British Columbia

Crowd-management plan rolling out for Joffre Lakes Provincial Park

The park, located less than 45 minutes from the village of Pemberton, has become one of the busiest in the province.

Number of visitors to the park has surged by 168% since 2010

A person sits on a rock looking out at a turquoise lake. They have shoulder-length brown hair and wear a yellow jacket and brown backpack. Other people scattered along the rocks, look out at the lake.
Hikers at Joffre Lakes near Pemberton, B.C. The provincial government is rolling out a new public safety plan at the park, which has become one of the busiest in the province. (Leon Wang/Shutterstock)

Days ahead of what is sure to be another frenzied long weekend for visitors clamouring to see the park's famed blue-green lakes, the B.C. government has announced a new plan for crowd control at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park.

In a statement Tuesday, the province said B.C. Parks has worked with the Lil'wat and N'Quatqua nations to develop a control plan that tackles public safety concerns and recognizes the Indigenous cultural and natural values of the park.

Located less than 45 minutes from the village of Pemberton, the park has become one of the busiest in the province. Trails take hikers up through forests and meadows to three cyan lakes below glacier-laden rocky peaks.

On the busiest summer days, visitors arrive at the trailhead parking lot to find cars clustered together like a colony of bees swarming the same scant honeycomb.

Hikers along the trail often have to squeak past an oncoming assembly line of people and the dusty lakefront can come to a standstill, foot traffic backed up with groups waiting to take their photo with the quintessentially British Columbian view.

In short, it can be a bit of a zoo — a melee that has grown to become a management problem for the province.

"We're well aware of the concerns that have surfaced around people parking along the highway and the need to manage visitor use in the park," said Jenny Aikman, regional director for the South Coast region of B.C. Parks. 

"Use in Joffre Parks has increased exponentially ... To provide a safe and enjoyable visitor experience, there's a need to put strategies in place to deal with the growth," added Aikman, who's been to the park "a few times" during peak times herself.

In Tuesday's statement, the province said parking lots will be expanded with 200 more spots and a shuttle service will begin ferrying people between Duffey Lake Park to the Joffre Lakes trailhead in an effort to reduce the crush of vehicles at the main lots.

An emergency satellite phone will also be installed at the trailhead for safety.

Vehicles illegally parked along Highway 99 will be towed under a new compliance plan, which comes into effect this weekend. The highway links the park to Pemberton and the shoulder is often lined with cars, bumper-to-bumper, when the Joffre Lakes lots fill up — which happens daily in the summer.

Cars lined up on the side of a highway with mountains in the background.
On a busy day, Highway 99 is host to a long line of vehicles outside Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. Parking along the highway will be towed under the new crowd-control plan. (Submitted by Steve Jones)

Two First Nations stewards will also begin working alongside B.C. Parks rangers at the park. The pair will educate visitors about the value of the lands and work on park management and facility maintenance.

B.C. Parks said number of visitors to Joffre Lakes has soared 168 per cent in the last nine years. Around 183,000 people visited the park last year, which works out out to an average of more than 500 people every day.

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park was established in 1988. Since then, it has become one of the most popular parks in B.C. (Getty Images)

Dogs and other pets were permanently banned from the park in May 2018 to protect the environment and surrounding area. The province also made reservations mandatory for all overnight campers at Joffre Lakes as of April 2019.

Aikman said visitors who plan to go to Joffre during the summer, especially during weekends, should come prepared for a hike and come early to get a parking spot.