first moved to Whistler I only dreamed of doing this hike. I’d heard how steep and hard it was but I was determined to do it one day. 

The trailhead is located just north of Whistler’s Green Lake. Most of this trail is covered except for the last steep uphill climb through a slippery boulder field. This was by far the hardest boulder field I have experienced on any hike. Good grip shoes are a must and if you can, bring hiking poles. 

Once you arrive to the lake you can opt to hike further to Wedgemount Glacier. Since you have spent all that energy getting here, I’d highly recommend it! We witnessed chunks of ice falling off into the lake below – it was pretty surreal!

Although it’s a hard uphill climb, the views here more than make up for it! I started this hike at 6:30am as I don’t like to hike middle of the day. It’s so much easier to hike uphill when it’s still cool outside! I would recommend leaving early for this hike since it is on average a 7 to 8 hour round trip. 

More Info: Alltrails

Wedgemount Lake is a bucket list hike in British Columbia and only recommended for experienced hikers.
Wedgemount Lake and Glacier is one of the hardest hikes near Whistler but the views are worth it!

Lake Lovely Water

Round Trip: 13km

Elevation Gain: 1160m

Difficulty: Hard

Lake Lovely Water is another beautiful glacial lake near Squamish and Whistler. The hike to this lake is only accessible by crossing the Squamish river. You can opt to take your own boat or make a reservation with the local jet boat company. Once you have crossed the river, you can access the trailhead. Alternatively, if you don’t want to hike to Lake Lovely Water, you can hire a helicopter to get in, out or both. 

The hike to Lake Lovely Water is for experienced hikers only so not recommended for beginners. Camping is free in designated camping areas. There is also a reservable hut ($25 a night) operated by the Alpine Club Of Canada (ACC). If you have reserved a spot in the huts you’ll also get access to use the 2 canoes just at the shoreline. 

More Info: Alltrails

Semaphore Lake

Round Trip: 5.8km

Elevation Gain: 408m

Difficulty: Moderate

The Semaphore Lakes hike is around two hours outside of Whistler. Although the hike itself is around 2 hours return the drive to it is much longer. You’ll need a 4×4 with high clearance to reach this trailhead as it is located along the Hurley Forest Service Road. 

This hike gets steep in certain sections but the pay off is very much worth it. In total this hike took me 2.5 hours return. On the day that I visited the clouds were very low and made for some really interesting moody photos – the sun was shining brightly behind those clouds! 

What I loved about this hike is that there was no boulder field to cross! This trail is relatively easy in terms of technical difficulty but there are some steeper sections. Semaphore Lakes is the perfect place to camp for the night and hike to locomotive mountain from.  

More Info: Alltrails

Semaphore Lakes is a hidden gem in BC – a short hike but long drive you’ll need 4×4

Elfin Lakes

Round Trip: 22km

Elevation Gain: 600m

Difficulty: Moderate

Elfin Lakes is part of Garibaldi Provincial Park. However unlike Garibaldi Lake and Panorama Ridge, Elfin Lakes is somewhat quieter. Elfin Lakes is the perfect place to base yourself for overnight backpacking trips as there are several hikes you can access from the campground. There is also an overnight shelter you can book to stay in.

At 22km round trip and 600m elevation the hike to Elfin Lakes is somewhat easier than that of Garibaldi Lake. It can be done as a day hike and takes an average of 6-7 hours. Since Garibaldi Provincial Park is so big the trailhead for Elfin Lakes is located in Squamish and not Rubble Creek (Whistler).

More Info: Alltrails

Tenquille Lake

Round Trip: 23km

Elevation Gain: 1280km

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

Another hidden gem in the Pemberton area, Tenquille Lake can be done as a day hike or an overnight backpacking trip. The trailhead to this lake is located along the Lillooet Forest Service Road. 

More Info: Alltrails

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  1. These lakes are gorgeous and the photos are stunning. I really how you gave attention to LNT practice and suggested other places to take the pressure off the popular one. I’ve been to Banff/Jasper last year. Now I’d love to see some of these lakes.

  2. Wow all these lakes are stunning! A shame about people leave rubbish on the trails though- hate it when people do that! At least locals can maybe get a break from tourists during this time though haha

  3. WOW, so many beautiful lakes! This stirs my wanderlust to get out to BC so much more! And that Watersprite Lake, an absolute stunner! It reminds me of something that the Group of Seven would have painted. I’m definitely bookmarking this post for future reference!

  4. Canada is such a beautiful country. I love hikes and I love hiking to lakes. Semaphore lake still loves incredible even with the clouds and moody feel. A fair few of the hikes seem to be moderate to hard, I guess all good things come to those who work for it! Just means I need to work on getting back to my peak hiking physique (good motivation). Would love to see all these places in person, some day!

  5. This is sucb a great post! I’ve always wanted to visit Joffre lakes but did worry about it’s popularity, it’s great to know there are so many other amazing options!

  6. Wow, what a great guide! So many stunning lakes and your photos are beautiful. I love that you give options to the more popluar and overcrowded places. I can’t wait to visit Canada one day 🙂

  7. Wow!! I’ve heard of a few of these but definitely not all of them. Landslide Lake looks amazing! And Iceberg Lake! I can’t believe I’d never heard of those two. Cheakamus Lake is on my list to tackle next time I’m over that way (whenever that will be!), and I meant to go to Garibaldi Lake when I was there but never got around to it. I didn’t realise Joffre Lakes had been closed all year, but you’re right, it probably needs a break from people.

    1. I only just discovered a lot of these lakes this summer! I only had 3 weeks of hiking this year so it was a short season but they are all on my list for next year! You need to get to both Garibaldi and Cheakamus, they are both stunning!

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