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Maligne Lake

Jasper National Park, Improvement District No. 12, Alberta

With its vivid aquamarine waters and impressive backdrop of jagged, glacier-studded peaks, Maligne Lake has visitors to the Canadian Rockies reaching for their cameras. The glacier-fed lake is the largest in Jasper National Park. Tiny tree-topped Spirit Island stands in the middle of the lake and is the subject of countless postcards.

As one of Alberta’s—and indeed Canada’s—most-hyped beauty spots, Maligne Lake is included on many sightseeing tours of the Jasper and Banff regions. Chauffeured sidecar and coach tours generally make stops at natural attractions such as Medicine Lake, Maligne Canyon, and other Rocky Mountain hot spots. Maligne Lake is also often included on the itinerary.

Some half and full-day sightseeing tours incorporate boat cruises on the lake, and guided nature and wildlife-watching walks around the lake. Several backcountry campgrounds, accessible by canoe, are located on the lake’s edge. Canoes can be rented from the Maligne Lake Boathouse.

  • Moose, grizzly bears, and caribou are known to roam the regions near the lake, making it perfect for wildlife-viewers.

  • Maligne Lake is open to paddlers and electric motor boats only.

  • Dress in layers as sudden weather changes are common here.

  • Part, though not all, of the Mary Schäffer Loop, which winds around the shoreline, is paved and suitable for wheelchair users.

Maligne Lake is at the end of Maligne Lake Road, about 31 miles (50 kilometers) from Jasper. As there is no public transport in the area, the best way for car-free travelers to get here is by organized tour. Driving from Jasper will take about an hour.

The best time to visit Maligne Lake is between late May and early October, when boats and paddlers can go out on the water. Though the north part of the lake can become busy, quieter spots—accessible only on foot or by boat—can always be found to the south. In winter, the frozen lake is peaceful, attracting only a few hardy snowshoers, though road conditions in the park can sometimes make the lake difficult to access.

In theory, visitors can paddle or kayak to Spirit Island, though it’s about an 8.5-mile (14-kilometer) one-way journey and it can take the best part of a day. Unless you’re a fit, experience kayaker, and have booked a lakeside campsite to stay at, you’re better off doing a Maligne Lake cruise, which will get you out to within view of the island and back in just 90 minutes.

Yes, it’s definitely worth doing the cruise on Maligne Lake. It’s a great way to appreciate the views of the lake, its islets, and the surrounding glaciers and mountains. The live onboard commentary is also an excellent way to learn more about the geology, wildlife, and history of Maligne Lake.

The Maligne Lake classic cruise takes about 90 minutes, while the premium cruise lasts 30 minutes longer, including a stop near Spirit Island. Guided tours of the Jasper area that included a stop at Maligne Lake vary in length. The drive from Jasper to Maligne Lake takes up to 90 minutes.

The classic cruise on Maligne Lake takes around 90 minutes and includes an 8.5-mile (14-kilometer) cruise on the lake, live commentary, and a 15-minute stop near Spirit Island, where you can take a walk. The premium cruise is almost the same but 30 minutes longer and includes a stop at Pincushion Bay and 30 minutes near Spirit Island.

Summer and fall (June–October) are the best time to visit Maligne Lake to hike, admire the views, and see wildlife. The weather is most pleasant in summer. It’s also beautiful in winter but prepare for cold conditions and winter driving. The Maligne Lake cruise only operates between late May and mid-October when the lake isn’t frozen.

Yes, shuttles operate between Jasper and Maligne Lake. They are primarily intended for hikers who need transportation to/from the trailheads. Pre-bookings are necessary, and these shuttles are seasonal. They aren’t ideal for non-hikers without a vehicle because they don’t give enough time to explore Maligne Lake before the return trip.

Maligne Lake is a beautiful lake in Alberta’s Jasper National Park. It’s the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies and stretches 13.5 miles (22 kilometers) to the meltwaters of the Coronet Glacier. The surrounding forests are home to wildlife, and travelers can hike and cross-country ski on the trails.


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