Even though I lived in Canada for a full year before, one thing I didn't do enough of was exploring outside of the cities I was living in; especially when I was in Vancouver, where I didn't venture much further than Whistler. I was keen to finally change this and I got this opportunity when my friends planned a hiking trip to the amazing Joffre Lakes, which are located about a 3-hour drive from Vancouver. It was stunning, it was exciting, it was fun, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
The initial plan was to go to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park near Pemberton, British Columbia, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, but because the weather prediction changed drastically (snowfall and it being very cold) we ended up changing this to Thanksgiving Monday. This worked out really well as it meant we avoided being in an actual storm while walking but still got to see the beautiful mountain peaks and other parts of the park covered in a dusting of pure white snow.
I haven't done any hiking really since I came back from Australia and New Zealand (over five years ago!) and so I was a bit worried I would be holding up my friends, who are much more experienced when it comes to exploring Canada's mountains. Luckily this wasn't the case (or at least they made me feel it wasn't the case) and bar a few steep bits, the upwards journey was fairly straight-forward. It also helped that our surroundings were absolutely stunning and so I was far too busy being in awe than thinking about being tired.
The Lower Joffre Lake is really easily accessible from the car park and so even if you're not much of a hiker that one is still doable (and very pretty), however the much further Middle Lake and Upper Lake are well worth the climb if you can manage it; the further you get, the more impressive the view is. And another reward for making it to the third lake are some tame Whisky Jack birds. With some raisins and bread crumbs we managed to make them sit on our hands and even heads, such fun!
The way down wasn't quite so easy because the path was iced over and slippery. However, with a lot of patience, a leisurely pace and the occasional slide down on our bums we made it down safe and sound. This was largely due to the experience of my friends and all the gear they brought. We saw plenty of unprepared tourists in shorts (it was below zero!), falling down every few steps, and even climbing on socks... I could've been one of them (not the socks bit though, but definitely Converse) if it wasn't for my friends' advice – definitely do your research before attempting a hike like this!
All in all the hike took us about 5 hours (the estimation was 4 hours but that was in better weather conditions than we had so we didn't do bad at all!), and I'm stoked I finally had this real Canadian experience with a bunch of amazing people, while being rewarded with stunning views. You can find a snapshot of the experience in my pictures in this post, though it doesn't do justice at all to how beautiful it was in real life.
For more information about the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park (including current weather conditions, maps and helpful advice), check out the official website.