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.
Things to Know Before You Go
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.
How to Get There
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.
When to Get There
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.
How to See Spirit Island
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.